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.”
“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.”
“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