The Wedding of the Century Part I: Mary I and Philip of Spain

Mary I and Philip of Spain

Mary married Philip on the 25th of July 1554 at Winchester Cathedral. The marriage was officiated by Stephen Gardiner. There is no source that speaks about the color of Mary’s dress, but thanks to the inventory, we know that her dress was one of rich purple (purple as everyone will remember, was a color reserved for royalty) with her husband-to-be wearing a robe “ornamented with pearls and precious stones” wearing the collar of the Garter, his breeches and doublet white “and over all a mantle of rich cloth of gold”. Mary’s train was the last one to arrive at half past ten “with all her council and nobility before her”. Her train was carried by the Marchioness of Winchester who was assisted by Sir John Gage, her lord chamberlain. The sword of state was carried by the Earl of Derby and she was attended by a “great company of ladies and gentlewomen very richly appareled.” Philip for his part was attended by the great noblemen of his Spanish court (the Grandees) and other courtiers who “were richly attired that neither His Majesty’s nor his Highness’ court ever saw the like.”

0Mary I dress

Even the heavy rain could not offset the glorious spectacle that was witnessed by English and Spanish courtier, and other guests of honor alike. While pop culture has been unkind to Queen Mary (I) Tudor, it is important to remember that Mary was the first Queen Regnant and as such, she was the subject of many attacks. But she was not a love-sick girl or crazy fanatic. Her policies, although ruthless, reflected the grim reality of the period. And her marriage with Philip reflects her own independence. Before the wedding began, the Bishop of Winchester made a speech in which he reminded his Spanish guests about the marriage treaty which clearly stated that although Philip was Prince of Asturias and King of Naples, he would have little control over English affairs, unless he was given royal permission. He also added that the wedding had been approved by parliament and was done in accordance to the wishes of the realm.

Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor of England, Stephen Gardiner. Left (Tudors), right (Wolf Hall).
Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor of England, Stephen Gardiner. Left (Tudors), right (Wolf Hall).

“With a loud voice Gardiner said that, if there be any man that knoweth any lawful impediment between these two parties, that they should not go together according to the contract concluded between both realms, that they should come forth, and they should be heard.” Then he asked “in English and Latin” who should give the Queen away and the “Marchioness of Winchester, the Earls of Derby, Bedford and Pembroke” gave her away “in the name of the whole realm.”

Afterwards, they heard Mass then went to the Bishop’s Palace where they “dined most sumptuously together” and enjoyed the rest of the celebrations. Over the following weeks, it was reported by a Spaniard visiting the English court, that Mary and Philip appeared “the happiest couple in the world, more in love than words can say” adding that he never left her side “and when they are on the road he is ever by her side, helping her to mount and dismount.” Philip played his role to perfection, as did his wife. But as the weeks turned to months and these turned to years, it became evident that the couple was anything but happy.

Sources:

  • Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation and Murder by Leanda de Lisle
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Isabella: The Warrior Queen by Kirstin Downey

Isabella warrior queen book

Isabella has been compared with Ferdinand and her larger than life, Anglican counterpart, her granddaughter Mary I’s half-sister, Elizabeth I. But it was Isabella, who had firstly defied gender stereotypes, who refused to conform to the life of a docile and pleasing wife, and teach her daughters domestic skills that would have pleased their husbands. She couldn’t change their attitudes, nor their arrogance. Some of them suffered from the latter, others were more conniving than their oldest siblings, but all of them benefitted greatly from their mother’s example and the education she brought them. All of Isabella’s daughters had the opportunities this imposing Queen never had. She had been born to a highly religious, and very jealous mother, Isabel of Portugal. Named after her, she grew up in a very religious environment but also a very unusual one. Chacon, her tutor and longtime friend, taught her to admire strong female saints and biblical figures who were known for their outspokenness and fighting skills rather than for their passiveness. The girl who was abandoned by her half-brother when he became King, and denied, her, her mother and her younger brother their annuities and lands, and had to watch as girls of lesser rank than her dressed more richly, grew up to become one of the most fearsome figures of the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Downey could not have said it better when she said, that in Isabella Castile and all of Spain had a true monarch, a woman who did not see her gender as an impediment but rather as a strength and gave her daughters the best things money, religion and status could buy. “Out of all her daughters” Downey writes, it was Katherine who was the most “resembled the Spanish monarch” in appearance and demeanor. Katherine of Aragon was sweet, beautiful, and petite like her mother and also headstrong, devout, cunning, and ambitious, using whatever tools she had to her advantage and further her cause. During Katherine’s early years of widowhood, Isabella was teaching her most difficult child, Juana how to rule. Juana as the author states here was *not* crazy but in fact very sane. The problem lay in her husband who has gone down in history as Philip “the fair”. A vain, conniving man whose patronage of artists and scholars did not make up for his incompetence. Like Isabella’s father and brothers, he was dominated by his male courtiers who had a deep dislike for the Spaniards whose customs they considered odd. Juana’s religiosity was nothing out of the ordinary. In Castile widows were known to take chastity vows and cover themselves from head to toe in black, or lead ascetic lives or take religious orders. Isabella’s mother had been one of these widows. Though she had dressed in the finest gowns when she was queen and like Juana had a strong temperament, she had left all this behind when her husband died and her stepson, the new King, Enrique took her allowance and everything else that was left for her and her children. Juana did not go to these extremes, but she did take comfort in the religion that had so often comforted her female ancestors and gave her mother strength. She had seen her mother at her best and worst, and she was determined not to let her down. Unfortunately, Juana thought that Philip would give her the same love and respect that he had given her mother in the first years of their marriage and that their marriage would become a partnership as theirs had during the campaign against the Moors, and the defense of Italy against the Turkish menace and later the French. Philip did not show any interest in Juana, other than using her to breed children and get money out of her. When she became his wife, he locked her up, retired her servants and bribed her remaining ones so they would be loyal to him and when he was told she’d given birth to his daughter, he showed disgust and told the ambassadors that he would leave Juana to support herself. There was talk that he would leave her for a French bride –which was the hope of his councilors who were the real rulers of Burgundy- and he was this close to doing this but Juana gave birth for a second time, this time to a boy two years later in Ghent. This boy would become Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire and I of Spain. Isabella always the pragmatic woman, immediately recognized him as her heir, and so did Ferdinand. But Ferdinand would prove to be a poor Regent to his wife’s dominions after she died. In recent dramas he has been depicted as a loving husband, whose union to Isabella was a love match and filled with passion, but the truth is not so beautiful. Using primary sources and delving into the history behind the religious conflicts between all three monotheistic faiths of the time, Downey paints an accurate picture into the life of Isabella I of Castile, and explains how is it a woman whose reign started with a greater degree of tolerance (than her brother’s) could have descended into one of religious persecution to the point where Spain became a region of religious homogeneity; and the reasons behind every one of her daughter’s actions, including her daughter in law (the beautiful Marguerite whom Isabella grew very fond of and whose miscarriage of their dead son’s baby, sent the imposing Queen into despair and extreme melancholy and left many to question her reign); and last but not least, how is it that a woman such as her, whose sponsorship of such brave but merciless men like Christopher Columbus, Humanists like Martyr, “La Latina” among others, has been forgotten and had her name blackened for centuries?

"Acknowledging nothing out of the ordinary, Isabella took a seat on an improvised platform in the square. A silver crown was placed upon her head. As the crowd cheered, Isabella was proclaimed queen. Afterward she proceeded to Segovia's cathedral. She prostrated herself in prayer before the altar, offering her thanks and imploring God to help her rule wisely and well." As she stood there, Downey also adds, she showed no "trace of fear or hesitation. Inspired by the example of Joan of Arc."
“Acknowledging nothing out of the ordinary, Isabella took a seat on an improvised platform in the square. A silver crown was placed upon her head. As the crowd cheered, Isabella was proclaimed queen. Afterward she proceeded to Segovia’s cathedral. She prostrated herself in prayer before the altar, offering her thanks and imploring God to help her rule wisely and well.” As she stood there, Downey also adds, she showed no “trace of fear or hesitation. Inspired by the example of Joan of Arc.”

History is written by the winner. Isabella wrote history, she changed history, her story is herstory. She defied gender roles and made her own rules, made promises before God then conveniently forgot them. She did and said many things, regardless if they were sanctioned by the church or not, and her ideas were very similar to Luther’s -who defied her successor a decade after her death- and whose heroes were among Isabella’s. She saw herself as the real power behind the church, she brought this institution to its knees, bullied and forced it to reform. While Spain benefitted from this, many of the people she had welcomed with open arms and made many promises before God, did not. After altering the deal she had made to Muslims, shortly after the surrender of Granada on the second of January 1492; she gave them an ultimatum: Convert or leave. Those who remained would face the horrors of the Inquisition. To be fair, Downey also puts forth the horrors the Jews and Muslims faced on many other countries. Christians themselves were not safe, after the fall of Constantinople many women had been raped, enslaved, or killed in a most horrible manner. And although some of these accounts are Christian and could be exaggerating, some of them are not and the Turks themselves boasted of such horrors. Slavery, cruelty, debauchery, was the law of every land. Isabella was no stranger to these. Like every monarch of her times, she used cruel methods to accomplish her goals.

But the greatest legacy of this great queen perhaps is that she strengthen, for future generation of Christian rulers, including Protestants, Christianity and weakened the Turks and stopped their advance into Italy, further into the Iberian Peninsula and into other places of Europe (including Eastern Europe). Unfortunately, the man she married turned out to be her complete opposite. Always eager for profit, Ferdinand carried very little about the state of the church, or their daughters’ affairs. Isabella made him promise her on her deathbed never to marry again, and he said yes but as soon as she was dead he was out there negotiating for his next marriage. He chose the “Beltraneja” the daughter of their rival, Enrique IV whom Isabella always conveniently claimed, could not be her niece and displaced her from the line of succession. If he married this girl, then he could claim his marriage to Isabella was a sin before God and that his wife had been an usurper and his daughters (including Katherine and Juana) were nothing but bastards. Juana was not a fool, acting with stealth and determination that her husband did not possess, she ordered the Beltraneja be kept under lock and key and this angered her father even more.

"His long absences from Castile, his refusal to return home when Isabella needed him, and his sexual infidelities certainly made him appear unreliable" and they often quarreled. He wanted her to be subservient, but she was nobody's servant and demanded completely fidelity from him, something he did not give. And although the two learned to work together, and Isabella loved him; Ferdinand loved power more and after her death he conspired against their own daughter, did little to help their youngest, and did not bother to speak to the middle one Maria who was Queen Consort of Portugal.
“His long absences from Castile, his refusal to return home when Isabella needed him, and his sexual infidelities certainly made him appear unreliable” and they often quarreled. He wanted her to be subservient, but she was nobody’s servant and demanded completely fidelity from him, something he did not give. And although the two learned to work together, and Isabella loved him; Ferdinand loved power more and after her death he conspired against their own daughter, did little to help their youngest, and did not bother to speak to the middle one Maria who was Queen Consort of Portugal.

He married a French Princess who fashioned herself the Queen of Castile and worked alongside him to usurp his eldest daughter’s throne. Both he and Philip worked tirelessly to strip Juana of her sanity, but Juana retained it and fought against them, but in an era where female rule was frowned upon and where she did not have the pragmatism her mother had, she failed to defeat them both and she remained locked up for the rest of her life, first by her husband, then when he died by her father who claimed her extreme mourning was proof of her madness (it wasn’t. Isabella had done more extreme mourning when Juana’s brother died, but nobody said anything then. For the Flemings Juana’s customs were odd since they and the French were not used to such examples of religious devotion), and then her son who placed her under the supervision of an even crueler torturer. And for many years to come, her youngest daughter would not fare any better. Although Katherine obtained her goal and became Queen of England, she failed in giving the King what he wanted: a son. She was a firm believer that her daughter could be Queen, she had emulated her mother’s virtues, watched how her mother took advantage of the belief that women were weak and soft, and used it against her enemies to claim ignorance whenever it suited her or use it to attack her father’s mistresses and other female rivals. But England was not Castile, and it would be many years before the country got used to the idea of female rule. As for the memory of Isabella, it was already being shaped and rewritten by her male successors; Machiavelli, a contemporary of Isabella chose to praise her enemy Cesare, forgetting that it was Isabella whose qualities mirrored those in his book “The Prince” and it was her who became the most ardent defender of Christendom, and finally it was her who dared to do the impossible: Take Granada, unite Spain, bring the papacy to its knees, reform the church and take the crown –when it was not hers to take- and name herself Queen.

Warrior Queens: The Legends and the Lives of the Women Who Have Led Their Nations in War by Antonia Fraser

Warrior Queens by Fraser

The author of the Six Wives of Henry VIII (a special favorite) returns with her next biography of multiple women who held positions of power via force, inheritance, or by election. The women who were successful in this account is explained simply by the roles they took and how they applied their strength to tackle difficult matters such as warfare, national unity and religion.

In Isabella’s case, she rebelled against the established social roles many times by carrying the sword at her coronation ceremony and enforcing her rule over Ferdinand (despite the fact she did make him her king consort, but in her kingdom there would be one ruler and one ruler alone and this ceremony left it clear: it was going to be her!), but nobody recalled those breaks with tradition at a time when national unity was needed, when she evoked religious virtues, when -in spite of her ‘weak condition’ of a woman- she rode to meet her troops and with them on almost every campaign, knitting for them and making sure they were all very well taken care of.

Nearly a century later her granddaughter’s half-sibling, Elizabeth I ascended the throne -on more peaceful means. But like Isabella of Castile her rule was not uncontested and she used religion to her advantage, and misogynistic stereotypes of women to promote national unity and of course comparing herself to ancient (and accepted) warrior queens to justify her rule. These are two of the Tudor related figures this book addresses but there are much more from ancient times, medieval, renaissance and up to our modern times showing us little has changed. So read it, recommend it, you won’t be disappointed.

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