William Stirling Maxwell.

The cloister life of the Emperor Charles the Fifth online

. (page 1 of 29)
Online LibraryWilliam Stirling MaxwellThe cloister life of the Emperor Charles the Fifth → online text (page 1 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook





Accessions No. __/_& <3_3:_. Shelf No....
















Authorities cited in this work :

Fr. J. de Siguen^a p. vii

Fr. P. de Sandoval viii

J. A. de Vera, Fr. M. de Angulo and marquess of Valparaiso, viii, ix

Father P. Ribadeneira ix

M. Gachard and T. Gonzalez x, xi, xii

Doubts as to the self-performed obsequies of Charles V. examined, xiii-xvii

Notice of the portrait of Charles V. on the title-page xviii

Postscript for a second edition xix

Postscript for a third edition xix

M. Bakhuizen van den Brink's analysis of a MS. by a monk of

Yuste xix-xxi

M. Th. Juste xxii

M. Mignet xxii



THE first, and perhaps the best, printed account of the
cloister-life of Charles the Fifth, is to be found in Joseph
de Sigue^a's History of the Order of St. Jerome. The author
was born, about 1545, of noble parents, in the Aragonese city
from whence, according to the Jeromite custom, he afterwards
took his name. He became a monk about the age of twenty-
one, at El Parral, near Segovia, and having studied at the
royal college of the Escorial, he obtained great fame as a
preacher in and around Segovia, and was made prior of his
convent. Removing to the Escorial, he devoted himself to
literary labour in the library which was then being collected
and arranged by the learned Arias Montano. His reputation
for knowledge soon stood so high, that Philip the Second used
to say of him, that he was the greatest wonder of the new
convent, which was called the eighth wonder of the world.
The first of his literary works, a series of discourses on Eccle-
siastes, was denounced as heretical before the bar of the
inquisition at Toledo; but he defended it so well, that he
received honourable acquittal, and returned to the Escorial
with an unblemished character for orthodoxy, to write the
history of St. Jerome and his Order. The first volume, con-
taining the life of the saint, was published in 1595, in quarto,
at Madrid; the second and third, in folio, in 1600 and 1605.
The author died in 1606, of apoplexy, at the Escorial, having
been twice elected prior of the house.

One of the most able and learned of ecclesiastical historians,
Siguen9a, for the elegance and simple eloquence of his style,
has been ranked among the classical writers of Castille. Like
all monkish chroniclers, he has been compelled to bind up a

b 2


vast quantity of the tares of religious fiction with the wheat of
authentic history ; but he writes with an air of sincerity and
good faith, and when he is not dealing with miracles and
visions, he seems to be earnest in his endeavour to discover and
record the truth. In relating the life of the emperor at Yuste,
he had the advantage of conversing with many eye-witnesses
of the facts; Fray Antonio de Yillacastin, and several other
monks of Yuste were his brethren at the Escorial ; the emperor's
confessor, Regla, and his favourite preacher, Villalva, filled
the same posts in the household of Philip the Second, and were
therefore often at the royal convent ; the prior may also have
seen there, Quixada the chamberlain, and Gaztelu the secretary,
of Charles ; and at Toledo or Madrid he may have had oppor-
tunities of knowing Torriano, the emperor's mechanician.

Fray Prudencio de Sandoval, bishop of Pamplona, printed
his well-known History of Charles the Fifth at Valladolid, in
folio, the first part in 1604, and the second part in 1606. In
the latter, a supplementary book is devoted to the emperor's
retirement at Yuste. It was drawn up, as we are told by the
author, from a manuscript relation in his possession, written
by Fray Martin de Angulo, prior of Yuste, at the desire of the
infanta Juana, daughter of the emperor and regent of Spain at
the time of his death. As Angulo came to Yuste, on being
elected prior, only in the summer of 1558, his personal know-
ledge of the emperor's sayings and doings was limited to the
last few months of his life. There can be little doubt that his
relation was known to Siguenga, whose position as prior of the
Escorial must have given him access to all the royal archives.

Juan Antonio deYerayFigueroa, count of La Roca, printed
his Epitome of the Life of Charles the Fifth, in quarto, at Madrid,
in 1613. It contains little that Sandoval and others had not
already published; but there are a few anecdotes of the
emperor's retirement which the author may have picked up
from tradition. Being more than seventy years of age at his
death, in 1 658, he may have conversed with persons who had
known his hero. He also may have seen the narrative of the
prior Angulo.

Of that narrative a copy exists, or did lately exist, in the


National Library at Madrid. It was seen there some years
a go by M. Gachard, of Bruxelles. 1 My friend Don Pascual
de Gayangos kindly undertook to search for it, but he
was not successful in discovering the original document, or
even an early copy. He found, however, a manuscript work of
the seventeenth century, which professed to embody the account
by Angulo. This work, entitled El perfecto Desengano, was
written in 1638, and dedicated to the count duke of Olivares j
and its author, in whose autograph it is written, was the mar-
quess del Valparaiso, a knight of Santiago and member of the
council of war. It is one of the countless treatises of that age,
on the virtues of princes, of which Charles the Fifth, in Spain
at least, was always held up as a model. The second part, of
which a copy is now before me, is entitled, Life of tlie emperor
in the convent of Yuste, taken from that which was written
by the prior Fray Martin de Angulo, by command of tJie prin-
cess Dona Juana, and from other books and papers of equal
quality and credit. With exception of a few sentences, and a
few trifling alterations, the greater part of this narrative is
word for word that of Sandoval. I likewise recognise a few
excerpts from Yera. Unless, therefore, we suppose that San-
doval and Yera, anticipating the process adopted by Valparaiso,
transferred the document of Angulo to their own pages, it
seems very doubtful whether the marquess had more than a
second-hand knowledge of the narrative of the prior.

The Jesuit Pedro Ribadeneira, in his Life of father Fran-
cisco Borja, printed in quarto, at Madrid, in 1592, gave a long
and circumstantial account of the interviews which took place
in Estremadura between that remarkable man and Charles the
Fifth. Born in 1527, and in very early life a favourite disciple
of Loyola, Ribadeneira had ample opportunities of gathering
the materials of his biography from the lips of Borja himself.
He is not always accurate in his dates and names of places, but
I do not think that his mistakes of this kind are sufficiently
important to discredit in any great degree the facts which he

1 Bulletins de V Academic Royale des Sciences et des Belles Lettres, torn,
xii. Premiere Partie : 1845.


These are the principal writers who have treated of the
latter days of Charles the Fifth, and who might have conversed
with his contemporaries. From their works, Strada, De Thou,
Leti, and later authors, writing on the same subject, have
drawn their materials, which, in passing from pen to pen, have
undergone considerable changes of form.

Our own Robertson has told the story of the emperor s life
at Yuste with much dignity and grace, and still more in-
accuracy. Citing the respectable names of Sandoval, Yera,
and De Thou, he seems to have chiefly relied upon Leti, one
of the most lively and least trustworthy of the historians of
his time. He does not appear to have been aware of the
existence of Siguenga the author, as we have seen, of the
only printed account of the imperial retirement which can
pretend to the authority of contemporary narrative.

A visit which I paid to Yuste in the summer of 1849, led
me to look into the earliest records of the event to which the
ruined convent owes its historical interest. Finding the subject
but slightly noticed, yet considerably misrepresented, by English
writers, I collected the results of my reading into two papers,
contributed to Frasers Magazine, in April and May, 1851.

An article by M. Gachard, in the Bulletins of the Royal
Academy of Bruxelles, 1 afterwards informed me that the
archives of the Foreign Office of France contained a MS.
account of the retirement of Charles the Fifth, illustrated with
original letters, and compiled by Don Tomas Gonzalez. Of
the existence of this precious document I had already been
made aware by Mr. Ford's Handbook for Spain; but my in-
quiries after it, both in Madrid and in Paris, had proved fruit-
less. During the past winter I have had ample opportunities
of examining it, opportunities for which I must express my
gratitude to the president of France, who favoured me with
the necessary order, and to lord Normanby, late British ambas-
sador in Paris, and M. Drouyn de Lhuys, who kindly interested
themselves in getting the order obeyed by the unwilling

1 Bulletins de I'Acad. Roy. des Sciences et des Belles Lettres, torn. xii.
lere Partie, 1845.


officials of the archives. As the Gonzalez MS. has formed the
groundwork of the following chapters, it may not be out of
place here to give some account of that work and of its com-

At the restoration of Ferdinand the Seventh to the throne
of Spain, the royal archives of that kingdom, preserved in the
castle of Simancas, near Valladolid, were intrusted to the care
of Don Tomas Gonzalez, canon of Plasencia. They were in a
state of great confusion, owing to the depredations of the French
invader, subsequent neglect, and the partial return of the
papers which followed the peace. Gonzalez succeeded in re-
storing order, and he also found time to use his opportunities
for the benefit of historical literature. To the Memoirs of the
Eoycd Academy of History he contributed a long and elaborate
paper on the relations between Philip the Second and our
queen Elizabeth; and he had prepared this account of the
retirement of Charles the Fifth, and had had it fairly copied
for the press, when death brought his labours to a premature
close. His books and papers fell into the hands of his brother
Manuel, for whom he had obtained the reversion of his post at
Simancas. At the revolution of La Granja, in 1836, Manuel
being displaced and beggared, offered the memoir of Charles
the Fifth to the governments of France, Russia, Belgium, and
England, at the price of 10,000 francs, or about 400, re-
serving the right of publishing it for his own behoof, or of
15,000 francs without such reservation. No purchaser at
that price appearing, he at last disposed of it, in 1844, for
the sum of 4000 francs, to the archives of the French Foreign
Office, of which M. Mignet was then director. 1 Of what
possible use this curious memoir could be in the conduct of
modern foreign affairs, it is difficult even to guess ; but it is
due to M. Mignet to say, that both during his tenure of
office and since, he has taken every precaution in his power
to keep his prize sacred to the mysterious purpose for which
he had originally destined it.

1 I am enabled to state the exact sum through the kindness of M. Van
de "Weyer, Belgian minister to the court of England, who obtained the
information from M. Gachard.


By the terms of his bargain M. Mignet acquired both the
original MS. of Gonzalez, and the fair copy enriched with notes
in his own hand. The copy contains 387 folio leaves, written
on both sides, the memoir filling 266 leaves, and the appendix
121. There is also a plan of the palace, and part of the
monastery of Yuste.

The memoir is entitled The retirement, residence, and death
of the emperor Charles tJie Fifth in the monastery of Yuste ; a
historical narrative founded on documents.^ It commences
with an account of many political events previous to, and not
much connected with, the emperor's retirement j such as the
negotiations for the marriage of Philip the Second with the
infanta Mary of Portugal, and afterwards with queen Mary of
England ; the regency established in Spain during his absence ;
the deaths of queen Juana, mother of the emperor, and of popes
Julius the Third and Marcellus the Second ; the truce of
Vaucelles; and the diplomatic relations of pope Paul the
Fourth with the courts of France and Spain. But the bulk of
the memoir consists almost wholly of original letters, selected
from the correspondence carried on between the courts at
Yalladolid and Bruxelles, and the retired emperor and his
household, in the years 1556, 1557, and 1558. The principal
writers are Philip the Second, the infanta Juana, princess of
Brazil and regent of Spain, Juan Vazquez de Molina, secretary
of state, Francisco de Eraso, secretary to the king, and Don
Garcia de Toledo, tutor to Don Carlos; the emperor, Luis
Quixada, chamberlain to the emperor, Martin de Gaztelu, his
secretary, William Yan Male, his gentleman of the chamber,
and Mathys and Cornelio, his physicians. The thread of the
narrative is supplied by Gonzalez, who has done his part with
great judgment, permitting the story to be told as far as pos-
sible by the original actors in their own words.

The appendix is composed of the ten following documents
referred to in the memoir, and of various degrees of value and

1 Retiro estancia y muerte del emperador Cwrlos Quinto en el monastwio
de Yuste; relation historica documentada.


1 Instructions given by tJie emperor to his son at Augsburg,
on the Sth January, 1548.

2 )

3 1 Speeches pronounced by tJie emperor at Bruxelles during
4 [ the ceremonies of his abdication.


6 Letter from the cardinal archbishop (Siliceo) of Toledo to

the princess-regent of Spain, 28th June, 1556.

7 Extract from the inventory of the furniture and jewels

belonging to the emperor at his death.

8 Protest of Philip the Second against the pope, 6th May,


9 Justification of the king of Spain against the, pope, the

king of France, and the duke of Ferrara.

10 Will of the emperor, with its codicil.

Of these papers, Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, and perhaps some of the
others, have already been printed : of No. 7 I have given an
abstract in my appendix.

Notwithstanding the minute information which Gonzalez
has brought to light respecting the daily life of the emperor
at Yuste, some doubt still rests on the question whether
Charles did or did not perform his own obsequies. Gonzalez
treats the story as an idle tale : he laments the credulity
displayed even in the sober statement of Siguen^a; and he
pours out much patriotic scorn on the highly- wrought picture
of Robertson. The opinions of the canon, on all other
matters carefully weighed and considered, are well worthy of
respect, and require some examination.

Of Robertson's account of the matter, it is impossible to
offer any defence. Masterly as a sketch, it has unhappily
been copied from the canvas of the unscrupulous Leti. 1 In
everything but style it is indeed very absurd. * The emperor
bent,' says the historian, 'on performing some act of

1 Vita delV invitissimo imp. Carlo V. da Gregorio Leti. 4 vols. 12mo.
Amsterdam: 1700, iv. 370-4.


' piety that would display his zeal, and merit the favour of
1 Heaven. The act on which he fixed was as wild and un-
1 common as any that superstition ever suggested to a weak
'and disordered fancy. He resolved to celebrate his own
1 obsequies before his death. He ordered his tomb to be
' erected in the chapel of the monastery. His domestics
' marched thither in funeral procession, with black tapers in
' their hands. He himself followed in his shroud. He was
' laid in his coffin, with much solemnity. The service for the
' dead was chanted, and Charles joined in the prayers which
' were offered up for the rest of his soul, mingling his tears
' with those which his attendants shed, as if they had been
' celebrating a real funeral. The ceremony closed with sprink-
' ling holy water on the coffin in the usual form, and all the
' assistants retiring, the doors of the chapel were shut. Then
' Charles rose out of the coffin, and withdrew to his apartment,
' full of those awful sentiments which such a singular solemnity
' was calculated to inspire. But either the fatiguing length of
1 the ceremony, or the impressions which the image of death
( left on his mind, affected him so much, that next day he
' was seized with a fever. His feeble frame could not long
'resist its violence, and he expired on the twenty-first of
' September, after a life of fifty-eight years, six months, and
' twenty-five days.'

Siguen^a's account of the affair, which I have adopted, is
that Charles, conceiving it to be for the benefit of his soul, and
having obtained the consent of his confessor, caused a funeral
service to be performed for himself, such as he had lately been
performing for his father and mother. At this service he
assisted, not as a corpse, but as one of the spectators; holding
in his hand, like the others, a waxen taper, which, at a
certain point of the ceremonial, he delivered to the officiating
priest, in token of his desire to commit his soul to
the keeping of his Maker. There is not a word to justify
the tale that he followed the procession in his shroud, or
that he simulated death in his coffin, or that he was left be-
hind, shut up alone in the church, when the service was over.

In this story respecting an infirm old man, the devout son


of a church where services for the dead are of daily occur-
rence, I can see nothing incredible, or very surprising. It is
surely as reasonable for a man on the brink of the grave to
perform funeral rites for himself, as to perform such rites for
persons who had been buried many years before. Super-
stition and dyspepsia have driven men into far greater
extravagances. Nor is there any reason to doubt Siguenga's
veracity in a matter in which the credit of his order, or the
interest of the church, is in no way concerned. He might
perhaps be suspected of overstating the regard entertained
by the emperor for the friars of Yuste, were his evidence
not confirmed by the letters of the friar-hating household.
But I see no reason for questioning the accuracy of his
account of the imperial obsequies. That account was written
while he was prior of the Escorial, and as such almost in
the personal service of Philip the Second, a prince who was
peculiarly jealous of what was written about his father. 1 And
it was published with the authority of his name, while men
were still alive who could have contradicted a mis-state-

The strongest objection urged by Gonzalez to the story,
rests on the absence of all confirmation of it in the letters
written from Yuste. We know, he says, that, on the 26th
of August, 1558, the emperor gave audience to Don Pedro
Manrique that on the 27th he spent the greater part of the
day in writing to the princess-regent; and that on the 28th
he held a long conference with Garcilasso de la Yega on the
affairs of Flanders. Can we therefore believe what is alleged
by Siguenga, that the afternoon of the 27th and the morning
of the 28th were given by Charles to the performance of his
funeral-rites j and if rites so remarkable were performed, is it
credible that no allusion to them should be made in letters
written at Yuste on the days when they took place?

Part of the objection falls to the ground, when reference
is made to the folio of Siguenga. He says 2 that the obsequies

1 See chap. xi. p. 293.
2 Siguen9a : Hist, de la Orden de S. Geron., torn. iii. p. 201.


were celebrated, not on the 27th and 28th, but on the 30th,
of August ; and it so happens, that on that day and the next,
no letters were written at Yuste, or at least, that none
bearing either of those dates fell into the hands of Gonzalez.
The emperor's attack of illness, on the 30th, was ascribed by
the physician to his having sat too long in the sun in his
western alcove; and his being able to sit there tallies with
Siguen9a's statement, that he felt better after his funeral.
From the absence of allusion in the letters to a service so
remarkable, I infer, not that it never took place, but that the
secretary and chamberlain did not think it worthy of remark.
Charles was notoriously devout, and very fond of devotional
exercises beyond the daily routine of religious observance.
His punctuality in performing his spiritual duties may be
noted in the Yuste letters, where frequent mention is made
of his receiving the Eucharist at the hermitage of Belem,
a fact stated in proof, we may be sure, not of the warmth
of his piety, but of the robustness of his health. Of the
services performed in the church for the souls of his deceased
parents and wife, which both Siguen9a and Sandoval have
recorded, and which I see no reason to doubt, no notice what-
ever occurs in the letters, except a casual remark which fell
from the pen of secretary Gaztelu, on the 28th of April, 1558,
that ' Juan Gaytan had come to put in order the wax and
other things needful for the honours of the empress, which
his majesty was in the habit of celebrating on each May-day.'
The truth seems to be that the most hearty enmity prevailed
between the Jeromites and the imperial household ; and that
the chamberlain and his people abstained from all communi-
cations with the monks not absolutely necessary, and left the
religious recreations, as well as the spiritual interests of their
master, entirely in the hands of the confessor and the prior.
Keeping no record of the functions performed within the walls
of the convent, it is possible that the lay letter-writers of Yuste
might have passed over in silence even such a scene as that
fabled by Robertson ; while in the sober pages of Siguenca,
there really seems nothing that a Spaniard of 1558, living
next door to a convent, might not have deemed unworthy of
special notice.


It is remarkable that Gonzalez, while so strenuously deny-
ing the credibility of the story, should have furnished, under
his own hand, a piece of evidence of some weight in its favour.
In an inventory of state-papers of Castille, drawn up by him in
1818, and existing at Simancas, and in duplicate in the Foreign
Office at Madrid, M. Gachard found the following entry :

No. 119, ann. 1557. Original letters of Charles V., written
from Xarandilla and Yuste to the infanta Juana, and Juan
Vasquez de Molina. * * * They treat of tlie public affairs


M. Gachard supposes that this entry may have been tran-
scribed by Gonzalez from the wrapper of a bundle of papers
which he had found thus entitled, and the contents, of which
he had neglected to verify. If his subsequent researches did
not discover any such documents, it is to be regretted that he
had not at least corrected the error of the inventory.

The gravest objection to the account of the affair which I
have adopted, is, that it is not wholly confirmed by the prior
Angulo. In Angulo's report, says M. Gachard, 2 it is stated that
Charles ordered his obsequies to be performed during his life;
but it is not stated whether the order was fulfilled. Sandoval,
professing to take Angulo for his guide, is altogether silent
on the subject ; and as he can hardly be supposed to have
been ignorant of the work of Siguenfa, there is room for the
presumption that he rejected the evidence of that churchman.
But on a mere presumption, founded on the fact that a Bene-
dictine did not choose to quote the writings of a Jeromite, I
cannot agree to discard evidence otherwise respectable. I
have therefore followed prior Siguenca, of the Escorial, the
revival of whose version of the story will, I hope, in time,
counteract the inventions of later writers inventions which I
have more than once heard gravely recognised as instructive and
authentic history in the pulpit discourses of popular divines.

1 Item, de los lutos que encargd para hacerse las honras en rida. Bull.

Online LibraryWilliam Stirling MaxwellThe cloister life of the Emperor Charles the Fifth → online text (page 1 of 29)