A King Travels: Festive Traditions in Late Medieval and Early Modern Spain

By Teofilo F. Ruiz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
Royal Entries, Princely Visits, Triumphal
Celebrations in Spain, c. 1327–1640

SHORTLY after reaching fourteen years of age, declaring his majority, and beginning the task of putting an end to the nefarious and greedy rule of his tutors, the new young king, Alfonso XI (1312–1350), toured his realm, seeking to restore order throughout Castile and Leon. His perambulations through his assorted kingdoms led him from Valladolid to Burgos, and from there to Toro. Along the way he meted out harsh justice to unruly nobles and arranged his betrothal to the daughter of the always-troublesome Infante Don Juan Manuel (a wedding soon forsaken because of Don Juan Manuel’s treachery and ambitions). Alfonso forcefully restored order in Segovia, punishing with mutilation, beheading, and burning at the stake those who had attempted to burn the cathedral. Dealing equally severely with nobles and urban oligarchs, the young king offered a glimmer of hope to a land devastated by years of civil war and contentious regencies1

In 1327, Alfonso XI, after fairly successful campaigns to restore royal authority, came to Seville, one of the most important cities in Castile and the unofficial capital of all of Western Andalusia. Alfonso XI’s chronicles dedicate a very short chapter (less than a page) to the king’s entry into the city, but the chronicler’s description is novel in its detail and unparalleled by any of the chronicles covering the reigns of Alfonso XI’s father, grandfather, and great grandfather. The chronicler writes that the coming of the king was ardently wished for, and that his royal visit and formal entry into the city pleased many, as he was well beloved by both ricos hombres (the magnates) and the commons or community (comunidades). We must be wary of the chronicler’s partisan description for, as we know, Alfonso XI’s forceful administration was based, in part, on limiting the power of the high nobility. We are also explicitly told that the general pattern of the king’s entry into Seville did not differ much from how other Castilian kings had entered other towns in the realm for the first time. (Et como

1 There are to date no full biographies or studies of Alfonso XI. It is one of the most important gaps in the history of late medieval Castile. A short summary and account of his reign and reforms can be found in Teofilo F. Ruiz, Spain’s Centuries of Crisis: 1300– 1474 (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 57–63. The chronicle’s description of the events related in this initial paragraph come from Crónica de Alfonso XI, 198–204.

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