Henry the Impotent
“Give me time. I feel a stirring in my loins!”
“Good Lord, is it that time? I need some sleep to try again!”
The chronicles of royalty are replete with additional descriptive names for monarchs in European history. Usually they were designed to flatter. There is Byzantine emperor Leo VI also known as the 'wise' who got through four wives (all by natural causes, I would like to add) or Richard the Lionheart, the Crusader King of England. A wise courtier wouldn't lose his head or knickers over these titles, but other nicknames could get you into trouble. William of Normandy was known both as 'William the Conqueror and 'William the Bastard'. Guess which one was risky? Other kings and queens to receive additional 'character' enhancements were Charles the Simple of France, Joanna the Mad of Castille and Ivan the Terrible of Russia.
But the most humiliating 'surname' was given to King Henry IV of Castile. Unless you are a student of Spanish history, you may have missed him (he was a wretched king), but you would know his sister, Queen Isabella I of Castile. She married Ferdinand of Aragon and thereby united the two countries in time to grant Christopher Columbus's request to go discover America. And what, you may ask, was Henry's additional regnal title? He was called Henry the Impotent — or, in more progressive 15th century circles, Henry the Erectile Dysfunctional.
The Limp Dick of Spain
Today a man suffering from impotence can expect medical advice or at least a pat on the shoulder from a friend. In the 15th century when the virility of a monarch was supposed to reflect on the strength of his kingdom, being called the impotent would surely see countless rebellions and plots from disgruntled nobles. Yet Henry in a way chose this name for himself. Why you may ask? Well it was quite simple (like Charles of France). Henry couldn't fulfill his marital duties with his wife because his 'best friend' didn't fancy consumating the marriage and now preferred another princess. It looked like a desperate ploy. What sort of man would admit in public (as the marriage was annulled in a public ceremony) that he couldn't get it to stand up. Well Henry did.
Henry was born in 1425. His father King John of Castile had arranged the marriage of Henry with Blanche II of Navarre in 1440. They were both aged 15 and so it seemed capable of getting down and dirty straight away. But 'nothing' happened. Blanche never got pregnant and was physically examined. Her maidenhead remained intact. Blanche blamed Henry for his bedroom failure. Henry in turn said Blanche was a physical turn off and that's why he couldn't 'rise to the occasion'. Henry then produced a roster of prostitutes who all attested that Henry's penis was 'happy with them' and that sexual intercourse had been achieved. There was a royal impasse. Henry's younger half sister Isabella was the official heir unless Henry and Blanche got their marriage fixed. Henry refused. He insisted it was Blanche's fault and admitted she had left him officially impotent. Henry implied he had been 'cursed' by a spell, suggesting indirectly Blanche was responsible.
The problem persists
In 1453, Henry got his marriage annulled. It required a Papal Bull from Pope Nicholas to confirm Henry's impotence and therefore allow him to marry someone else. Blanche was sent back to Navarre. Her family were very understanding: They had her locked up. Poor Blanche would die a virgin, though at one stage she tried and failed to get Henry's help against her own father in a power struggle. The limp king stayed away.
Henry became King of Castille in 1454. He had already entered into an informal agreement with Portugal to marry Princess Joan, sister of King Afonso, surnamed 'the African'. Henry and Joan married in 1455 but once again there were no signs of new royal heirs. Henry claimed he had 'no problem' with Joan and insisted they had a busy sex life. However, the courtiers believed Queen Joan was having all the fun. Just not with her husband: Joan was generous with her patronage.
The king's marriage remained childless until 1462, when Joan gave birth to a daughter. Joan claimed it was Henry's, but those who remembered that Henry's 'virility' relied on the testimony of prostitutes suggested the young princess was really the daughter of a Castilian noble called Beltrán de la Cueva, who had gotten 'over-intimate' with Queen Joan. So the young princess was named Joanna la Beltraneja. Henry didn't listen to the gossip. He made Beltrán the first Duke of Albuquerque, requiring the U.S. state of New Mexico to quickly be cobbled around it.
With his only heir widely thought a bastard, Henry's own subjects challenged his authority. His young half-sister Isabella had been displaced in the succession by her younger brother Alfonso. He was only a baby, back in 1454 when Henry had become king, but was now a teenager, full of arrogance and bravado. A war broke out. Isabella supported Alfonso and it seemed likely Henry would lose his political potency as well as his sexual one. Henry was obliged to disown his own daughter from the succession, with a vague assurance that Alfonso would marry Joanna.
However, teen Alfonso died suddenly. 'Cut his own throat shaving' was the official version. Isabella fled to the Kingdom of Aragon, where she married Prince Ferdinand, the heir to the throne. Returning to Castile, Isabella received confirmation that she was the next heir, not Joanna. Unable or unwilling to change this settlement Henry, divorced his second wife Joan. It seems Henry now believed the stories that Joanna wasn't his daughter. This was perhaps confirmed when the ex-queen Joan, who had been sent to a bishop's castle as a virtual prisoner, ended up having a steamy relationship with the bishop's nephews and gave birth to two half-brothers for Joanna. So Henry seemed cuckolded too in a second disastrous marriage. If he had not been impotent, now he had grounds to be.
With no wife nor child for diversion, Henry was lacking in several departments. He began lacking in all the rest when he died in 1474. Joanna claimed the throne, but Isabella got crowned instead. A second civil war broke out when Joanna's uncle Afonso the African of Portugal invaded Castile. Joanna's alleged father the Duke of Alburquerque supported Isabella against her. Joanna in turn married her recently widowed uncle Alonso and became Queen of Portugal. The war dragged on until Joanna gave up her claims to Castile in exchange for future claims on as-yet undiscovered islands in the Atlantic Ocean or along the West African coast.
Though married to King Afonso, Joanna produced no children from this union. He died in 1481. She survived until 1530, outliving everyone else in the story. Queen Isabella of Spain never felt 100% secure on her throne and took every opportunity to remind everyone that Joanna was a bastard and Henry IV had been a sexual failure. It seemed a lot of effort to denigrate Henry but...it worked!
It is astonishing that the performance or non-performance of a sex organ could be such a historic game-changer. But otherwise, Isabella would never have become Queen of Castile and the joint monarch of a kingdom that would become Spain. Others speculate that Henry's sexual issues had to do with repressed homosexuality, though English King Edward II was gayer than a three-franc note but had no problem fathering many children. More likely, in-breeding amongst the Iberian monarchs left Henry malformed. There being no implants in those days, Henry stayed limp.
- The large number of monarchs who chose the same names and needed additional disambiguators helped the peasants understand about death and taxes.
- Providing the necessary sexual instruction to a royal couple was up to a particular family. The fear was that if you told them too much, the greater the disappointment to expect
- Later, king Henry VIII of England would secretly accuse his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, of making him impotent. Since the marriage wasn't consummated, and since Henry had broken with the Roman Catholic Church, he was able to 'Dump the bitch' with no Bull at all.
- Afonso was a fan of all things African; and in those days, it was not a 'cultural appropriation'.
- If Joanna La Beltraneja was really Henry the Impotent's daughter then this would mean a half brother marrying a half sister. Incest in other words. If she wasn't Henry's daughter then what would be the dynastic point?
- Papal acquiescence required a hefty bribe.
- Hence the need for an Uncyclopedia article to settle the score.