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DAVILA, DIEGO ARIAS:

Minister and confidant of King Henry IV. of Castile; born of Jewish. parents in Segovia; died in 1466. He, together with his family, embraced the Christian faith when Vincent Ferrer was preaching special sermons with a view to making converts. Drawn to the court of Juan II. of Castile by Alvaro de Luna, Davila, in conjunction with his former coreligionist Juan Pacheco, became both the farmer and the administrator of the royal taxes. In time he gained the confidence of the prodigal young king Henry to such a degree that the latter appointed him head of theroyal audit office or minister of finance ("contador mayor").

To win popular favor both he and his wife showed themselves very generous toward the Church; nevertheless he was always considered a Jew. The author of the "Coplas del Provincial" addressed to Davila the following malignant couplet:

"A ti Diego Arias p . . . Que eres é fuiste Judio, E tienes gran señorio Contigo non me disputo."

[Translation.]

"Diego Arias, thou wretched hypocrite, A Jew thou wert and a Jew thou art. Great is the power that is thine; Hence to no dealings with thee I incline."

Toward his coreligionists Davila's attitude was for a long time cold and forbidding; only later, when it became his duty to appoint supervisors of the revenues in most of the cities, did he have recourse to Maranos. Furthermore, despite repeated decrees of the Cortes to the contrary, he appointed Jews as tax-farmers. The chief administrator of the ducal tax-revenues at the time was D. Moses Ẓarfati; Rabbi Abraham and Joseph, Castellano were the farmers of the revenues in the bishopric of Roa from 1460 to 1462, and D. Moses of Briviesca the farmer of the revenues of S. Salvador de Oña in 1455. While the Jewish tax-farmers were very lenient, the Marano officials appointed by Davila showed themselves merciless, which drew upon them the enmity of the people to such an extent that D. Gomez Manrique, who possessed great influence, preferred charges against the minister, and in the "Advice" which he addressed to him ("Consejos à Diego Arias") he predicted for him a fate similar to that of Alvaro de Luna. With a king so frivolous and prodigal as Henry, Davila's situation was indeed very difficult and precarious; and he often found himself on the verge of being deposed. On one occasion when he represented to the king that the conditions urgently demanded a curtailment of expenditure, the king replied in an imperious tone "You speak as Diego Arias; I act as king."

The castle Puñorostro, together with the villages and hamlets connected with it, which, after its acquisition by him, he turned into an entailed estate. Davila transferred to his oldest son, Pedro Davila, whom he married to D. Maria de Mendoza, niece of the first Duke del Infantado and a grandchild of Marquis de Santillana. Pedro filled the same position as his father had at the court of Henry IV., until he was overthrown through the intrigues of Alonso de Fonseca.

Davila's second son, Juan Arias Davila (not "de Avila"), was Bishop of Segovia. Full of hatred against the Jews, he caused sixteen of them who had been accused of a ritual murder to be burned at the stake.

Bibliography:
  • Enriquez del Castillo, Cronica de D. Enrique IV. xx.;
  • Amadorde los Rios, Hist. iii. 128 et seq., 168 et seq.;
  • Grätz, Gesch. viii. 327.
G. M. K.
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