Ladies power in Castile

Contrary to popular belief, there was a time back in history when some women were ladies of our towns and villages, not just as simple housewives, but holding the titles of nobility that men generally did. The village of Palazuelos, one of the municipalities of Sigüenza, was one of those villages where women passed over men and kept magnifying the city with their titles.

The castle and walls, an emblem today of what the village of Palazuelos was one day, date back to the 13th-15th centuries. The works extended for a few years so it is difficult to set an exact date. Also, due to the strict laws established by the crown, building and demolishing at the same time was typical. There is a curious episode which happened here in Palazuelos, where the Queen (Juana I), ordered the magistrate of Atienza to go there and find what one of the ladies of the village, Lady Guiomar de Mendoza, was doing. Apparently, she had ordered to build more towers in the castle, and higher than the laws of Castile allowed, and hence the anger of the Queen, who order to stop the works.

Lady Guiomar was married to the Count of Priego, and since their son had no descendants, they passed their titles and properties to his wife, Beatriz of Valencia. But one of the most influencing ladies would be Mayor Guillén de Guzmán, who according to the history, could have been queen of Castile, because of her love affairs with the king-to-be, Alfonso X the Wise, who granted her these domains. They had a daughter, Lady Beatriz, who also inherited the lordship of Palazuelos and would eventually become Queen of Portugal.

Her successor, Lady Blanca decided to enter a convent in Burgos and sell some of her possessions, including Palazuelos. After that, some other women ruled the village, such as Lady Juana Manuel or Juana de Valencia.

If we visit Palazuelos today, we will see one of the most outstanding medieval fortified complexes in all of Castile due to their uniqueness; the walls defend a comparatively small and not particularly strategic population and for their exceptional state of conservation (although in recent years their deterioration has been progressively accentuated). The enclosure surrounds the town, covering a length of just over a kilometre, with the purpose of defending the town from external attacks, but also of locking the population in.

The castle is surrounded by a low barbican that is accessed from the town through a door that had a drawbridge. It is privately owned and has been recently transformed into a private home (visits not allowed).

In 1951, the Castle and Walls of the Villa de Palazuelos were declared a Historic-Artistic Monument, thus recognizing its national interest. This declaration was completed with that of Asset of Cultural Interest, in 2002.

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