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The Battle of Toro 1476

Townsend Miller describes the union of the crowns of Castile and Aragon, issued in Spain’s greatest century and accomplished amid civil war and in spite of foreign intervention.

Late in the grey and drizzly afternoon of March 1st, 1476, two armies stood facing each other on the banks of the Duero River, a few miles west of the Spanish town of Toro. One of them was led by the twenty-four-year-old King of Spain, Fernando the Catholic. Alfonso V of Portugal commanded the other. Alfonso’s adolescent fiancee and niece, Juana, peered out from the battlements of the town itself, high on its cliff above the flooded Duero. And twenty miles up river, in Tordesillas, Isabel the Catholic anxiously paced the gallery of the casas reales.

The fates of all four of these people were to be decided during the next two hours. So, too, was the whole destiny of infant Spain, only recently united by the marriage of Isabel of Castile and Fernando of Aragon. For few nations have had so perilous a birth. Isabel and Fernando had sat on the throne only a little more than a year by the late winter of 1476. And it was a shaky throne indeed that they were fighting to save at Toro.

Politically and dynastically, the young sovereigns had their backs to the wall; and if one is to understand the full consequences of this battle, perhaps the most important in Spanish history, he must look with some detail into the tangled events that had brought the Spanish and Portuguese armies finally together on the cold and desolate plains of high Castile that rainy afternoon.

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