Ruy López Dávalos, a great Castilian nobleman at the beginning of the 15th century (II): the facts of arms of the Constable

By David Nogales Rincón, Professor of Medieval History at the Autonomous University of Madrid


In 1369, Enrique, Count of Trastámara, stabbed to death in Montiel (Ciudad Real) the man who had been, until then, his half-brother and also his king. The Trastámara dynasty was born from the spilled blood, called to rule the destinies of the Crown until the death of Isabel the Catholic, in 1504. Although during the first two decades of the new dynasty the relatives of its founder, Henry II (1369-1379), became part of the Castilian high nobility, however, the reign of his son, John I (1379-1390), and especially the one of his grandson, Henry III (1390-1406), opened the way to a new aristocracy, the so-called new Trastamarist nobility, originating in small and medium sized lineages, now enlarged by the king seeking firm and loyal support for his projects.

The new nobility would have one of their best representatives in Ruy Lopez Davalos. His rise and fall are a sign of the troubles of power that these new aristocrats had to face, whose stability depended on the will of the king and the balances of power at court. Belonging to a Navarrese noble family displaced to Jaén - at that time a border area with the Nasrid emirate of Granada - López Dávalos was born in Úbeda around 1360. From the frontier, where he would act as captain of the urban militias of Úbeda, Ruy rose little by little, thanks especially to his military deeds, until he reached a prominent position in the court of Henry III throughout the decade of 1390, at which time he managed to gather under his power immense lordships, which extended through Ávila and Jaén. At the same time, he amassed great wealth, which he treasured in his castle in Jódar (Jaén), and became a constable of Castile, a kind of commander-in-chief of the Castilian army. López Dávalos would gain so much weight in the court of Enrique III that the nobleman Fernán Pérez de Guzmán would tell us, years later, in his work Generaciones y semblanzas, that "at one time all the issues of the kingdom were in his hand". 

Separated from the monarch in 1400 because some "badly wanted" him, as Pérez de Guzmán tells us, on his return to court a few months later, López Dávalos would gradually be overshadowed by the vitality of the new generations and absorbed by the party that was emerging around the king's brother, Fernando de Antequera, who would become, on the death of Henry III in 1406, regent of his nephew, the child king John II (1406-1454), and not long after, in 1412, king of Aragon.

In spite of his age, López Dávalos would fight to return to the political front line, first, in the environment of Fernando de Antequera and, later, in that of his son, the infant Don Enrique de Aragón. His great opportunity finally came in 1419, when at almost sixty years of age he became one of the executors of the coup d'état known as the Tordesillas (Valladolid) Raid, which would culminate in the kidnapping of the young King John II while he was peacefully sleeping in his palace. Despite the initial success of the operation, this rise was, however, the twilight prelude to his fall. Three years later, he was falsely accused of having secretly negotiated with the Emir of Granada the invasion of Castile, which would force him to leave the kingdom, while a trial was opened against him for the events that had taken place from 1419 onwards, which would conclude with a guilty verdict in 1423.

Alone and afflicted with gout and other illnesses, he spent the last years of his life in Valencia, seeking relief from his sorrows in the translation that he would commission of The Consolation of the Philosophy written by the Latin philosopher, politician and poet Boet, who, like himself, had enjoyed political glory in the sixth century and who, like himself, had ended up in the pit of oblivion, accused of treason. In Valencia, surrounded by the Mediterranean, he died on 6 January 1428.

Thus the life of the one who had directed the destinies of the Crown at the beginning of the fifteenth century was extinguished, whose fall had occurred - as Perez de Guzman would tell us - "more out of greed for his goods than out of zeal for justice", because "today it is not the one who is evil the one having enemies, but the one being very rich". His goods, dignities and patrimony were distributed among his enemies, some of them even before the judicial process began. Alvaro de Luna, raised by fortune, would inherit the title of constable, reigning, along with John II, for the next three decades.

Route II 

The route goes through some of the main places associated with the events of arms that would consecrate Ruy López Dávalos as the main figure of the court of Castile during the reign of Enrique III (1390-1406). The route begins in Benavente (Zamora), where one of the first deeds of our character could be located on the occasion of the siege of the city (April 1387) by the English nobleman Juan de Gante, Duke of Lancaster, who defended the rights to the throne of his wife, Constanza de Castilla, heiress of the dethroned Pedro I. According to some late accounts, Ruy López Dávalos, then a young captain of the Andalusian missions, fought a unique duel with an English knight for the keys to the city, from which the Castilian emerged victorious. The route would continue to Zamora, whose integrity was assured thanks to an action carried out by López Dávalos amid the dense fog of the River Duero in February 1393, which made it possible to thwart the attempt to capture the city by Henry II's natural son, Don Fadrique, Duke of Benavente, with whom Henry III was engaged in a personal confrontation as part of his fight against the high nobility made up of the royal relatives. The route would end in Ciudad Rodrigo (Salamanca), where López Dávalos must have met in August 1397, during the so-called Fecho de Portugal (1396-1402), that is, the war against the Portuguese kingdom, which began after the break of some truces. Becoming one of its main protagonists, López Dávalos would probably seek from Ciudad Rodrigo to support the masters of the military orders of Santiago and Alcántara, in the event that the constable of Portugal, Nuno Álvares Pereira, invaded Castile.

Where does the route take place?

  • Castillo del Rey Fernando II de León, Benavente, Zamora
  • Palacio de los Condes de Alba y Aliste, Zamora
  • Castillo de Enrique II de Trastámara, Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca

This route links with

Ruy López Dávalos, a great Castilian nobleman at the beginning of the 15th century (III): a knight of the border

By David Nogales Rincón, Professor of Medieval History at the Autonomous University of Madrid[...]

Know castles and palaces in this route

The Parador de Benavente stands at one of the most important confluences of communications routes in Spain, a crossroads between the northern and southern parts of the peninsula, and where various pilgrimage routes to Santiago pause to take a breather. The hotel is located on the site of an old castle, of which Caracol Tower has been preserved. You will be fascinated by the beauty of the tower's exterior and the spectacular Mudejar coffered ceiling inside. In the other rooms, tapestries, wrought iron lamps, woodwork and Castilian brick will make you feel almost as if you were on a film set. Our function rooms are fully equipped to handle your social events, and the lovely gardens that surround the Parador are ideal for a stroll.

Situated at one of the most important confluences of communications routes in Spain; its enviable location in the northwestern part of the peninsula has made it an important crossroads throughout history. It lies on various pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela: the Vía de la Plata (Silver Route), Camino de Oriente (Eastern Asturias Route), Valladolid Route, Tera Valley Route and Asturias Route.

The venue for the legislative assembly in 1176, the Parador de Turismo de Benavente is located on the site of the former castle/palace of the counts of Benavente. Construction of the building began in the 12th century and it was subsequently expanded by successive occupants in the 13th, 14th and 15thcenturies. 

The hotel is connected to the Renaissance-style Caracol Tower, the only part of the former structure to be preserved. It is also next to La Mota Gardens, Benavente's most important green space, with excellent views of the Tera and Órbigo river valleys.

The tower features a magnificent Mudejar coffered ceiling and a period bar.


In the historic town center of the capital of Zamora, a beautiful palace awaits. Built on the site of an old Muslim citadel, today it houses a Parador. The hotel provides the opportunity to discover all the beauty of the natural, historical and artistic riches of this region. The medieval feel of the interior, which you will note in the armor, fine tapestries and canopy beds, blends with the Renaissance style of the courtyard, glass enclosed wooden gallery and coats of arms. The hotel also offers two conference rooms, a refreshing swimming pool and excellent traditional cuisine.

Because of its strategic geographic location, Zamora serves as a crossroads on theVia Delapidata, a beautiful, peaceful place where a nice walk is a pleasant way to explore the city's wealth of cultural and historical heritage. The cathedral with its ribbed cupola, Las Dueñas Convent, the delicate modernist style and urban Romanesque of many of the city's buildings, Zamora Castle and the Baltasar Lobo Museum are just some of the historic and artistic sights that are sure to fascinate you.

Come enjoy the monuments, cuisine and glow of this city on the banks of the Douro River while lodging at a unique hotel.

Know the environment

Zamora is a municipality and city located in the northwestern part of the central Iberian Peninsula. It is the capital of the province of the same name. The city's old quarter is considered an area of artistic and historical importance. The core of the city is elongated and largely surrounded by walls, extending along the northern banks of the Douro River. These characteristics have led Zamora to be known as the "well enclosed."

Highlights include its many Romanesque buildings. Considered "the Romanesque City," it has 23 religious buildings and 14 churches in the old quarter, making Zamora the city with the largest number of the finest Romanesque religious structures in Europe. Its major historical landmarks include the cathedral, castle, city walls, a bridge, two palaces and nine stately homes, as well as a number of modernist buildings.



The Parador de Ciudad Rodrigo is located between the energetic cultural life of Salamanca and the wonderful charm of Portugal's Aldeias Históricas (Historical Villages). The hotel, once the castle of Henry II of Trastámara, overlooks the town from atop a high precipice like an eagle's nest. The elegant keep stands above the Águeda River plain, offering wonderful views of the countryside of the Campo Charro region. You will not fail to admire the stone arcades in the dining room, or the traditional Salamanca cuisine, including delicious charcuterie, tasty roasted meats and the best Ibérico ham. It is excellent! And if you imagine your wedding day in a medieval setting, or you would simply like to have a different kind of celebration, this is the ideal spot, because we offer unique theme weddings.

Immerse yourself in history. Ciudad Rodrigo has been declared an Area of Artistic-Historical Importance. It offers wonderful Roman and medieval architecture. The entire city is walled, inviting you to enjoy a lovely walk along the 2-kilometer perimeter. Wander the streets filled with palaces and stately homes, and discover the Plaza Mayor (Main Square) with its 16th-century Town Hall, the imposing cathedral, and more.

This beautiful and historic city is just over 80 kilometers from Salamanca (45 minutes by highway), and 25 kilometers from the Portuguese border. Ciudad Rodrigo is the heart of the area and from here you can visit such unique places as La Alberca and other villages in the Sierra de Francia mountains, with maze-like streets, stone houses with wooden balconies, lovely squares and fountains. You will feel as if time has stood still. There is also Almeida, in Portugal, a walled site and former defensive fortification on the border between the two countries.

Arribes del Duero Nature Reserve is another paradise that awaits you on the border between Zamora and Portugal. With a Mediterranean microclimate and exotic North African flora, it is the last refuge of species such as the juniper and hackberry tree. It also guards treasures like the Pozo de los Humos, an incredible 40-meter waterfall.

Visiting the scenic overlooks and taking a boat ride along the gentle waters of the Douro River, spotting the many birds that nest there, offer a one-of-a-kind experience.