Jo, el rei: The Trastamara Inheritance

Valladolid, May, 1509

Despite the efforts expended at maintaining the personal union of the Iberian kingdoms during the lifetime of King Ferran’s wife, Queen Isabel of Castile, the queen’s recent death in has seen a great shift in Aragonese policy. Lacking a male heir, the Castilian throne was inherited by the heiress presumptive, the Catholic Kings’ eldest surviving child, the infanta Juana de Aragón y Castilla in 1504. With the death of his wife, King Ferran essentially lost the right to the crown matrimonial of Castile, though his wife’s will--ratified before her death by the Cortes of Castile--gave him the right to govern in his daughter’s absence or incapacity until the twentieth birthday of his grandson.

Furious losing his power over Castile and being confined to the role of regent, the wily king of Aragón immediately allied himself with the French and took a new wife, Germaine de Foix, niece of King Louis XII of France and cousin of Queen Catalina of Navarra, in hopes of preserving the independence of Aragón, and perhaps also gaining the kingdom of Navarra—the Queen Germana having a claim to the Navarrese throne through her late father, the Jean de Foix, vicomte de Narbonne, son of Queen Leonor of Navarra.

The arrival in Castile of Queen Juana and her husband, Philippe IV, Duke of Burgundy, in April, 1506, only complicated matters. The Cortes of Castile, meeting at Valladolid, soon confirmed Juana as Queen of Castile and León, granting the crown jure uxoris to her husband as King Felipe. Due to Queen Juana’s mental instability, King Felipe essentially assumed de facto rule over Castile, shutting King Ferran out of power in his late wife’s kingdom. However, the sudden death of King Felipe less than a year later from typhoid (though many insist that he was poisoned by King Ferran himself), once again allowed the Catholic King to seize the regency in Castile.

In the two years since, King Ferran has managed to once again secure his personal rule over Castile, confining his mad daughter, Queen Juana, to the convent of Santa Clara in Tordesillas, and implementing the terms of his wife’s will, to allow him to continue to govern until his seven year old grandson, Duke Charles II of Burgundy, has attained his majority and been proclaimed king by the Castilian Cortes. However, King Ferran knows that he is aging, and his hold over the rule of Castile is only for the duration of his own lifetime. The king of Aragón thus has been determined to sire an heir of his own and undo the personal union of the Iberian crowns that he and his wife had earlier worked so hard to fully implement.

In the small hours of May 3, 1509, after an agonizing eight hour labor, Germaine de Foix—known in her husband’s kingdom as Queen Germana—is delivered of a healthy son at Valladolid. Queen Germana’s husband, the King Ferran II of Aragón, now in his fifty-seventh year of life, is overjoyed and immediately orders three days of public celebration in honor of his newborn heir. Throughout the mighty Catholic King’s many realms and territories, including Aragón, Catalonia, Naples, Sicily and Valencia, church bells are rung, bonfires lit, and wine distributed freely amongst the populace. Indeed, in Saragossa, the spiritual heart of the Kingdom of Aragón, the king’s own bastard son, Don Alfons d’Aragó i Roig, Archbishop of Saragossa and Valencia, personally leads a Te Deum in thanksgiving for the birth of his half-brother. It is worth noting that celebrations in Castile are noticeably subdued outside of Valladolid, with the event hardly concerning the kingdom’s grandes and subjects.

The following year, on June 24, 1510--the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist--amidst great pomp and magnificence, the infant prince is baptized at the Cathedral of Sant Salvador in Saragossa by the Inquisitor General of Aragón, Joan d'Enguera, Bishop of Vic, at the very same font that the prince's own father had been christened at over fifty-seven years before. The infante is named after not only his patron saint, but also both his paternal and maternal grandfathers, being christened "Don Joan d’Aragó i Foix, Prince of Girona, Duke of Calabria and Montblanc, Count of Cervera and Lord of Balaguer," with the prince’s illegitimate half-brother, the aforementioned Archbishop of Saragossa, and Doña Isabel de Zuñiga y Pimentel, Duchess of Alba de Tormes, standing as godparents.
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War of the League of Cambrai
1511 - 1516

In the spring of 1511, King Ferran II joins the Holy League, the anti-French alliance formed by Pope Julius II that year, abandoning his short lived Franco-Aragonese alliance. The sudden shift in Aragonese foreign policy is based on several factors. King Ferran II is determined to acquire the kingdom of Navarra in order to secure the position of Aragón on the Iberian peninsula. While the Catholic King had hoped that King Louis XII would support the claims of his own niece, Queen Germana, the French king has proven himself unwilling to do so, fearing Aragonese expansion across the Pyrenees. Further, King Ferran sees the growing power of France in northern Italy as a threat to his own Italian possessions, especially with France’s recent occupation of the duchy of Milan.

King Ferran thus allies himself with the Emperor Maximilian, Pope Julius II and the Republic of Venice against the rising threat of King Louis XII and his ally, the recently excommunicated Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, effectively betraying the terms of the treaty of Blois. Soon after, the King of Aragón manages to induce his son-in-law, King Henry VIII of England, to join the Holy League, with the English king promising to invade France by the terms of the treaty of Westminster, signed in November, 1511. While King Ferran also officially agrees to support Imperial ambitions in Lombardy, the cunning king already has set his sights on acquiring the duchy for his own son, wishing to bequeath as much of an empire as possible to the Prince of Girona in compensation for the loss of the Castilian inheritance. King Ferran’s viceroy in Naples—and reputedly also another of his bastards—the Catalan nobleman Ramon Folc de Cardona-Anglesola i Requesens, Duke of Somma, is soon after appointed to the command of the Italian theatre by the Catholic King. Upon arriving in Bologna with his armies and joining with the Swiss mercenaries of Pope Julius, Ramon de Cardona soon finds himself de facto commander of the Holy League in Italy.

The Iberian Theatre

Meanwhile, King Jean d’Albret of Navarra, husband to the queen regnant Catalina of Navarra, seeing himself caught between the two powers of France and Spain, opts to remain neutral during the conflict by late 1511. It is then that King Ferran sees his chance. The King of Aragón begins exerting pressure upon Pope Julius II to excommunicate the King of Navarra due to his refusal to join the Pope’s alliance League against France, thus legitimizing any Aragonese invasion of the kingdom. The pope at first refuses, seeing through the designs of the Catholic King. However, King Ferran is not one to accept any interference with his plans. Exhausting all of his influence on the Curia, the king then attempts to purchase the appropriate bull from the pope in the winter of 1512. It is here that he finally meets with success, as Pope Julius is both in need of funds to pay his Swiss mercenaries, and also known to be highly avaricious.

The papal bull arrives in July, 1512, by which time King Ferran is already prepared for the Navarrese campaign. The king selects his trusted friend and general, Fadrique Álvarez de Toledo y Enríquez, Duke of Alba de Tormes, to lead the invasion. Armed with papal sanction and the might of the Castilian-Aragonese royal armies, the campaign encounters little difficulty, taking Pamplona on November 15, after just two weeks of siege. Unable to muster enough troops to defend his small realm, King Jean and his court flee across the Pyrenees to Pau in early December, seeking French protection.

The aging King Ferran II immediately summons the Cortes of Navarra in the early spring of 1513, traveling to Estella to personally convene the body. As a great deal of the Basque nobility view the Aragonese king as a usurper and the summons as illicit, the assembly that convenes that May is a reluctant and unwieldy body. However, King Ferran has the support of Rome and the full might of his armies on the Iberian peninsula to back his position, complicating matters. The King of Aragón demands that the Cortes recognize and proclaim him King of Navarra in the right of his wife, Queen Germana. The Cortes, however, refuses, digging in its heals and forcing the Catholic King to compromise. Thus, after two weeks of debate, a decision is finally reached: the Cortes of Navarra proclaims king’s four year old son, the Prince of Girona, as King Joan III of Navarra, with King Ferran as regent; in exchange, King Ferran promises to uphold the laws and customs of his new realm.

The Italian Theatre

Meanwhile, in Italy, the Holy League encounters mixed results. The French forces, under the command of Gaston de Foix, Duke of Nemours—and Queen Germana’s own brother—manages to take Bologna on May 13, 1511, halting the Cardona’s advance. He then proceeds to march north and defeat the Venetians, sacking Brescia in February, 1512, with the help of the Duke of Ferrara.

However, with the north secure, the ambitious Duke of Nemours hopes to place the whole of the Romagna under French occupation, and thus besieges Ravenna several months later. Marching north with his forces, Cardona soon manages to lift the siege of Ravenna, engaging the French just outside the city’s walls. In the ensuing conflict, fought on Easter Sunday, 1512, the French manage to once again win the day and the Spanish are forced to retreat. This is all done, however, at a very heavy cost: at the end of the day, 5,000 French soldiers lay dead upon the field, including the Duke of Nemours himself.

With the loss of the brilliant Gaston de Foix, the French position in Italy decays steadily. Cardona, his position reinforced with a new crop of Swiss mercenaries hired by Pope Julius, manages to quickly retake both Parma and Bologna, largely with the help of the allied Duke of Urbino. This forces the French to retreat north to Milan in May, which they attempt to hold against Cardona, now also joined by the Venetians. By August, the French are finally forced to abandon Lombardy and retreat across the Alps. The Duke of Somma and his men then triumphantly enter Milan and install the young Massimiliano Sforza as Duke of Milan.

In early September, the commanders of the Holy League then meet in Mantua to discuss the division of the occupied territories. However, the council soon falls apart when each of the members of the League refuse to relinquish their own agendas. King Ferran instructs Ramon de Cardona to secure the duchy of Milan for the House of Trastàmara, while the Emperor is determined to keep his newly acquired possessions in the Veneto, to the detriment of the Republic of Venice. In the end, Venice is excluded from the final negotiations by Pope Julius, and Ramon de Cardona dispatched to Tuscany to restore Giuliano de’ Medici to power in Florence, the city’s republican experiment having collapsed without French support. This allows for Spanish ambitions in Lombardy to be blocked for the time being, and to ensure that the Emperor is appeased. Furious at what they see as a great betrayal by the Pope, the Venetians withdraw from the Holy League and ally themselves with the French, signing the treaty of Blois with King Louis XII on March 23, 1513.

Meanwhile, the French, under the command of Louis de la Trémoille, Vicomte de Thouars, renew their Italian campaign in the spring of 1513, crossing the Alps and invading the duchy of Milan in May. As the Duke Massimiliano Sforza lacks the support of his subjects, he has been forced to rely increasingly on the aid of Swiss mercenaries, essentially eroding what little popularity he previously enjoyed. This ensures that the French meet little resistance in Lombardy. However, the French have underestimated the skill of the Swiss mercenaries, and Duke Massimiliano is able to halt the Vicomte de Thouars’ advance in early June, routing the French at the Battle of Novara and driving them back across the Alps. Further, with King Henry VIII’s victory at the Battle of Spurs in August, 1513 (and the resulting sack of Thérouanne), the French are forced to temporarily abandon the Italian front and deal with the advancing English in Picardy. This is most especially important after the Scots, at the behest of King Louis XII, attempt to invade England from the north and are crushed at the disastrous battle of Flodden in September, 1513, in which King James IV of Scotland and a great deal of the Scottish nobility lose their lives against the defending Duke of Norfolk, forcing them to sue for peace and leaving King Henry VIII free to occupy himself in France.

The Aragonese also find the tides of battle turning in their favor. Cardona marches north into the Veneto in the summer of 1513, with orders to crush the Venetians, under the command of Bartolomeo d’Alviano, of the Orsini clan. Left without French support, Alviano finds himself outnumbered and surrounded. After several weeks of siege, Cardona manages to successfully take Padua on August 12, 1513, penetrating deep into the Veneto. However, though he is able to win a decisive victory at Vicenza in September, Cardona finds himself unable to take Venice itself, and he is forced into several light skirmishes with Alviano, with neither side making any progress.

The Holy League soon falls apart that fall, when King Henry VIII makes a separate peace with King Louis XII, who promptly marries the English king’s sister, the princess Mary. Meanwhile, with the death of Pope Julius and the election of Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici as Pope Leo X, the League finds itself effectively leaderless.

The death of King Louis XII on January 1, 1515, and the accession of King François I to the French throne, however, greatly changes matters. Determined to retake the duchy of Milan, the new French king marches across the Alps in July, avoiding the waiting Swiss and Papal forces by taking the route through the valley of Stura. However, with Cardona still in play in the Veneto, Alviano is prevented from reinforcing the French in Lombardy. Thus, the Swiss mercenaries of Duke Massimiliano Sforza manage to win the day at the battle of Marignano on September 13, 1515, which proves to be one of the most bloody in the entire war. Over 10,000 French troops and 12,000 Swiss lose their lives, forcing King François to retreat back across the Alps and abandon the duchy of Milan. In the end, however, Pope Leo X is forced to sue for peace, when, after suffering such heavy losses and short of payment, his Swiss mercenaries riot and abandon him at Bologna.

King Ferran, however, does not live to see the war’s conclusion. On January 23, 1516, the sixty-three year old King of Aragón dies of natural causes at Madrigalejo.
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Small nit-picking, you are confusing Cortes with Cortés. The legislative assembly is Cortes, without the accent. Cortés/cortés is both a surname and a adjetive meaning, more or less, polite, in origin someone who has the manners of the Corte (Court). They are also pronunced differently, Cortes with the stress in the first syllable and cortés with the stress in the second one.

Regarding the TL it sounds interesting and I like it, though with Germaine's son alive perhaps the castilians could be more reluctant to support Ferdinand in Navarre. Though the nobility could go ahead with the campaing due to some of them due to their personal relations with Ferdinand and other due to promieses, I foresee that, precisely, in the next castilian Cortes the cities could have one or two words with them.
A little sad since I am a bit of an Isabella fanboy, but looking good so far. Keep it up.
Reading this, I just wondered. ITTL, if Charles II were to die under "mysterious circumstances" before reaching majority, to whom would the Castilian throne pass? Would this allow Ferdinand to maintain his personal rule? Perhaps the Cortes would just find a new king, however...
Reading this, I just wondered. ITTL, if Charles II were to die under "mysterious circumstances" before reaching majority, to whom would the Castilian throne pass? Would this allow Ferdinand to maintain his personal rule? Perhaps the Cortes would just find a new king, however...

Well, the obvious heir would be his brother Ferdinand, who actually was the grandson that Ferdinand II of Aragon wanted in the Castilian throne.
Reading this, I just wondered. ITTL, if Charles II were to die under "mysterious circumstances" before reaching majority, to whom would the Castilian throne pass? Would this allow Ferdinand to maintain his personal rule? Perhaps the Cortes would just find a new king, however...

As Gonzaga says, the obvious heir is his son Ferdinand, but even if it's not possible for whatever reason or someone plays a wild card, Joanna was still the legit owner queen, as she was during Charles' reign, so the Cortes doesn't need to find/proclaim a new king. Another question is her mental instability. I'm for one who thinks she wasn't as mad as it was said, but history is written by the winners...
The Regency of Queen Germana of Aragón
Winter, 1516 - Spring, 1517

The death of King Ferran the Catholic leaves his six year old son as king of his father’s many realms and territories, the Corts of Aragón already having officially acknowledged him as Prince of Girona and sworn their loyalty at Saragossa on May 1, 1512. By the terms of King Ferran’s will, the regency is vested in the twenty-six year old Queen Germana until King Joan III attains his majority at sixteen, while the regency of the kingdom of Castile and León devolves to the aging Cardinal Jiménez de Cisneros until the Duke of Burgundy, now King Carlos of Castile, attains the age of twenty—his majority defined by the will of the late Queen Isabel. Further, in order to ensure that his widow acts within the interests of the kingdom of Aragón at all times, the legal guardianship and supervision of King Joan’s education is vested in the late king’s bastard son, Don Alfons d’Aragó, who is appointed Governor of the King’s Person by the will.

King Ferran II is laid to rest at the Royal Monastery of Santa Maria in Poblet, the traditional necropolis for kings of Aragón, on March 12, 1516. Royal mourning having come to an end, in accordance with custom, Queen Germana immediately summons the Corts of Aragón at Saragossa. There, on his seventh birthday, King Joan III swears to uphold the laws and fueros of the kingdom of Aragón before the Corts, after which the assembled nobles, clergy and burghers take an oath of loyalty to the new king. A special inauguration mass is then celebrated by Don Alfons d’Aragó at the city’s cathedral, and afterwards, the king is officially proclaimed as:“His Catholic Majesty Don Joan the Third, by the Grace of God, King of Aragón, both Sicilies, Jerusalem, Navarra, Majorca, Valencia, Sardinia and Corsica, Duke of Athens and Neopatria, Count of Roussillon, Cerdanya, Barcelona, Osona and Besalú.”

The new regent, Queen Germana, finds herself in a precarious position. With Aragón still at war with King François, there are growing fears that the French king will invade the northern frontiers and attempt to restore King Jean d’Albret to the Navarrese throne now that King Ferran is dead. Further, with war still ravaging Italy and the Valois determined to press their claims to the duchy of Milan, the Queen is obligated by her allegiance to the Holy League to order the Duke of Somma to maintain his position in the Veneto. However, despite Aragonese successes in Italy, the war is not going well. By the winter of 1516, Aragón has been abandoned by its English allies, after King Henry VIII’s peace with France two years prior; further, Queen Germana, sharing the sentiments of both the royal council and her late husband, does not trust Emperor Maximilian, considering Imperial policy in Italy, especially in Lombardy, to be contrary to Aragón’s interests. And, with Pope Leo X severely weakened by the desertion of a majority of his Swiss mercenaries at Bologna the previous year, Aragón has been left without any significant allies in Italy, save for the Duke of Urbino.

Deciding to protect the kingdom’s northern borders, Queen Germana sues for peace with King François, taking advantage of both Ramon de Cardona’s current position in Lombardy and her own connections at the French royal court. The Queen Regent sends Martín García y Puyazuelo, Bishop of Barcelona, as her personal representative to the court of King François in June, 1516, instructing him to secure a speedy peace settlement with the French at all costs. By this time, the Aragonese treasury is near bankrupt after nearly two decades of wars in Italy—and without the support of Castilian funds. Thus, the Queen is neither willing nor able to continue to advance Aragón’s interests in Lombardy with force.

After months of discussion and indecision, the Treaty of Nantes is finally signed on November 15, 1516. According to the terms of the settlement, King François officially abandons his claims to the throne of Naples; further, the French king agrees to recognize King Joan III as rightful king in upper Navarra. In return, Queen Germana agrees to abandon all Aragonese aspirations north of the Pyrenees, including the rump state of lower Navarra. The Queen Regent also, in the name of her son, promises to withdraw Aragonese troops from Lombardy and recognize King François as the rightful duke of Milan. Finally, to seal the agreement, King Joan is betrothed to King François’ infant daughter, Charlotte de France.

While the Treaty of Nantes unquestionably protects Aragonese interests and saves the regency from further, costly wars with France, it is not well received either at home or abroad. The nobility of Aragón see the agreement as a humiliation, most especially Ramon de Cardona, who, returning to his position in Naples as viceroy the following spring, sees the Queen Mother’s actions cowardice, especially in the face of recent Aragonese successes in Lombardy. King Carlos of Castile, now preparing to finally journey to Iberia from Brussels, is also angered by the treaty, considering any Franco-Aragonese alliance as a direct threat to his Spanish inheritance. Finally, Emperor Maximilian is also unhappy with the recent turn of events, as he is now effectively abandoned in northern Italy. Under pressure from Pope Leo X, the Emperor finally makes a separate peace with the Venetians in April, 1517 at Trent. Determined to thwart French ambitions in Milan, the clever Emperor Maximilian manages to buy the Republic of Venice’s alliance against King François by handing them back their occupied territories in the Veneto, in exchange for their recognition of Massimiliano Sforza as Duke of Milan. Thus, an uneasy peace is achieved for the time being in Italy, with King François biding his time to eventually retake Lombardy and avenge his defeat at Marignano.

The treaty manages to lose Queen Germana the confidence of the nobility and much of the royal council. Many see the Queen Regent’s policies as catering to French interests, underlying the long held notion of the grandees that she has always been a French spy placed in the Catholic King’s bed by the wily King Louis XII, and that she has remained a creature of France ever since. Using these sentiments to his advantage, the king’s bastard half-brother Don Alfons d’Aragó soon acts.

On the night of February 2, 1517, while the court is at Valencia, Don Alfons makes his move. Assembling a group of men at arms, Don Alfons orders the Queen Mother placed under arrest, barring the doors to her quarters in the Alcàssar Reial and confining her to her chambers there. The following morning, in his capacity as Governor of the King’s Person, Don Alfons summons the royal council of Aragón, who, sharing his sentiments—many of them already having been party to the bishop’s plot—unanimously motion to deprive Queen Germana of the regency, charging her with misrule and corruption. A royal edict is then issued to the same effect, signed by the child king—who as a minor, it should be noted, has no authority to do so—and placed under the great seals of the realms. Queen Germana removed from power, the forty-six year old Don Alfons, as legal guardian of the king, thus becomes the most powerful man in the kingdom. The council then moves court to Barcelona, keeping the queen in custody at Valencia for the time being.

Determined to ensure the legality of his coup, Don Alfons, acting with the royal council, summons the Corts Generals of the Aragonese realms at Lerida that spring. While the Corts Generals rule that the edict issued by the king depriving his mother of the regency is invalid as it was implemented by a minor, they nevertheless consent to have King Ferran’s will declared null and void, on the grounds that, as such a document affects the fundamental laws and customs of the realms of the crown of Aragón, it must receive their consent. They then vote to confirm Don Alfons d’Aragó as regent on April 27, 1517, legitimizing the archbishop’s rise to power.