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the machinations of the King’s

John inherited the Crown of Castile whilst still a baby. His mother and uncle acted as Regents in the first years of his reign. John married his cousin Maria of Aragon, by whom he had a son, Henry, and secondly married Isabella of Portugal, by whom he had a daughter Isabella and a son, Alfonso.

John was king of Castile for forty-nine years, but as numerous historians have stated, he barely ruled at all. Although he was cultured and intelligent, John was weak and lazy, preferring to leave the government to others, His closest friend and councillor, Alvaro de Luna, effectively ruled the country for him but was opposed by many nobles, including the powerful Enriquez family. John’s reign was also troubled by the incursions of his cousins, the Infantes of Aragon, who included the future King John of Aragon: they kept the king in virtual imprisonment for two years.

De Luna was eventually brought down by the machinations of the King’s second wife, Isabella, acting with powerful nobles. They persuaded John to execute the favourite in 1453. John is said to have been stricken with remorse for his action, and only survived de Luna by a year. He died on in
1454, at Valladolid, leaving his crown to his eldest son Henry. On his deathbed, John is said to have stated that he would rather have been born the son of a mechanic than the son of a King.

John II of Castile and Isabella of Portugal - © Meg McGath

His second wife, Isabella, was a cousin of the King of Portugal. Her grandmother, Phillippa of Lancaster, was English, the daughter of John of Gaunt by his first wife Blanche of Lancaster. Although much younger than her husband, she was a far stronger character and disapproved of the way that her husband was under the thumb of Alvaro de Luna.
Isabella’s behaviour became erratic after the birth of her daughter, also named Isabella, in 1451: she was subject to fits of depression which may well have been a post-natal complication. 

Isabella was, however, able to plot the downfall of her husband’s favourite De Luna, with disaffected nobles. After her husband’s death, she retired (at the age of 22) to the Castle of Arevalo to bring up her children. Her mental health problems worsened – she was said to have been haunted by De Luna’s ghost – and she appears to have succumbed to bi-polar disorder. Isabella spent the rest of her life in seclusion at Arevalo, where she died on 15 Aug 1496.