Romance of Spanish History - John S. C. Abbott

Domestic Sorrows

(From 1500 A.D. to 1516 A.D.)

Visit of Philip and Joanna to Spain.—Insanity of Joanna.—Scene in the Court yard of the Castle.—Jealousy of Joanna.—Death of Isabella.—Death of Philip.—Marriage of Ferdinand with Germaine.—Sad Fate of Joanna.—Ferdinand's Tour to Naples.—Royal Revels.—Death of Ferdinand.

We must now turn back a few pages in the volume of history to inquire into the scenes which were transpiring in Spain. On the 24th of February, 1500, Queen Isabella's second daughter, Joanna, who had married the Archduke Philip, son of the Emperor Maximilian, and sovereign, in the right of his mother, of the Low Countries, gave birth to a son, who subsequently became the world-renowned Charles V. Queen Isabella., when his birth was announced to her, predicted that the crown of Spain would descend to his brow. Philip and Joanna, with the infant-prince, visited Spain the latter part of the year 1501. Passing through France, they were received and entertained at the French court by Louis XII. with the most profuse hospitality. A succession of fetes of the most brilliant character were given in their honor at Blois.

Magnificent preparations were made by Ferdinand and Isabella to receive the royal pair, the parents of the heir to the Spanish throne, with that dazzling pageantry which was characteristic of the times, and which was deemed essential to impress the masses of the people with the superiority and the grandeurs of royalty. Their progress through the principal cities of the north presented a continued series of processions, illuminations, and all other marks of public rejoicing. Ferdinand and Isabella met them at Toledo. The warm, motherly heart of the queen, saddened by so many bereavements, was transiently solaced in again receiving to her arms her beloved daughter Joanna, from whom she had so long been separated.

The joy of the queen, however, was soon dimmed as she perceived the frivolous and worthless character of her son-in-law Philip. Joanna was not beautiful, and was very sensitive. Philip gave her abundant occasion for jealousy. She was consequently very wretched. At times she would lavish upon her husband endearments which annoyed him, and again would give utterance to reproaches with which he was exasperated. The court of Ferdinand and Isabella was stately and decorous. Rigid propriety governed all its observances. They both recognized that power had been placed in their hands by Providence, to be used only for the welfare of the people over whom they were appointed to reign. The good of their subjects was the first thought in their minds. For this they were ready to sacrifice ease and pleasure.

But Philip was merely a man of pleasure, entirely devoted to voluptuous indulgence. He regarded the people, as the shepherd his sheep, as animals to be shorn. He soon wearied of the stately ceremonial and the reserve of the Court of Spain, and longed for the sensual excitements to which he was accustomed in the Netherlands, and in which he had revelled at the court of Louis XII. The babe Charles having received the oaths of allegiance of the Cortes of both Castile and Aragon, as heir to the Spanish crown, Philip abruptly announced his intention of an immediate return to the Netherlands by the way of France. No arguments or entreaties of his parents-in-law could dissuade him from this determination. Both the king and the queen were disgusted with the character of the prince to whom the destinies of their daughter were inseparably united, and who so cruelly requited her love. Philip departed from Spain, leaving Joanna and the little prince behind.

Louis XII. of France knew well how to pander to the appetites of Philip, and to convert him into an instrument for the accomplishment of his own ambitious purposes. The French court met Philip at Lyons, and again lavished upon him the most flattering attentions. The archduke and the king endeavored to cement their friendly alliance by the betrothal of the babe Charles, then three years of age, to the Princess Claude, an infant in the cradle, daughter of Louis XII. The Archduke Philip, exceeding the powers which had been granted to him by Ferdinand, arranged a treaty for the division of Naples between France and Spain—a treaty which gave France so greatly the advantage that Ferdinand refused to ratify it.

The French and Spanish forces in the kingdom of Naples immediately met in sanguinary conflict. The French were utterly routed. Philip had not yet left France. Louis XII. bitterly reproached him as guilty of perfidy in not obtaining the ratification of the treaty. The archduke was so chagrined at the failure of the treaty, which placed him not only in a dishonorable but also in a ridiculous position, that he was thrown into a violent fever which confined him to his bed for several days. His frivolity was for a time effectually checked. He wrote to the Spanish court, indignantly demanding that the treaty, which he assumed that he had made pursuant to orders, should be ratified, and that France should receive indemnity for the loss incurred through its violation. But Ferdinand paid no attention to the expostulations of his frivolous son-in-law further than to send word to France that the treaty, made in contempt of his orders, he never would ratify.

Worn down with cares and sorrows, the health of Queen Isabella was now rapidly failing, when a new grief came, and the heaviest which had ever yet fallen upon her heart. Philip was so remarkable for his personal beauty that he is known in history as Philip the Handsome. Joanna, not-withstanding her frequent pangs of well-founded jealousy, doted upon him with an excess of fondness. Immediately upon his departure she sank into a state of the deepest dejection. Her strange conduct soon began to excite alarm. Day and night she would sit almost immovable, gazing silently upon the ground, taking no interest in the scenes which were occurring around her.

About three months after the departure of Philip, on the 10th of March, 1503, Joanna gave birth to another son, who was named Ferdinand, after his grandfather. Still no change occurred in her conduct. Her mind seemed entirely engrossed in desires to see Philip. Eight months passed sadly away, when, taking advantage of a wish he expressed in one of his letters to have her return, she resolved immediately, and at all hazards, to set out for Flanders. Her parents remonstrated with the most affectionate earnestness. She could not traverse France, for the two kingdoms were at war. It was mid-winter, and she could not safely, at that inclement season, brave the terrors of the northern seas.

Soon the insanity of Joanna was developed beyond all doubt. She was residing in a castle at Medina with her mother. One evening, Isabella having been called away to Segovia, about forty miles distant, Joanna left her apartment, and in deshabille, without any ostensible purpose or any announcement to the attendants, sallied out alone to leave the castle. Great was the consternation. None dared to use violence, and all entreaties to induce her to return were in vain. The Bishop of Burgos, who was in charge of the household, finding all other efforts unavailing, ordered the gates of the castle to be closed.

Thus baffled in her plan, Joanna was thrown into a state of the utmost excitement and indignation. She loaded her attendants with reproaches, sat down in the court-yard of the castle, and positively refused to return to her apartments. The night was cold. She would allow no additional clothing to be placed upon her. No one felt authorized to use violence, and there she remained, sleepless, angry, and shivering, until morning. The queen was hastily sent for. Shocked by the tidings, and in very feeble health, she dispatched two of the most influential members of her court, Admiral Henriquez and the Archbishop of Toledo, with all possible speed to Medina, while she prepared to follow as rapidly as her health and strength would allow.

The two nobles found the hapless Joanna still in the courtyard. At last she so far yielded to their earnest entreaties as to repair for a short time to a miserable kitchen in the castle. Soon again, however, she returned to her station on the barrier, where she persisted in remaining. Here Isabella found her crazed child, and the heart of the loving mother sank, crushed as never before, beneath the blow. The death of her children had overwhelmed her with anguish, but here was a grief whose glooms were deeper than those of the grave.

In the midst of these domestic sorrows, national troubles demanded all the energies of her mind. France, enraged by what was termed a violation of treaty obligations, and by the signal defeat she had encountered in Naples, prepared a large army and a powerful fleet for the invasion of Spain. Ferdinand placed himself at the head of his armies to meet the foe, while Isabella, though with rapidly-failing health, was unwearied in her endeavors to send troops and supplies to her husband. So large a force was gathered that the French, who had entered Spain, upon its approach, confident that defeat alone awaited them, hastily broke up their camp and retired through the defiles of the mountains. A truce with France for three years was the result. Still the French and Spanish soldiers met in many bloody battles upon the plains of Italy, struggling for the possession of that unhappy country.

The devout Isabella, with ever-failing health and increasing sorrows, bowed with resignation to the will of Providence, and in the exercises of piety sought preparation for the great change which she was assured must ere long come. In the spring of 1804, Joanna, after an absence of about a year and a half from her husband, her mind having partially regained its composure, embarked for Flanders. But the conduct of Philip caused her mental alienation soon to burst forth with renewed violence. The dissolute archduke fell deeply in love with one of the beautiful ladies of Joanna's suite, and he took no pains to disguise his passion. The shattered mind of his wife was so much disturbed that in one of her paroxysms she fell upon the frail fair one with all the fury of a maniac, scratching her face and tearing her beautiful ringlets in handfuls from her head. Philip was so enraged that he assailed Joanna in the coarsest terms of vituperation, and refused all further intercourse with her.

The tidings of this domestic outbreak, when it reached the ears of Ferdinand and Isabella, caused them the most poignant grief. They both fell ill of a fever. The cup of Isabella's sorrows now seemed full to the brim. Her husband she feared was dying. Her daughter, the heiress to the crown of Castile, was crazed, and in heart as wretched as probably any woman who could be found in Spain. Ferdinand gradually recovered, but the queen sank beneath the malady. On the 12th of October Isabella executed her last will and testament, a document which will ever testify to the purity and the grandeur of her character.

She directed that her body should be buried in the Alhambra at Granada, with a simple inscription on her tombstone. "But," she added, "should the king, my lord, prefer a sepulchre in some other place, then my will is that my body be there transported and laid by his side; that the union we have enjoyed in this world, and, through the mercy of God, may hope for our souls in heaven, may be represented by our bodies in the earth."

The crown she settled upon Joanna as "queen proprietor" and the Archduke Philip, her husband. In consequence of the incapacity of Joanna, Philip was appointed regent of Castile until the majority of her grandson Charles. After sundry bequests to friends and to objects of benevolence, she concludes with the words, "I beseech the king, my lord, that he will accept all my jewels, so that, seeing them, he may be reminded of the singular love I always bore him while living, and that I am now waiting for him in a better world; by which remembrance be may be encouraged to live more justly and holily in this."

Three days after this a friend wrote from her bedside, "You ask me respecting the state of the queen's health. We sit sorrowful in the palace all the day long, tremblingly awaiting the hour when religion and virtue shall quit the earth with her. Let us pray that we may be permitted to follow hereafter where she is soon to go. She so far transcends all human excellence that there is scarcely any thing of mortality about her. She can scarcely be said to die, but to pass into a nobler existence, which should rather excite our envy than our sorrow. She leaves the world filled with her renown, and she goes to enjoy life eternal with her God in heaven. I write this between hope and fear, while the breath is still fluttering within her."

Seeing her friends bathed in tears around her bed, she said to them, "Do not weep for me, nor waste your time in fruitless prayers for my recovery, but pray rather for the salvation of my soul."

On Wednesday, November 26th, 1504, Isabella died, in the fifty-fourth year of her age, and thirtieth of her reign. Through a terrible tempest of wind and rain the body was borne on its long journey to the grave. The rain continued to fall in floods, and the gale of one of the gloomiest of winter days howled around the towers of the Alhambra as the remains of Isabella were consigned to their final resting-place.

"Life's labor done, securely laid

In this her last retreat,

Unheeded o'er her silent dust,

The storms of life shall beat."

The death of Isabella, Queen of Castile, rendered it necessary for Ferdinand to resign the crown of Castile, which for thirty years he had worn as her husband. Joanna, in conjunction with her husband Philip, was immediately proclaimed as succeeding to the throne. In consequence of the queen's mental infirmity, the Cortes requested her father Ferdinand to administer the government in her name. There was not, however, unanimity of sentiment upon this subject. Many wished to invite Philip to assume the government, as the natural guardian of his wife. Conspiracies were formed and intrigues commenced to promote this end. At length Philip, who was still in Flanders, was induced to claim the throne for himself, and to write to Ferdinand demanding that he should renounce the government of Castile and retire to Aragon. A bitter family quarrel ensued. Joanna espoused the cause of her father. A letter which she wrote expressing these views was betrayed to Philip. He seized his unhappy wife and placed her under rigorous confinement, which greatly aggravated her malady.

Ferdinand, under these circumstances, anxious to detach France from the interests of Philip and to secure the powerful co-operation of that court in his favor, made proposals for the hand of the Princess Germaine, a gay, frivolous young lady of eighteen, daughter of one of the sisters of Louis XII. The French king, who had already become somewhat alienated from Philip, eagerly entered into the arrangement, though it involved the rupture of the nuptial alliance between the infant children of Louis and Philip. By the terms of the treaty the alliance between France and Spain was to subsist "as two souls in one and the same body." This treaty of marriage was ratified by Ferdinand eleven months after the death of Isabella, he being then in the fifty-fourth year of his age.

Philip thus thwarted, and prohibited by Louis XII. from passing through France to enter the kingdom of Castile, perfidiously entered into an arrangement, which he had no intention of respecting, by which the government of Castile was to be administered in the joint name of Ferdinand, Philip, and Joanna, while Ferdinand should be entitled to one-half of the public revenue. Aided by this artifice, Philip, with Joanna, early in January,1805, embarked on board a powerful fleet for Spain. A terrible storm arose. The fleet was scattered. The ship which conveyed Philip and Joanna took fire and came near foundering. A shattered wreck, it with difficulty reached the harbor of Weymouth, in England. In splendor the royal pair were escorted to Windsor, where they were entertained for three months with profuse hospitality. At length they re-embarked, and landed at Corunna.

In the mean time Ferdinand led his young bride to the altar. The marriage ceremony took place at Duenas where thirty years before, inspired by youthful love, he had pledged his faith to Isabella. Spain regarded these nuptials of ambition with strong disapprobation.

"It seemed hard," says Martyr, "that these nuptials should take place so soon, and that too in Isabella's own kingdom of Castile, where she had lived without peer, and where her ashes are still held in as much veneration as she enjoyed while living."

Philip brought with him three thousand well-trained German infantry. An additional force of six thousand Spaniards was speedily mustered. The chivalry of Castile with enthusiasm rallied around his banner. Philip now threw off all disguise, and claiming exclusive possession of the crown for Joanna and himself, bade defiance to his father-in-law. Ferdinand was abandoned by all in Castile. The walled cities closed their gates against him. "A sad spectacle," exclaims Martyr, "to behold a monarch, yesterday almost omnipotent, thus wandering a vagabond in his own kingdom, and refused even the sight of his own child." Thus circumvented, Ferdinand in the end was constrained to sign an agreement by which he surrendered the entire sovereignty of Castile to Philip and Joanna.

The unhappy queen was still sunk in the depths of melancholy. There was reason in her madness, for her heart was broken by the infidelity and the cruelty of her husband. He was a dissolute man of pleasure, and had long since ceased to treat his wife even with outward respect. Poor Joanna had however friends who sympathized with her, and who braved the wrath of the king by refusing to accede to his request to confine the queen as a lunatic, and to confer upon him the whole charge of the government. The Cortes took the usual oaths to Joanna as queen, to Philip as her husband, and to Prince Charles, as heir and lawful successor to the throne upon the death of his mother. Philip held his wife in cruel duress, and ruled infamously, filling most of the posts of emolument and honor with foreign favorites whom he had brought with him from Flanders. Low mutterings of discontent were heard, deep and wide-spread, indicating a rising storm.

Ferdinand, with his young wife, set out on a tour to visit the kingdom of Naples, whose crown had been conferred by Louis XII. as a dowry upon Germaine. The fleet, which sailed from Barcelona on the 4th of September, 1506, touched at Genoa on the 24th, and was soon after driven by contrary winds into the harbor of Portofino. Here Ferdinand received the startling intelligence of the sudden death of Philip. He fell a victim to a malignant fever, which speedily terminated his dissolute life on the 25th of December, 1506, in the twenty-eighth year of his age. The queen sat in silence and gloom at his bedside during the whole of his sickness. No tear dimmed her eye. No words of lamentation escaped her lips. When he breathed his last she fixed her eye upon him with a vacant stare, lost in the stupor of insensibility.

And there she remained immovable, in the darkened chamber of death, her head resting upon her hand, her features expressive of profoundest melancholy, and mute as a statue. She was requested to give her signature, which was needful for the assembling of the Cortes. Sadly she replied,

"My father will attend to this when he returns. He is much more conversant with business than I am. I have no other duties now but to pray for the soul of my departed husband."

Ferdinand decided to continue his voyage to Naples. He was enthusiastically received in these his new Italian dominions. A fleet of twenty vessels came out to escort him into the port of Naples. Thunders of artillery from ship and shore, the ringing of bells, and the shouts of the multitude greeted the royal pair as they landed. The king was gorgeously arrayed in robes of crimson velvet. He wore a black velvet cap, glittering with gems, and was mounted on a white charger splendidly caparisoned. The queen rode by his side on a milk-white palfrey decorated in robes of rich brocade. The escort was correspondingly gorgeous. Nobles of highest rank led by the bridle the horses upon which Ferdinand and Germaine rode. A richly-embroidered silken canopy was held by the principal officers of the city over the heads of the royal pair to protect them from the sun.

In commanding positions the procession halted, when the king and queen were greeted with bursts of music, shouts of acclaim, and crowds of knights and high-born dames crowded around their majesties to render them homage by kissing their hands. After passing through the principal streets, the procession entered the great cathedral, where the most imposing religious rites closed the ceremonies of the day.

In the mean time a provisional government was organized at Burgos, in Castile. Joanna, plunged into the deepest melancholy, occasionally exhibiting the wildest freaks of insanity, not only refused to sanction any of their proceedings, but even to grant an audience to any committee. Three months after the death of her husband she determined to remove his remains to Granada, and insisted upon having the coffins of wood and lead opened that she might view the corpse. Opposition only roused her to frenzy. Without a tear, without any exhibition of emotion, she gazed upon the revolting spectacle, and placed her hand upon the mouldering brow. It is said that she had never been known to shed a tear after she detected her husband's infidelity to her.

The funeral car, of magnificent proportions and adornment, was drawn by four horses, and was accompanied by a long train of ecclesiastics and nobles. The procession left Burgos on the night of the 20th of December, and moved only during the hours of darkness. "A widow," said poor crazed Joanna, "who has lost the sun of her own soul, should never expose herself to the light of day."

Every morning before the dawn the body was deposited in some church or monastery, where funeral ceremonies were performed, as at his burial. An armed guard was also stationed to prevent any female from approaching the remains. In the disordered state of Joanna's intellect, she cherished the same jealousy of her sex which had embittered her days while her husband lived. One morning, by order of the queen, the body was taken into the courtyard of a convent which she supposed to be occupied by monks. To her horror, she found it to be a nunnery. In the utmost haste she ordered the remains to be taken to the open fields. It was still dark, and a high wind was blowing. Here the party all encamped, and Joanna insisted that the coffins should be opened, that, by the flaring light of the torches, she might satisfy herself that the presence of the nuns had not disturbed her husband's remains. Continuing the journey, they at length reached their destination. The wild aspect of the queen, her haggard features, and emaciate frame, rendered more revolting by the squalid attire which alone she could be persuaded to wear, greatly shocked her friends. The remains were finally deposited in the Monastery of Santa Clara. Joanna selected rooms in the palace from which she could behold his sepulchre. And here the poor, crazed queen remained, at her melancholy watch, for forty-seven years. She never left the walls of the palace until her body was borne in burial to moulder by the side of her unfaithful husband. Seldom has history recorded a more affecting tragedy than the fate of this princess, apparently born to the most exalted earthly destiny.

Leaving Joanna to her melancholy vigils of nearly half a century, we must return to her father Ferdinand, who, with his young bride, was making a triumphal nuptial tour through the kingdom of Naples. The death of Philip and the insanity of Joanna led Castile to avow allegiance to Ferdinand. Sailing from Naples on the 6th of June, 1507, the royal fleet entered Savona, in France, on the 28th. Here Louis XII., with a splendid array of land and sea forces, was waiting to greet Ferdinand with a royal welcome. The vessels on both sides were decorated with the most gorgeous drapery of carpets, flags, and silken awnings. All the seamen of Ferdinand's fleet were dressed in gaudy-colored livery of yellow and scarlet. As the royal couple landed with their suite, richly-caparisoned steeds awaited them. Louis XII, mounted upon a magnificent charger, took his niece Germaine, the bride of Ferdinand, behind him en croupe. The rest of the cavaliers followed his example. Thus the whole party, gentlemen and ladies, two on each horse, galloped off in high glee to the royal residence. The dead Philip and the crazed Joanna were already forgotten.

Wine flowed freely. Feasting, songs, dances ensued, and for four days the place resounded with the mirth of the royal revels. Re-embarking, the king and queen reached Valencia, in Spain, on the 20th of July. Soon after the king took the oath of administrator of the realm of Aragon in the name of his daughter and as guardian of her son and heir, Charles V.

The Moors of Africa, exasperated by the cruel treatment they had received, occasionally retaliated by descents upon the southern coasts of Spain. Cardinal Ximenes urged the king to fit out an expedition to punish them, and to conquer, in behalf of the cross, all those Moslem cities which lined the shores of the Mediterranean, and which had become nests of pirates. The king objected for want of funds. The proud cardinal offered to supply the funds from his own purse if he might be placed in command of the expedition. The energetic prelate had ample means. In the course of a few months he had ninety vessels, thoroughly equipped, in the harbor of Carthagena, with four thousand horse and ten thousand foot, with provisions for four months. The extraordinary man who created this force, and who was to take its military command, was over seventy years of age, and had spent his life in the seclusion of the cloister. The wags of the day made themselves merry with the thought that the monks were to fight the battles of Spain, while the great captains remained at home to count their beads.

The fleet sailed on the 16th of May, 1509, and crossed rapidly to the African shore. The Moors were ready to meet the foe. Ximenes, dressed in pontifical robes, and accompanied by a staff of monks in their monastic frocks, exhibited military ability of a high order. Inspiring his troops with intense religious enthusiasm, he led them to one of the fiercest assaults recorded in military annals, though the cardinal himself; in obedience to the earnest entreaties of his soldiers, remained in a place of safety. The Moors were routed. Their strong city of Oran was taken by storm. The Spaniards abandoned themselves to butchery and the most brutal license. The officers lost all control over them, and deeds were perpetrated which fiends in pandemonium could not rival. The spoil of the captured city amounted, it is said, to half a million of gold ducats. Three hundred Christian captives were liberated from the dungeons of Oran. Crowned with this wonderful success, Ximenes returned to Spain, leaving the army under the command of Count Navarro. With his combined fleet and land force Navarro advanced, through a series of victories, capturing all the Moorish cities and region as far as Tripoli. The inhabitants were all received as vassals of the Catholic king, paying to Ferdinand the taxes which they had been accustomed to pay to their Moslem princes.

Nothing of special interest occurred during the remainder of the reign of Ferdinand. There were some bloody conflicts in Italy, and the kingdom of Navarre was invaded and annexed to the crown of Castile. The king was much disappointed in the failure of issue by his young wife. In the spring of 1513 the health of Ferdinand began sensibly to decline. He became impatient, irritable, and deeply dejected in spirits. He seemed to lose not only all interest in amusements, but also in public affairs. Restless and discontented, he moved from place to place, finding content nowhere. A slight attack of paralysis, probably, threw him one night into a state of insensibility from which his attendants found it difficult to rouse him.

Death is as humiliating and painful in its ravages in the palace as in the cottage. Indications of dropsy soon became decisive. The king found great difficulty in breathing. He complained of being stifled not only within the spacious walls of the palace, but anywhere in crowded cities. Consequently he lived as much as possible in the fields. As the weather grew colder, he directed his steps towards the south. Having reached the little village of Madrigalejo, he was unable to go any farther. The king seemed to be very unwilling to admit that his life was in any danger, and would not consent to any spiritual administrations which would imply that death was near.

At length the medical attendants felt constrained to in- form the king that his case was hopeless. He calmly listened to the announcement, received the sacrament, and called his friends around his bed to advise with them respecting the disposition of the government. Poor, crazed Joanna was still living, day after day watching the sepulchre of her husband. She was the legitimate heir of the united crowns of Castile and Aragon. Her eldest son and heir, Charles, was then sixteen years of age. A regency was appointed until he should attain his majority. The queen, Germaine, arrived but a few hours before her husband's death. Ferdinand breathed his last on the 22nd of January, 1516, in the sixty-fourth year of his age. He died in a small room of the obscure village where disease had arrested his steps. "In so wretched a tenement," writes Martyr, "did the lord of so many lands close his eyes upon the world."