Toro is an ancient town, possibly the
Arbukala of the Vaccai tribe which was conquered by Hannibal in 220 BC but survived to trouble the Romans. The Roman town was called
Albucella. The modern name may derive from the bull totem of that Celtiberian people. In the 8th century it was conquered by the Moors. After the Muslims had been partially rolled back, Alfonso III repopulated the town in about 910.
Ferdinand III was crowned King of León in Toro in 1230 and his wife Elisabeth of Hohenstaufen (Beatriz) died here. Enrique II, first of the Trastámara line, summoned his first Cortes here in 1369. Juan II of Castile was born here in 1404, but the town was to have greater significance for his daughter Isabella I of Castile.
Isabella (married with Ferdinand) had a rival for the succession in Juana la Beltraneja, supposedly the daughter of her half-brother Enrique IV, but allegedly the daughter of the queen's lover, the courtier Beltrán de la Cueva. La Beltraneja's supporters arranged her betrothal to Alfonso V of Portugal who was feeling upset over his earlier rejection by Isabella.
A street in Toro with the Torre del Reloj at background.
Alfonso invaded Castile in May 1475, backed by a number of dissident Castilian nobles. Isabella made Tordesillas her headquarters, while Ferdinand moved to secure the loyalty of Salamanca, Toro, and Zamora. Alfonso reached Arévalo in July and both Zamora and Toro went over to him, a serious blow for the young monarchs.
Intrigue seethed as troops marched. Zamora swung back to Isabella's cause. The Portuguese crown prince arrived with reinforcements and in March 1, 1476 the rival armies met at Peleagonzalo, a few kilometres southwest of Toro. Ferdinand was victorious in this battle decided by light cavalry. The Portuguese under Alfonso broke and the king took refuge in Castronuño. However, the result was uncertain since the forces under the Portuguese crown prince defeated the Castilian right wing and remained in possession of the battle field - and thus both sides claimed victory. But the fortress of Zamora surrendered to Ferdinand soon thereafter (March 19, 1476) while Toro remained in Portuguese hands during more than half a year (until September 19, 1476). After that Alfonso gave up the fight and la Beltraneja retired to a Lisbon convent where she died in 1530, aged sixty-eight.
In January 1506, after Isabella's death, Ferdinand summoned a Cortes at Toro. Isabella's legal successors in Castile were her daughter Joanna the Mad and her husband Philip the Handsome, who at the time stayed in the Netherlands. The Cortes took the oath to Ferdinand as temporary ruler and agreed that if Juana be deemed incurably ill, which she showed every sign of being, he should become regent.
When the pair reached Spain in the spring of 1506, the two men agreed that Juana was incapable of ruling. Ferdinand turned over the sole rule to her husband Philip the Handsome and left for Kingdom of Aragon. Less than three months later, Philip was dead. Juana became totally insane and in August 1508 ceded her rights to her father and was retired to Tordesillas.
1500 to present
When in 1520 the towns of Castile, the Comuneros, rose against her son Charles I, who had succeeded his Spanish grandfather in 1516, Toro sided with them. Charles defeated the Comuneros at Villalar de los Comuneros, east of Toro, the next year.
During the Peninsular War, in the bitter cold of December 1808, Sir John Moore began his retreat from Toro in the face of superior French forces. The ghastly ordeal ended in Moore's death before A Coruña (Galicia) in January. In May 1813, 100,000 British troops gathered in Toro under Wellington's command and from here Wellington launched the final campaign which expelled Napoleon's armies from Spanish soil after five terrible years.
English traveller Richard Ford visited Toro in 1831 and reported a population of 9,000; it has just under 10,000 now. In 1838 it lost its status as a provincial capital, its province being merged with Zamora.