For a Queen’s Love: The Story of the Royal Wives of Philip II Book Review

At a glance, For a Queen’s Love sets itself up as an amazing book. Having made the story’s focus on the lives of the wives of Philip II of Spain and monarch himself, historical fiction writer Jean Plaidy should’ve had a royal flush. Instead, she presented the world with a lukewarm, overly dry view of one of Spain’s greatest monarchs.

Originally titled The Spanish Bridegroom, the novel falls flat with the simplest thing when it comes to writing and research—language. Firstly, the king was named Felipe, not “Philip,” the latter of which is the Anglicized version of the former. Therefore, since he is the king of Spain, it is best to refer to him as “Felipe,” though most English speaking writers don’t understand this. Yet this insult is but the first throughout the book that demonstrates the fact that Ms. Plaidy had no concept of the Spanish language. In a later chapter, Felipe’s son, Don Carlos—one of the few characters who is addressed by the correct name—is fawning over his fiancée later turned stepmother, Elisabeth of Valois. He decides to call her Isabella “because that’s the Spanish version of her name.” However, the Spanish version of Elisabeth is Isabèl—Isabella is Italian, not Spanish. Coupled with the fact that Isabèl of Portugal is also referred to as Isabella when it was Isabèl in her native land and adopted one, along with Maria Manuela being called “Maria Maneola,” Ms. Plaidy neglected to do basic research on the character’s names and their language of origin. Therefore, this erroneous decision on the part of the author and the editors prevented me from fully enjoying this book.

Yet I must confess that with the exception of names and their language of origin, the rest of the research was good. I enjoyed Ms. Plaidy’s elaboration on Felipe’s relationship with his duenna, Leonor, and his mistress, Isabèl Osorio, which she kept close to history. Additionally, I liked how she portrayed the infamous Juana la Loca by giving her a relationship with her great-grandson, Don Carlos, and how she showed his upbringing alongside his half-uncle, Don Juan de Austria, and half-cousin, Alessandro Farnese. Moreover, it was good to see that Mary Tudor, aka Mary I of England, was not made out to be the cartoon villain that most writers have made her into. Instead, England’s first female sovereign is presented as a sad figure whose physical appearance reflected the anxieties and frustrations that she faced internally. Despite her success in obtaining a husband, the tragic Mary could not fully have him due to her eagerness to rule and “cleanse” a land that had already slipped away from her long before her hysterical pregnancies and burning of “heretics.” Therefore, I commend Ms. Plaidy in these areas.

Yet the book’s title is misleading—it is about “the royal wives” of Felipe, but the last and perhaps most important one is left out—Anna of Austria. The story concludes with Elisabeth of Valois dying in childbirth, completely omits the temporary falling out of Felipe and Don Juan, and forgets to mention Felipe’s most well-matched and notorious wife. Felipe’s marriage to Anna was his longest, and they had numerous, though mostly short-lived, children, including the future Felipe III of Spain. Most importantly, Anna died in childbed in a similar, eerie pattern in the demises of Felipe’s wives, with the exception of Mary Tudor.

History notes Anna as a good queen, a loving stepmother to Felipe’s daughters, and a devoted mother to their children. Yet it is impossible to ignore the juiciest detail of all—Anna of Austria was Felipe’s niece and cousin. Her parents, Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian II and Maria of Austria—Felipe’s cousin and sister—were also first cousins. Therefore, this marriage was the latest and most defining moment in the inbreeding of the the Habsburg dynasty. The pattern of niece/uncle/cousin marriages would continue for another century, ending the Spanish line with Carlos II “the Bewitched.” Carlos II is Felipe’s great-grandson, and it would’ve been great if Ms. Plaidy could have foreshadowed the downfall of the Spanish Habsburgs with the poor health and deaths of Felipe and Anna’s young sons from epilepsy, a common complication from inbreeding. She missed a great opportunity to close on a riveting chapter and final note for Felipe. As a result, the character of the historical Felipe II—and the readers—were cheated of a decent ending and instead subjected to an overly rushed, uneventful death of his third, but certainly not final, wife.

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A Lesson

Back in February, I tried on a shirt at the Urban Outfitters in FiDi. It felt as though I was being hugged by the luscious, soft jersey knit fabric–at first, I dared not dream of taking it off. Yet I awoke to the reality of the price–around $45-50, a lot of money for a meezly little shirt. Additionally, it was snug–a little too snug. Usually mediums are foam fitting on me–but not this one. I needed a comfortable shirt, but refused to spend a lot on something I “wasn’t 100 with.” I put it back.

Flash forward two months later–April. On a quiet Thursday, I decide to go back. The weather is better, and I feel mightier, balanced, and reborn. Amazing how things as trivial as hair color impacts us, isn’t it?

Anyway…

I returned to Urban Outfitters and did something I, as a New Yorker, never usually do–I spoke with a person on the floor and asked for help. Now although I did not buy this shirt, I kept a close eye on it for a month. After I gave up, I was browsing for sales one day, and up it came–down to $29.99. I debated for about a week or so before deciding that this simply was an offer I couldn’t refuse. So on a quiet Thursday, I take an early lunch, and I go back. I’ve come prepared with a picture on my phone of the outfit online so the poor hipster I ask for help knows what I’m talking about.

“Oh yeah,” he responds. “Go up the stairs to the third floor, and you’ll find it in the corner in the sale area.”

Thank you!

I go upstairs, and turn into the sale area. I begin browsing the racks until I find the shirt. Before I arrived, I checked the reviews online one last time to make sure I didn’t fuck it up. One thing that all eight people agreed on–the shirt ran a size big. That meant that it’d be best to buy a small, which was a good thing–small and extra small were the only sizes that they had left. Another thing I noticed was that the price on my tag had again gone down–to $19.99.

To make sure that it was worth the buy, I tried it on one last time. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that it was also in a different color, but that was a good thing–it was million times more comfortable, form fitting, and just, well, me, then the last one had been, along I loved the way it looked and felt. After embarrassingly locking myself in the dressing room, and got out in the nick of time before the poor girl on duty went to check up. I thanked her, and went downstairs to pay.

February–Sized Medium, a bit big, overpriced

April–Sized Small after learning how the fit for the shirt works, perfect fit (and not too tight!), price is just right

The moral of the story is that the universe has perfect timing–just go with it. Whether it’s a stupid shirt, the love of your life, getting your license, going to school, buying a car, that iguana in Mexico that would dash around on the beach at the resort you stayed in seven years ago, or something else, let it go, and trust that all will work out in the right time. It might not be same guy–it could be an identical shirt or iguana–whatever. When your desire dawns on you again, have patience, and do your research. At last when the time is right, strike your match–and you’ll be amazed at how perfectly the flame takes, and know in your heart that waiting for the good and finally getting it was the best action to take.

The secret of getting things done is to act. Yet sometimes, doing nothing is when the flame ignites or something better crawls along.

Where the Duck Have You Been?

Hey y’all! If anyone’s reading this, as Katya Zamolodchikova said last week– the bitch is back. Not just Katya, but anch’io, me too. Like Katya though, I’ve taken a break for awhile to focus and recover from a few things. My situation is quite different, but I took a break from screenwriting, posting on this blog, and just about writing in general outside of work to get things in focus.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been as happy this year so far as I was last year. I’ve been battling a seasonal depression that started as soon as winter did. For anyone who doesn’t know how the East Coast’s been fairing, let’s just say that it’s April and still snowing–I’m serious, we got bombarded this morning!

Along with the crappy weather, my life has been in a tough situation. Know that thing I was trying so hard to manifest last year? Guess what–it didn’t happen. In life, eventful moments usually come in threes–deaths, births, weddings, breakups, fast food outings, trips to Smashburger, etc. I was so pumped and ready for my big three mid-last year. I exited 2017 with two of them–new job and new home–but the third didn’t come around. It involves renewing contact with someone who’s been out of my life for years again, and it didn’t come through. I don’t know what’s worse–that this person most likely no longer has a cell phone, that last ditch efforts to reach them through their mother were in vain, or that he fudging got my message on their damn house phone and never contacted me back.

It didn’t even really hit me till about two months ago how much this has truly devastated me–so much so that I threw myself back into the tenth dimension of hell, aka online dating, to cope. Additionally, that also did not turn out as planned–not that I have faith in online dating anyway, but still🙂🙃

In life, we must accept that we only make things worse when we try to replace someone–even if they’ve been gone for six years. We’re all different and beautiful in our own way, and I’m finally, officially giving it up to God. I tried too hard to do an Anastasia and “Journey to the Past,” and then I attempted too desperately to meet someone new that I’ve had nothing but conflicting energy. I love New York City, but hate how everyone is constantly on their phones. It makes it nearly impossible to truly meet anyone! Yet, I must accept the inevitable, and by that, I mean throwing the white flag in on my date altogether. Good show, ol’man–good show. God, Jesus, the Universe, whichever bastard took away RuPaul’s Drag Race being free to watch on Amazon Prime–make my life better. Send me a miracle and big, positive change in my life. Please? Grazie Mille. Namaste and amen🙏💗❤️

By the way, things have sucked, yes, but not everything has been bad. Here’s some good news:

  • I worked my first huge event at work last month, and it was awesome. I can’t wait to do it all again next year, and all inside the fanciest hotel I’ve ever been in! It’s like Art Deco meets the Palace of Versailles!
  • You may not be able to tell from here, but my writing has vastly improved, and gets stronger each day.
  • My sister and I are going to San Francisco in late May.
  • One of my best friends gave me a framed photo that she designed as one of my Christmas gifts, and I cried tears of joy–I’m always blah, and am realizing that I’m afraid of everything because of the abuse I endured as a kid in a backward Catholic school where I was discriminated against for my body image and ethnic origins. I didn’t belong to the ethnic group where I went to school for nine years, and was always singled out for it. I couldn’t even say I’d pass for it, since my naturally dark hair gave me away. This is why I love being in diverse places, like my high school alma mater (also a Catholic school, but more liberal and open minded), my university alma mater (where I also work), and New York City so much. In fact, I get more aggravated by the businessmen on the Metro North going home then wannabe artists on the subway (some of them are awesome!). So this is a big deal for me!
  • I officially start classes for my Master’s degree in May two days after my sister and I get back from San Fran.
  • I’m learning how to read auras–this is fun!
  • I took advantage of a great sale at Wayfair and bought a new bed with lots of storage. My new room is small, and I lost my desk and bookshelf, so the fact that I can now stack things under my bed helps a lot!
  • I’m blonde again😍😭💁‍♀️I know hair color isn’t supposed to make a difference and blah, blah, blah, but I’ve never felt myself with any other color as I do this one.
  • Most importantly, I started groundwork about a month ago on my novel–no, not one of those side projects that I dabble with that never get done, I mean the novel, the one that is making me famous as soon as I publish it. It’s nowhere near completion, but Chapter 4 is a good start. And I’m only letting my mentors and closest friends see it when ready–call me paranoid, but I don’t want to post publicly about it until it’s copyrighted and out there.

So that’s about it for now. Namaste everyone–please wish me luck, I truly need it! I’ve missed writing on this, and wish you happy reading. Love you all💗❤️

By the way…

The featured image is a meme I made going to a conference downtown💁‍♀️I past this building when I got off the subway, and couldn’t resist.

Awake

I am finally learning the difference as to why

we are led to paradise and astray by people’s

stories, who are they, and where they came. A wise

person at last explained it all, telling

me this–Victims can be good or

evil. Whether you are Sissi or Stalin, we

have all been there–outcast,

used up, misunderstood.

Something is always amiss–I

am awake.

– Julia St. Clair, © 2018, 8:08 p.m.

Isabel of Portugal, Day 5 — Queen Leonor

In this expert from one of the several projects I am currently working on, Isabel reflects on the arrival of Leonor of Austria into Portugal and her early marriage to Isabel’s father, King Manuel I of Portugal. Isabel and Leonor have struck up a friendship, possessing an almost sister-like bond, as they discuss family and the past, and how that translates into now.

Leonor de Austria arrived from her land onto ours in July, and married Papa within two weeks. As a child, I recall Mamae describing the physicality of Queen Juana–Leonor fits the bill. She posses a fragile, slim figure, and her auburn hair contrasts perfectly against her pale skin. She also possess the brown eyes of Fernando de Aragon, but her smile is that of her father, Felipe el Hermoso. A handsome man and a beautiful woman created a gorgeous first child–I wonder if Carlos posses beauty, also.

This new stepmother is old enough to be my sister, and she serves as the elder sister I never had. Leonor is warm, welcoming, and kind, which is rather ironic, giving that she is the one who was plucked from her lands and given away as a bride to a strange kingdom. She always includes myself and the older children with her household and advising Papa on matters of state affairs. Happily, the younger ones who spent the least time with Mamae now have Leonor to look up to. She loves the children as if they were her own.

As for her and Papa, I know not whether or not they have consummated their marriage. I can see that my stepmother loves him, but is not in love with him. There were rumors that she loved another, and that was the true reason why Carlos sent her here. This unrequited love proved as a bonding point with my father, who, as much as he hides his grief, continues to mourn Mamae each and every day. In the end, Papa embraces Leonor with a warm affection, but it is not the same love he shared with my mother.

When we are alone, Leonor and I speak of many things– our grandparents, our aunt, Queen Catherine, and our own parents, more specifically, our mothers. She asks me about mine, and I of hers. She smiles and holds back tears as I recount the days of my parents’ happy union, and how she oversaw my and my siblings’ upbringings. Leonor becomes especially emotional when I disclose the smallest of details, like how Mamae would tuck us in and kiss us on the cheeks every night.

Los amo a todos,” she’d tell us in her native Spanish–I love you all.

“How beautiful,” Leonor responds, while putting her handkerchief slightly towards her eyes. “She had so much love and grace within her. I would’ve loved to have met her.”

“And she would have been delighted to have greeted you,” I exclaim, taking hold of her hand. “You look so much like yours, from what Mamae would tell us of her.”

A nervous look glanced forth from Leonor’s face. She looked as though she was about to pull back, but she grasped my hands firmer. It was as if she were afraid.

“You don’t think I look like her, do you?” she asks in fear.

“From what I have heard, yes,” I respond. “But you are so beautiful, Leonor, you have nothing to fret over.”

“Isabel, I have everything to fret over,” she responds, pulling back. “My parents were physically attractive people, but inwardly repulsive. We speak not of the damage they have done, especially towards our grandparents’ kingdoms.”

We both wisely at this point chose to remain silent. As soon as Juan’s widow, Margaret, gave birth to stillborn heir, Juana and Felipe sent word from Flanders immediately declaring themselves Prince and Princess of the Asturias. All the European monarchs-especially my grandparents–were both horrified and disgusted. Not only had they had no respect for their brother and niece or nephew’s soul, but they also completely disregarded the fact that they were not the true heirs–it was their sister, Isabel, mother of my late half-brother, Miguel de Paz, and my father who were the newest heirs to Castile. Only Isabel and Miguel’s deaths would solidify their claim–and that they did, nearly three years later. Things would only grow worse from there.

“But you are not inwardly corrupt,” I interject, seizing the opportunity to ease this newly formed tension. “The kindness that you have shown upon myself and my siblings since your arrival cannot be matched.”

“When I heard that I was to marry into your family, first to your brother, and then your father, I knew I was walking into a newly motherless clan,” she explains. “Some of the fondest memories of my childhood involve my great-grandmother, the Duchess of Burgundy. She was poised, elegant, and charming, a force to be reckoned with. But behind closed doors, she and my aunt, our aunt, Margaret, were the only mothers Carlos, Isabella, and I came to have. Yet, according to blood, the duchess was really our great-grandmother–she was our step-great-grandmother. She would’ve murdered the man who’d remind her of that.”

“I have heard stories about her a lot,” I say. “Your grandmother, Mary of Burgundy, she–”

“She was more her daughter then her stepdaughter,” Leonor beckons with a smile. “And the love she felt was so deep that a part of her died when my grandmother did. She refused to let my grandmother, the Emperor, raised my father and our aunt. She reared their upbringing herself. She loved them so much that she refused to die until my father came back from Castile, the one thing he actually did right.”

 
“You want to be like her, don’t you?” I ask.

“Oh yes,” she responds, taking hold of my hand again. “And I am grateful to assume the position she held in my family’s life for that of yours.”

We hold each other in a warm embrace, and I thank God for having sent this kind, loving angel to our kingdom. If only he would do the same for me with hers.

  • Julia St. Clair© 2017

    *Image is of Marina Salas as Leonor de Austria in TVE’s Carols, Rey Emperador

Isabel of Portugal, Day 4 — O Cesàr o Nada

In this expert from one of the several projects I am currently working on, Isabel and Manuel of Portugal learn that Carlos, King of Spain and future Holy Roman Emperor has rebuffed his and Isabel’s engagement, along with that of his sister, Infanta Leonor, and her brother, João, Prince of Portugal. The royals are thrown off when a different marriage is proposed, and Isabel must make light of the situation and encourage her father to accept, much to her brother’s annoyance, while also holding onto hope for her own future.

Our moment is interrupted João and his squire arrive with alarming news. My brother’s squire hands Papa a letter, and at once his joy is ripped away.

“Papa, what’s the matter?”

But even I know that I do not wish to obtain an answer towards my inquiry when I see the smile disappear from my father’s face, his head being held in his hands. He looks at me as though he dares not to speak, fearing that once the words are spoken and thus conveyed fully, the betrayal will be towards not only myself, but him, as well. Papa is not the only person disturbed by the news–my brother’s angry gaze reveals that this bad news concerns not both me and him. João, usually calm, dignified, and composed, now stands still, his resentment masked, or revealed rather, in silence.

“Papa?,” I repeat myself like a scared child.

“I’m sorry, minha filha,” he says with downcast eyes. “Carlos rejected your hand in marriage, as well as refusing the union of that of the Prince of Portugal and Infanta Leonor.”

Leonor was Carlos’ older sister, the most eligible bachelorette in Europe since the death of our grandmother. Even Tia Catalina’s formidable father-in-law, the late old King Henry, attempted several times to break her hand with his namesake in favor of her niece. For awhile, it worked, and her sister-in-law, Princess Mary, was even engaged to Carlos herself. That betrothal would’ve come to fruition, if only this new King Henry weren’t so wishy washy with the Kingdom of France. Now Carlos has projected his rejection unto not only myself, but towards my brother, also. As Papa holds my hands for comfort, I stare at João from across the room, our mutual silence conveys the same emotion–sadness.

“However, my darling daughter, the Infanta will still be coming to Portugal,” Papa reveals through gritted teeth. “Only she won’t be our princess. Leonor de Austria is to be–”

“Our queen?” I interrupt. I already know where this is going. “Papa, you’re to be married?”

“Yes,” he answered shamefully, awkwardly shifting his focus towards João. “But I will tell this young king off. How dare he insult not one, but both of my beloved children! And expect me to take my son’s fiancee for myself, merely a year after the queen, your mother’s death? ”

“Go, Father,” João replies. “Do what you must.”

“No,” I shout, much to the surprise of both kin. “Papa, you must accept this marriage proposal. Carlos does not only the House of Austria, but the House of Aviz, and Portugal herself, this great honor.”

“Isabel, I am confused,” he replies. “This man has insulted us, and you expect me to accept this offer from him?”
“Yes, Altezza,” I answer, showing my obedience to my father through addressing him by his title and offering a slight bow of the head. This is not easy to convey, as I repress my pain to push and comfort my poor father over this bitter blow. “We’ve had peace and friendship with Spain for many years, why give it up now?”

“Isabel, Leonor is a child,” he replies. “She’s just as old as your…”

“Miguel?”

Papa closes his eyes to cross himself. As he starts, I stop him. Poor Papa–he never forgave himself for leaving his and Isabel’s son in Granada with my grandparents. He assumed he would receive excellent training and return to Portugal once fully grown. No one expect what was to happen next. Everyone was in shock when the little prince of peace died at barely two years old. Yet death has no mercy, breaking in through the night, softly and swiftly stealing souls from their beds and cradles. Had Papa known what was truly destined for his first son, he never would’ve let him out of his sight.

“Then that is a good thing. Leonor is youthful, and fertile,” I smile, trying to make the best of the situation. “She will give you many sons and daughters, children of Portugal.”

“But Portugal already has children, including six healthy, living sons.”

He nods at my brother as if he’s almost required to say what he must.

“I am old–she is young. She should be with your brother–not me.”

“But Papa, don’t you see?” I utter, stopping the small cracks of confusion in my voice. “Carlos wants his sister to be Queen of Portugal now later, but now. This action does not insult you, João, or her as much as it hurts, but honors us all, especially the Infanta.”

Papa still feels the heat of his eldest son’s gaze as I lift my head up. I know what to say to get him to accept–if my words don’t work, no one’s will.

“Portugal needs to maintain the alliance that my grandparents, including your beloved mother, called into action,” I declare. “And if that involves you taking on a new wife, but God you’ll do it.”

João is angry–this I can see, and I understand. But now more than ever, I need him to stop and not think of himself. I gaze at him to urge him to stop. I am not happy about this either, we can’t have Papa upset, nor us lose our motherland as our ally.

“Alright,” Papa sighs, turning to the squire.

“Tell the ambassador that I accept.”

As the squire bows and exits, João trails after him in disgust. Papa gazes off into the garden, closing his eyes and taking a breath.

“Forgive me, Isabel,” he says with his back turned. “You know how much I wish it was you rather than I taking these sacred vows.”

“Don’t worry about me, Papa,” I beam, no longer being able to hide my hope. “I will, I shall. Carlos will come around, just as my namesake did for you, and like you did for Mamae.”

Minha filha,” Papa utters, smiling at my thoughts. “What are you saying?”

 
“Only that I shall not settle for one I will not love. I always knew that I was meant to be with Carlos, Papa, from when I was a little girl,” I explain with pride. “Mamae knew it, too. She had a feeling that the deal with England would fall apart, and that he and Mary would not marry. It did–and Austria went to me, to us. For whatever reason, he wishes not to marry now–if he did, we would know just like we know now of your engagement to Leonor, would we not? Descansar–worry not, Papa. Carlos will change his mind, and I shall become his wife. I shall be Queen of Spain and Holy Roman Empress, Archduchess of Austria, and I care not how long I must wait. Whether I’m 20 or 50, I will not settle, I shall not rest. He will marry me, Papa, and I shall love him as much as you and Mamae loved one another, if not more. O cesàr o nada–its Caesar or nothing.”

  • Julia St. Clair© 2017

    *Image is of Blanca Suarez as Isabel de Portugal and Joan Crosas as Manuel I de Portugal in TVE’s Carols, Rey Emperador

Isabel of Portugal, Day 3 — An Unsuccessful Replacement

In this expert from one of the several projects I am currently working on, Isabel of Portugal continues to converse with her father, Manuel I of Portugal, on her future marriage to Carlos, King of Spain and future Holy Roman Emperor. She is disgusted by the possible validity of the rumors of his true relationship with their step-grandmother, Germaine de Foix, and her father tries to have her understand how fate leads us towards the present moment.

Carlos–el Habsburgo. Carlos–my cousin. Carlos–Rey Emperador–King of Spain, future Holy Roman Emperor. Carlos–my fiancee. Carlos–my beloved. I have had my eye on the prize Papa could not have chosen a better man, nor have fully read my mind. I have know that I was meant to be with Carlos since I was a little girl. Age matters not–I knew in my heart who I was, whom I wanted, what I was destined to be. Isabel de Portugal–Reina Emprezza. I was to be Queen and Empress, and already had my own personal motto mapped out. Yes, I thought with a smile, this young girl’s silly dreams are at last coming to fruition.

Yet there is a hint of pain in Papa’s face. “Hija,” he utters, lowering his head. “I do not deny the love your mother and I shared, may she rest in heaven’s grace with God. But that was us–you are not your mother. You are bolder, sharper, more headstrong–you are la Reina Catolica’s granddaughter. And but I am not Carlos–while I do not deny his blessings and power, his piety is, shall we say, lacking.”

“Oh?” I whimper, my face striking off concern.

“They speak things of this man, of the relations that he has possessed,” Papa begins.

Suddenly, I realize the rumors that were utters throughout the halls were true. At first, I thought them to be merely court gossip, dismissing them as rubbish. No, I made up my mind. It can’t be true–anyone but her. Yet God would not let me live in ignorance–not that day.

“Of course, I know not of the valdities of the claim, but there are rumors, whispers throughout our kingdoms,” Papa chokes. “They say that he has lain with a woman since he first step foot on Castilian soil. He has desecrated your grandmother’s land, along with that of Aragon, with an older woman– an unsuccessful replacement.”

“You mean?”

“Yes, minha filha,” he confessed. “I am afraid he has taken a woman as his mistress. That woman is his step grandmother–and yours. La Reina–”

“Stop,” I declare. I can no longer take the pain “Do not speak her name. Never speak of that name.”

My grandfather broke the promise he made to my grandmother on her deathbed. It was the sole reason their union occurred at all– to unite Castile and Aragon into a united Kingdom of Spain. He swore to uphold their mission in life after her death, even though God had taken their only son and wiped out the male Trastamara line along with him. That vow, the lasting legacy which the Catholic Kings made he nearly threw out the window in an act of pride and shame– he remarried.
For his bride, Fernando de Aragon chose no one of importance to us or Spain– it would’ve been less insulting if he had. Instead, my grandfather took a fat little French girl, Germaine de Foix, as his unlucky bride. His inability to control the little head that danced in his pants led him to nearly destroy the union of Castile and Aragon. God forgive me, but never was I ever so satisfied to hear of a innocent’s death as I was upon hearing the news their son died after birth. He had no business being alive, not even in the womb. His whore mother also had no cause to set in my grandmother’s throne–and none staying in her lands, either.

“Isabel,” Papa soothes, moving to hold my hands for comfort. “I know the pain you inherited from your mother about what the Catholic king did. My daughter, you are wise, but still so very young. In time, you shall learn. There are choices that one must make for the good of his kingdom, even if they destroy his original plans.”

“Like how you expanded the Inquisition to marry Isabel of Aragon?”

Papa sighs, his breath having decreased. Its no secret how badly he wanted to marry my aunt–he backed out of his promise of religious freedom to obtain her hand. Yet both knew in their hearts it was not the right action to take. By the time they realize their grievous error in judgment, it was too late–God had already begun to strike back.

“No ruler is perfect, Isabel,” he replies. “By the time your aunt and I realized our mistake, all hope of repairing or reconciling the damage which our union had caused was gone.”

Gone it was indeed, for nothing but heartache and tragedy befell my mother’s house until her brother, Isabel, and Isabel’s son were gone, leaving Spain for the reaping in the shadows of their memories, and that of their house. Castile and Aragon–Spain–was now the Habsburg inheritance, another kingdom dominated by the empire, and by the House of Austria.

“In life, though, we must have no regrets,” Papa declares in his wisdom. “For if I had the chance to retract my actions, I never would. The past leads to the present–we are where we are. If I never went through what I did with your Tia Isabel, I never would’ve had you or your brothers and sisters. Minha filha, you know what they call me.”

O Fortunado.”

“Yes,” he beams “O Fortunado–the Fortunate. I was fortunate to have your aunt, your mother, and you, Isabel.”

He takes my hand, holding it like when I was a little girl. I welcome my father’s affection and council, as he gazes into my eyes, having seen my fate before I could.

“You are going to be a magnificent queen,” Papa utters. “Never doubt before or after then that you have made your father very proud.”

  • Julia St. Clair© 2017

    *Image is of Blanca Suarez as Isabel de Portugal and Joan Crosas as Manuel I de Portugal in TVE’s Carols, Rey Emperador

Isabel of Portugal, Day 2 — The Model Marriage

In this expert from one of the several projects I am currently working on, Isabel of Portugal reflects on her the marriage of her parents, Manuel I of Portugal and the late Maria of Aragon, along with the memory of her aunt and namesake, Isabel of Aragon, Princess of the Asturias and Queen Consort of Portugal. She also comforts her father as they realize her marriage plans with Carlos I of Spain, later Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, will soon come into play.

I long for a spouse to provide me with the what Papa gave to Mamae–adoration. Despite being a mere constant, Papa listened to her as our kingdom underwent negotiations with my grandfather, Rey Fernando de Aragon. They were more than just husband and wife — Mamae was Papa’s best friend. He came to her room every night, even breaking protocol to see her in confinement, as he never wished to spend a moment without her. Mamae gave her undying love to Papa, and as did he towards her. Unlike most kings, such Tia Catalina’s husband, King Henry, Papa never took a mistress, even after Mamae’s death. To me, Papa is more than merely a king–he is also a saint.

Papa is the most pious man I have ever known. His piety has touched Joao and I since we were children. Out of my large array of siblings, it is my elder brother with whom I am closest, as we were born barely a year apart. Our whole lives were modeled upon our parents and the happiness they had. We thank God that we were raised in a loving, peaceful home, and that Mamae had escaped the melancholy that shadowed Tia Catalina and Tia Isabel’s lives.

Isabel–Mamae’s oldest sister. Isabel–Papa’s first bride. Isabel–my namesake.
Out of all the Catholic Kings’ daughters, she was the most beautiful. No man who remembered her could ever deny that. Her grace and beauty would leave the world barely a year after her brother, and oh so young — she was 28.

“How much you look like her,” Papa tells me as I walk with him in the gardens, “Not only in beauty, but in disposition also.”

“You really think so, Papa?” I ask with modest excitement. “Do I have such a resemblance to Tia Isabel?”

“You have the same hints of gold in your hair,” he explains. “Though you have inherited the Aviz hazel eyes compared to the blue-green beauties of her and your mother, and your skin alabaster is as dark as a Moor compared to her pale complexion. But I cannot deny the proof of the Trastamara blood that flows through your veins whenever I look at you, hija mia.”

“Nor my Aviz blood, given to me by the greatest king of Portugal,” I reply.

“Oh my darling daughter. How you honor me so,” Papa says gently with a smiles, as he slides my hand beneath his arm. “And how I beg God to forgive me for the sadness which awaits me when you must leave to your new kingdom and home.”

I beam with pride, yet make sure to comfort my darling father. Poor Papa– his grief is fairly fresh from having lost his wife, and soon he must bid his daughter goodbye. As these change in barely two years’ time is not good for an old man. Yet this was what I’ve prepared for my whole life. I cannot let anyone or anything sour the mood, not even my dearest king and father.

“Don’t worry, Papa,” I assure him. “I am ready, willing, and strong. I have had much preparation for such a role throughout the entire course of my life, and learned how to perform my duty from the very best and wisest of consorts. When Mamae was younger than I, she came to this land and married you, a man much older and wiser than she was. As time went on and God blessed you both so, you two grew to love another. And by Christ, I swear the same will be true for me and Carlos.”

  • Julia St. Clair© 2017

    *Image is of Blanca Suarez as Isabel de Portugal in TVE’s Carols, Rey Emperador

Isabel of Portugal, Day 1 — Mamae

In this expert from one of the several projects I am currently working on, Isabel of Portugal reflects on her late mother, Maria of Aragon, and the impact that her parent’s loving marriage had on her and her siblings.

“I miss Mama.”

Little Henrique cries almost every night since she passed. Mamae. The queen whom birthed us. Mamae. The woman who raised us. Mamae–the wife who advised her husband, the mother who sought equal education for their children, regardless of gender. Mamae–the first of the last surviving daughters of Isabel and Fernando to follow their mother to the grave.

Maria of Aragon was the fifth child and third daughter of those great rulers of Spain. Their union united the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, and she and her siblings were living embodiments of that merger. Despite growing up in the shadow of her prettier sisters and sole surviving brother, they all adored Mamae, and she felt the same way. That love would be tested by the bonds of time, fate, and tragedy, as two of Mamae’s beloved siblings, Juan and Isabel, would beat their parents to the grave, and their children with them. These tragedies set off the power keg between my grandfather and Philip of Habsburg, my aunt, Queen Juana’s, husband that would drive the formidable Catholic queen into an early grave. While one might not know how my unbalanced, foolish aunt might have fight, I know for a fact that Mamae and her youngest sister, England’s Queen Catherine, were heartbroken.

The world forgets about this daughter of Spain, but the Aviz family and Portugal do not. Mamae was the perfect woman, wife, mother, and queen to Papa and me. Elegant, radiant, calm, composes, patient–the exact opposite of the madness that haunts Queen Juana. Although the marriage was arranged by politics rather than personal choice and a previous engagement was called off, Papa and Mamae ultimately married, producing an army of children started by my brother, Joao, and I. I am the second child and eldest daughter–therefore, when Mamae died, it fell upon me to assume her queenly duties and serve as Father’s foremost companion and advisor until he takes another bride. But poor Papa cannot fathom that at the moment, for he continues to reel everyday from the consequences of having lost the love of his life.

Although they married to maintain alliance in all the kingdoms held within the Iberian peninsula, my parents fell in love, deep, passionate love. This love bonded them forever to one another, and conceived myself and all of my siblings in it. Mamae bore 10 of us–Joao, myself, Beatriz, Luis, Fernando, Afonso, Henrique, Maria, Duarte, and Antonio. Out of the 10 who were born, 8 of us survived, as the unfortunate babies Maria and Antonio died at birth. This was a huge accomplishment for Mamae, Having provided Portugal with an heir and many spares was the ultimate success for Mamae, who, like Queen Juana, was viewed as the paragon of fertility. Sadly, their childbearing was the polar opposite of Catalina, Queen of England, who bore 6 children, most of them stillborn or dying in infancy. Only one, a girl, my cousin, Mary, survived past birth and the basic infant months. How terrifying it must be to bury a child! My parents went through it twice, the last one having led my beautiful mother to her early grave. I, therefore, cannot think of Tia Catalina or her husband’s anguish, and I pray to never suffer as such.

  • Julia St. Clair© 2017

    *Image is of Blanca Suarez as Isabel de Portugal in TVE’s Carols, Rey Emperador

South Pool Run In

This day today I saw your face

and beheld your tender heart. My

heart leapt up forth as your head came

in view of my eyes, and inserted myself

into the fold. I observed up close, high, low,

up, and down, questioning if it could really be.

How you looked the same since the day we met,

and years later bore the same scent, I smiled and

you smiled back at me. My further beat more when

I heard you conversing, speaking in your mother tongue–

I’m so proud you’re engaged with who you are. Yet as you

left, camera in hand, I turned my face towards the water

flowing swiftly down the drain, behind my Lennon glasses

making an agonizing face. Surely on this day, seeing each

other was meant to be. A constant reminder of how one

holds the lock to the other’s key; you aesthetically stayed

the same; I changed my hair, clothes, perhaps even face

— you didn’t know my name.

 

  • Julia St. Clair, © 2017, 1:51 p.m.