Constance of Castile 1354 - 1394

Source of John of Gaunt's Claim to Spain

Monument of John of Gaunt and Constance of Castile, Old St. Paul's, London
Monument of John of Gaunt and Constance of Castile, Old St. Paul's, London. Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Constance of Castile Facts:

Known for: her claim to the crown of Castile led to an attempt by her husband, England's John of Gaunt, to control that land
Dates: 1354 - March 24, 1394
Occupation: royal consort, heiress; second wife of John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster
Also known as: Constanza of Castile, Infanta Constanza

Family, Background

  • mother: Maria de Padilla, mistress or secret wife of Pedro the Cruel of Castile
  • father: Pedro (Peter) the Cruel, King of Castile

Marriage, Children

  • second wife of John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster, third son of Edward III; married 1372
    • their daughter, Katherine of Lancaster, married Henry III of Castile, a Trastamara king
    • their son, John Plantagenet, lived 1372-1375

Constance of Castile Biography:

Constance of Castile's role in history is primarily based on her marriage to John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and third son of King Edward III of England, and her position as her father's heir to Castile.

John of Gaunt and Constance of Castile had two children together. Their daughter, Katherine of Lancaster, lived to marry. Their son, John Plantagenet, lived only a few years.

Constance's younger sister Isabel of Castile married a younger brother of John of Gaunt, Edmund of Langley, first Duke of York and fourth son of Edward III of England.  The later Wars of the Roses was fought between Isabel's descendants (the York faction) and descendants of John of Gaunt, Constance's husband (the Lancaster faction).

War of the Spanish Succession

In 1369, Constance's father, King Pedro of Castile, was murdered and Enrique (Henry) of Castile took power as usurper. Constance's marriage in 1372 to John of Gaunt, son of King Edward III of England, was an attempt to ally England with Castile in the ensuing War of the Spanish Succession, to offset the support Enrique had from the French.

Under Spanish law, the husband of a female heir to the throne was the rightful king, so John of Gaunt pursued the crown of Castile based on Constance's position as her father's heir. John of Gaunt obtained recognition by the English Parliament of Constance's and his claim to Castile.

When Constance died in 1394, John of Gaunt dropped his pursuit of Castile's crown. She was buried at a church in Leicester; John, when he died later was buried with his first wife Blanche.

Katherine Swynford

John of Gaunt had begun an affair either shortly before or after his marriage to Constance, with Katherine Swynford who had been governess to his daughters by his first wife. The four children of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt were born during John's marriage to Constance (1373 to 1379). After the death of Constance of Castile, John of Gaunt married Katherine Swynford on January 13, 1396. The children of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford were legitimized and given the surname Beaufort, though the legitimization specified that these children and their descendants were to be excluded from the royal succession. Nevertheless, the Tudor ruling family was descended from these legitimized children of John and Katherine.

Constance of Castile and Isabella I of Castile

Though John of Gaunt dropped his pursuit of the crown of Castile when Constance died, John of Gaunt arranged that his daughter by Constance, Katherine of Lancaster, married Enrique (Henry) III of Castile, the son of the king John of Gaunt had tried to unseat. Through this marriage, Pedro and Enrique's lines were united. Among the descendants of this marriage were Isabella I of Castile who married Ferdinand of Aragon, descended from John of Gaunt through his first wife, Blanche of Lancaster. Another descendant was Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon. She was named for Constance and John's daughter Katherine of Lancaster, and she was the first wife and queen consort of Henry VIII of England, mother of Queen Mary I of England.

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Your Citation
Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Constance of Castile 1354 - 1394." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2020, August 26). Constance of Castile 1354 - 1394. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Constance of Castile 1354 - 1394." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).