Events of the mid-fourteenth century produced supreme emotions in the Jews of Castile-exultation in their cultural accomplishments, dread that their enemies might sweep their values away, and faith in a merciful God as Protector and Defender of all that they had built with toil and perseverance. Joel H. Klausner has described the epoch when the death of Alphonso XI, under whom the Jews had prospered, brought to the Castilian throne his son Pedro. This violent, headstrong youth, in the course of his nineteen-year reign (1350- 69), was to earn the epithet "the Cruel." However, like his father, he surrounded himself with Jewish ministers. Many Old Christian aristocrats, proud of their own blood-lines, despised the new king for favoring those whom they considered rahez, lowly. Accordingly, they disputed Pedro's claim to the crown by calling him a Jew and by supporting the aspirations to power of his half-brother Henry of Trastamara. For the deceased Alphonso had sired a number of bastard sons who, led by Henry, barely learned of Pedro's coronation when they began plotting civil war against him and persecuting Jews. Doubtlessly Hispano-Hebrews at the king's court realized that to save their lives, their faith, their families, their brilliant culture and their vast economic holdings, they would have to go to battle for Pedro.



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