ISABELLA OF SPAIN (ISABEL LA CATÓLICA)

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Message  Javier Sam 23 Mar 2019, 1:58 pm

Early in July, 1465, there appeared in Avila a long procession of cavaliers with the Archbishop and the Marqués at their head, on either side of the Prince Don Alfonso, all on caparisoned horses and sheathed in armour from head to foot. The little Prince sat as straight as possible and looked neither to the right nor to the left. His visor was up, showing a glint of his yellow hair to the people who stood on both sides of the rocky narrow street, shouting “Long live the King! Long live the King Alfonso!" The cavalcade passed through one of the gates in the huge granite wall, near one of the machicolated towers, and filed out into the plain, followed by the populace.

Avila is perched on the summit of a wild mountain in the heart of a bleak and arid terrain where almost everything is grey—grey shadows, grey earth, grey rocks; even the sunlight has a greyish tinge, wherever it manages to penetrate. In the old river bed by the town are scattered piles of enormous boulders of granite, polished by the floods of centuries. One goes down past them into a wide treeless waste stretching out to the dark white-capped mountains of the Guadarrama; and the shadows on this plain lie in great waves of greyness, that seem to heave sometimes like the surge of an infinite sea. Standing on the crest near the city walls, one might hesitate to go down into that shadow, for it is like going into some limbo and leaving the sunlight and fair fortune and inviting a dreadful and mysterious doom. A hush falls on the troops as they ride: there is hardly a sound but the beating of hoofs and the creaking of saddle leather, on this fifth day of July.

In the middle of the vega a theatre has been rudely constructed about a high platform on which men are moving about, and even from a distance one can see what appears to be a royal personage on a throne near the edge, for the sun sparkles on his crown and sceptre and on a great sword of justice like that of the kings of Castile. A strange position, his, for so exalted a personage. He slumps down in his chair like a drunkard. One gets another glimpse of him: he is sitting stiff and straight like a scarecrow. When Alfonso and his friends reach the amphitheatre, they see that it actually is a scarecrow, or something very like one. It is an effigy of King Enrique IV, royally clad in a mantle lined with miniver over a black mourning robe. His jewelled collar, the gold chain on his neck, the pearls, rubies and emeralds at his girdle, the slovenly Moorish buskins—nothing has been left out of the picture. The royal banner of Castile floats over his head; and around the platform, as if guarding the mock king, stand knights, men-at-arms, crossbowmen and lancers. A huge crowd is gathering in from all sides as Alfonso, the Archbishop and the Marqués dismount and ascend the platform. All the crafts, all the guilds, are represented there; one sees the brown cowls of Franciscans and the black and white of Dominicans; Moorish sheiks in turbans; whiskered Jews wearing little circular badges, students from Salamanca University, cavaliers wearing the insignia of the three military orders, peasants from Aragon with hempen sandals, Castilian lords in long woollen mantles. The Prince looks down on the crowd. Trumpets bray, kettledrums rumble.

An altar has been set up on one side of the platform. The Archbishop of Toledo has taken off his armour and put on his vestments, red and white, with a glimmer of gold. A bell rings. The Archbishop makes the sign of the cross. He has begun to say Mass. The crowd kneels . . . the Host and the chalice gleam as they are held up in the sunlight. . . , “Domine, non sum dignus," says the Archbishop, striking his breast . . . the Last Gospel . . . the Mass is over. A great murmuring is liberated from the crowd. They press closer to the platform and the men-at-arms. They know there is to be something more. They are hardly prepared for what happens.

TBC....

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Javier
Javier

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Message  Javier Sam 30 Mar 2019, 2:24 pm

The Archbishop, his ruddy face very grave, advances to the effigy of Enrique, deliberately takes off the crown, and says, “Thus lose the royal dignity which you have guarded so ill.”

The Count of Benavente, seizing the sceptre:

“Thus lose the government of the realms, as you deserve.” Diego Lopez de Zuniga now cries, “Lose also the throne and the reverence due to kings!” and he kicks the stuffed image off the seat into the dust of the vega.

Trumpets and kettledrums. A shout of triumph from the partisans of Alfonso. Shrieks and groans of horror from many parts of the crowd; even some loud sobbing: for in Castile a king, whatever he may be as a man, represents the sovereignty of the people, which comes from God. The rebels, however, proceed with their programme. Alfonso is led to the empty throne, seated, the crown placed on the fair head . . . shouts . . . trumpets and kettledrums . . . pandemonium.

The news of the outrage offered him at Avila plunged Enrique into a profound gloom. It seemed to him, and to others, like the beginning of his last chapter. “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb,” he quoted, “and naked shall I return thither.” He shut himself up, strummed his lute, sang some sad songs. Why had he ever offended the Marqués of Villena?

But the rebels at Avila had done their work too thoroughly. They had made something of a martyr of Enrique, they had certainly wounded the Castilian reverence for the idea of kingship, while the Moors and Jews and the large class of office-seekers who had obtained favours from him looked on with indignation. The reaction in his favour gained impetus from the support of Don Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza, Bishop of Calahorra, a scholar and a statesman whose powerful house was allied by blood ties to most of the great families of the north. Little as Mendoza respected the character of the King, he was under no illusions as to the unselfishness of Villena or the cool judgment of Carrillo. Consequently, when those rebels urged him to join the faction of Prince Alfonso and good government he replied, “It is well known, gentlemen, that every kingdom is like a body, of which we have the King for a head. If the head is sick, it seems more sensible to endure the pains rather than cut it off. . . . Holy Scripture forbids rebellion and commands obedience. . . . We ought to preserve the welfare of the greatest number, even if some are unhappy, rather than plunge all into the evils of civil war and anarchy. . . . Prince Alfonso, being only eleven years old, cannot reign for some years yet. Admitting that Don Enrique is weak and vicious, Castile will be no better off under a boy”—and one imagines Mendoza adding under his breath, “controlled by men like Pacheco.”

The Bishop’s letter raised some disturbing questions in the mind of the Marqués. Suppose Enrique should win? What would become of the rebels and their estates, their lives? It was no part of Villena’s philosophy to be on the losing side of anything. He hastened, therefore, to Enrique with a little programme which he flattered himself would be to the advantage of both:

Villena to give Enrique money, urgently needed, and 3,000 lances equivalent to some 10,000 men, who were ravaging the estates of the King’s friends in Andalusia. Villena to hand over Prince Alfonso to the King. All the Pachecos, Villena’s influential relatives, presumably to return to their allegiance, and leave Carrillo and the Admiral isolated and at the King’s mercy.

The King, on his part, to banish Don Beltran, Duke of Albuquerque, and with him Mendoza, bishop of Calahorra. The King to give the Infanta Isabel in marriage to Villena's brother, Don Pedro Giron, Master of Calatrava.

Enrique listened without resentment to the proposal of a Marrano, a descendant of the Jew Ruy Capon, to ally himself with Castilian royalty. Seeing in it only the solution of his difficulties, he readily agreed to sacrifice his half-sister and his friends. He communicated his intention to the Queen, and the Queen informed Isabel.

TBC....

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Javier
Javier

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Message  Javier Lun 01 Avr 2019, 9:40 am

The Infanta could hardly believe her senses. It was no new thing for her to be pledged to some complete stranger— she had been promised at various times to Fernando of Aragon, to Carlos of Viana, to Alfonso V of Portugal; and there was much talk at one time of her marrying a brother of Edward IV of England, probably that Earl of Gloucester who became notorious as Richard III. But all had royal blood, all had qualities she could respect. Don Pedro Giron had neither. He was reputed to be a scoundrel of many vices. And if all that men said against him were false, the fact remained that it was he who made certain insulting proposals to Isabel’s mother. Marry that man? Never!

She wept in the arms of her friend Beatriz de Bobadilla. What was the matter? The King . . . the King’s orders . . . marriage. But marry whom? Don Pedro Giron . . . Mother of God! . . . When Beatriz recovered her speech she ran out of the room, and returned presently holding a small silver dagger. “You will never marry that monster,” she cried, “for I swear before God that if he comes to take you, I will plunge this in his heart.”

Isabel mournfully shook her head. It was typical of her to reject at once, on instinct, any suggestion of violence. God alone had power over life and death, except when He delegated it to kings. To God, then, she must turn for succour. She locked herself in her room. She fasted for three days; and during the next three days and nights she knelt almost continually before a crucifix, passionately repeating over and over again, with tears,

“Dear God, compassionate Saviour, do not let me be given to this man! Either let him die, or let me die!”

All this was duly reported to the King, who merely smiled . . . . Even the Queen, perhaps with some memory of her own unhappy struggle tugging at the mantle of cynicism that she had draped over her finer feelings, and a pang of sympathy for the hollow eyes and pale cheeks that told of the girl’s anguish, predicted that Isabel would never consent. But Enrique replied that he would bring the little fool to her senses, by persuasion if possible—otherwise, by force. Perhaps she needed to be taught who was king of Castile! He had already sent word to Don Pedro Giron to come at once to Madrid to be married, and that was all there was to that. The Alcázar, the whole city, was in a bustle of preparation. Decorations were made. Gowns were ordered for the Queen and her ladies and Isabel. The Court buzzed with the new gossip and enjoyed it immensely.

A courier returned from Don Pedro Giron, who was at his castle at Almagro, with word that the King’s instructions pleased him very well, and that he would go to Madrid with all possible haste. With his black moustache newly waxed and pointed, with kingly raiment on his back and a kingly retinue assembled under the banner of Calatrava, the rake of forty-three set forth to meet his bride of fifteen.

Isabel continued her prayers. Beatriz de Bobadilla, fingering her dagger, did nothing but repeat, over and over,
“God will never permit it, and neither will I.” 2

TBC....
Javier
Javier

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Message  Javier Mar 02 Avr 2019, 9:27 am

IV - THE DEATH OF DON ALFONSO—ISABEL REFUSES THE CROWN—THE MARRIAGE SETTLEMENT WITH FERNANDO OF ARAGON SIGNED

On the first evening after his departure from Almagro with a gaudy retinue and much music and flying pennons and the jests and laughter that ought to follow a bridegroom, Don Pedro Giron came to Villarubia, a small place near Villareal, and there, impatient though he was, the darkness compelled him to stop.

“A few more days,” he said, to console himself, “and I shall sleep with a Princess.”

But no man knows with certainty where he will sleep in a few days. During that very night the Master of Calatrava became violently ill with quinsy. Doctors were summoned, the best Jewish physicians that could be found. But they could do nothing against the invisible hand that seemed to be slowly choking Don Pedro. A frenzy seized him when he realized the hopelessness of his condition. False Converso that he was, he cast aside all pretence of being a Catholic, and refused to receive the sacraments or say any Christian prayers.

On the third day after his departure he died, blaspheming God for His cruelty in refusing to add only forty more days to his forty-three years, that he might enjoy his royal bride.1 It was with silent worms that Don Pedro made his bed; and all his treasures and titles passed into the hands of his three bastard sons. 2

Isabel received the news of his death with tears of joy and gratitude, for she considered it a direct answer to her prayers, and hastened to the chapel to fall on her knees and offer thanks. That night she slept very soundly after her long vigil.

TBC....
Javier
Javier

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Message  Javier Jeu 04 Avr 2019, 7:35 am

It was otherwise with King Enrique and the Marqués of Villena. The death of Pedro, as Castillo recorded, was “very grievous” to them, for with him fell all their beautiful house of cards. And the rebels, impatient for action after a long truce, were mobilizing again. Villena felt that he had his own future to consider and, as usual, he considered it. The choice between the King and the rebels was not difficult. The Marqués mounted his horse and rejoined the Archbishop and the Admiral.

There was nothing for Enrique to do but abdicate or prepare for battle. His plight, after all, was not hopeless. He could count on Mendoza, the influential bishop of Calahorra; and the royal forces numbered some 70,000 infantry and 14,000 cavalry. The King at last made up his mind to fight.

War could hardly be worse than the chaotic peace of the last few months. Every man’s hand seemed to be against his neighbour’s; every little baron preyed on the farms and nearby towns as if he were in an enemy’s country; murders, robberies, burnings and rapes were daily commonplaces; government itself appeared like a form of persecution of the weak and protection for the avarice and brutality of the strong, and while pestilence and famine struck down the poor on every side, old feuds rekindled and brawls flamed into petty wars. A typical example: the Marqués of Astorga sent troops to pillage the lands of the Count of Benavente. The Count’s people, 350 men, women and children, took refuge in a church at Gordoncillo. The soldiers set fire to the church, and all within it perished.

Far more serious in its immediate consequences and its repercussions in later Spanish history was the war that began that summer between the Conversos and the Old Christians of Toledo. The canons of the Cathedral there— some of them were Conversos—controlled the revenues of the neighbouring town of Maqueda, including a tax on bread.3 This privilege, so hateful to the poor, they sold at auction to certain Jews. A Christian of influence named Alvar Gomez ordered an alcalde to beat the Jews and drive them out of the city. This was done. The canons had the alcalde arrested, but while they were deliberating as to his punishment and the settlement of the whole dispute, Fernando de la Torre, a wealthy leader of the Conversos, decided to take the law into his own hands. A rash and violent man, he announced that the Conversos had secretly assembled 4000 well-armed fighting men, six times as many as the Old Christians could muster; and on July 21 he led his forces to attack the Cathedral. The crypto-Jews burst through the great doors of the church, crying, “Kill them! Kill them! This is no church, but only a congregation of evil and vile men!’ 4 The Christians in the church drew swords and defended themselves. Others ran to their aid, and a bloody battle was fought before the high altar.

Meanwhile strong reinforcements of Christians came galloping from Alofria and launched a counter-attack on the luxurious section where most of the Conversos lived. They burned down the houses in eight of the principal streets. They captured Fernando de la Torre and his brother and hanged them; then they massacred the Conversos indiscriminately.

A few days later Isabel's brother arrived at Toledo with Villena and the Archbishop. A delegation of Old Christians waited on the fourteen-year-old prince and offered him their support against Enrique if he would approve of the massacre and of further measures to be taken against the now terrified and disarmed Conversos.

“God forbid that I should countenance such injustice!" said the young Prince without hesitation.

When the Marqués of Villena reminded him that in that case the Old Christians of Toledo would probably declare for the King, Alfonso replied,

“Much as I love power, I am not willing to purchase it at such a price.” 5

CONTINUARÁ...
Javier
Javier

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Message  Javier Sam 06 Avr 2019, 4:50 am

On another occasion Alfonso declared that the nobles ought to be shorn of their power to defy kings and tyrannize over the people. “But I suppose I must endure this patiently until I am a little older,” the boy added, significantly. The Marqués was beginning to find this obstinate Prince and his lofty but purely academic sentiments a little tiresome.

With such support as they could get in Toledo, the rebels gathered a force approximately as large as the King’s. The rival armies now came face to face near Olmedo, on that very field where Enrique as a boy had appeared in arms among the enemies of his father. From Alfonso’s camp the stalwart Archbishop of Toledo sent his message of defiance to the King; and he took pains to let Don Beltran know that his time had come, since forty cavaliers had sworn to accomplish his death on the morrow. Beltran’s retort was to send back by Carrillo’s messenger a detailed description of the armour he intended to wear in the battle.

Early the next day, Thursday, August 20, 1467, the battle began with a charge of cavalry and the shattering of lances; then they dismounted and fought with swords all the rest of the day; the footmen, too, were engaged, and there was great carnage. On the King’s side, a magnificent streak of silver and steel and gold bounding here and there over the piles of dead showed where Beltran was defending himself against his forty sworn executioners. Many fell before that invincible arm, for whatever else the King’s favourite may have been, he was no coward. His great strength and skill preserved him that day for service in a nobler cause.

In the very thick of the mêlée appeared Alfonso, “the King of Avila” sword in hand, in full armour, laying about him so sturdily that several men fell under his blows. By his side, on a great chestnut steed, rode the fiery Archbishop Carrillo, wearing, over his gleaming Toledo cuirass, a scarlet cloak emblazoned with a white cross. Now he hewed a path for Alfonso through the enemy host, and now he rescued the Infante from the onslaught of too many cavaliers. Early in the day Carrillo’s arm was wounded, and the blood trickled down his gauntlet; yet when the rebels finally gave way, he, with Alfonso, was the last to leave the field, and his hoarse voice, like an angered bull’s, could be heard egging on his tired cavalry to one more attempt, until darkness covered all.

Enrique watched the struggle from a hillside. At the first sign of a retreat among his troops, he fled in panic, thinking the battle lost; and when the tide turned and the rebels finally yielded ground to Don Beltran and his companions, the King was nowhere to be found. Pulgar, the chronicler, discovered him next day hiding in a village several miles away.

Both sides claimed the victory. Enrique’s army had remained in possession of the field. The rebels had taken the greater number of prisoners and of pennons, including the royal standard.

The two armies, tired of battle, drew apart. The conspirators were having disagreements, for Carrillo and the Admiral had no confidence in Villena. On the other side, Enrique remained with a small guard at the town of Olmedo, where the Queen and La Beltraneja joined him. He was a pathetic figure, bewildered, penitent, and not without noble sentiments. Mariana represents him as falling down before a crucifix and crying, “Thine aid I implore, my Lord, Christ the son of God, by whom kings reign; to Thee I commend my person and dignity. I beg that this punishment, which is less than I deserve, may be for the good of my soul. Lord, give me patience to endure it, and permit not the people to suffer for my sins!” 6

News of the King’s misery was presently despatched to Carrillo, who had gone to Avila to recuperate from his wound. The old politician at once engaged some of the henchmen of Pedro Arias to go to Olmedo and attempt to seize the King. One evening they managed to get into the royal residence without being detected. Enrique fled half naked through the fields. Knocking at the door of a cottage, he borrowed some clothes from a villager and, thus disguised, mounted a mule that another countryman lent him, and did not stop to look behind till he reached Madrid.

TBC....

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Javier
Javier

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Message  Javier Dim 07 Avr 2019, 6:09 am

The Queen and Isabel, for greater safety, went with La Beltraneja to Segovia. Within its thick battlements they seemed safe enough for the present. The rebels, however, sent a large force of cavalry to capture them. The Queen fled with her baby and a few personal effects,

Isabel had to decide quickly whether she would accompany the Queen or wait and surrender to the insurgents. She was not unwilling to get out of Juana’s hands. Besides, her brother Alfonso was in the approaching army. She waited for him, joyfully.

Brother and sister had much to say to each other, after months of uncertainty and fears for each other’s safety. On Alfonso’s birthday, they rode to see the fair at Medina del Campo, where they had gone as children with Beatriz de Bobadilla from Arevalo. They must have remembered that other birthday of his when he was solemnly entertained by one of the little moralistic dialogues of Juan de Encina, and Isabel took the part of a Muse with a long chiffon robe and a flower in her hair. They must have remembered their mother, sitting in a melancholy stupor at Arevalo. The future seemed like a wilderness of struggles and perils. Isabel, if she escaped the poison of powerful foes, might find some happiness or lifelong misery in a political marriage. Alfonso, if he escaped the cup of treachery, might expect a soldier’s death, or exile—or an unstable throne, set up in the midst of chaos.

When Alfonso rejoined the Archbishop at Ávila, Isabel remained at Segovia. There, in obedience to her mother, she made it her first concern to find a good confessor and to converse with priests and nuns known to be holy and intelligent. It may have been then that she first met Fray Tomás de Torquemada, prior of the Dominican convent at Segovia since 1452. He was the nephew of a cardinal; some said the descendant of converted Jews. 7 There is no evidence that he was her confessor at this period. The coincidence of their being in the city at the same time has been made the slender foundation of a later legend of fantastic proportions, in which Torquemada is made to solicit from the young Princess a promise that when she becomes Queen she will establish the Inquisition. Not only is proof lacking, but the whole story is highly improbable, since Isabel at that time had no expectation of being Queen. 8

It is not improbable, however, that she talked with the prior of Santa Cruz, and may even have discussed the evils of the times with him, as she did with many other intelligent men. It would have been the usual thing, and consistent with her character, to ask him to pray for King Enrique. Most likely, too, she would have asked him to pray for her, and for her brother.

Alfonso, surely, had need of prayers.

Early in July, 1468, there galloped into Segovia a courier from the village of Cardeñosa, about six miles from Avila. He said that the King of Avila had ridden to Placencia with the Marqués of Villena, the Count of Benavente and others to meet a group of nobles whose support the rebels were anxious to gain. The Archbishop of Toledo was not present, having gone elsewhere on a similar errand. Alfonso was, therefore, completely in Villena’s hands. After the conferences they rode back by way of Cardeñosa, and stopped there for the night. Alfonso became suddenly ill. His condition was disturbing. He had expressed a wish to see his sister.

Isabel was on horseback in a trice, and with a small escort at her heels galloped over the winding dusty ways to Avila, and thence to Cardeñosa. As she dismounted, the Archbishop of Toledo, who had lately arrived, came to meet her. She had only to look at the stern set of his face to know the truth: Alfonso was dead. The Archbishop had got there in time to administer the sacraments; but the lad’s illness had been acute, and no medicine could save him. The girl went into the little room where her brother lay, and fell on her knees beside the corpse. When she came out she was pale and weeping; but it was not her way to speak much when deeply moved. Carrillo and Alfonso’s attendants told her what had happened. On the day before, July 3, the Prince had eaten trout, of which he was particularly fond. Either the fish had been poisoned by someone acting in the interest of Enrique and Juana and La Beltraneja, or Alfonso had been seized with a peculiarly violent attack of the summer fever, which had carried off many in Castile that summer; or it was acute ptomaine poisoning. A mystery it has remained to this day.

TBC....

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Javier
Javier

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Message  Javier Lun 08 Avr 2019, 10:26 am

After the funeral, Isabel rode back in stoical silence to Avila. What should she do, what must become of her now? To return to the King and Queen was out of the question. Villena she hoped never to see again—the very thought of him made a great burning of dread and indignation pass over her body from head to foot. For the present she decided to remain at the Cistercian convent of Saint Ann at Avila. The nuns received her with kindness, and she spent several days there alone with her sorrow, in meditation and prayer.

Early one morning there was a clatter of horses’ hoofs in the crooked streets, and the townspeople peeped out of their grey, flat-roofed houses to see the red mantle and white cross of the Archbishop of Toledo, passing pell-mell at the head of a troop of cavaliers. At the Convent of Saint Ann, Carrillo leaped off his horse, and knocked at the gate with the hilt of his sword. The Archbishop of Toledo, begging audience of the Princess Lady Isabel!

In silence and sad dignity the Infanta received him and several other grandes. She wore a severely simple robe of white wool, very long. One after another they knelt before her and kissed her hand. She waited for them to speak. Carrillo was the spokesman. All good men, he said, regretted the death of her brother, Don Alfonso; his death was a national calamity. The Princess Isabel was now the hope of Castile. They had come to offer her their fealty with the ancient crown of the Kings of Castile and Leon.

Isabel listened calmly to the sonorous voice. When the grey-haired Archbishop had finished, she replied quietly but very positively that her brother, King Enrique, was the lawful king of Castile, having received the sceptre from her father, King Juan II; and as kings reigned by the permission of God and were responsible to him for the authority they held, no lawful power in Castile could take it from him without his consent, so long as he lived. She did not condemn her brother Don Alfonso for what he had done, for no doubt he had acted according to his conscience; but, as for her, she would never seek power by unconstitutional means, lest doing so she lose the grace and blessing of God, and all her efforts come to nothing. So long as her brother Don Enrique lived, he might be sure of her obedience and loyalty. “For if I should gain the throne by disobedience to him, how could I blame anyone who might raise his hand in disobedience against me?”

Carrillo pleaded with her passionately, almost in tears. Her refusal would mean ruin to the friends of her brother, for without a leader their cause would fall to pieces, and their estates, their very lives, would be exposed to the vengeance of Enrique and his Queen. And could anyone doubt that the enemy would find a means of getting rid of Isabel herself, so formidable a rival to the child of Don Beltran? Let her reconsider her unwise decision, for the very fate of Castile hung upon her words, and all the murders and burnings and unmentionable crimes that would continue would be her responsibility.

The Princess shook her head—No.

Carrillo bowed and withdrew, very red in the face. Isabel returned to her prayers and her needlework.

The rebels had no choice now but to make peace. Villena in particular, who had reason to fear Carrillo’s influence with the Princess, at once declared that she had been quite right in refusing the crown. Carrillo, with bitter reluctance, had to join the others in suing for terms.

TBC....
Javier
Javier

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Message  Javier Jeu 11 Avr 2019, 2:55 pm

Enrique needed money so badly that he was willing to make almost any concessions. He met the barons near Avila, at the Toros de Guisando, four great stone bulls sculptured more than a thousand years before, and bearing an inscription showing that Julius Caesar had won a victory there. Isabel insisted upon going to the meeting with Carrillo, in spite of his fears for her safety and his prediction that the agreement would be a farce.

The event appeared to justify her confidence. The universal hunger for peace brought about a compromise distinctly favourable to her. Villena, seeing the impossibility of uniting the country under any other heiress so long as Isabel lived, counselled the King to acknowledge her for the present The King, again in the hands of his old favourite, coolly sacrificed Queen Juana and Don Beltran. How low their credit had fallen is apparent in the stipulations to which
Enrique signed his name:

(1) He granted a general amnesty to all the insurgents.

(2) He agreed to ask the Pope to annul his marriage to Queen Juana and to send her back to Portugal within
four months.

(3) He acknowledged Isabel as Princess of the Asturias and heiress to the throne of Castile and Leon.

(4) He agreed to convoke a meeting of the Cortes within forty days, to give legal sanction to Isabel’s title, and to discuss necessary reforms in government.

(5) He promised never to compel Isabel to marry against her wishes on condition that she would not marry without his consent.

(6) He agreed to give Isabel the cities of Avila, Búete, Molina, Medina del Campo, Olmedo, Escalona and Ubeda, for her proper maintenance as heiress.

Thus once more, on that Monday, September 19, 1468, Enrique insulted his wife and virtually admitted the illegitimacy of La Beltraneja. Having signed the agreement, he tenderly embraced Isabel, saluting her as heiress of the realms. All the nobles present advanced to kiss her hand, and to swear allegiance to her between the hands of the Papal Legate, Antonio de Veneriz, Bishop of Leon, who absolved them from their previous oath under coercion to La Beltraneja.

So far so good. The next step was to assemble the Cortes at Ocana and this Enrique proceeded to do. Naturally there were long and involved debates over the woes of the land and the means that ought to be used to remedy them. Enrique having promised to take all the proposals under advisement, dissolved the Cortes. The delegates had taken the oath of allegiance to Isabel, but had not formally ratified the treaty of Toros de Guisando.

The Archbishop of Toledo now had the satisfaction of saying “I told you so," to the Infanta. In that sly little smile of the Marques of Villena he imagined he saw something more than pleasure at being restored to royal intimacy. He had no doubt that the Marqués had put the King up to signing the Treaty of Toros de Guisando with the deliberate intent of scrapping it afterward, and of calling together the Cortes at Ocana to gain more time. But there was something else in the wind.

TBC....

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Message  Javier Dim 14 Avr 2019, 5:39 am

Carrillo was right in suspecting that the Marqués was determined to get Isabel out of the country as soon as possible.

In fact, Villena had already convinced the King that the simplest method, and one that would have the additional merit of preventing her union with Fernando of Aragon, would be to marry her at once to Alfonso V. He assured Enrique that the mere threat of compulsion would bring her to her senses.

If Enrique had any final scruples against forcing Isabel’s consent, they were silenced by the arrival at Ocaña of a magnificent embassy from Portugal, under the Archbishop of Lisbon, who came with Alfonso’s instructions not to return without the plighted troth of the Princess. Villena had urged on the chivalrous Alfonso to the final attempt; and he had well timed his conversations with the King. Fortune helped him further by sending to Ocaña at that time an Aragonese envoy with a new request for the hand of the Infanta for Prince Fernando.

But while the King and his favourite were disposing of her future, Isabel was giving some serious thought to the matter herself. She had three suitors: Alfonso V, Fernando of Aragon, and the Duke of Guyenne, brother and heir- apparent of Louis XI. The first she had met and appraised. Of the others she had no accurate information. She had decided to find out what manner of men they were before she committed her happiness to any of them. Very secretly, therefore, she had sent her chaplain, Alonso de Coca, to Paris and Saragossa to observe the two suitors at close range.

To be sure, a princess must consider the good of all rather than her own preference; but if one could find a way to make one’s private happiness coincide with the general weal, so much the better. For some while this had been the burden of her daily prayers; and now came Alonso de Coca back from his long journey at an opportune moment with the news she sought. The French Duke, said he, was a “feeble, effeminate prince, with limbs so emaciated as to be almost deformed, and eyes so weak and watery that he was unfit for all knightly pursuits." Ah! and what of Don Fernando? Oh, there was a proper man, “a very proper man, comely in face and symmetrical in figure, with a spirit that is equal to anything he might desire to do.”9

Between two such princes, it was not very difficult for a vigorous attractive girl of sixteen to make her choice. And now by unique good fortune it became evident that the man more fit for knightly exercises was also the candidate to whom Castilian policy ought to point. Enrique and Villena had no principles; but Carrillo argued powerfully in favour of Fernando, and his argument showed that he had the vision of a statesman.

Think of the advantage, said he, of joining the two largest and most populous sections of the Spanish peninsula into one nation with common blood, speech, customs and traditions! Such a nation under able leadership could soon sweep the Moorish power into the Mediterranean and back to Africa, It would also be able to resist the encroachments of France from the north, and Portugal from the west. With Castile’s army and Aragon’s navy and merchant marine, it could easily become the greatest nation in Europe. On the other hand, if Isabel went to Portugal, she would become a foreigner and no doubt would be excluded from the Castilian succession by the astute Villena; while her children, if she had any, could hardly hope to inherit the crown of Portugal, since Alfonso V had a male heir, Dom Joao, by his first marriage. As for the Duke of Guyenne, he would probably never become king, for Louis at last had an infant son; and even if he did, Castile would be only an appendage of France. Thus the political wisdom of the Archbishop. From certain other nobles to whom she had written asking for advice, Isabel received similar counsel.

Nevertheless she obeyed Enrique’s request that she receive the Archbishop of Lisbon and his embassy. Having listened with grave courtesy to their speeches, she replied that she thanked them for their good will, and would carefully consider all that they had said. This did not please the Archbishop, nor Enrique when he heard it. The King now notified Isabel that he desired her consent to the Portuguese marriage without further delay; otherwise she would be imprisoned at the Alcazar at Madrid, where he would find a means of teaching her the obedience due to kings.

TBC....

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Message  Javier Lun 15 Avr 2019, 9:26 am

Carrillo had left town, but the Infanta got word to him of the King’s ultimatum through her maestresala, Gutierre de Cárdenas. The Archbishop advised her to temporize with the Portuguese, consent without delay to the Aragonese proposal, and fear nothing; for, in any emergency he himself would bring an army to her rescue. Fernando, he said, was “a boy and man of good discretion,” whom most of the great Castilian lords, his blood relations, would gladly see king of their country. Carrillo himself, said Cárdenas, was in hiding for the present, having been warned by someone at Court, perhaps his kinsman Villena, that Enrique planned to have him seized and put to death for his open advocacy of the marriage with Fernando. Cárdenas and the Admiral, who was Fernando’s maternal grandfather, discussed the whole problem with Isabel at great length. “Since the modesty customary to damsels prevented them from deciding concerning their own marriages,” she had certain scruples. Cárdenas managed to overcome them by arguing that as her father was dead, and her mother incapacitated by illness, she must be guided by public opinion. The three estates, nobles, clergy and common people, wished her to marry Fernando, he said. After a moment of reflection the girl replied,

“God, the witness of hearts, knows that before my own affection I look first to the welfare of these kingdoms. And since the votes of the nobles appear to point in this direction, and it seems pleasing to God, I will conform to His will and submit to the opinion of all." 10

It was decided in her little informal cabinet, that Gutierre de Cárdenas and Alonso de Palencia should go at once to Aragon with her consent. They left at night, muffled in long cloaks, a little troop armed to the teeth, and rode by cow-paths and lonely trails, avoiding larger places, toward the border.

In the interim, Isabel followed the advice of the Admiral and the Archbishop in dealing with the embassy from Portugal. She agreed with their view that Enrique’s threat to coerce her, in violation of the treaty of Toros de Guisando, absolved her from her promise not to marry without his consent, and considered herself justified under the circumstances in dissimulating. She told the Archbishop of Lisbon, therefore, that one very important obstacle to her marriage with Alfonso V was their blood relationship within the degrees forbidden by Holy Mother Church. If the Pope saw fit to grant a dispensation, of course that would put a different complexion on the whole affair.

There was nothing for them to do but send to Rome for a dispensation, which was granted in due course by Pope Paul II. But Enrique did not wait for the return of his messenger to Rome, for Villena had got wind somehow of the departure of Cárdenas and Palencia, and had rightly conjectured their destination; whereat the King was furious, and ordered Isabel’s arrest.

News of the royal decision spread rapidly from the palace to every quarter of the town. There was much gossiping and putting of heads together and running to and fro, all very mysterious, as when something extraordinary is bruited in an ant-hill.

When Isabel arose next morning, rather surprised to find herself still at liberty, she saw through her window various groups of citizens in many kinds of costumes, patrolling the road in front of her apartment, and picketing the palace gates. Pikes, javelins, long spears, axes, swords, daggers, maces—they carried all manner of weapons. What were they doing there? She learned with joy that the people of Ocaña had seized arms and rebelled in defence of her person and her right to wed whom she pleased. Even the children joined in the popular demonstration. All that day she heard them singing in the street,

Flores de Aragon
dentro Castilla son!
Pendón de Aragon!
Pendón de Aragon


Boys and girls were waving the pennants of Aragon and of Castile. Scurrilous gibes at Enrique and the Queen and La Beltraneja had been nailed on the walls and on the palace doors. Men and boys went about singing ballads contrasting the grey hairs of that old rooster Alfonso V with the handsome head of Fernando, who seemed to have grown almost overnight into the hero of a popular legend. Ribald songs about the King and the Marqués were sung under the very windows of the royal family.

Watching the demonstrations, Isabel felt perhaps for the first time the power latent in the mob. Cárdenas, she saw, had been right in what he had said about the people; and she had no doubt at all that God had ratified her judgment through the mouths of the humble. Autocrat though she was by birth and instinct, it was her good fortune now and henceforth in all the great crises of her public life to find her own volition supported and enlarged by the popular voice. Like Caesar, like Napoleon, she had an egotism that was intuitively democratic.

Bemaldez, writing of this occasion in the ripeness of his age, considers the singing of the children a happy omen for better days in Castile. “Domine, ex ore infantium et lactantiun perfecisti laudem,” he quotes; and adds that “in that time of pride, heresy, blasphemy, avarice, rapine, wars and feuds and factions, thieves and footpads, gamesters, pimps, murderers, public tables for rent where the names of Our Lord and Our Lady were blasphemed, renegades, slaughterings and all manner of wickedness, Our Lord put words of joy into the mouths of children : Flores de Aragon . . . Beati oculi qui vident quod vos videtis. Bernaldez reflects the popular sentiment concerning the young princess. In the eyes of burghers and farmers, her chaste piety, well advertised both by praise and by ridicule, seemed almost angelic against the foul background of the Court, and Isabel herself like some white flower sturdily growing out of a mephitic heap of garbage. If anyone could restore peace, it was she.

TBC....
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Message  Javier Mer 17 Avr 2019, 9:46 am

Naturally the King and the Marqués did not share the enthusiasm of their humbler subjects. But there was nothing to do for the present but countermand the order for Isabel’s arrest. Moreover, a new rebellion had flared up in the south and was making such headway that the Marqués considered it imperative that Enrique and he should go there at once with all the troops available. The affair of the Princess could wait until they returned.

They left Isabel safe, but hardly of tranquil mind. Where was Carrillo? Why had he not hastened to her assistance? In the midst of her anxieties came a laconic message from him urging her to flee from Ocaña without delay, and to hide for the present in her own town of Madrigal.

Isabel left Ocaña one night with a few friends, and rode to the town of her birth.

She had hardly got there when a disturbing message came from Cárdenas and Palencia. Having left Valladolid in the middle of the night, to thread their way through unfrequented country roads, they had reached Burgos de Osma. There a few cautious inquiries convinced them that the Bishop of Burgos, who happened to be a nephew of Villena, was hand-in-glove with the King’s party; further, that sentiment along the Aragonese border was hostile to Isabel and her plan to marry Fernando. The Count of Medina Coeli and most of the powerful Mendozas had sworn to seize or slay the prince if he attempted to pass through their fiefs on his way to meet his bride. All this Cárdenas sent to the Princess by a courier who tracked her from Ocaña to Madrigal; and he added a strong recommendation that she ask Carrillo to hurry 300 lances to Burgos de Osma, to open a way for the Prince if the latter decided to come.

Having sent back this message, Cárdenas and Palencia spurred on to Saragossa, arriving September 25, 1469. They could hardly have picked a less opportune moment. Fernando had been fighting desperately all summer. His Homeric father was at Urgel, encircled by his foes and threatened by a mutiny of his unpaid troops. The Catalans had rebelled again, this time in the interest of John of Lorraine. Louis XI had allowed that pretender to pass with troops through the very Roussillon that he had received as security from Aragon.

The situation could hardly have been worse when Juan of Aragon became blind from a double cataract. His Amazonian wife, though ill with cancer, placed herself at the head of one Aragonese army to besiege Rosas, while Prince Fernando raised another and hastened to a junction with her near Gerona. There the Prince narrowly escaped capture and death; but he compelled John of Lorraine to raise the siege of Gerona and withdraw for the present. Then the Queen died, exhausted by her strenuous labours, leaving her husband blind, helpless, penniless, with no one to depend upon but a fifteen-year-old son.

TBC....
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Message  Javier Sam 20 Avr 2019, 4:10 am

In September, when Cárdenas and Palencia arrived in Aragon, a Jewish physician and astrologer had just restored the sight of one of the King’s eyes by couching. Juan urged the Jew to heal the other eye. The doctor pleaded that the planets were unfavourable. Juan threatened him with death, but the Jew refused to operate until October, when he couched the other eye with complete success. Juan, restored to sight at 80, put on his armour, took the field at the head of his troops, besieged Barcelona, and entered it in triumph. Later in December, the sudden death of his enemy, John of Lorraine, relieved him of much military pressure.

But when Isabel's envoys arrived in September, his affairs looked desperate. The marriage of his son to Isabel was a hope close to his heart, for the union of Aragon and Castile seemed to him the only means of keeping his foe Louis XI out of the Pyrenees. To send Fernando to Castile at present, however, seemed nothing but folly. There was the situation at home. . . . There was the watch kept by the Bishop of Burgos and Medina Coeli and the Mendozas on the border. . . . There was the lack of money. Juan of Aragon, however, was not the man to give up while there was breath in his lungs. Fernando signed the marriage agreement. He bade Cárdenas tell Isabel he would join her at the first possible moment. Meanwhile, to prove his sincerity and his love, he sent her as a dowry a necklace of pearls and balas rubies, valued at 40,000 gold florins, that had belonged to his mother, and 8,000 florins in gold coin. The necklace had been pawned, but Fernando borrowed money from some of the rich Jews of Aragon to redeem it.

The two Castilian gentlemen found Isabel still at Madrigal, safe but not incognita. The spies of Villena had been too alert for that, and so, apparently, had those of Louis XI; for within a few days the Princess found herself waited upon by the Cardinal of Albi and a glittering entourage, who came to renew the suit of the Duke of Guyenne. Louis had been following all the maze of negotiations concerning Isabel with the most ardent curiosity. Her marriage either in Portugal or in Aragon would be injurious to French interests, since both these countries were allies of Louis’s enemy, England; and the Aragonese match, in particular, would be a blow at Louis’s aspirations beyond the Pyrenees, for it would raise up a new and powerful Spanish state to resist him. He sent the Cardinal with instructions to spare no eloquence on behalf of his decrepit brother, Guyenne.

Nothing could have been more ceremonially correct than the meeting of the Princess and the Cardinal. What a beautiful thing it had been, that old and admirable friendship between her father and the monarchs of France! “Surely, if your Highness’s father were alive he would never consent to your marrying either Don Alfonso or Don Fernando; and surely in the other world it would give great joy to the soul of the King your Father, if your marriage to the Duke were concluded.” 11 These and more practical reasons the ambassador urged; and offered besides to win over King Enrique to the marriage with the Duke, and thus reconcile him with Isabel.

The Princess heard the embassy, gave much honour to the Cardinal, and replied, “Before all things I shall beg God in all my affairs, and especially this one which touches me so nearly, that He will show me His will, and raise me up for whatever may be for his service and for the welfare of these kingdoms.” 12

TBC....

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Message  Javier Dim 21 Avr 2019, 5:51 am

There was a second interview; and this time the Princess bade them reply to the King of France that “she had determined after mature consideration not to dispose of this matter of her marriage without following the advice of the grandes and cavaliers of these kingdoms, with whom she would consult on that which the Cardinal had proposed to her; and having their vote, would do whatever God might ordain and they might counsel.” Isabel was learning from one diplomat after another the art of saying with great earnestness something that sounds important and means little or nothing.

“The Cardinal did not like this answer,” her secretary naïvely concludes, “but it was the one he had to go away with.” 18

It was at this crisis that Cárdenas and Palencia came back from Aragon with Fernando’s signature and the balas rubies. After she had thanked and dismissed them, she fell on her knees in gratitude to Almighty God; for this, she felt, was the answer to all her prayers.

Her position, nevertheless, was far from secure. Villena and the King were expected almost any day from Extremadura. The Marqués already had emissaries in Madrigal spying upon Isabel, and making daily reports to his nephew, the Bishop of Burgos, who by a curious coincidence happened to be there at the time. His instructions were to watch Isabel’s every move and to notify the Marqués what she was doing, whom she talked with, what plans she might be hatching. Within a week the Bishop had a description of Fernando’s necklace. He promptly relayed it to Villena.

The Marqués was furious. He went immediately to the King. Unless His Majesty was willing to have his royal authority flouted by the Aragonese and an obstinate girl, he must act firmly before his return to the North. A strong force should be sent at once to seize the Princess. Enrique ordered 400 lances, all the cavalry he could spare, to Madrigal.

Isabel’s face was calm, but her mind was uneasy. She felt a thousand dangers hanging over her. She thought of flight. But to what place and with whom? She did not wish to go without the Archbishop. Where was the Archbishop? Why was there not even a message from him?

Somewhere in the town she heard shouts, the sound of feet running, and then the clatter of many horse’s hoofs galloping over the cobble-stones. She imagined the worst. She could see before her nothing but imprisonment—a dungeon, the poisoned cup . . . darkness. There was no time to fly. She fell on her knees and prayed.

A servant opened the door at the end of the chamber and came timidly in, followed by an overshadowing form in gleaming Toledo armour, whose spurs rattled as he came. The girl arose and faced him.

It was Carrillo.

TBC....

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Message  Javier Mer 24 Avr 2019, 4:17 am

V - THE INFANTA ISABELLA'S SECRET BETROTHAL—HER MARRIAGE—THE DEATH OF PAUL II


If the Bishop of Burgos had looked out of his window a few minutes later, he might have seen the Princess and the Archbishop cantering past to join the three hundred horsemen waiting outside the gates of Madrigal.

She followed him without question. As they rode along he explained with his slow pompous gravity why he had not come before, why he had carried her off so suddenly, why he had brought so small a force instead of the “army” he had promised. Difficulty with one of his towns . . . rents uncollectable ... scarcity of money... greed of mercenary soldiers.

Much as she liked and trusted the Archbishop, she was beginning to see in him the weakness that existed, it would seem, in every man. In Carrillo, it was a form of pride—the excessive love of glory. If he always had his broad hand out, like the Marqués of Villena, for royal favours, there was this difference: Pacheco hoarded his gains to gloat over them in secrecy, while the Archbishop wanted them only to give them away again to his friends and flatterers. His vanity made him generous, and his generosity made him improvident, so that with all his titles and possessions he was continually without funds. A strange mingling of the priest and the soldier he was. He had built the monastery of St. Francis at Alcalá de Henares, had founded a chair at the college there, had reformed certain abuses among the priests of the diocese, and otherwise had given evidence of a real desire to promote the health of the Church. Yet the priest in him was constantly being betrayed by the man of war. And he lacked a sense of humour. But on that day Doña Isabel was grateful to him for snatching her away only a few hours before the arrival of Enrique’s troops in Madrigal.

At the end of their fifty-mile ride they saw many cavaliers coming from the city of Valladolid to welcome them; and the citizens waved flags and cheered them and cried, “Castile! Castile, for the Princess Lady Isabel!"

All very gratifying, but, as the Archbishop shrewdly observed, the citizens of Valladolid would weigh little against Enrique’s army. Isabel was still in great danger. No money, no troops: no troops, prison or exile. The only glint of hope Carrillo could see was the possibility that Fernando of Aragon might somehow be smuggled over the frontier. Isabel, as a wife, would have a stronger status, and could either find a refuge in Aragon, or rally what support she could in Castile and confront Enrique with the fait accompli. So argued Carrillo. Isabel agreed. They despatched a swift messenger to Aragon bidding Fernando come in disguise—otherwise the attempt would be futile. The Prince replied that he would come if possible.

The King and the Marqués were already on their way back from Extremadura. Isabel’s capture was not the only business that drew them northward. They had had certain disquieting reports concerning Queen Juana. After betraying her and her child in the Treaty of Toros de Guisando, they had sent her under a guard to Alehejos, as the “guest” of the Archbishop of Seville. Still young and beautiful, she was a woman “to whom talk of love was pleasing, and other things which youth is accustomed to demand and modesty to deny. . . . Delighting more in the beauty of her face than in the glory of her reputation, she did not preserve the honour of her person as she ought, nor that of the King, her husband.” 1 Forbidden to visit her daughter Juana, who was at Buytrago; strictly guarded by Don Inigo Lopez de Mendoza, Count of Tendilla, she found a way of winning over a boy named Don Pedro, a nephew of the Archbishop, who brought horses to a place under the castle wall one dark night, and lowered her from the battlements in a large basket. Unhappily the rope broke, and Juana tumbled in a heap. Her face and right leg were bruised, but there was nothing more serious; and she continued the adventure with Don Pedro. On the way to Buytrago they stopped to pass the time of day with the Duke of Albuquerque at his castle of Cuellar. All these events were reported to the King and the Marqués.

While they were on their way north, a small caravan of merchants was leaving Tarazona, in Aragon, to the east. Going as rapidly as their mules and asses, laden with goods, could proceed, they travelled long after sundown by out-of- the-way trails that went only through small villages. Some of them, for merchants, had uncommonly fine features and soft skins. And one of their servants, a young muleteer, had a certain distinction even in ragged garments and with a soiled cap pulled over his eyes.

When they stopped at an inn, the muleteer waited on the rest at table. He had frank alert eyes, a symmetrical, well- nourished body, and strong shapely hands. The candlelight on his brown hair gave it a somewhat reddish tinge. When he smiled, and he rarely did, one noticed his small, white, rather irregular teeth. At night, while the merchants were asleep, he tossed restlessly about, or got up to pace the courtyard of the inn and study the stars.

Working their way west along the river Duero to Soria, the merchants followed a rocky trail across the mountains, and late on the second night of their journey came to Burgos de Osma. The gates of the castle, the first on their way that did not belong to one of the enemies of the Princess Isabel, were already locked for the night. While the merchants stopped at a little distance to deliberate, the young muleteer, more impatient, ran ahead, and knocked loudly at the gate.

Overhead suddenly opened a window, from which the inmates, accustomed to visits from marauders or robber barons, let fly a shower of stones. A rock as big as a man’s head grazed the ear of the young muleteer below.

“Do you want to kill me, you fools?" he cried, “It is Don Fernando! Let me in!"

There were footsteps ringing on stone pavements, the rattle of chains and the slow creaking of the mighty gates . . . the voice of the Alcaide, identifications and apologies.

TBC....

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Message  Javier Jeu 25 Avr 2019, 7:25 am

Early next morning the Alcaide conducted the Prince to Dueñas in Leon, where friends of Isabel met him and, as soon as he had changed his clothing, escorted him to Valladolid. Isabel, with the Archbishop and Beatriz de Bobadilla and other friends, was waiting for him at the palace of Juan de Vivero. As he entered the hall, an excited courtier cried, “Ese es! Ese es!”—in commemoration of which his descendants have always been permitted to have “SS” on their escutcheons—“That is he! That is he!”

As the Prince came across the hall with a slow, deliberate step, like that of a man who knows what he wants, Isabel watched him with a fascinated, half-painful curiosity; this stranger was her husband! He was then seventeen years old, but responsibility had made him seem older, and a lofty brow, made higher by incipient baldness, gave a look of great intelligence to his face. He had bushy eyebrows, and quick daring eyes. It was easy to believe all that had been said of him—that he was simple in his dress, sober in his tastes, always master of himself in all circumstances, always the prince. Somewhere in his face—on one portrait at any rate—there was, oddly enough, a hint of something Semitic. 1 When he smiled, his face seemed handsome. When he spoke to Isabel, his voice, ordinarily rather hard and authoritative, became musical, persuasive, as it did with those he liked or wished to please.

There were the usual formalities. Carrillo was present, and the Admiral of Castile, Fernando’s grandfather, and other notables. Conventional compliments passed in prolix and musical Castilian. Isabel and Fernando were thinking their own thoughts.

Isabel was then eighteen, eleven months older than Fernando and perhaps an inch taller, “the handsomest lady I ever beheld,” said one courtier, and if no way remains to judge whether or not he flattered—for the portraits of her are poor and do not resemble one another—those who saw her agreed at least on the fine proportions of her athletic body, her graciousness and poise, the classic purity of her features, the beauty and harmony of her gestures and all her movements, the music of her rather low and distinct voice, the copper and bronze lights in her hair and that delicate fair colouring that no painter could have imitated. Like Fernando, her second cousin, she was descended on both sides from the English House of Lancaster, from the Plantagenets. To that kingly race perhaps she owed her fair skin and hair and her blue eyes with the green and gold flecks swimming about in their depths.

Fernando arrived on the eleventh of October. On the twelfth Isabel wrote the King a long letter announcing her intention, justifying her course and begging his blessing. 2 If possible she would have waited for a reply; but the Archbishop, the Admiral and the Prince, with convincing arguments, urged an immediate marriage.

Yet Isabel still hesitated. She was related by blood to Fernando within the degrees forbidden by the Church. The necessary dispensation would have to come from Rome, and she anticipated a long delay by Pope Paul II, who had been prejudiced against her by Villena’s agents for the past five years. The Prince replied with his most disarming smile that every difficulty had been foreseen. His father, King Juan of Aragon, had obtained the dispensation more than five years ago from the previous Pope, Pius II, during those early negotiations for Isabel’s hand. Fernando’s grandfather, the little Admiral, produced the bull, and handed it to the Archbishop with a great flourish. The document was in blank authorizing Fernando to marry any person related to him within the fourth degree of kinship. Evidently the wily Juan had not pinned all his hopes on Isabel! At any rate, the Archbishop, with more than his ordinary gravity, declared that there was no further obstacle to the marriage; and he performed it on Wednesday, October 18, at Juan de Vivero’s palace, in the presence of some two thousand persons.

TBC....

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Message  Javier Ven 26 Avr 2019, 4:42 am

Fernando had already sworn at Cervera to the conditions dictated by Castilian fear of the Aragonese and by Isabel’s conviction that only a strong Castilian sovereign with a united public opinion could bring harmony out of chaos; and before the conclusion of the marriage ceremony he solemnly repeated the oath. He agreed to respect all the laws and usages of Castile; to reside there and never leave the country without his wife’s consent; to make no appointment, civil or military, without her approval; to leave all nominations to church benefices in her hands; to alienate no property belonging to the Crown; to continue the holy war against the Moors of Granada; to provide always for the maintenance and comfort of Isabel’s mother the Queen Dowager at Arévalo; to treat King Enrique with respect and filial devotion, as the lawful ruler of Castile. All public ordinances were to be signed jointly by Isabel and Fernando, unless one of them happened to be out of the kingdom. Isabel, if she succeeded Enrique, was to be the undisputed sovereign of Castile, Fernando to have the title of King only by courtesy—a necessary concession to the traditional Castilian fear of Aragonese intrigue.

All this was hypothetical, depending on what Villena’s malice and the King’s weakness might manage to effect. But for the present Isabel was completely happy, probably for the first time, possibly for the last time, in her restless life. She loved her husband with all the ardour of a nature that despised half-measures, and Fernando loved her as much as it was possible for his colder and more practical spirit to love anyone. Of the two she was the better educated and undoubtedly the more lofty and magnanimous of soul. But perhaps their very incompatibilities contributed to the success of their marriage, for it is difficult to imagine Isabel living amicably with a man as intense and unbending as she was herself. Certain it is that both exercised from the start a remarkable understanding and forbearance; and the same tact and common sense, carried over into the intricate business of government, enabled them to work together so successfully that it was said “they acted in all things as one person.”

Fernando accomplished whatever business he had to do quietly and methodically. Though he was most scrupulous about the cleanliness of his person, he wore the plainest sort of clothes as a rule. On feast days of the Church or other grand occasions, however, he would wear around his neck a gold chain set with pearls. He loved games of various kinds. In youth he played pelota, later he spent much of his leisure at chess and backgammon, and to the end of his days he was devoted to cards.

Isabel’s relaxations were poetry and music, conversation on literature, philosophy and theology, and of course riding and hunting. But her patience must have been tried severely at times by her husband’s devotion to cards. She disliked all games of chance; and as for professional gamblers, we have the word of Lucio Marineo for it that she classed them with blasphemers. “Hell,” this Italian moralist and man of letters assures us en passant, “is full of gamblers.”

And in summarizing the strong aversions of the Princess, whose guest he was, he adds that while she paid great honour to grave, worthy and modest persons, she abhorred libertines, loquacious fellows, the importunate and the fickle; “and she did not wish to see nor to hear liars, coxcombs, rascals, clairvoyants, magicians, swindlers, fortune-tellers, palm-readers, acrobats, climbers and other vulgar tricksters." 3

Perhaps it was fortunate, then, that Fernando was a man who loved peace, and, where no vital principle was involved, preferred to compromise rather than to fight. No one but Isabel ever curbed his more earthly and selfish nature; no one else evoked from him so much that was fine and generous. There was between them, moreover, one strong bond that helped to smooth over their differences. Both were sincerely religious. Fernando never broke his fast until he had heard Mass, even when travelling. But Isabel not only heard Mass daily, but “was in the habit every day of saying all the canonical hours” like a priest or a nun, 4 besides long prayers in private and “extraordinary devotions.” In many personal habits, too, they were in complete agreement. Fernando ate sparingly and drank moderately. Isabel never touched wine at all. “She was abstemious,” wrote Marineo, “and, as we vulgarly say, a water- drinker.”

TBC....

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Message  Javier Sam 27 Avr 2019, 6:38 am

The happy autumn of 1469 passed quickly. Christmas came, and still there was no word from King Enrique. Isabel began to watch the road for royal couriers. Not only her future security but her very bread and butter depended upon her half-brother's forgiveness. Several times that winter she was not only without money, but had difficulty in obtaining the barest necessaries. Fernando could expect no help from his father, and Isabel could collect none of her revenues without the King’s permission. Three days after their marriage she sent a second missive by certain cavaliers, explaining to Enrique that since he himself had broken the treaty of Toros de Guisando by attempting to force her to marry Alfonso V against her will, she was free from all obligation. The King replied laconically that he would consult his ministers, meaning, doubtless, Pacheco. No further message came from the Court.

To complicate the situation further, Isabel conceived early in 1470. They were still at Valladolid. Where they would be when the child was born was a profound mystery. And yet they were both overjoyed, and, going together to Mass early in the morning, knelt before the high altar and returned thanks to God for the great favour He had shown them in their adversity. Isabel may have worn a dress of somewhat faded elegance, and Fernando’s doublet may have shown signs of wear. But what did youth and love care for such trifles?

At last came a reply from the King. Isabel, he said, had deliberately disobeyed him. She had broken the solemn treaty of Toros de Guisando. He must treat her as any other rebel and enemy of the public weal. And that, very likely, meant war.

Valladolid, full of the spies of the Marqués, was no longer safe. At the Archbishop’s suggestion Isabel went to his brother’s house at Dueñas with her husband, to await her delivery.

Villena meanwhile sent secretly to Louis XI, advising him that Isabel’s was a lost cause, and suggesting that the Duke of Guyenne ask for the hand of La Beltraneja. Louis followed the advice.

In June Isabel wrote a third letter to the King, offering her “filial” obedience and Fernando's, and begging him, for the sake of peace and justice, to recognize her claim as his heir and to unite with her in abolishing anarchy and misery. Enrique made no reply.

Isabel’s child was born at Dueñas on the first day of October, 1470. She accepted the universal pain of women with fortitude, but it was not so easy to face the ordeal in the presence of several officials appointed for the occasion in obedience to a rule that had been observed in Castile ever since the mother of Pedro the Cruel was accused of having palmed off the son of a Jew on her royal husband, who insisted upon a male heir. Isabel stipulated that her face be covered with a silk veil; not that she feared crying out, for she knew how to suffer in silence, but in case she could not control the muscles of her face, she did not choose to have the witnesses see a Princess of Castile so much as wince.

The child was a girl, fair haired, and called by her mother’s name.

TBC....

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Message  Javier Dim 28 Avr 2019, 8:03 am

A few days later, the Princess sat up and dictated a long letter to the King. She reminded him of her conciliatory letters, unanswered; renewed the offer of her obedience, and indirectly made a shrewd appeal to the public dislike for the French with whom Enrique was negotiating:

“And now from many sources we are informed that instead of your accepting our just supplication, you have permitted certain foreign people, extremely odious to our nation, to intrude themselves by various wiles and devices, and to take other steps against us and against the right and legitimate succession belonging to us; the which your Highness, of your own free will, swore to me the Princess publicly, while I was in your power within view of Toros de Guisando, in the presence of the legate of our most Holy Father, and with his authority; and you imposed the same oath on our very reverend fathers in Christ the Archbishops of Toledo and Seville and the Master of Santiago and the Count of Placencia and the Bishops of Burgos and Soria and other Dukes and Counts and ricos-hombres gathered there at that time; and later, in the town of Ocaña, by your lordship’s order, many other prelates and cavaliers swore to it, and the procuradores of the cities and towns of these realms, as your Worship well knows, and as everybody knows. And, very excellent Señor, since we still desire that you send to bid us serve and respect and obey you as a king and lord and a true father, for which we are willing to answer to God, Our Lord, in the heavens, the true knower of public and secret intentions, and to your inhabitants in this land, and even to strangers, we have decided to write this present letter to your Grace; in which with the reverence of children and servants we beg that it may please you to accept our just supplication, and to receive our obedience and service, laying aside all grievances and displeasures in the service of Our Lord and for the pacification of these your realms and possessions, and showing mercy to us, whose intent never was, nor shall be to anger you, nor do you any despite. And if by chance, very excellent lord, it should not please your Highness to do this in as kindly a spirit as we beg it, then we ask what in justice you cannot deny us: that before the commencement of those rigours which would be difficult to stop after they begin and could cause such great offences to God and irreparable damage to these your kingdoms (moreover we believe they might extend to a very large part of Christendom) your Grace should please to hear us and to maintain our just cause.” 5

After citing the approval of her cause by prelates, members of religious orders, and others, Isabel lays aside diplomatic amenities and thrusts home with what amounts to an ultimatum:

“Hence, very mighty Señor, since we so sincerely offer you peace, and submit ourselves to the judgment and sentence of your subjects: we supplicate your royal lordship and, if necessary, demand with that Almighty God who is accustomed to be and is a true and just judge between emperors and kings and great lords, that it may not please you to deny us that which you cannot and ought not deny to the least in your kingdoms. This we supplicate and demand of your Grace, once and for all, with as much insistence as we can and as much reverence as we ought. Likewise we intend to publish it in your kingdoms and beyond them: for if this is not received in the spirit in which we offer it, then in the defence of our just cause we will do what is permitted to all by divine and human sanction, and we shall be without blame before God and before the world; and to this we ask your Highness that we may have your definite reply."

Enrique bestirred himself to answer that Isabel had been ill advised to marry without his consent, “on account of the evils which such things produce in the realms,” and he attributed it entirely to her disobedience that “it is not yet pleasing to God that the mischiefs and wars which exist in the kingdom shall cease."

Knowing that some nobles would support him because he was the King, and others because they would wish to be on the stronger side, he had decided to fight. His next move was to summon Queen Juana and her eight-year-old daughter from Buytrago to Lozaya, where the Marqués of Villena and several other cavaliers took the oath of allegiance to La Beltraneja as heiress to Castile and Leon; after which the Cardinal of Albi, as proxy for the Duke of Guyenne, solemnly pronounced the words of betrothal with her. The Court proceeded to Segovia for feasting and processions. La Beltraneja remained under the protection of the Marqués of Villena.

TBC....

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Message  Javier Lun 29 Avr 2019, 6:05 am

In all this news, full of the threat of civil war, the only encouragement for Isabel was a report that Don Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza, who as Bishop of Calahorra had once refused to join the rebels at Burgos, now declined to take the new oath, saying that when he took it previously all the nobles in the kingdom had done so. Knowing Mendoza’s respect for legitimacy and all the other machinery of peace and order, Isabel hoped his refusal might mean that he was beginning to doubt that the country could ever be united under the standard of La Beltraneja, and she saw in him a possible ally.

She found other unexpected friends in hunger and fear. There was famine that winter in Castile. The roads were full of footpads and cut-throats. Money had almost disappeared and goods were exchanged by primitive barter. Corpses of wayfarers were found every morning in city streets, strangled or starved. There was pestilence everywhere, everywhere the tolling of funeral bells and the digging of graves. White, bony faces stared from the grey walls of houses as cavalcades of nobles or troopers rode by; and curses followed them, curses especially bitter against the Marqués and King Enrique, to whose infamies the commoners attributed the wrath that God was visiting upon them and their children.

Spring brought Isabel other confederates: Biscay and Guipúzcoa had declared for her. She heard that Villena, having begged and received from Enrique the town of Sepulveda, was refused admittance, and the inhabitants sent their allegiance to her and Fernando. The citizens of Aranda de Duero cast out the officers of Queen Juana and raised the flag of Isabel, who rode there with Carrillo to receive their homage. Agreda ejected the Duke of Medina Coeli, to whom Enrique had given the place, and declared for the Princess.

Even death seemed to have joined the ranks of Isabel’s partisans. The Duke of Guyenne suddenly expired after eating a peach, which the enemies of his brother, Louis XI, were only too eager to believe had been poisoned by the royal command. At any rate, Isabel was rid of a troublesome suitor; while La Beltraneja, thrown back on the matrimonial market, was offered by Enrique to her uncle the King of Portugal. Alfonso declined the honour, alleging scruples.

Pope Paul II, who had generally leaned to the side of Enrique IV as the legitimate sovereign, died in the summer of 1471. The election of the devout and learned Franciscan, Francesco della Rovere, as his successor, proved most favourable to Isabel. As she was henceforth to have some very important relations with this Pope, Sixtus IV, it is necessary to consider for a moment the condition of the Church at that time, and the part the Pope played in the life of Europe.

TBC....

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Message  Javier Mar 30 Avr 2019, 9:25 am

VI - THE PAPAL COURT IN 1471—THE REFORMATIONS OF SIXTUS IV—CARDINAL BORGIA’S MISSION TO CASTILE—THE DEATH OF ENRIQUE IV


In the Middle Ages the Pope, as spiritual father of Christendom, had been the head of what was virtually a League of Nations, or more accurately, of feudal divisions, for there was little nationalism of the modern sort. The Church was almost coextensive with society, made up, to be sure, of the good, the bad and the indifferent, saints and sinners, wheat and tares, but cemented by a common faith and a common standard of ethics. Unlike the twentieth-century League of Nations, which is abortive chiefly because nations are unwilling to surrender their sovereignty even in part to the mere abstraction of a super-state, the medieval Pope, as the visible successor of Saint Peter and the Vicar of Christ on earth, was almost universally respected by Christians, and imposed upon all the conflicting masses that made up our western world a common culture and a comparative harmony. Thus on a foundation of faith and good will, the Church accomplished what the Roman Empire had been able to effect only by sheer force. The medieval harmony varied with circumstances and the abilities of different Popes, but it will be found that the balance was more often disturbed by the attempts of the State to subvert the Church to the purpose of tyranny than from the encroachments of the Church upon the province of the State. Men attempted to solve the problem of balance by nice definitions of the spiritual and temporal powers. It was the accepted view that both Church and State were of divine origin, and must be sovereign in their respective spheres. The Church had no power over civil legislation or administration in merely secular matters, such as the election or appointment of officers and the collection of taxes; but it was the Pope’s right and duty to interfere with kings or lawgivers where there was question of sin or of the salvation of souls 1 The Church prohibited slavery as immoral; encouraged the co-operation of employer and employee in guilds, insisted upon the sanctity of marriage, arbitrated wars, forbade wars of aggression, reduced the violence of conflict by the Truce of God. In extreme cases the Pope could and did release from their allegiance the subjects of evil or tyrannical kings; on the other hand he could excommunicate a notorious rebel, or a heretic, or a disturber of the peace. Such was the theory that Christendom accepted, and, considering what human beings are, it was remarkably successful in practice.  “The work done by the Curia was enormous, ranging from arbitration between kings to minute regulations about disputes in a parish. The Pope, needless to say, could not transact all this business unaided. His chancery became the most technical and also the most efficient administrative machine which ever existed. Every stage in the preparation of a bull or mandate was carefully scrutinized to secure authenticity, prevent forgery and guarantee that each formality, from the acquiescence of the Pontiff to the consideration of technical objections by the parties, had been observed. . . . The medieval methods of cultivation and restraint are not in favour nowadays, but if we reflect upon the magnitude of the task, the condition of society and the amazing energy of its life in the early Middle Ages, it cannot justly be said that they were unduly repressive. And, by maintaining as a practical guide in life the conception of an ordered universe, in which there is a fundamental harmony between moral and physical law, the Church turned the faces of the European peoples in the only direction along which social and scientific advance was possible.” - But during a century or more before the birth of Isabel, the harmony and balance of Christendom had been violently disturbed by forces beyond the power of any Pope to control.

TBC....
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Message  Javier Mer 01 Mai 2019, 6:56 am

In 1347 there had come out of the darkness of Asia a mysterious and irresistible disease, that slew a man in two or three days at the most, sometimes in a few hours. From the black spots that were its dreadful symptoms and from the grisly black of the corpses, it was called the Black Death. Within two years after its appearance at Constantinople it had spread to every comer of Europe, killing at the very least 25,000,000 people. Some cities perished utterly. In most, a third to half of the people died. Nor was there safety on remote farms or in mountain villages. People died of fear. Mothers forsook their sick children. Whole masses went insane. Some in despair plunged into orgies of vice, others rushed to the monasteries to throw over the walls pest-tainted gold from which the monks shrank in horror. Ghostly ships with flapping sails were washed on the shores of France and Spain, and the curious fishermen who boarded them found only black rotting corpses on the decks and themselves went ashore to die. The scourge fell with special virulence upon the labourers, and even more so on the clergy, constantly exposed to contagion as they were by the necessity of administering the sacraments to the sick and the dying. In one Italian monastery only one monk survived to bury his thirty-six brethren.

The Church in Isabel’s time had not yet recovered from the terrible blow. It had almost annihilated her priesthood; and, to fill even partially the places of the dead, she had been compelled to lower her standard, accepting men ignorant of Latin. There was a weakening everywhere of ecclesiastical morale and discipline. Meanwhile, at the time when men had most need of it, the authority of the Papacy was long impaired by the enforced exile of the Popes at Avignon, as virtual prisoners of the French Kings for seventy years.

It was not until 1377 that Gregory XI returned to Rome. One of the deplorable results of the exile was the Great Schism. Europe was bewildered by the spectacle of two and even three claimants to the chair of Saint Peter. And although that schism ended in 1417, complete unity was restored only when Nicholas V was recognized by the whole Church in 1447—only four years before the birth of Isabel. Moral corruption had become widespread, both in Church and State. The need of reform was a primary issue.

But while Christendom writhed with internal pangs, its very existence was threatened by the almost continuous onslaughts of powerful and aggressive foes without. Of these the most dangerous were the Mohammedans, who from the very beginning had preached and practised conquest by the sword. The Pope was the only man to whom all Christians might look for leadership, and it was the Pope alone whose voice repeatedly thundered above the follies and passions of Europe, calling upon princes to lay aside their selfish quarrels and unite in the defence of their common civilization. For a thousand years the energies of Europe were drained by what was virtually one gigantic defensive crusade. When Urban II preached “the first crusade,” so-called, in 1095, Islam, now the arch-foe, had dominated Christian Spain for nearly four centuries, and had thrown a wedge into the very heart of Europe. From the eighth century the encroachments of Moslem power had constituted a standing major problem for nearly every Pope, and for some of them an almost overwhelming one.

In the time of Isabel's father, Pope Eugenius IV preached a crusade against the Ottoman Turks, who were overrunning Hungary, and Duke Hunyadi of Transylvania led crusaders from all parts of Europe into Servia and routed the Moslems at Nisch. But after the Hungarians made peace, against the advice of the Pope, the Turks crossed the Hellespont, crushed the Christians at Vanna, and in 1448 defeated Hunyadi. Nicholas V, the first Pope in Isabel’s lifetime, sent twenty-nine galleys to defend Constantinople in 1453. His successor, the Spanish Pope Calixtus III, made the stopping of the Turkish advance the one great aim of his pontificate. He sold his art treasures and table service to obtain money for the crusade to regain Constantinople: his fleet drove the enemy from Lemnos and other places, but in the end he failed because the European princes were too stupid or too selfish to perceive the danger. Under the scholarly Pius II, there appeared in Rome the battle-scarred face of Skanderbeg, who had been warring for a whole generation for the independence of Albania, while greedy Venetian traders plotted his ruin, and now he came, at sixty, begging for help. When he died in 1468, he had failed to save his country but he had averted the conquest of Italy.

TBC....

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Message  Javier Jeu 02 Mai 2019, 4:14 pm

The next pope, Paul II, sent money to Albania repeatedly, and called upon all rulers to join the crusade. But in the spring of 1470 Mohammed II launched a fleet of 400 ships against Negroponte, a supposedly impregnable place on the island of Euboea, and in July, while the Pope was trying to reconcile Venice and Naples and appease the enmity of Ferrante II of Naples, the news came that the impossible had happened, that Venice had lost the pearl of her Grecian dominions. There was consternation in Rome, in all Italy, even in Spain. “All Venice,” wrote the Milanese ambassador, “is struck with dismay; the inhabitants, half dead with fear, say the loss of all their possessions on the mainland would have been a less disaster.” Malipiero wrote, “The glory and credit of Venice are destroyed. Our pride is humbled.” This disaster frightened the warring Italian princes so much that by the end of 1470 the Pope had succeeded in uniting them in a defensive alliance against the Turks. But Paul II died the following summer, leaving Christendom in a critical state.

He bequeathed to his successor two mighty problems— the two overshadowing issues of the whole fifteenth century: the corruption in the Church, and the Turkish invasions. By a peculiarly sinister irony, each of these evils contributed constantly to the perpetuation of the other. The weakening of ecclesiastical discipline and the scandalous lives of many political prelates made it more difficult for the Pope to organize Europe against the enemy. Yet the enormous demands of the crusade left him neither time nor energy for the thorough house-cleaning that was needed. To break the vicious circle, the times called for a Pope of holy and irreproachable life, who was at the same time a statesman of masterful genius—a Gregory VII, an Innocent III.

At this moment (1471) the tiara was placed on the grey hairs of a man in whom many saw the promise of greatness. Sixtus IV was a Franciscan, devout, earnest, even ascetic. As general of his order he had been a capable administrator, an energetic reformer, and an eloquent preacher. His powerful head suggested unusual energy and force; his face bore marks of thought, toil, self-discipline. His private life was blameless. He was generous to a fault, and valued money so little that if he saw some lying on his table, he commanded that it be given to the poor. He paved Rome and restored its walls and bridges. Although he was a poor friar of lowly birth, he became after his elevation a discerning patron of the arts and sciences. It was he who built the Sistine Chapel, re-established the Vatican Library and opened it for general use, and employed such painters as Ghirlandajo, Botticelli and Perugino. He assumed office with the lofty purposes of reforming the Church and prosecuting the crusade with all vigour.

The one rock on which the good intentions of Sixtus might possibly be wrecked was nepotism, the source of so many evils in the Church. And it so happened that Sixtus did love his relatives more than a Pope should. As soon as he was elevated they flocked to Rome from their native Liguria, with hands open for favours and benefices. Sixtus made two of his nephews cardinals: Giuliano della Rovere, aged twenty-eight, and Pietro Riario, aged twenty-five.

TBC....

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Message  Javier Ven 03 Mai 2019, 5:12 pm

Giuliano, afterwards Pope Julius II, was grave and resolute, with great handsome dark eyes, a truly Renaissance character of titanic energies, like Michael Angelo. Nature seemed to have intended him for a soldier and a statesman. His youth was that of a Renaissance noble, turbulent and ambitious. In later life he reformed himself, and commenced the reform of the Church several years before the excommunication of Luther.

Pietro was proud, sensual, ostentatious, absolutely unworthy of the rich benefices that his generous uncle showered upon him. He was not the son of Sixtus, as enemies of the Pope insinuated, but of Paolo Riario of Savona. 3 “He seemed to vie with the ancients in pomp and grandeur—and, it may be added, in vices. All morality was openly defied by this upstart. Instead of the habit of Saint Francis, he went about in garments laden with gold, and adorned his mistress from head to foot with costly pearls.” 4 When the Princess Leonora of Naples visited Rome, Pietro had a splendid wooden house, a veritable palace, built for her and her attendants before the Church of the Apostles. The banquet-hall of the palace was kept cool by three great bellows, hidden among precious tapestries. Even the meanest vessels in the house were of silver and gold. Riario’s banquet to the Princess recalled the pagan luxury of imperial Rome. Servants in silk first gave the guests sweetmeats, oranges encrusted in silver, and malvoisie, with rose water for their hands. Three courses followed, forty-four dishes in all, including stags roasted whole and in their skins, goats, hares, calves, herons, peacocks with their feathers, and finally a bear with a staff in his jaws. 5

Riario gained much influence over Sixtus, but, fortunately perhaps for the Church, he died of his excesses after three years of glory. His banquet gives some hint of how the Renaissance, taken as a philtre, had made all Italy drunk with the desire to imitate the pagan past in which it suddenly discovered an ancestor. The Renaissance as the recovery of classical art and wisdom was one thing: the Renaissance as the return of classical vices and futilities was quite another. It was the pagan side of the glorious awakening that troubled sober churchmen and philosophers, and it was that phase—for passion is always a better publicity agent than saintliness—that chroniclers most carefully set down and historians are tempted to exaggerate. Against the meagre records that we find of many holy lives in homes and cloisters, of men and women in difficult surroundings attempting to follow the example of Christ, of aristocratic women toiling in scores of charity hospitals, of associations of the rich to lend money to the poor without interest, of men inspired by religion to risk their lives serving in the “burial societies” in time of pestilence—against this humble background of daily felicity and charity, and against the most magnificent art that human hands ever created, fall the blacker and more gigantic shadows of such smiling scoundrels as Cesare Borgia and his brother the Duke of Gandia, such veritable monsters as Sigismondo Malatesta, and a whole army of such able and noisy scribblers as Machiavelli, ridiculing the humility and self-abnegation of Christianity and glorifying all the passions—lust, avarice, pride, selfishness—that the Church had laboured so many centuries to restrain. If any of the pious imagined that the unity of the Middle Ages had finally banished all the false gods and demons of the dead world, they were to have many harsh reminders of a conflict that would end only with time.

TBC....

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Message  Javier Dim 05 Mai 2019, 1:23 pm

For they found themselves surrounded by men who seemed consumed with a curious ambition to be their own remote ancestors, so to speak—for the pagans, as usual, were the reactionaries, and the believing Christians the misunderstood minority looking forward to a better age. There was something grotesque in the religious veneration that the humanists of the Roman Academy, who had rejected the dogmas of the Church, laid at the mouldy shrines of poets and philosophers dead this thousand years and more; something almost too fantastically human in their burning candles before the picture of Plato, as if he were a saint; something positively bewildering in the mental processes of a priest—such as Marsilio Ficino, teacher of Pico della Mirandola—who could gravely address his congregation as “beloved in Plato” instead of “beloved in Christ.” Bewildering is indeed the word for this epoch in which there flourished, side by side, the sublimest art and the most abominable crimes—sometimes united in a single person, as in Cellini; an extraordinarily long list of the most splendid saints, and vainglorious autocrats addicted to the worst vices of Nero’s time and owning no principle but the vicious one of Machiavelli that the end justifies the means. It was as though Pan, awakening from a long sleep in the Falemian hills, had come down on stealthy hoofs to the Campo di Fiore early in the morning to jeer at Cardinal Ascanio Sforza riding forth with his hounds and his hawks for the hunting; as though Priapus had crawled from the ruins of some forgotten garden on the Palatine to leer through the oleanders by the palace of the beautiful Vanozza near the bridge of San Angelo.

Yet the Church, as Pastor justly remarks, was not by any means the author of the evils that corrupted her. She had tried to restrain the tyranny of the State, but the State had enslaved her. She had opposed militarism, but the elemental necessity of self-defence had entangled her. She had preached against the fatal excesses at the root of most human miseries, and even now in her period of weakness, her friars, especially Dominican and Franciscan, thundered in the vein of Savonarola against the sins of princes and prelates. But the insidious forces that she had set her face against had made their way into her own sacred places. And over the anxious and ascetic form of Sixtus IV fell the ominous shadow of a Spanish Cardinal, his vice-chancellor, Rodrigo Borja—in Italy called Borgia.

When Borgia handed the tiara of Saint Gregory the Great to Francesco della Rovere on the day of his coronation, August 25, 1471, it was generally believed that the new Pope would immediately commence the needed reform of the Church. But the Turkish victories in the east and the panic of all Italy took precedence over all other issues. The overshadowing necessity was to unite Europe in a league of self-defence. Measures for holding a great Congress of all Christendom were earnestly discussed at a Consistory on the thirtieth. But after many discussions and much correspondence, nothing came of it; for the rulers, as usual, were indifferent.

In December, Sixtus appointed five of the Cardinals Legates a latere, with the object of “calling upon the whole Christian world to defend the Catholic Faith against the Turk, the enemy of the name of Jesus.” He sent the venerable Bessarion to France, Burgundy and England, Angelo Capriano to the Italian states, Marco Barbo to Germany, Hungary and Poland, and Oliviero Caraffa to command the fleet to be organized with the aid of the King of Naples. He sent Cardinal Borgia to his native country Spain.

At the same time the Pope issued a bull in which he described the Turkish preparations for the conquest of all Christendom, and called upon the princes to join in the common defence.

TBC....

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