15th Century Navarre

The stop for us this century is Navarre. Last century, Navarre fought for its sovereignty from France, and the brutal end to a brutal king (Charles the Bad), alongside the rise of his son Charles III. Charles is remembered in a much better light than his father, mostly because he spent his 38 year reign cleaning up his father’s mess and advocating for peace. His support of the Avignon papacy, as well as his ties to France through his mother, Joan of Valois, helped maintain a strong alliance with France, though it required him to cede Champagne and Brie to them. He married Eleanor of Castile, daughter of Henry II of Castile, and assisted the country in a war against the Kingdom of Granada. Domestically, he established the watershed unification of Pamplona’s boroughs, as well as being a patron of the arts, and built a few palaces. His biggest point of contention was heirs. 

He and Eleanor had 8 children, with the youngest two sons– he created the heirs title, Prince of Viana, which both boys held. Only his daughters Blanche and Isabelle would survive his reign. Isabelle was the younger of the two and married John IV, Count of Armagnac. Blanche would inherit her father’s throne alongside her consort, John of Aragon (future John II, though she would not be alive for this). This would lead to a prolonged conflict with Aragon. 

There is not much stated about Blanche’s reign itself, honestly there is much more on her regency for her son from her first marriage. She had previously been married to Martin I of Sicily and ruled for her son Martin II until Ferdinand of Aragon forced her to return to Navarre where she married his younger brother. Their three surviving children, Charles, Blanche, and Eleanor, would all wear her crown after her death in 1441. It began with Charles, who was the oldest and heir. Their father John had grown jealous of him throughout his life and seized the Navarre throne for himself after his wife’s passing. He then married an Aragonese noblewoman named Juana Enríquez, who encouraged jealousy, especially after the birth of her son Ferdinand, and turned it to hatred, and began to deny him the responsibilities as heir. The biggest instance was when he tried to make Juana lieutenant-general in Aragon instead of Charles. The Aragonese did not like this and took up the prince’s cause, forcing the issue. 

In 1451, their feuding turned into the Navarrese Civil War, where Prince Charles was supported by Catalans who were displeased with John after he became King of Aragon. They continued to switch places as rulers until 1461, when Prince Charles (who never received a formal coronation) died, with strong suspicion of poisoning, after conspiring to marry Isabelle of Castile, who instead married John’s son Ferdinand. After his death, a swirl of people were pushed towards the Navarre throne, with the strongest claimant being Charles’ younger sister. Blanche, who would have been Blanche II, had she not already been imprisoned by her father. She had been married to Henry IV of Castile, but they never consummated it, and after 13 years of marriage he had it annulled. The declaration from the pope cited witchcraft as the reason they could not consummate. When she returned to Navarre, she was placed under arrest by his chosen heir for the country. This happened to be her younger sister, Eleanor. 

The majority of John’s competition was out of the way, but that did not stop those who despised him continued to seek ousting him in the War against John II. This lasted until his death in 1472, but Eleanor acted as governor in Navarre and ruled beside her husband, Gaston IV, Count of Foix, as her father dealt with succession issues. When he died in 1472, she finally ruled in her own right, but she died two weeks after she was crowned (her half brother became Ferdinand II of Aragon). Eleanor had 9 children to survive adulthood, but not necessarily until 1472. Her eldest son and heir died two years prior, leaving his son Francis to succeed her. Ferdinand desired Navarre for himself though, and fought his great-nephew for the throne. Francis would only reign for four years before dying while playing the pipes, arguably poisoned as his uncle and aunt, Charles and Blanche, were before him. His sister Catherine succeeded him, whose reign had more success. Both siblings were too young to rule, so their mother, Magdalena of Valois. As regent for her daughter, she successfully fought off competitors to the throne, but she also worked to keep her position as long as possible. She arranged the marriage of her daughter to John of Albret, but they did not consummate the marriage until 1491, and they were not crowned until 1494. 

The beginning of their joint reign was relatively peaceful, as they established their reign domestically and ensured their son Henry was established as their heir. A war was brewing with Spain, as Ferdinand still craved the Navarre throne. We will learn more about that war, as well as the fates of Catherine and her son in the next century. 

This concludes the 15th century, though there is still much to discuss. As before, the next few weeks will highlight some important subjects from the century before we move onto the 16th. If there are any subjects you like to have featured, please feel free to reach out through social media. Thank you for your support!