Mean Royals: The Spanish Princess vs the Tudor Matriarch & Grand-Matriarch – Did Such a Rivalry Exist?

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Was Katharine of Aragon’s relationship with her mother and grandmother-in-law, Elizabeth of York and Margaret Beaufort respectively, tense and fraught with discord as shown in The Spanish Princess? The miniseries, a sequel to The White Queen and The White Princess hasn’t aired yet but the latest trailers has given us a taste of what we can expect.

Like its aforementioned predecessors, the miniseries will be using the common trope of other female lead costume dramas: Women vs women.

This is a trope that has been played to dead. And it is not bad, when well done. But that is the problem here. Did it really happen and if it didn’t, how will it play out?

Should we care?
No. If accuracy isn’t what you are looking for. If all you care is about storytelling, this shouldn’t bother you one bit. But if you are a historical purist, then I suggest you turn off the TV and switch to another channel.

As previously stated, the Mean Girls trope has been played to dead. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Contrary to popular belief though, it wasn’t that common.

Women did fight each other for wealth and position, but these fights didn’t as long as they are depicted in these costume dramas. In fact, more often than not, women who started off as enemies, became allies if not friends in the end.

This was no different for Katharine of Aragon. Forget her rivalry with Anne Boleyn, let’s go further back to the start of the sixteenth century, when she landed on Plymouth, England.

Everyone who saw her was enchanted by her, this includes Elizabeth of York. Little is said about Margaret Beaufort’s opinion of her. Given the written records and what’s known about these figures thus far, there is no reason to think that she disliked her.

If anything, Margaret’s attitude towards Katharine had more to do with prioritizing her son and his dynasty’s interests first above her personal opinions. Unlike Elizabeth of York, Margaret was politically active. Following the death of her eldest grandchild, she would advised Henry VII and gone along with his final decision.

Margaret’s hold over her family is well known and much has been written about it, but Margaret’s actions were no different than other older grand-matriarchs. Elizabeth of York on the other hand, chose to take on a passive role. In this, she excelled tremendously, earning the love and admiration of the English people.

lambeth palace exterior
Lambeth Palace

Elizabeth was intrigued by her future daughter-in-law. There’s no proof of animosity between them. Days before her London entourage, she had stayed at Lambeth Palace. The day when her procession began, the King and Queen had sent their youngest son, Henry, Duke of York to accompany her. They had even offered her a carriage, which she politely reclined, opting for a humble mount instead.

Katharine displayed tremendous gratitude for all the work and effort that had been put into the celebrations, something that wasn’t lost on the royal family and her future subjects. When the ceremonies came to an end, she retired to the Bishop of London’s home at St. Paul’s (where she would be married to Arthur two days later on Sunday, November 14th). In her dual biography on Katharine and her older sister, Juana (I) of Castile, Julia Fox, notes:

“The royal family were delighted with everything and everyone. Queen Elizabeth had caught her first glimpse of Katherine, and the princess was due to visit her the next day.” (Fox)

st paul cathedral interior
Interior of St. Paul’s Cathedral

Arthur’s letters to Katharine had been passionate. This is a key factor that nearly all historians note in their multiple biographies on these notable historical figures. Neither Margaret Beaufort nor Elizabeth of York felt threatened by Katharine’s grace and humility. If anything, these virtues brought them relief.

England had endured a terrible period of dynastic civil war. The repercussions of these royal affairs served as a bitter reminder of what happened when women’s voices rang louder than those of the king’s trusted men. Women played an integral during the wars of the roses. Active or not, they became the object of controversy -real or created- and these controversies were used as weapons against their husbands and sons. After all this chaos, the people expected consorts who took more of a backstage role than a public one. Elizabeth of York had become that and more, to the point of becoming a quasi-religious icon immediately after her death.

koa 2

Katharine’s soft and apparent humble demeanor, mirrored those of Elizabeth of York, whom Katharine hoped to emulate in her coming years as Queen of England.

For her part, Elizabeth of York had communicated to Katharine’s mother, that both she and her husband were pleased with her daughter. Elizabeth’s correspondence to Isabella had begun some years before. Knowing that Katharine would have to communicate in something other than English with her son, she advised the Queen of Castile to take advantage of Margaret Habsburg, who’d recently married Katharine’s brother, Prince Juan of Asturias. Margaret like Katharine, was highly educated. One of the languages she had come to master was French. While Katharine and Arthur could continue to write to each other in Latin, Elizabeth felt it better if she started to learn and practice French too, since it was language that was still highly popular among the English upper class.
Isabella took Elizabeth’s advice to heart. When Katharine came to England, she committed herself to learning England and slowly but surely, becoming indistinguishable from any of the English ladies at court.

Katharine did succeed, but her success did not come until much later when she was Henry VIII’s queen. During these trying years of battling for dominance, standing her ground against Tudor legal forces and foreign interests that underestimated her intellectual capacity and perseverance, Katharine remained the Spanish Princess. The unfortunate widow whose virginity was often debated and contested, which also placed into doubt her eligibility as the next King of England’s future bride. The future seemed bleak for Katharine. Rather than being discouraged by these seemingly impossible odds, Katharine remained adamant. Her first motto as Princess of Wales had been “not for my crown.” She continued to push, finding other outlets to survive and remain in England, until she got what she wanted.

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Elizabeth of York had promised she’d look over her daughter-in-law and be there to guide her through the difficult adjustment into her new country. Following her son’s funeral, Elizabeth did what she could to provide the widowed Spanish Princess with moral support. It is not known what was her opinion of Katharine’s resolute affirmation of her virginity and her parents, especially her mother, pushing for a renewal of the Anglo-Spanish alliance by marrying her to the remaining crown prince, Henry (now) Prince of Wales. Elizabeth’s choice to take on a more conciliatory role as Queen Consort would have made her opinion -if she voiced it- irrelevant. Henry VII had the final say in this matter. Margaret Beaufort’s involvement in this matter seems to have been very minimal. Whatever Henry VII decided, it was for the good of the realm and she, like all his subjects, would follow his lead.

Coming back to the novels this miniseries is based on, from the moment Katharine of Aragon meets Margaret Pole, the two hit it off. This is historically accurate. The two women became best friends, with Margaret reaping the benefits of this friendship right after Katharine weds Henry VIII and is jointly crowned with him. The earldom of Salisbury that had been in her family was restored to her, becoming one of the few female title holders (femme sole) up until that point. But there is a dark history to Katharine and Arthur’s union, a condition which the miniseries will undoubtedly touch upon.

After Katharine and Margaret Pole become fast friends in The Constant Princess, she asks Margaret if she doesn’t blame her for her brother’s execution. Margaret brushes it off as one of many tragic moments in her life, and a reality that royals have to live with.

Is the miniseries going to have Elizabeth of York blame Katharine for what happened to her brother and cousin? The White Queen and The White Princess (based on the novels of the same name) follow the school of thought that Perkin Warbeck was who he claimed he was, the youngest of the lost princes in the tower, Richard of Shrewsbury, better known as Richard, Duke of York. “The White Princess” takes a lot of historical liberties (more so than its predecessor, also deviating from its source material), having Elizabeth of York being one of the plotters behind her brother and cousin’s downfall. Yet, to excuse her actions, she might reason that she was forced into these drastic measures because of Katharine of Aragon’s parents, the Catholic Kings who in real life DID pressure Elizabeth’s husband to secure his throne or else, their alliance was off.

Meg Beaufort

Notable biographer Sarah Gristwood, takes on a different approach from past historians, inferring in her multiple biography on the women of the wars of the roses, “Blood Sisters”, that Margaret never got along with Katharine and held back a gleeful smile when her granddaughter-in-law’s longed for triumph, was nearly ruined by pouring rain. Katharine had come to substitute her as her remaining grandson, Henry VIII, now an adult and the new King of England, trusted adviser.
The Spanish Princess, based off Philippa Gregory’s two novels The Constant Princess & The King’s Curse which protagonists are Katharine of Aragon and Margaret Pole respectively. Judging solely by the miniseries’ trailers, it looks like The Spanish Princess is taking this perspective. In the last chapters of “The Constant Princess”, Margaret Beaufort nearly explodes when Henry VIII begins to listen less and less to her and more to his charming new bride. The miniseries will no doubt recreate this season with Margaret realizing -as Sir Thomas More, Lord Mountjoy and countless others during her joint coronation with Henry VIII- that Katharine of Aragon is not just any Princess, but a woman who was born to be Queen.

In the trailer, Elizabeth reminds Henry VII of the importance of this alliance. “Spain and England unite against our enemies so our son is protected on his throne.”
It’s unknown whether she says this BEFORE or AFTER Arthur dies, and whether or not she is talking about Arthur or Harry. Judging solely from her tone of voice, this conversation could take place after Arthur’s death, when she starts to view Katharine more as a threat and a bitter reminder of the sacrifice they had to make to ensure this alliance. The next line is spoken by her husband in what can only be assumed is an earlier moment in the series, where he warns his Queen that until “that girl arrives, we are lost.”

“Elizabeth of York was glad that after so many delays, the Princess from Spain had finally reached England. In a month’s time, she and Arthur would be wed, and within a year –God willing- she would be a mother. But the Queen’s happiness had come at a price. Before his daughter could come to England, King Ferdinand had demanded the death of the hapless Earl of Warwick. The Young man, though he was a prisoner, was a continuing threat to the security of England, he believed. Until he was properly dealt with, Ferdinand declared, he would not allow his precious daughter to leave Spain. Henry VII complied. To secure the alliance, Warwick and Perkin Warbeck were put to death in 1499.” (Hui)

Taking all of this into account, it’s not far-fetched to say, that part of Elizabeth’s anger towards Katharine will stem from the the losses she and Henry had to endure and the heavy toll they had to pay for the sake of the Anglo-Spanish alliance. Elizabeth’s response to her cousin, Margaret Pole, when Margaret asks what will happen to the widowed Spanish Princess, may be confirmation of this.

Regardless of the historical liberties and deviation from the source material, this miniseries is set to have many historical buffs talking. Hopefully, it will make more people interested in finding out about the real people behind this costume drama, especially Katharine of Aragon, whose beginnings are often overshadowed by her tragic end.

Sources:

  • Penn, Thomas. Winter King and the Dawn of Tudor England. Simon & Schuster. 2012.
  • Chrimes, S.B. Henry VII. Yale University Press. 1999.
  • Fox, Julia. Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile. Ballantine. 2011.
  • Williams, Patrick. Katharine of Aragon: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s First Unfortunate Wife. Amberley. 2013.
  • Hui, Roland. The Turbulent Crown: The Story of the Tudor Queens. MadeGlobal. 2017.
  • Gristwood, Sarah. Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses. Harper. Collins. 2013.
  • Licence, Amy. Catherine of Aragon: An Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife. Amberley. 2017.
  • –. The Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII. Amberley. 2014.
  • –. Elizabeth of York: The Forgotten Tudor Queen. Amberley. 2013.
  • –. Red Roses: From Blanche of Gaunt to Margaret Beaufort. History Press. 2016.
  • Gregory, Philippa. The Constant Princess. Harper Collins. 2005.
  • –. The King’s Curse. Simon & Schuster. 2014.
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The Wedding of the Century Part II: Celebrating in Style!

0Winchester Cathedral 1
Winchester Cathedral

The marriage of Queen Mary and Philip, Prince of Asturias and King of Naples was no little thing. It was a big event and the date chosen, was in honor of Spain’s patron saint, St James. According to contemporary chroniclers, Winchester Cathedral was “richly hanged with arras and cloth of gold, and in the midst of the church, from the west door unto the roof, was a scaffold erected of timber, at the end whereof was raised a mount, covered all with red say, and underneath the left were erected two traverses, one for the Queen on the right hand, and the other for the prince on the left, which places served very well for the purpose.”

0Mary I dress

Mary and Philip were richly clothed in white and gold. Other sources differ, saying that Mary’s dress was one of rich purple. Purple as everyone will remember, was a color exclusively reserved for royals. Her dress was made in the French style. Besides the purple satin, it also contained wide sleeves “set with pearls of our store, lined with purple taffeta.” Philip for his part was dressed in white doublet and breeches with a “mantle of rich cloth of gold ornamented with pearls and precious stones and wearing the collar of the Garter.” The mantle was “adorned with crimson velvet and thistles of curled gold, lined in crimson satin, with twelve buttons made of four pearls on each sleeve.” Mary’s train was “borne up by the Marchioness of Winchester, assisted by Sir John Gage, her lord chamberlain”. After Mary was given away by the Marchioness and the three Earls of Bedford, Pembroke and Derby, the ceremony began. Gardiner reminded everyone that although Philip was a mere Prince, he had been given the kingdom of Naples, making himself an equal to their Queen. Gardiner also added that this marriage was agreed upon by parliament and the wishes of the realm. While he was not specific about the marriage treaty, it was implied that the true boss in this union would be Mary. She was Queen of England after all, and not just any Queen, but a Queen Regnant. Philip was there to help her make alliances, and make their country stronger, and last but not least, to give England male heirs to preserve both the Tudor and Habsburg line.

While Philip showed frustration with this agreement, it did not manifest right away. At the time it seemed like the two were, according to one Spanish chronicler, “the happiest couple in the world. More in love than words can say.”

After Gardiner finished his speech, the people cheered for them “praying to God to send them joy”. Then the ring was laid on the bible so it could be blessed, then Philip added three handfuls of fine gold. Mary followed suit. Her cousin, Margaret Clifford, opened the Queen’s purse so she could make an offering. The sword of state, came forth, symbolizing the unbreakable vow the two now shared. The mass finished with this last proclamation:

0Queen Mary and Philip of Spain

“Philip and Mary, by the grace of God, King and Queen of England, France, Naples, Jerusalem and Ireland, Defenders of the Faith; Princes of Spain and Sicily, Archdukes of Austria, Dukes of Milan, Burgundy and Brabant, Counts of Habsburg, Flanders and Tyrol.”

The couple then traveled by foot to the Bishop’s Palace where they dined in splendor. The Queen and King sat together under a cloth of state, with the privy councilors and ambassadors, and Spanish Grandees and English courtiers, sitting in separate tables. Edward Underhill reported that every kind of dish was served, with the plates being of pure gold.

To show their union was strong, Philip and Mary danced together, and the Spanish Grandees with “the fair ladies and the most beautiful nymphs of England.” This however is taken by some historians with a grain of salt. John Elder reported this with the intention to make the Spaniards appear like lusty creatures, when in fact, Spaniards reported that they found little appeal in the English ladies.

“They wear black stockings and show their legs up to the knee when walking. As their skirts are not long they are passably immodest when walking, and even when seated. They are neither beautiful nor graceful when dancing and their dances only consist in strutting or trotting around. Not a single Spanish gentleman has fallen in love with one of them.”

And the Spanish ladies thought no better of them, believing that they “are of evil conversation.” Underhill however, wanted to put the Spaniards to shame, and implied that the reason behind the Spaniards’ words was because they were too sour compared to the liveliness of the English.

The truth as they say, is in the eye of the beholder and it can be that both sources are both right and wrong. The Spaniards carried themselves with such grace and manners that might not have appealed to the English courtiers. When Mary’s mother was born, Spain was known for its love of clothing, pageantry, and other rich displays. The Spanish Princess had brought with her, her Spanish fashions which soon became a hit among the English girls. The farthingale became widely used, and while she did adopt English headdresses after she married Henry VIII; she continued with many of her Spanish customs, one of which was to party. Henry and Katherine partied a lot, and many of their picnics, and masques are well known. By the time Philip’s father became King however; Spain gradually changed. The country was united once more, but Charles brought with him a code of conduct he had learned from one of the most fashionable courts in Europe (Burgundy). The Book of the Courtier became the bible of every nobleman, it told them how to behave, dress, and even how to eat. It also had specific instructions for women. With all of this in mind, it should come as no surprise that when Philip and his entourage arrived to England, they found little appeal in its customs and its people, and vice-verse.

Sources:

  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
  • Sister Queens: The Noble and Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana of Castile by Julia Fox
  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder: The Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty by Leanda de Lisle

The Birth of Philip II of Spain

Philip II in black and gold armour.
Philip II in black and gold armour.

On May twenty first 1527, the Infante Philip of Spain , Prince of Asturias was born at the Palacio of Valladolid to Isabella of Portugal, Queen and Empress to Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire and I of Spain. Philip was the couple’s firstborn and only surviving son. He was followed by two sisters, Maria and Juana.

The Wedding of Charles V and Isabella of Portugal in Seville, Spain from the upcoming series "Carlos, Rey Emperador" (2015)
The Wedding of Charles V and Isabella of Portugal in Seville, Spain from the upcoming series “Carlos, Rey Emperador” (2015)

The couple had been married the previous year on 10 March 1526 on Seville. They were well-matched. Isabella was the daughter of King Manuel I of Portugal and Maria of Aragon, sister to Charles V’s mother, Juana I of Castile (otherwise known unfairly as “Juana la Loca”). What began as an arranged marriage soon became a love match. Initially Charles V was pledged to marry his other first cousin, whose mother was his mother’s youngest sister; Princess Mary Tudor. Henry VIII’s (then) only child. When he visited England during the summer he found the girl charming and very accomplished. According to contemporary writers, Mary was a young beauty and very precocious, curious and eager to please. However as the years passed by, Charles grew very disenchanted with an English alliance and listened to his councilors who never wanted him to marry the English Princess (or any other foreign Princess) in the first place. Charles V was for lack of better words, not very loved by the Spaniards when he ascended to the throne after the death of his maternal grandfather, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Regent for Castile. He didn’t speak any Castilian and he brought with him many foreigners whom he appointed to key positions in government. In the beginning of the 1520s a popular revolt called “Las Comunidades de Castilla” had been led by the commons and the dissatisfied nobles who called for the cessation of Charles’ policies. Among these many policies were taxation and the appointment of German and Austrian to key positions in government. Their motto was basically Spain for Spaniards only. Charles managed to placate the rebellion but he learned from this experience. To his councilors, it was imperative that he married someone who could understand Spain and could help him rule in his absence when he would be looking after his other territories. As appealing as the idea of marrying the daughter of the Catholic Queen’s favorite daughter, and one who was heiress presumptive at the time; it was better that he married his other first cousin. Someone who was closer to him in age and understood the customs of Spain better.

Isabella of Portugal, Holy Roman Empress and Queen Consort of Spain.
Isabella of Portugal, Holy Roman Empress and Queen Consort of Spain.

Isabella was fierce, ambitious and smart as he was. The two soon fell in love.
When she was in labor, she asked for “a veil to be placed over her face so that no one would see her agony”. One of the midwives reassured her that no one would judge her if she cried or screamed. To this, the young Queen and Empress responded: “I would rather die. Don’t talk to me like that: I may die, but I will not cry out.” Many hours later at 4pm, Philip was born, much to the joy of his father who was so “overjoyed and delighted by his son”.

Their son was baptized six weeks later by the bishop of Toledo at the monastery of St. Pablo in Valladolid.

Monastery of St. Pablo Valladolid
Monastery of St. Pablo Valladolid

Philip became the Prince of Asturias and on his marriage to his second wife, Queen Mary I of England, King of Naples so he would not be inferior in status to her. This however, did not prevent Mary from forcing him and his party to agree to her terms that there would be no other boss in her country except her. Mary I was a stern, calculate and pragmatic woman. Like her sister, the future “Glorianna”, she was both cruel and compassionate. While she wrote desperately to Philip and his father Charles V when he was away to return, her letters are not those of a love-sick girl but of a woman who was demanding his presence because she believed he was vital to help her deal with the rebellions in her country.

Philip next to his second wife, Mary I of England.
Philip next to his second wife, Mary I of England.

After she died, he briefly entertained the idea of marrying her sister, the new Queen, Elizabeth I. After she made it clear that she was toying with him, he looked elsewhere for a bride. His eyes landed on France, on the beautiful pre-teen daughter of Henry II and Catherine de Medici. The couple had two surviving daughters, who became Philip’s favorite offspring, Isabel Clara Eugenia and Catalina Michaela. His letters to her still survive and they speak of great parental devotion. His fourth marriage to his niece, Anna of Austria did the trick providing him with a healthy male heir. The future Philip III.

Modern view of the Monastery of San Lorenzo El Escorial.
Modern view of the Monastery of San Lorenzo El Escorial.

Philip II died at his great monastery of San Lorenzo El Escorial that he had built in Madrid on the 13th of September 1598. He was buried there.

Sources:

  • Imprudent King: A New Life of Philip II by Geoffrey Parker
  • Philip II of Spain by Henry Kamen
  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway

10 January 1480: Margaret of Austria is born

Margaret of Austria was born on January 10th 1480 to Mary Duchess of Burgundy and Maximilian Habsburg. As such she and her brother were the most sought-out brides and grooms.
Margaret of Austria was born on January 10th 1480 to Mary Duchess of Burgundy and Maximilian Habsburg. As such she and her brother were the most sought-out brides and grooms.

On this day in history Margaret of Austria was born. She was youngest sister of Philip “the handsome”. Her parents were Mary Duchess of Burgundy and Maximilian Habsburg. As a result, she was one of the most sought-out brides. Both she and her brother grew under the supervision of their step-grandmother Margaret of York, Duchess Dowager of Burgundy who had married Charles “The Bold” their grandfather in 1468. After he died, their mother had become the ruling Duchess but greedy nobles sought to ally themselves to France and France itself, believed that it could take advantage of the situation and claim Burgundy for his own but to the surprise of everyone, Margaret proved to be made of sterner stuff. Her father’s daughter after all, she took charge of the duchy and arranged for her stepdaughter’s marriage to none other than Maximilian. (Previously, there had been talks to marry her to France, and her older brother, George Duke of Clarence after he had become a widower. Edward IV opposed this match and proposed his brother in law, Lord Rivers instead. Though Margaret was fond of Anthony, having chaperoned her to Burgundy when she went to marry Charles, and staying with him before her visit to England in 1480 concluded ; and sharing a passion for letters, religion and the arts; she felt that he was not the ideal choice for her stepdaughter who was after all one of the most sought out royals.)

“The duchy of Burgundy was rich in trade and culture. It had also once been huge, originally straddling much of the northeastern France and most of what we now think of as the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Geography alone made Burgundy and France uneasy neighbors…” (Fox)

Mary of Burgundy unfortunately died in 1482 when Margaret (named after her step-grandmother) was only two and her brother three. Her death left Margaret of York in a weak position since she believed she was better equipped to be regent for her step-grandson who was now Duke of Burgundy but her stepson-in-law won the upper hand and with little support from her brother Edward IV who had signed a treaty with France at the time, Margaret had no choice but to see her beloved new home be signed over to the French. But luckily for her, her step-granddaughter’s betrothal to Louis XI’s son Charles did not last. Maximilian was then kidnapped and had to be ransomed, and although the two reached a truce and split their duties, ruling the duchy in the name of Philip; Margaret Habsburg was sent to France so she could be reared to become the future Queen of France. However once Charles became King, he abandoned the match in favor of Anne of Brittany and Margaret was returned to Burgundy along with her dowry (which included some of the lands that had been ceded to France) and her education was once again under the supervision of her indomitable step-grandmother.

Around this time, the 1490s, Margaret and her brother became betrothed to King and Queen of Aragon and Castile’s offspring, Juan and Juana. While Juana was sent abroad to marry Philip, Juana was sent to Spain to marry her charming husband, Juan, the heir of the Catholic Kings.

Philip "the Handsome" and Margaret of Austria
Philip “the Handsome” and Margaret of Austria

“It was these children [Margaret and Philip] who Ferdinand and Isabella thought would be suitable partners for Juan and Juana … Conveniently sited on France’s doorstep, Burgundy was a promising ally for Spain, and Maximilian hoped to count on formidable support should the French attack those lands that remained.” (Fox)

In addition, Margaret was asked to help her youngest sister in law whom she instantly formed a friendship with, Katherine of Aragon, to practice her French since Elizabeth of York advised the Queen of Castile that it would be easier for their offspring to communicate .

“In July 1498, the Spanish ambassador reported, “The Queen and the mother of the King wish that the Princess of Wales [Catherine] should always speak French with the Princess Margaret who is now in Spain, in order to learn the language, and to be able to converse in it when she comes to England. This is necessary, because these ladies do not understand Latin, and much less, Spanish.” (Gristwood)

The match was a happy one.  It was later said that Juan who was always weak, died because of the number of times the couple had sex. This is likely false, but at the time it was believed that too much sex could weigh down on the couple, especially on a young man. After Juan’s death, the Catholic Kings were devastated since he was their only son. They made Margaret stay since she was not Dowager Princess of Asturias and was pregnant wit their grandchild. Unfortunately the child was a stillborn girl. Margaret returned home, devastated. However she soon recovered, putting on a brave face for her brother and his wife Juana whom she seemed to be good friends with. But Juana unlike Margaret who had enjoyed a happy (albeit short) union with her brother; did not have that luxury wit Margaret’s brother. Philip was not only abusive but he also sent home more than eighty of her servants after she became his wife and locked her up and had one of his former nannies and governesses abuse her by giving her complete mastery over his wife’s household. He cut back on her expenses and at one point, even Isabella of Castile was worried that he could be physically abusing her though Juana was careful not to say anything to her mother’s confessor.
In spite of this, the couple had many children and Margaret was present during her nephew Charles’ christening and presided over many of the ceremonies celebrating his birth.

Her second (third if you count her betrothal to Charles before he was King) marriage was to the Duke Philibert of Savoy. There she became an influential figure, the one she has come to be known by now. At Mechelen she established a great court and was known for being a great religious matron and matron of the arts and letters as her step-grandmother and namesake had been.

When he died in 1504, she continued to rule his dukedom and two years later when her brother died, she took up the mantle of Charles’ protector and Regent. As one of the most learned women of her day, she held one of the greatest European courts in Savoy in the renovated palace of Mechelen. Anne Boleyn was sent there in 1513 to be part of her household. And it was here where Anne first learned about refinement and started her education; but she was eventually recalled by her father after England had severed its ties from Spain temporarily in favor of France.

In Isabel, Margaret of Austria is portrayed as a vivacious, well-intentioned young woman who wins the hearts of everyone. This is not very far from the real Margaret who was known to be very charming and elegant.
In Isabel, Margaret of Austria is portrayed as a vivacious, well-intentioned young woman who wins the hearts of everyone. This is not very far from the real Margaret who was known to be very charming and elegant.

Margaret died in November 30, 1530 at the age of fifty.

Sources:

  • Blood Sisters by Sarah Gristwood
  • Sister Queens: The Noble and Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile by Julia Fox
  • The Anne Boleyn Files and On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Freelance History Writer blog

RENDITION of Granada

The first portrait depicts Boabdil, the last King of Granada surrendering the keys of his city to Ferdinand while below shows the recreation of his portrait by the series "Isabel".
The first portrait depicts Boabdil, the last King of Granada surrendering the keys of his city to Ferdinand while below shows the recreation of his portrait by the series “Isabel”.

On the 2nd of January 1492, Granada surrendered to the Catholic Kings. The Spanish Reconquest or “Reconquista” was over.

Ferdinand and Isabella rode ahead of their armies. The others present saw how the last ruler of Granada, Boabdil gave the King of Aragon the key to the city. This was a glorious day. Years of campaigning had finally paid off. The Spanish had been fighting the Moors for more than seven hundred years, little by little they had been taking back what the Moors took and at last, Isabella closed that chapter of their bloody history.

But the truth was that the Reconquista as the Spaniards called it, was not merely taking back what their invaders took. It was meant to give a message to Western Europe, that the King and Queen of a new and unified Spain, were blessed by God.

There has always been a lot of debate as to whether the Moors were really invaders or the other way around. The fact was that Spain had been occupied many times, first by African and Celtic tribes and later by Roman and Germanic. There was never such a thing as a ‘Spain’ until the country became one under a single ideal, a single religion and the people responsible for this were Mary’s grandparents, Ferdinand and Isabella. The two had married when they were Princes. Later they became Kings and Isabella fought long and hard for her crown. Some still regarded ‘La Beltraneja’ as the true Queen. Isabella maintained that was not true, she was the true Queen because her niece was not really her niece, she was not even her brother’s daughter. But nothing could ever be proven. Yet Isabella won in the end and shortly after that she initiated a campaign to take Granada from the Moors.

Her enterprise was long and costly but at last she succeeded. On the second day of 1492, she, accompanied by Ferdinand, rode with their armies to meet Boabdil. He greeted Ferdinand and gave him the key to the city, Ferdinand in turn gave it to Isabella. She wasted no time and appointed Inigo Lopez de Mendoza, Count of Tendilla as governor and her confessor, Hernando de Talavera as Archbishop. Boabdil was allowed to live as an aristocrat but left the Spanish Court for North Africa where he died many years later. His mother and half siblings stayed and were assimilated into Castilian noble society.

Sources:
  • Sister Queens: The Noble and Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana of Castile by Julia Fox
  • Isabella Warrior Queen by Kirstin Downey