Cover image for The Lara family : crown and nobility in medieval Spain
The Lara family : crown and nobility in medieval Spain
Doubleday, Simon R.
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Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
vi, 198 pages : maps ; 25 cm.
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DP60.L3 D68 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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For much of the Middle Ages, the Lara family was among the most powerful aristocratic lineages in Spain. Prot#65533;g#65533;s of the monarchy at the time of El Cid, their influence reached extraordinary heights during the struggle against the Moors. Hand-in-glove with successive kings, they gathered an impressive array of military and political positions across the Iberian Peninsula. But cooperation gave way to confrontation, as the family was pitted against the crown in a series of civil wars.

This book, the first modern study of the Laras, explores the causes of change in the dynamics of power, and narrates the dramatic story of the events that overtook the family. The Laras' militant quest for territorial strength and the conflict with the monarchy led toward a fatal end, but anticipated a form of aristocratic power that long outlived the family. The noble elite would come to dominate Spanish society in the coming centuries, and the Lara family provides important lessons for students of the history of nobility, monarchy, and power in the medieval and early modern world.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

As its subtitle suggests, this lucid scholarly work by Hofstra University history professor Doubleday takes the 300-year odyssey of the powerful Lara family as a case study in the changing relationship between the Castilian aristocracy and the monarchy. The Laras began their rise as prot?g?s of Alfonso VI in the 11th century, when "the royal court was in fact a fountain of aristocratic power." Gonzalo N#?ez ("de Lara" was added later to indicate the family's geographic base in northern Spain) gained his king's favor as a talented warrior, the key to ascendancy as the Christian kingdoms crusaded against the Islamic powers on the Iberian peninsula. Land and political authority were granted to the Laras as rewards for loyal service, particularly in the early 12th century, when Pedro Gonzalez de Lara was the favorite of Queen Urraca. But as the monarchy sought to increase and centralize its power in the early 13th century, the Laras emerged as defenders of aristocratic privilege and suffered periods of disfavor when they turned to the Aragonese kings and even to France for support. Acceleration of the reconquest campaign in the mid-13th century improved the fortunes of another generation of gifted soldiers, but the relationship between crown and nobility remained tense and confrontational. When Nu?o de Lara died in 1352, the lands of Lara fell under royal control and an epoch ended. Nonetheless, Doubleday concludes, "Aristocracy, not monarchy, was the dominant force in Castilian society in the fifteenth century and would remain so well into the early modern age." Very specifically focused on local events, filled with discussions of the distinction between tenancies and patrimonies, this is not a book for the general reader, but serious students of Spanish history will find it informative and cogently argued. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

This interesting published dissertation examines one of the most powerful aristocratic families of Castile during the central Middle Ages. The Laras developed their wealth, power, and territorial acquisitions in approximate parallel with a similar expansion of the monarchy in Leon and Castile, all owing a good deal to reconquest expansion against the Muslim south. Doubleday (Hofstra Univ.) surveys this familial rise with a generation-by-generation account of the family's accumulation of patrimonies and tenancies acquired by basking in the light of royal favoritism, including the 12th-century affair between Pedro Gonzalez de Lara and the regnant Queen Urraca. Suffering a series of setbacks in the early 13th century, the Laras then became part of the aristocratic reaction against Fernando III and Alfonso X, even to the extent of cultivating neighboring rulers in both Aragon and Muslim Granada. During the 14th century, the family rebounded by gaining control of Vizcaya in the north but fell into eclipse in the Trastamara period. They are nonetheless argued to be the harbingers of the aristocratic dominance of the early modern era. Useful maps, but the bibliography is contained exclusively within the footnotes. Certainly readable by college undergraduates. J. F. Powers College of the Holy Cross

Table of Contents

Introduction Symbiosis
1 The Chains of Love
2 The Revels of War
3 A Zenith and a Nadir Confrontation
4 The Road to Rebellion
5 Revolt, Rapprochement, and Rumor
6 Ricos Hombres
The Tenancies of the Laras Principal Figures of the Lara Family
Glossary of Spanish Terms