Alvaro de Luna, born in 1390 in Cañete, in the region of Cuenca (Kingdom of Castile), and executed on June 2, 1453 in Valladolid, is a Castilian nobleman, favorite of King John II of Castile.
He was the first Count of San Esteban de Gormaz, a Castilian Constable and Master of the Order of Santiago.
Alvaro de Luna is the illegitimate son of Alvaro Martinez de Luna, the eldest son of King Henry III of Castile, from a large family in the kingdom of Aragon, and Maria Fernandez de Jarana, a commoner known for her beauty.
Her uncle Pedro de Luna, Archbishop of Toledo, who later became the antipope Benedict XIII, introduced her to the court.
He soon acquired a remarkable ancestry over the young King John II, who was just a boy.
King John was then under the tutelage of his uncle, the infantryman Fernando de Antequera, who was suspicious of Alvaro.
However, in 1412, Ferdinand was elected King of Aragon by the Caspe Compromise, in which Benedict XIII participated.
Ferdinand’s departure, leaving the regency of Castile in the hands of Queen Catherine of Lancaster, strengthened Luna’s position with King John.
Luna’s rise over the king was later attributed to witchcraft practices, but it is more likely that King John II, politically isolated by the opposition of the great noble lineages.
Especially the infants of Aragon, his cousins, sons of Fernando de Antequera, looked to Alvaro for a counselor who was all the more faithful because he owed them everything.
Luna is also recognized as a perfect gentleman, a good horseman, skilled in the use of the lance, and a composer of courtly poetry.
Luna focuses the criticism of the various noble factions, which seek to expel the favorite to take his place in favor of the king and thus promote their interests.
He himself also seeks to focus real graces on himself and his close family. In 1425 he was appointed Count of San Esteban de Gormaz and Constable of Castile – it is under this title (Condestable de Luna) that he is best known.
According to the alliances, Alvaro de Luna had to leave the court, but a change of alliances could bring him back to his favorite place. Thus, in 1427 he is exiled, but returns to the king in 1428.
In 1431, he tried to bring together the Castilian nobility in a crusade against the kingdom of Granada, but despite some successes, the expedition failed to take Granada.
According to some sources, because of the Atarfe earthquake, and according to others, the Moors bribed Alvaro de Luna with a cart full of figs and in each one of them a gold coin.
In 1445, Luna defeated a coalition of hostile nobles led by the Marines of Aragon in the First Battle of Olmedo.
He enjoys the royal support to be chosen as Master of the Order of Santiago. The wife of John II, Mary of Aragon, sister of the Infants of Aragon, dies the same year.
Luna is then at the height of his power, but still depends on the support of the king. John II’s second wife, Isabel of Portugal, jealous of the sheriff’s influence, keeps marginalizing him at court.
In 1453, the death of the King’s accountant gave the Queen’s faction the opportunity to act.
Isabella takes away the right of old John II to lose his favorite, who is interned at Portillo Castle.
Shortly thereafter, Alvaro de Luna was tried and sentenced to death by an expeditious court in Valladolid. He was executed on June 2, 1453.
From her marriage to Juana Pimentel, Luna leaves two children:
- Juan de Luna, second Count of San Esteban de Gormaz
- María de Luna, third Countess of San Esteban de Gormaz, after her brother who died prematurely. She is buried in the chapel of Santiago de Compostela in the Cathedral of Toledo.
Alvaro de Luna acquired great notoriety, and was praised by a stream of Spanish literature such as the famous verses of Jorge Manrique.
Others, like Father Juan de Mariana, denounced the ambitious and greedy favorite.
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