not have looked upon me as a subject,"
" Then, Senora," continued Beatriz, looking up into Isa
bella s face, and laughing was your own. royal kins
man, Don Ricardo of Gloucester ; he that they say was
born with teeth, and who carries already a burthen so
MERCED8 OF CASTILE. 3*
heavy on his back, that he may well thank his patron saint
that he is not also to be loaded with the affairs of Castile." *
44 Thy tongue runneth riot, Beatriz. They tell me that
Don Ricardo is a noble and aspiring prince, and that he is,
one day, likely to wed some princess, whose merit may
well console him for his failure in Castile. But what more
hast thou to oifer concerning my suitors ?"
44 Nay, what more can I say, my beloved mistress ? We
have now reached Don Fernando, literally the first, as he
proveth to be the last, and, as we know him to be, the best
of them all."
44 1 think I have been guided by the motives that become
my birth and future hopes, in choosing Don Ferdinand,"
said Isabella, meekly, though she was uneasy in spite of
her royal views of matrimony; 44 since nothing can so
much tend to the peace of our dear kingdom, and to the
success of the great cause of Christianity, as to unite Cas
tile and Aragon under one crown."
44 By uniting their sovereigns in holy wedlock," returned
Beatriz, with respectful gravity, though a smile again strug
gled around her pouting lips. 44 What if Don Fernando is
the most youthful, the handsomest, the most valiant and
the most agreeable prince in Christendom, it is no fault of
yours, since you did not make him, but have only accepted
him for a husband !"
44 Nay, this exceedeth discretion and respect, my good
Beatriz," returned Isabella, affecting to frown, even while
she blushed deeply at her own emotions, and looked gratified
at the praises of her betrothed. " Thou knowest that I
have never beheld my cousin, the King of Sicily."
44 Very true, Senora ; but Father Alonso de Coca hath
and a surer eye, or truer tongue than his, do not exist in
44 Beatriz, I pardon thy license, however unjust and un
seemly, because I know thou lovest me, and lookest rather
at mine own happiness, than at that of my people," said
* NOTE. The authorities differ as to which of the English princes
was the suitor of Isabella ; Edward IV. himself, Clarence, or Richard.
Isabella was the grand-daughter of Catherine of Lancaster, who was
a daughter of John of Gaunt.
34 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
the princess, the effect of whose gravity now was not di
minished by any betrayal of natural feminine weakness
for she felt slightly offended. " Thou knowest, or ought'st
to know, that a maiden of royal birth is bound principally
to consult the interests of the state, in bestowing her hand,
and that the idle fancies of village girls have little in com
mon with her duties. Nay, what virgin of noble extraction
like thyself, even, would dream of aught else than of sub
mitting to the counsel of her family, in taking a husband ?
If I have selected Don Fernando of Aragon, from among
many princes, it is doubtless because the alliance is more
suited to the interests of Castile, than any other that hath
offered. Thou seest, Beatriz, that the Castilians and the
Aragonese spring from the same source, and have the same
habits and prejudices. They speak the same language"
" Nay, dearest lady, do not confound the pure Castilian
with the dialect of the mountains !"
" Well, have thy fling, wayward one, if thou wilt ; but
we can easier teach the nobles of Aragon our purer Span
ish, than we can teach it to the Gaul. Then, Don Fer
nando is of my own race ; the House of Trastamara com-
eth of Castile and her monarchs, and we may at least hope
that the King of Sicily will be able to make himself under
" If he could not, he were no true knight ! The man
whose tongue should fail him, when the stake was a royal
maiden of a beauty surpassing that of the dawn of an
excellence that already touches on heaven of a crown"
" Girl girl thy tongue is getting the mastery of thee
such discourse ill befitteth thee and me."
" And yet, Dona Ysabel, my tongue is close bound to my
" I do believe thee, my good Beatriz ; but we should be
think us both, of our last shrivings, and of the ghostly coun
sel that we then received. Such flattering discourse seemeth
light, when we remember our 'manifold transgressions,
and our many occasions for forgiveness. As for this mar
riage, I would have thee think that it has been contracted
on my part, with the considerations and motives of a prin
cess, and not through any light indulgence of my fancies.
MEIICEDES OF CASTILE. 35
Thou kiioxvcst that I have never beheld Don Fernando, and
that lie hath never even looked upon me."
"Assuredly, dearest lady and honoured mistress, all (his
I know, and see, and believe ; and I also agree that it were
unseemly, and little befitting her birth, for even a noble
maiden to contract the all-important obligations of mar
riage, with no better motive than the light impulses of a
country wench. Nothing is more just than that we are
alike bound to consult our own dignity, and the wishes of
kinsmen and friends; and that our duty, and the habits oi"
piety and submission in which we have been reared, are
better pledges for our connubial affection, than any caprices
of a girlish imagination. Still, my honoured lady, it is most
fortunate that your high obligations point to one as youth
ful, brave, noble and chivalrous, as is the King of Sicily,
as we well know, by Father Alonso's representations, to be
the fact ; and that all my friends unite in saying that Don
Andres de Cabrera, madcap and silly as he is, will make an
exceedingly excellent husband for Beatriz de Bobadilla !"
Isabella, habitually dignified and reserved as she was,
had her confidants and her moments for unbending ; and
Beatriz was the principal among the former, while the pre
sent instant was one of the latter. She smiled, therefore,
at this sally ; and parting, with her own fair hand, the dark
locks on the brow of her friend, she regarded her much as
the mother regards her child, when sudden passages of ten
derness come over the heart.
" If madcap should wed madcap, thy friends, at least,
have judged rightly," answered the princess. Then, paus
ing an instant, as if in deep thought, she continued, in a
graver manner, though modesty shone in her tell-tale com
plexion, and the sensibility that beamed in her eyes be
trayed that she now felt more as a woman than as a future
queen bent only on the happiness of her people: "As this
interview draweth near, I suffer an embarrassment I had
not thought it easy to inflict on an Infanta of Castile. To
thee, my faithful Beatriz, I will acknowledge, that were the
King of Sicily as old as Don Alfonso of Portugal, or were
he as effeminate and unmanly as Monsieur of Guienne ;
were he, in sooth, loss engaging and young. I should foel
36 MERCEDES OF CASTILE,
less embarrassment in meeting him, than I now expe
" This is passing strange, Senora ! Now, I will confess
that I would not willingly abate in Don Andres, one hour
of his life, which has been sufficiently long as it is ; one
grace of his person, if indeed the honest cavalier hath
any to boast of; or one single perfection of either body or
"Thy case is not mine, Beatrix. Thou knowest the
Marquis of Moya ; hast listened to his discourse, and art
accustomed to his praises and his admiration."
" Holy St. lago of Spain ! Do not distrust any thing,
Seiiora, on account of unfamiliarity with such matters
for, of all learning, it is easiest to learn to relish praise and
" True, daughter" (for so Isabella often termed her
friend, though her junior: in later life, and after the prin
cess had become a queen, this, indeed, was her usual term
of endearment) " true, daughter, when praise and admira
tion are freely given and fairly merited. But I distrust,
myself, my claims to be thus viewed, and the feelings with
which Don Fernando may first behold me. I know nay,
I feel him to be graceful, and noble, and valiant, and gene
rous, and good ; comely to the eye, and strict of duty to
our holy religion ; as illustrious in qualities, as in birth ;
and I tremble to think of my own unsuitableness to be his
bride and queen."
" God's Justice ! I should like to meet the impudent
Aragonese noble, that would dare to hint as much as this !
If Don Fernando is noble, are you not nobler, Senora, as
coming of the senior branch of the same house ; if he is
young, are you not equally so ; if he is \vise, are you not
wiser ; if he is comely, are you not more of an angel than
a woman ; if he is valiant, are you not virtuous ; if he is
graceful, are you not grace itself; if he is generous, are
you not good, and, what is more, are you not the very soul
of generosity ; if he is strict of duty in matters of our holy
religion, are you not an angel ?"
" Good sooth good sooth Beatriz, thou art a com
forter! I could reprove thee for this idle tongue, but
know thee honest,"
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 37
" This is no more than that deep modesty, honoured mis
tress, which ever maketh you quicker to see the merits of
others, than to perceive your own. Let Don Fernando
look to it ! Though he come in all the pomp and glory of
his many crowns, I warrant you we find him a royal
maiden in Castile, who shall abash him and rebuke his
vanity, even while she appears before him in the sweet
guise of her own meek nature !"
" I have said naught of Don Fernando's vanity, Beatriz
nor do I esteem him in the least inclined to so weak a
feeling ; and as for pomp, we well know that gold no more
abounds at Zaragosa than at Valladolid, albeit he hath
many crowns, in possession, and in reserve. Notwithstand
ing all thy foolish but friendly tongue hath uttered, I dis
trust myself, and not the King of Sicily. Methinks I could
meet /iny other prince in Christendom with indifference
or, at least, as becometh my rank and sex ; but I confess,
I tremble at the thought of encountering the eyes and
opinions of my noble cousin."
Beatriz listened with interest ; and when her royal mis
tress ceased speaking, she kissed her hand affectionately,
and then pressed it to her heart.
" Let Don Fernando tremble, rather, Senora, at encoun
tering yours," she answered.
" Nay, Beatriz, we know that he hath nothing to dread,
for report speaketh but too favourably of him. But, why
linger here in doubt and apprehension, when the staff on
which it is rny duty to lean, is ready to receive its burthen :
Father Alonso doubtless waiteth for us, and we will now
The princess and her friend now repaired to the chapel
of the palace, where her confessor celebrated the daily
mass. The self-distrust which disturbed the feelings of the
modest Isabella was appeased by the holy rites, or rather
it took refuge on that Rock where she was accustomed to
place all her troubles, with her sins. As the little assem
blage left the chapel, one, hot with haste, arrived with the
expected, but still doubted tidings, that the King of Sicily
had reached Duenas in safety, and that, as he was now in
the very centre of his supporters, there could no longer be
VOL. I. 4
38 MERCEDES OP CASTILE.
any reasonable distrust of the speedy celebration of the
Isabella was much overcome with this news, and re
quired more than usual of the care of Beatriz de Bobadilla,
to restore her to that sweet serenity of mind and air, which
ordinarily rendered her presence as attractive as it was
commanding. An hour or two spent in meditation and
prayer, however, finally produced a gentle calm in her feel
ings, and these two friends were again alone, in the very
apartment where we first introduced them to the reader.
" Hast thou seen Don Andres de Cabrera ?" demanded
the princess, taking a hand from a brow which had been
often pressed in a sort of bewildered recollection.
Beatriz de Bobadilla blushed and then she laughed out
right, with a freedom that the long-established affection of
her mistress did not rebuke.
"For a youth of thirty, and a cavalier well hacked in
the wars of the Moors, Don Andres hath a nimble foot,"
she answered. " He brought hither the tidings of the ar
rival ; and with it he brought his own delightful person, to
show it was no lie. For one so experienced, he hath a
strong propensity to talk ; and so, in sooth, whilst you, my
honoured mistress, would be in your closet alone, I could
but listen to all the marvels of the journey. It seems, Se-
nora, that they did not reach Dueiias any too soon ; for the
only purse among them was mislaid, or blown away by the
wind on account of its lightness."
" I trust this accident hath been repaired. Few of the
house of Trastamara have much gold at this trying mo
ment, and yet none are wont to be entirely without it."
" Don Andres is neither beggar nor miser. He is now
in our Castile, where I doubt riot he is familiar with the
Jews and money-lenders; as these last must know the
full value of his lands, the King of Sicily will not want.
I hear, too, that the Count of Trevino hath conducted no
bly with him."
" It shall be well for the Count of Trevino that he hath
had this liberality. But, Beatriz, bring forth the writing
materials ; it is meet that I, at once, acquaint Don Enriquez
with this event, and with my purpose of marriage."
" Nay, dearest mistress, this is out of all rule. When a
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 39
maiden, gentle or simple, intendeth marriage against her
kinsmen's wishes, it is the way to wed first, and to write
the letter and ask the blessing when the evil is done."
" Go to, light-of-speech ! Thou hast spoken ; now bring
the pens and paper. The king is not only my lord and
sovereign, but he is my nearest of kin, and should be my
"And Dona Joanna of Portugal, his royal consort, and
our illustrious queen, should be your mother ; and a fitting
guide would she be to any modest virgin! No no
my beloved mistress ; your royal mother was the Dona
Isabella of Portugal and a very different princess was
she from this, her wanton niece."
" Thou givest thyself too much license, Dona Beatriz,
and forgettest my request. I desire to write to my brother
It was so seldom that Isabella spoke sternly, that her
friend started, and the tears rushed to her eyes at this re
buke ; but she procured the writing materials, before she
presumed to look into Isabella's face, in order to ascertain
if she were really angered. There all was beautiful se
renity again ; and the Lady of Bobadilla, perceiving that
her mistress's mind was altogether occupied with the matter
before her, and that she had already forgotten her displea
sure, chose to make no further allusion to the subject.
Isabella now wrote her celebrated letter, in which she
appeared to forget all her natural timidity, and to speak
solely as a princess. By the treaty of Toros de Guisando,
in which, setting aside the claims of Joanna of Portugal's
daughter, she had been recognized as the heiress of the
throne, it had been stipulated that she should not marry
without the king's consent ; and she now apologized for the
step she was about to take, on the substantial plea that her
enemies had disregarded the solemn compact entered into
not to urge her into any union that was unsuitable or dis
agreeable to herself. She then alluded to the political ad
vantages that would follow the union of the crowns of
Castite and Aragon, and solicited the king's approbation
of the step she was about to take. This letter, after having
been submitted to John de Vivero, and others of her coun
cil, was dispatched by a special messenger after which
40 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
act the arrangements necessary as preliminaries to a meet
ing between the betrothed were entered into. Castilian eti
quette was proverbial, even in that age ; and the discussion
led to a proposal that Isabella rejected with her usual mo
desty and discretion.
" It seemeth to me," said John de Vivero, " that this alli
ance should not take place without some admission, on the
part of Don Fernando, of the inferiority of Aragon to our
own Castile. The House of the latter kingdom is but a
junior branch of the reigning House of Castile, and the
former territory of old was admitted to have a dependency
on the latter."
This proposition was much applauded, until the beautiful
and natural sentiments of the princess, herself, interposed
to expose its weakness and its deformities.
" It is doubtless true," she said, " that Don Juan of Ara
gon is the son of the younger brother of my royal grand
father ; but he is none the less a king. Nay, besides his
crown of Aragon, a country, if thou wilt, which is inferior
to Castile, he hath those of Naples and Sicily; not to
speak of Navarre, over which he ruleth, although it may
not be with too much right. Don Fernando even weareth
the crown of Sicily, by the renunciation of Don Juan ; and
shall he, a crowned sovereign, make concessions to one
who is barely a princess, and whom it may never please
God to conduct to a throne? Moreover, Don John of Vi
vero, I beseech thee to remember the errand that bringeth
the King of Sicily to Valladolid. Both he and I have two
parts to perform, and two characters to maintain those of
prince and princess, and those of Christians wedded and
bound by holy marriage ties. It would ill become one that
is about to take on herself the duties and obligations of a
wife, to begin the intercourse with exactions that should be
humiliating to the pride and self-respect of her lord. Ara
gon may truly be an inferior realm to Castile but Fer
dinand of Aragon is even now every way the equal of
Isabella of Castile ; and when he shall receive my vows,
and, with them, my duty and my affections" Isabella's
colour deepened, and her mild eye lighted with a sort of
holy enthusiasm " as befitteth a woman, though an in
fidel, he would become, in some particulars, my superior.
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 41
Lot me, then, hear no more of this ; for it could not nearly
as much pain Don Fernando to make the concessions ye
require, as it paincth me to hear of them."
" Nice customs curt'sy to great kings. Dear Kale, you and I can*
not be confined within the weak list of a country's fashion. We are
the makers of manners ; and the liberty that follows our places, stops
the mouths of all fault-finders." Henry V.
"NOTWITHSTANDING her high resolution, habitual firm
ness, and a serenity of mind, that seemed to pervade the
moral system of Isabella, like a deep, quiet current of en
thusiasm, but which it were truer to assign to the high and
fixed principles that guided all her actions, her heart beat
tumultuously, and her native reserve, which almost
amounted to shyness, troubled her sorely, as the hour ar
rived when she was first to behold the prince she had ac
cepted for a husband. Ca.stilian etiquette, no less than the
magnitude of the political interests involved in the intended
union, had drawn out the preliminary negotiations several
days ; the bridegroom being left, all that time, to curb his
impatience to behold the princess, as best he might.
On the evening of the 15th of October, 1469, however,
every obstacle being at length removed, Don Fernando
threw himself into the saddle, and, accompanied by only
four attendants, among whom was Andres de Cabrera, he
quietly took his way, without any of the usual accompani
ments of his high rank, towards the palace of John of
Vivero, in the city of Valladolid. The Archbishop of To
ledo was of the faction of the princess, and this prelate, a
warlike and active partisan, was in readiness to receive the
accepted suitor, and to conduct him to the presence of his
Isabella, attended only by Bealriz de Bobadilla, was in
waiting for the interview, in the apartment already men-
42 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
tioned ; and by one of those mighty efforts that even the
most retiring of the sex can make, on great occasions, she
received her future husband with quite as much of the dig
nity of a princess as of the timidity of a woman. Fer
dinand of Aragon had been prepared to meet one of sin
gular grace and beauty ; but the mixture of angelic modesty
with a loveliness that almost surpassed that of her sex,
produced a picture approaching so much nearer to heaven
than to earth, that, though one of circumspect behaviour,
and much accustomed to suppress emotion, he actually
started, and his feet were momentarily riveted to the floor,
when the glorious vision first met his eye. Then, recover
ing himself, he advanced eagerly, and taking the little hand
which neither met nor repulsed the attempt, he pressed it
to his lips with a warmth that seldom accompanies the first
interviews of those whose passions are usually so facti
" This happy moment hath at length arrived, my illus
trious and beautiful cousin !" he said, with a truth of feel
ing that went directly to the pure and tender heart of Isa
bella ; for no skill in courtly phrases can ever give to the
accents of deceit, the point and emphasis that belong to
sincerity. "I have thought it would never arrive; but
this blessed moment thanks to our own St. lago, whom
I have not ceased to implore with intercessions more than
rewards me for all anxieties."
" I thank my Lord the Prince, and bid him right wel
come," modestly returned Isabella. " The difficulties that
have been overcome, in order to effect this meeting, are but
types of the difficulties we shall have to conquer as we
advance through life."
Then followed a few courteous expressions concerning
the hopes of the princess that her cousin had wanted for
nothing, since his arrival in Castile, with suitable answers ,
when Don Ferdinand led her to an armed-chair, assuming
himself the stool on which Beatrix de Bobadilla was wont
to be seated, in her familiar intercourse with her royal mis
tress. Isabella, however, sensitively alive to the preten
sions of the Castilians, who were fond of asserting the su
periority of their own country over that of Aragon, would
not quietly submit to this arrangement, but declined to be
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 43
seated, unless her suitor would take the chair prepared for
him also, saying
" It ill befitteth one who hath little more than some roy
alty of blood, and her dependence on God, to be thus
placed, while the King of Sicily is so unworthily be
" Let me entreat that it may be so," returned the king.
" All considerations of earthly rank vanish in this presence ;
view me as a knight, ready and desirous of proving his
fealty in any court or field of Christendom, and treat me as
Isabella, who had that high tact which teaches the precise
point where breeding becomes neuter and airs commence,
blushed and smiled, but no longer declined to be seated. It
was not so much the mere words of her cousin that went
to her heart, as the undisguised admiration of his looks,
the animation of his eye, and the frank sincerity of his man
ner. With a woman's instinct she perceived that the im
pression she had made was favourable, and, with a woman's
sensibility, her heart was ready, under the circumstances,
to dissolve in tenderness at the discovery. This mutual
satisfaction soon opened the way to a freer conversation
and, ere half an hour was passed, the archbishop, who,
though officially ignorant of the language arid wishes of
loven,, was practically sufficiently familiar with both, con
trived to draw the two or three courtiers who were present,
into an adjoining room, where, though the door continued
open, he placed them with so much discretion that neither
eye nor ear could be any restraint on what was passing.
As for Beatriz de Bobadilla, whom female etiquette required
should remain in the same room with her royal mistress,
she was so much engaged with Andres de Cabrera, that
half a dozen thrones might have been disposed of between
the royal pair, and she none the wiser.
Although Isabella did not lose that mild reserve and
feminine modesty that threw so winning a grace around
her person, even to the day of her death, she gradually
grew more calm as the discourse proceeded ; and falling
back on her self-respect, womanly dignity, and, not a little,
on those stores of knowledge that she had been diligently
collecting, while others similarly situated had wasted their
44 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
time in the vanities of courts, she was quickly at her ease,
if not wholly in that tranquil state of mind to which she
had been accustomed.