From Peter the Cruel, The Life Of The Notorious Don Pedro of Castile Together With An Account Of His Relations With The Famous Maria de Padilla, by Edward Storer; London: John Lane, The Bodley Head; New York: John Land Company, 1911; pp. 166-187.
AND now we come to one of the darkest and most evil pictures in this gallery of Peter of Castile. Peter murdered his brother Fadrique, and the best way to tell the story of the deed is, I think, to follow the calm, passionless, incisive style of Ayala as closely as may be. There is something very vivid in his simple account.
In narrations of action like this Ayala shines over his country man Mariana, the acknowledged stylist and littérateur: so nearly does the old chronicler come to the limpidity and nudity of high, self-conscious art.
We have seen a kind of unstable peace agreed on between Aragon and Castile, but war was still smouldering on the frontiers, even if it did not break out into battles and sieges.
Pedro, who saw in the struggle an opportunity of self-aggrandisement, accepted the offices of the papal legate with a bad grace, and, indeed incurred a little later a sentence of excommunication and interdict from the annoyed and indignant Cardinal.
And about this time we find once again that adventurous knight Pero Carillo playing a principal 167 part in events. We have seen him in that romantic journey through Spain in the early day of Don Pedro’s reign, when Enrique was compelled to fly with his newly-married wife into the Asturias. We have watched him heading deputations and fighting tournaments, and behold! here he is again devising another romantic adventure quite after his own heart.
Doña Juana de Trastamara, who was one day to be Queen of Castile, served that adventurous apprenticeship which seems to have been so necessary an education for princes and princesses in those days.
At this time, she was a political prisoner, a hostage in Castile, and her husband the Conde was anxious to rescue her. To this end, the wily and faithful Pero Carillo arranged that reports should reach Don Pedro’s ears to the effect that De Trastamara was in reality anxious for a reconciliation with his brother. He then went in person, and declared to the King how dissatisfied he was with his present vassalage, and how sorry he was to have ever acted in opposition to Pedro. He implored his monarch’s mercy, and sought nothing better than an opportunity to return to his proper allegiance. He promised to serve Don Pedro faithfully and loyally, if he would but accept his homage.
Pero deceived the King, and was taken into favour and settled at Taneriz with a promise of promotion and authority to raise a troop of horse, which he did to use against the King and effect the speedy rescue of Doña Juana, whom, for the second time in her life, 168 he piloted in a perilous journey through Castile. We may imagine Don Pedro’s anger when he learnt of the trick, and of the arrival of his hostage in Aragon.
He was very angry. That martinet pride and colossal self-esteem of his suffered at the success of the ruse.
He surrounded his brothers and lieutenants with spies, and though apparently on good terms with Tello and Fadrique, it would seem that he was secretly plotting their death. Enrique, who, for almost the whole term of his brother’s reign had maintained towards him an attitude of open and honest hostility, the King had no reason to treat other than as a foe. But he found, that, while Fadrique was seemingly interested in the success of the Castilian arms, he was quietly engaged in secret correspondence with his brother, the Conde and the King of Aragon. Mérimée includes in his history a passport given by the King of Aragon at this time to one Gonzalo Mexia as envoy from the Conde de Trastamara to Don Fadrique.
Pedro, who had come to the conclusion that their death alone would be sufficient to rid him of the plotting and underhand schemes of his brothers, took at this time into his counsel Don Juan, Infante of Aragon, “a weak and evil prince.”
In the privacy of his own cabinet, Don Pedro discussed with the Aragonese Prince and Sarmiento, the Adelantado of Castile, the fate of Fadrique.
It was the early morning.
The King offered his two conspirators a crucifix and the gospels, and asked them to swear that they 169 would hold secret all the conversation which should pass between them.
Then the King said: —
“Cousin, you know and I also that Don Fadrique, my brother, the Master of Santiago, bears no more goodwill towards you than you do towards him. I have proof that he has betrayed me, and to-day I mean to kill him. As soon as Fadrique is dead, I shall set off for Biscay, where I propose to treat Don Tello in a similar manner. I shall then give you his lands in Biscay, and those also of Lara, for, as you are married to Doña Isabel, daughter of Don Juan Nuñez de Lara, those noble domains naturally revert to you.”
The young Infante did not demur to this projected piece of royal justice, but replied readily in similar strain: —
“Sire, I feel grateful for your confidence in thus exposing me to your secret designs. It is true that I hate the Master Santiago and his brothers. They also detest me on account of the love I bear to you. I am therefore pleased to hear that you have resolved to rid yourself of the Master. It you desire it, I will myself slay him.”
“Cousin,” answered the King, “I thank you, and pray you to do as you say.”
Perez Sarmiento, the third party present at this scene, may perhaps have had either a conscience or a sense of humour, for, finding the scene not to his liking, he ventured a reproof towards the Infante — a reproof in which one is able to detect a touch of sarcasm.
“You may rejoice, my lord,” he said to the Infante, 170 “that his Grace the King is about to perform an act of justice; but do you think he has not ballesteros sufficient to dispatch the Master?”
“Now it was Tuesday, the 29th day of May,” says Ayala, “and the King was in Seville, in his Alcazar, playing draughts. Just outside the city’s gates a certain monk had, we learn, given the Master a mysterious warning of a great danger that was threatening him, a message that may have come from the friendly Sarmiento, or from some other who suspected evil things. The Master, at any rate, paid no regard to the monk’s words, but went forthwith to seek his brother the King, accompanied by his knights and the gentlemen of his train.
“As soon as he came to the presence of the King, he kissed his hand, as did likewise many of the knights who accompanied him. Don Pedro received him with a show of goodwill, asking him from whence he came that day, and if he had good lodgings. The Master replied that he had set out that day from Cantillana, which is five leagues from Seville, and for his lodgings, he knew not of them yet, but was full sure they would be good. The King bade him to go and look to his lodging and then return to him; and the King said this because many companies had come into the Alcazar with the Master.”
Fadrique then left his brother and went into the royal nursery, where he found Maria de Padilla, and her children. And he talked and played with his little nieces in this part of the Alcazar which was called the Caracol.171
Now Maria knew all that was planned, and because she was a good woman with a kind and tender heart, she assumed a mournful and alarming expression, that the Master might read in her eyes the kindly treason her lips dared not frame. “For the death decreed against the Master lay heavy on her.”
Don Fadrique then left his sister-in-law and his nieces, and went down into the courtyard of the palace, where he had left his mules and the greater portion of his retinue. But, on coming to the place where he had left them, he found them all gone, for the King had given orders to his porters for everyone to leave the courtyard, and all the beasts had been turned out, and all the knights, that nothing might interfere with the scheme in hand. When the Master could not find his mules, he was at a loss whether he should go back to the King or not. One of his knights, Suer Gutierez de Navales, an Austrian, perceived that some danger was about, for he noticed a commotion in the Alcazar, and he said to his master: “My lord, the postern of the courtyard stands open; go out and you shall not lack mules.” And this he repeated many times, for he hoped that if the Master should come into the midst of his followers, they would be able to save him.
Even then the unsuspecting Fadrique was unaware of his danger, and it was not until there came to him two messengers from the King, two brothers of De Tovar, that he perceived the trap into which he had fallen. In dread, and with much misgiving, he made his way back to Don Pedro. 172 With him, for the first part of the way, there came a few of his knights, but these grew gradually less, as the porters at the various doors barred their way.
When the Master came to the place where the King was, none was allowed to enter save only the Master, Don Fadrique, and the Master of Calatrava, Don Diego Garcia (who had that day accompanied Don Fadrique, the Master of Santiago, and knew nothing of all this) and two other knights. The King was in a hall called “Del Fierro” with the door closed. And when the Masters of Santiago and Calatrava came to the door of the hall where the King was, it was not opened to them, and they stood at the door. And Pedro Lopez de Padilla, the King’s ballestero mayor, was outside with the Masters, and thereupon a wicket opened in the hall where the King was, and the King said to Pedro Lopez de Padilla: —
“Pedro Lopez seize the Master;” and he replied, “Which of them?”
And the King said: “The Master of Santiago.” Then Pedro Lopez de Padilla laid hold of the Master Don Fadrique, and said, “I arrest you”; and the Master stood silent, full of dread, and the King said to some ballesteros who stood by: “Ballesteros, kill the Master of Santiago.” But even so, the ballesteros durst not do it. Then one of the King’s bedchamber, a man named Ruy Gonzalez de Atienza, who was in the secret, cried aloud to the ballesteros: —
“Traitors! What are you about? Did you not hear the King command you to kill the Master?”
Then the ballesteros, seeing it was indeed the 173 King’s order, raised their maces to strike the Master, Don Fadrique, who, when he saw this, disengaged himself from the grasp of Pedro Lopez de Padilla and sprang into the courtyard. He seized his sword but could not draw it, for it was slung round his neck under the tabard which he wore, and when he would have drawn it, the hilt caught in the strap, and he could not get it free. The ballesteros pursued him to wound him with their maces, but they could not succeed, for he eluded them and fled from side to side in the courtyard.
Then Nuño Ferrandez de Roa, who pursued him more closely than the rest came up with him and dealt him a blow on the head with his mace, so that he fell to the ground, and thereupon all the other macemen came up and wounded him.
As soon as the King saw the Master lying on the ground, he went through the palace in the hope of finding some others of his followers whom he might put to death. But he found none except one knight. For the rest had hidden themselves or gone. This unfortunate was Sancho Ruiz de Villegas, surnamed Sancho Portin, the Master’s chief equerry. The King found him in the Caracol or quarters where Maria and the King’s daughters dwelt. When the King entered the room, Sancho took Doña Beatrice, the King’s daughter in his arms, as though to ward off the King’s ire, for he hoped to escape death through her. But Don Pedro ordered his daughter to be torn from the man, and stabbed him himself with a dagger which he wore in his belt.174
De Tovar, the knight who had summoned the Master, then dispatched Villegas.
After this, the King returned to where the Master lay, and found that he was not yet dead, and the King took a dagger from his belt and gave it to a Moorish slave of his, to kill him with.
“When it was done, the King sat down to eat in the place where the Master lay dead, in a hall called the Azulejos, which is in the Alcazar.”
IT was about this time that his traditional epithet of “The Cruel” began to attach itself to Don Pedro. He conceived, we know, a wholesale scheme of executions, most of which were actually carried out. It was his retribution for that half-hearted revolt of his Ricos Hombres, which had yet, in a measure, succeeded in spite of its owPn feebleness. It was his answer to the plottings of his brothers; his reply to the Toro affair and the humiliation he had then received at the hands of his relatives. In the matter of deception, false dealing, cunning, and remorseless treachery, Pedro was no whit worse than any of his relatives or vassals. It was only in his cold-blooded ferocity, his fierce, unrestrained passions, and his intense, almost inhuman selfishness that he surpasses them. This young man of twenty-five had made himself in about eight years an absolute despot, and had impressed his character so strongly on his lords and people that there was no one to stand against him. He had become a symbol of supremacy, a religion, in fact, which weak and superstitious spirits (and such inevitably form a large proportion of any people) were rather glad than otherwise to accept.176
Don Pedro, at this moment, stands for the extreme type of mediæval feudalism. He is a fierce and relentless example of its individualism reduced to an absurdity. He was beyond doubt a strong, callous man; it required but imagination for him to have been a great man.
He has been called the Nero of Castile, but the definition is, of course, superficial and crude. Pedro was a primitive, and Nero, I fancy, was an artist. The one wrought his monuments of cruelty in rude, straightforward, basaltic lines, while the other devised refined and delicate arabesques of vice to delight his tortured spirit. Nero’s soul belonged to to-morrow; Pedro’s to the stone-age.
No sooner was the inconvenient Fadrique dead than his brother and executioner set out to serve Don Tello in similar fashion. He called to his side the Infante Don Juan of Aragon, and told him in secret of his intention. He requested his company, saying that he wished to give him the kingdom of Biscay. The Infante kissed the King’s hands, and believed in his promises.
Such haste did Don Pedro make in his journey, that he arrived at Don Tello’s residence in seven days.
The prince, fortunately for himself, happened to be with a hunting party but, as soon as he heard of the presence of the King in the neighbourhood, less unsuspecting than Fadrique, he made for the coast. There he got into a fishing boat, and set sail for St. John de Luz. Pedro pursued him, so determined was he in his intention, but he had to 177 put back on account of the weather, and Tello found safety in Bayonne.
Many other knights and squires were executed by the King’s orders about this time. None of those who had served him in bad part during the time of his downfall at Toro were forgotten. Ballesteros with death-warrants went riding through the county, and the towns of Cordova, Salamanca, Mora, Toro, and Villajero were taxed of a bloody tribute.
Among those who were thus victims of the royal vengeance were Jufre Tenorio, the brother of Juan Tenorio, Alfonso Perez Fermosino, Don Lope Sanchez de Bendaña, who had insulted the King at the gates of Segura, Pero Cabrera and Alfonso de Gabete.
Now, Don Juan of Aragon had travelled into Biscay with the King in the firm belief and hope of seeing himself duly established as lord there by the power paramount of all Castile. Pedro had, indeed, taken away from the young prince, more or less with his consent, his Adelantadoship, but Don Juan was given to understand that the divestment of this honour was merely to pave the way for the reception of a higher one. He thought himself secure in the confidence and friendship of so powerful a protector, and began to dream kingdoms for himself. Don Pedro began operations in Biscay by gathering round him the principal citizens of the lordship. He gave them fair promises, and to these even added presents. He flattered, and exercised all the diplomacy which he possessed. He took up the attitude of one who was to deliver the Biscayans from an oppressive 178 and tyrannical lord, and suggested that the choice of a new one must of course rest with themselves. It was not for him, he implied, to tamper with the liberties of a free people.
These Basque mountaineers were a chivalrous, independent folk, whose confidence was easily gained, and the decorous and respectful attitude of the King towards their rights struck them as being in blessed contrast to the manner of Don Juan of Aragon, who was then wasting many words in claiming his new lordship from King and people.
Don Pedro bid him wait. It was, he said, a mere formality to invite the approval of the Biscayan Diet at Guernica, but one that it was perhaps politic not to neglect.
Don Juan’s protestations only made him less popular with the people, and accelerated the action of the King.
Under an ancient tree, the deputies assembled, and listened to the crafty speech of Don Pedro. He told them how he respected their absolute independence and their ancient liberties, and then he put forward to them the claims of his candidate, Don Juan. In conclusion, he asked them whether or not they wished to accept Don Juan as their lord. The reply, which was of course no surprise to him, was a grave shock to the Infante.
“Never shall Biscay have any other lord than the King of Castile. We will have none other!” This cry went up on all sides, and the King turned to the Infante with an expression of surprise.179
The Infante now perceived himself outwitted by his so-called friend, and broke into loud protests and reproaches. Pedro tried to appease him by promising to make a second effort. Such effort, of course, would, he know quite well, only serve to make the position of a man, who was endeavouring to force himself upon the people, the more intolerable and dangerous. However, it was arranged that a second appeal to popular suffrage should be made at Bilbao, which was the proper capital of the province.
But the affair as a piece of diplomacy was nearly finished, and the crafty smile of Pedro was to turn again to his murderous frown.
Juan was now universally unpopular. There was no party for him in Biscay; his death would be as pleasing to the people as it would be convenient to the King.
And so one fine morning in Bilbao, messengers went from the King to the Infante, saying that my lord would like to see my lord on an important business. A few squires accompanied Don Juan, but these were obliged by etiquette, supported no doubt by a janitor or two, to desert him on the threshold of the royal chamber.
Don Juan found the room full of Pedro’s courtiers and ringing with laughter and noise, and on his entrance a little mob of knights jostled up against him and surrounded him as though in rough, good-humoured play. Some of them petted him rather impudently and affected a gross and presumptuous good-fellowship, and one plucked out the poignard 180 at his girdle, as though to examine it in sport and idle curiosity, for he wore no other weapon. And then a chamberlain seized him by the arm, and a ballestero, called Juan Diente, one of those who had killed Don Fadrique, dealt him a heavy blow on the head from behind. Don Juan, stunned by the blow, and surprised by this sudden treachery, broke loose from the press around him and staggered away towards the door, where Henestrosa met him with the point of his drawn sword. Then the macemen swung their clubs in good earnest and felled him to the floor and dispatched him. The square in front of the palace was filled with people, whom interest in the election of the new lord had called together. A window was opened and, by Pedro’s order, the dead body of the Infante was flung into the midst of the crowd. And someone cried out: “Biscayans, behold him who pretended to be your lord.”
The crowd took the deed in good part, and thought that Don Pedro had only acted with justice in the matter, and with a desire to defend their liberties.
So Pedro’s campaign of assassination went on, and his ill-fame among the nobles grew, while the people saw in him a defender of their rights.
There remained his aunt, Doña Leonor, to be punished; and Juan de Henestrosa, a good man condemned to serve an evil master, was sent off in haste to Roa, a town which belonged to the Queen Dowager as a relic and result of the Toro days.
The good lady was living quietly enough with her 181 daughter-in-law, Doña Isabel de Lara, when Henestrosa came to demand in the King’s name the keys of the town. The two woman were made prisoners, and lodged in the castle of Castrojeriz. The King himself went to Burgos, a strong town of independent men, that Pedro thought perhaps to reduce to a gentler mood by making it, for a time, the centre of his acts of retribution and vengeance. Thither, then, came to him in the days following his arrival ballesteros from north and south, bearing on their saddle-bows the heads of those knights and squires whose death-warrants the King had issued at Seville before leaving for Biscay. By such means, Pedro sought to impress the burghers of Burgos.
Don Fernando of Aragon, and the Conde de Trastamara, when they heard the tidings of the death of their brothers, began reprisals at once, and made incursions into the plains of Castile. Pedro IV. himself seems to have been annoyed by a breach of etiquette on the part of his brother of Castile, who, in a complaint at the inroads of Enrique and Fernando, sent his message by simple archer instead of with the retinue due to a monarch’s dignity. The loss of his brother, Don Juan, does not seem to have troubled him at all.
Don Pedro of Castile was now determined to attack Aragon without delay, and, for this purpose, he deemed a naval campaign essential. He seems to have had some almost childish desire to shine as a great naval captain, as well as a redoubtable general on land. He therefore approached almost with frenzy the work 182 of building and equipping a great fleet. Every day he came personally into the arsenal on the banks of the Guadalquivir, and exhorted and encouraged the workmen. He spared no energy or money in the prosecution of this work, which was, perhaps, to him something in the way of a whim or fancy as well as an opportunity for revenge.
On land several skirmishes and small battles took place between his forces and those of the King of Aragon and the princes accepting his hospitality. Don Tello and Don Enrique were careful enough, however, to avoid falling into his clutches.
He had not forgotten those valuable hostages of his in Castrojeriz, those unfortunate women, Doña Leonor and Doña Isabel.
The former he had executed by some Moors, for it is said that no Castilian dared touch the sister of King Alfonso, and Doña Isabel he is thought to have had secretly poisoned.
Pedro was at this time in the full flush of all his cruelty and blood-lust. An absolute despot, fearing neither God nor man, it is now becoming difficult to portray him as a sane human being at all.
Here is an incident illustrative of Don Pedro’s remarkable sense of justice which was so extremely personal as to be almost ridiculous. The incident is related on the authority of Alonso Martinez de Toledo, chaplain to Don Juan II. of Castile, the great-grandson of the subject of this memoir.1
There was a castle called Cabezon, which belonged 183 to the Conde de Trastamara. The castle was defended by ten esquires, ten bold, desperate men, who were exiles from Castile and under the proscription of Pedro. We do not know their names, but it is no matter. They were all lusty fellows of rascally character, who were in arms against all men, and to whom all women were simply a means of pleasure.
The little castle, which these desperadoes were defending, was perched right up on the very top of a hill. Its donjon looked down from a mass of vast, perpendicular rocks, and it was no easy matter at all to capture the place.
Besides the ten esquires, there were in the castle only the governor’s wife and the governor’s daughter, and possibly a servant or two. Before this castle there appeared one day, Don Pedro — in great haste to be admitted. He summoned the governor to surrender, but in vain. There was plenty of food inside and plenty of time in which to eat it, and the walls were very strong, and the knights unafraid of threats. But it was very dull there, they soon discovered; very uninteresting and stupid indeed to be shut up in a castle with nothing to do. The custodians were all young men and though they did not mind a good fight, the prospect of inaction and boredom terrified them. So they went in a deputation to the castellan and said that they must really have amusement. Insolently (we learn) they told him “we must have women to keep us company in this eagle’s nest. If we do not, we shall open the gates to the King of Castile.”184
The governor could hardly miss the inference, and thus found himself put to choose between his domestic and his military honour.
It seems that the castellan of Cabezon was a knight of the time of chivalry more than he was a husband or father, and the next thing we see is the garrison swearing to stand by the castle and its Governor till death.
But two of the knights, less wicked than their companions, or, more probably, dissatisfied with their share in the ladies’ favours, made their escape from the castle and came to Don Pedro.
To him they related the whole story. Pedro at once became indignant and flew into a rage. He sent to the castellan and asked him to allow him to execute justice upon the custodians of the place. He made this proposition: that in exchange for the men who had so sourly served him and his honour, an equal number of his own knights should go into Cabezon and hold it against everyone, his royal self included. These knights, said Pedro, would be ready to swear to defend the place to the very last against all comers whomsoever they might be. They would, if necessary, die at their posts with the governor. The proposal was accepted, and the traitorous garrison were led forth to be quartered and cast into the flames.
Meanwhile the great preparations and immense activity at Seville have resulted in the mobilisation and equipment of a most formidable fleet. There were ready for action twenty-eight galleys, two 185 galleasses or smaller galleys, and four ships called leños, besides eighty merchantmen, which had been quickly turned into men-of-war. To this tremendous assembly of vessels must be added three more galleys, which Pedro had persuaded the King of Granada to supply and man, and yet another ten galleys and one galleass, which he had wrung from his not-too-enthusiastic ally, the King of Portugal., For his own use and command, Pedro had equipped a monster galley, “the largest ever beheld in those seas.”
This mammoth ship was not a new vessel, but one which had been formerly taken from the Moors. Ayala, the chronicler, was himself on board this ship, and in command of a portion of it, and from him we learn that it had three castles on its deck of several stories high, in which cross-bowmen were stationed, who, from their advantageous position, were capable of inflicting great damage on an enemy. This ship also contained on its lower deck a stable for forty horses, and, besides its sailors, carried a crew of 160 men-at-arms and 120 archers. Its captain was Garci Alvarez de Toledo. Other admirals and captains of this fleet were Don Diego de Padilla, whom we may reasonably suspect of being as much an amateur at naval warfare as Pedro himself, Garci Jufre Tenorio, brother of Juan and Alfonso Jufre whom the King had lately had executed, Suer Perez de Quiñones, Diego Gonzales, and Martin Lopez de Cordova. The gathering of this great fleet is another proof of 186 the energy, resolution, and determination of Pedro’s nature.
In his conduct of the whole expedition, however, he presents a rather amateurish figure.
Thus, he gathers together, partly out of sheer bravado, a prodigious fleet, a fleet far larger than was necessary, and then when he has assembled it, notice what he does! Obsessed with his ideas of impressing everybody, he directs the whole flotilla on to a point where any success he might achieve would be little more than an advertisement of his glory. He wanted, he said, a decisive engagement, but it is fair to imagine that what he really wanted was a terrific display of sensational fighting, a regular boy’s fancy of a vast naval engagement, all blood and glory and “prizes.” He was only twenty-six at the time, and it is really rather a more pleasing bit of his character which he shows us here.
First of all Pedro took his ships to Barcelona, where, after some skirmishing and manœuvring, an action of sorts was fought off the town, without material injury to either side. Attempts by Pedro to force an entrance to the harbour were unsuccessful, and in the end, he retreated and sailed for the Balearic isles which then belonged to Aragon. Pedro IV. soon followed him into these seas, and again a number of futile engagements occurred.
Dead calms, blockades, defection, the expiration of the treaty by which the Portuguese vessels were to serve with Castile for the term of three months, brought Don Pedro’s mighty armada to a poor pass. And 187 Aragon on its side, with no great heart in the war, was ready and glad enough of an opportunity to dismantle and demobilise.
A few hardy spirits remained at sea on either side, but they were as much pirates as anything else.
Thus ended Pedro’s vast naval scheme.
1 Quoted in Llaguno’s notes to Ayala.
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