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. 229-256.
SEVERAL events of importance had happened in Europe, while Don Pedro was warring with his neighbours and losing his relations and friends by the executioner’s axe or by natural death.
Innocent VI. died and was replaced by Urban V. King John of France died in London, and was succeeded by Charles V.
England and France were at peace, and those two Paladins of the time, those two great fighters, the Black Prince and Bertrand Du Guesclin, were therefore at peace as well.
The time was not yet when they were to burst into Castile and scatter the Spaniards before their powerful companies; the one fighting for Don Pedro, the other for the Conde de Trastamara.
The hour of Pedro’s downfall had not yet come: a few more nobles had to perish, terror had to become still more widely-spread in the land, a further harvest of heads had yet to fill death’s trenches, dug so deep through all Castile.
Fadrique and Juan the Infante of Aragon, Doña Leonor de Guzman, Blanche perhaps — all that host 230 of the murdered were to be avenged, but not for a little while.
In a general Cortes, held at Seville before the three orders of the land, the King had solemnly asserted the fact and the validity of his marriage with Doña Maria de Padilla.
Blanche had never been, could not possibly have been, according to him, his legitimate spouse. He had, he declared to his complaisant Parliament, already contracted a secret marriage with Maria before the solemnisation of his nuptials with the French princess. He maintained, that, owing to the unsettled affairs of his kingdom, he had not been able to declare this fact before.
To verify this declaration and in support of its truth, he adduced, he said, four witnesses, one of whom was, however, dead — namely Juan de Henestrosa. The others, Diego de Padilla, Alonso de Mayorja, the keeper of the Great Seal, and Juan Perez de Orduna, his chaplain, swore to the truth of the fact.
As a result of this declaration, the legitimacy of the King’s children by Maria was also established.
Though, on the face of it, this declaration looks fraudulent enough, it is not quite certain that there was no marriage between Don Pedro and the Padilla. In his will the declaration was repeated with all due solemnity, and Mariana says that Pedro’s witnesses are all men of character, without taint or suspicion.
On the other hand, Don Pedro had already found people willing enough to perjure themselves on the question of his marital position in the case of Juana 231 de Castro. The incident is one of several in the King’s life which must for the present remain a mystery, must so remain until that alleged history (supposedly lost) giving his life from the point of view which regards him as el Justiciero is found.1
The King, on receiving the sanction of his Cortes for this declaration of his, spoke to them of that far rumour of war, whose echoes were being carried over the Pyrenees into Castile.
The famous White Company was marauding in France; some of its advance guard and scouts had, indeed, already dribbled into Spain with the avowed intention of fighting as good Christians against the Moslems of Granada. On the Aragonese frontier, it had already been necessary on occasions to call the people to arms to thrust back these impertinent adventurers. The moment was coming when Don Pedro should find in these same men a host of personal enemies ready to drag him from his throne. The Cortes, sensible in this matter, perhaps, of its own danger, complied with the King’s request for men-at-arms, and a considerable force was placed upon the borders of Aragon and Navarre to receive the invaders.
Though there was no imminent danger to be feared from these freebooters, who would not turn their attention to Spain until they had exhausted the possibilities of France, Don Pedro perceived an opportunity in the rumours of their coming for the satisfaction of his revenge against the King of Aragon. 232 Peace had been made between the two lands, we know, but peace only of a sort. It was more a resting time for the needs of war than its death. And Don Pedro’s anger still burned strong in him against his namesake of Aragon.
So he determined to trade on the fears and reports of foreign invasion to inveigle the King of Navarre into an alliance, offensive and defensive, against Pedro IV.
It would be against the lands of Navarre that the Free Companies would come first of all, if come they should.
Navarre’s castles and pastures would be the first of those of the whole Peninsula to sustain the attack of these lawless invaders. Their audacity and unscrupulousness were notorious; their greed, lust, and impiety a matter of common talk. The Conde de Trastamara, who was with them, provided an excellent guide and excuse for their irruption into Spain.
Being well assured that King Carlos of Navarre was aware of all these matters, Don Pedro sent him ambassadors to propose a treaty between Castile and Navarre, ostensibly, though not by designation, for the purpose of their mutual safety against the Free Companies. Ignorant of his would-be ally’s true intent, and imagining himself only the gainer in an alliance of his small kingdom with the greater one of Castile, Carlos the Bad readily enough subscribed to all the clauses in the proposed treaty.
He went to Soria on the Castilian border, and was there treated with magnificent hospitality and 233 courtesy, so that he became proud of his newly-acquired dignity and importance.
A clause characteristic of Don Pedro’s cruelty and unforgivingness, which we may notice, is one providing for the mutual extradition of emigrants and refugees.
Don Pedro never lost an opportunity for revenge.
Another reason which made King Carlos ready to engage himself to the King of Castile, was the expectation and dread with which he looked for a war with France, with whose king he had had a personal quarrel.
But Don Pedro did not keep him long in suspense on the question of whom it was that they were to attack.
The gospels were hardly put away from the touch of their hands; their vows and promises were scarcely dry upon the paper, when Peter the Cruel showed his ally how completely he had deceived him.
He took him by the arm, away from the writing table, and the holy books, and the clerics, and told him his intentions.
There were a few nobles of both countries present, when Don Pedro made his declaration to King Carlos. We may imagine the Castilians smiling to themselves at the superior cunning of their young monarch; the Navarrese graybeards disgusted and furious at being so outwitted.
“Brother king,” began Don Pedro, smoothly enough, “you and I have just sworn that the first of us who shall go to war should have the assistance of his ally. 234 Know then that this very day I call upon you to carry out your promise. You are aware that it was against my will that I made peace with the King of Aragon. When attacked by Abu Said, the usurper of Granada, I was forced to consent to a truce with the Aragonese, so that Andalusia might be saved from the ravages of the Moors, who were only waiting to invade it. This peace has cost me dear, for I have had to restore many cities and castles won by my arms. However, I am going to attack them. I have determined to indemnify myself for all that this dishonourable war has cost me, and I expect you to be faithful to your oath and to aid me in this enterprise, both with your arms and body.”
Thus did Pedro, almost at the sword’s point, demand fulfilment of the treaty obtained from the King of Navarre by a ruse.
Poor Carlos, thus pricked into hostility against his will, and not knowing whether an attitude of war or one of peace would be the more unfortunate for him, received Don Pedro’s demand with much consternation.
He did not dare, however, refuse to carry out his part of the newly-signed treaty, so, with the best grace he could find, he accepted the situation.
VIEW OF THE ALCAZAR GARDENS, SEVILLE (PRESENT TIME)
Less determined, more subtle, politic, and civilised than Don Pedro, he sought for a pretext, however frivolous, before declaring his hostility to the King of Aragon. Such he found in the fact, related by his herald to Pedro IV., that when he (Carlos) had been the prisoner of the King of France, he had vainly besought aid from the King of Aragon. “Who, by his 235 breach of faith, had thus dissolved his alliance with Navarre.”
Don Pedro of Castile, on his part, cared nothing for such formalities and pieces of etiquette. He was never a schemer for the sake of appearances; his diplomacy went always for the object in view itself, caring little or nothing for the manner and means.
Thus, in his treatment of King Carlos of Navarre, Don Pedro’s susceptibilities were not in the least shocked by the abrupt and crude change of front. He wanted to gain his purpose, and did not trouble to swathe his actions or words in any comfortable formula of hypocrisy. If he was determined to play the wolf, he saw no use for a sheep’s skin.
Wasting no time, he promptly invaded Aragon, and captured several unimportant towns. Then his army was brought to a standstill before Calatayud, a city of resolute and determined burghers.
After it had maintained an obstinate resistance, it was captured.
He then returned for a while to his beloved Seville, where a certain Isabella was consoling him for the loss of Maria.
This Isabella was a woman of the palace, a bed-chamber woman, one of those who waited on the King’s son, Alfonso, whom he had had by the Padilla.
The King had also from this time until his death several other mistresses, four of whom he mentions in his will. He was inspired to make this testament by the death from plague of his son Alfonso, an event 236 which almost immediately followed his return from the battlefield to the capital.
Don Pedro was very sorrowful and afflicted by this death. His son died, we learn, in his arms, and the little hand for which he had been striving to prepare so great a sceptre and so wide a power, lay helplessly in his own.
This moment marks his apogee, and the beginning of his decline.
His enemy, Innocent VI., was dead; his inveterate foe of Aragon was humbled and abased; his disloyal brothers were killed, reduced to submission, or able to scandalise him only beyond the Pyrenees and among strangers. He was completely powerful at home, servilely obeyed, and dreadfully feared. He had ambitions, easy enough dreams of self-aggrandisement.
In this will of his, he nominates his daughter Beatriz to the succession, and commands that she shall marry the Infante of Portugal. Thus were the two kingdoms to be united, and, with Aragon perhaps conquered by his arms during his life, and Navarre hoodwinked once more, the idea of a united Spain was not so far away. Women, who were never exiled from his thoughts, appear plentifully enough in his will. To four ladies he gave legacies, provided that they retired into convents and took the vow after his death. We know little or nothing of these women, beyond their names, and the fact that the King favoured them. Their descriptions, ages, manners, families — of these we know nothing. They, occupied his affections or satisfied his lust for a time, and he thought enough of them to 237 leave them 1000 Castilian doublons, provided that they were content to mourn his memory for ever after. To Maria Ortiz, sister of Juan de San Juan, he left 2000 doublons, so that one may think he must have liked her better than the other three, better than Maria Aldonza, Juana Garcia, or Uracca Carillo. This latter lady was the daughter of Pero Carillo, and therefore a person of noble birth. With Carillo himself these pages are twice again concerned before he meets a death quite appropriate to his character.
Of these four women whom the King invested with legacies, Mérimée remarks that not one of them is graced in the will with the courtesy title of Doña. He assumes from this that therefore their parentage was not illustrious, an assumption hardly borne out by the facts, since one of them, Doña Uracca, was the niece of Garci Laso and the daughter of Pero Carillo, while another bore the name of de Sotomayor, a noble Spanish patronymic. The King’s connection with them must have been of some duration and extent for him to have thus recorded it in his testament, which is in every respect a document wherein he takes himself very seriously. Even with these ladies we do not arrive at the full total of his amours, if there is any credit in the rumours and legends concerning him and them.
In this will of his, an interpolator or forger has been at work, and the parchment, according to Zurita, bears evidence of the pen-knife in a certain place where reference is made to the succession of a certain natural son of the King who was to inherit 238 after the failure of the legitimate daughters. What the original name was is a mystery which has received suggested solutions at various hands. The name super-imposed over the erasure is that of Don Juan, the son whom Pedro is thought to have had by Juana de Castro. The very existence of this person is doubtful, however. According to Señor Llaguno, the original name was that of Don Fernando, a son of Maria de Henestrosa, whose intimacy with Don Pedro the old chronicler relates. Don Pedro was not satisfied with settling his succession in his testament. He called together a Cortes at Bubierca, a town not even in the territory of Castile, but lying in Aragon.
Here he asked his assembly to ratify with all due solemnity the clauses in his will which concerned the future of the Castilian Crown. He also insisted that all the deputies present should sign a document attesting their endorsement of his wishes.
In the intensity and earnestness with which he directed himself to this business, it is perhaps possible to see an indication that Don Pedro had lost confidence to some degree in himself and his destiny. A little later we find him indulging in melancholy vaticination as to his future; dealing shamefacedly with prophets; trafficking like a regular stage king in omens and dreams.
On the occasion of the meeting of the Cortes at Bubierca, he did not lose the chance of once more publicly proclaiming his anger and hatred against his disloyal or disaffected Ricos Hombres and knights. He issued a formidable list of proscribed persons to the 239 deputies, and asked their approval of the document, which they did not dare to withhold.
Although Don Pedro had the key to the whole situation of the Peninsula in his hands, a certain vacillation and lack of self-confidence, hitherto strange to him, seems now to have troubled his will.
His power in Castile was paramount: all the most dangerous of his nobles were dead or living in impotent exile; his allies were encouraged, strong, and ready for his word.
The Infant Luis de Navarre and the famous Captal de Buch had rejoined his standard. Even Navarre’s own king, forced into this partnership of war, found himself making conquests almost against his will.
The King of Granada also supplied him with a famous captain, Don Farax, and six hundred Granadine genetours. These, by Don Pedro’s orders, were to carry on “a cruel war,” that is a vindictive war, in which no quarter was to be granted to the enemy. Capture meant beheading.
Yet, though he himself led his soldiers towards Valencia, there does not seem to have been any unifying idea in all this expression of anger and military power thus deployed and displayed on the Peninsula.
The conduct of the war was bloodthirsty in the extreme, and Don Pedro, perched up in a convent on the heights of some mountains, beheld “crops blazing, vines torn up, trees cut down, hamlets set on fire, and farms demolished.” A sight to please his cruel majesty, whose strange self-love required a perpetual sacrifice of blood performed before it.240
While the opposing forces were drawing together for a conclusive battle in the neighbourhood of Murviedo, the Abbé de Fécamp, who was now charged with the office of papal peace-maker to the Peninsula, sought to effect a compromise between the warring kings, which should determine the unhappy state of their respective countries.
The widowerhood of Don Pedro was a lever with which the peace party in Castile and Aragon hoped to turn events to their own ends.
An alliance had already for some time been suggested between Don Pedro and a princess of Aragon. This scheme was revived, and its advantages urged on the royal widower, whose loneliness was of course being then assuaged by the charms of several unofficial consorts.
The Castilian monarch’s suggested bride was the Infanta Juana, and Don Pedro seems to have considered the alliance to the extent of demanding that, as a condition of it, his brother the Conde and the Infante Don Fernando should be executed. This attitude provoked a not unnatural protest from the prospective father-in-law, which was further increased by his knowledge of the fact that Doña Isabella, the woman of the chamber, was being treated at the court of Seville as a queen.
Extraordinary honours were being paid to her; the dignities and apartments of Maria were at her service; bishops were commanded to form a part of her retinue.
While Castile and Aragon were thus jealously 241 considering the price at which a peace might be obtained, the two young princes of Don Pedro’s especial detestation were engaged in quarrelling with each other. They were secretly urging their respective claims to the throne of Castile, a throne as yet securely enough occupied by its monarch. With Pedro IV. they spent time in parcelling out the domains which they were going to wrest from Pedro. Among three conspirators, there is often one who is the object of a yet closer and more intimate conspiracy, one who is despised or hated or feared by the other two. So it was in this case.
The Infante Don Fernando was not popular, and Don Enrique was. The Conde’s charm of manner and his gentle ways are spoken of in all the chronicles of the time — Spanish, French, and English. In the old rhyming chronicle of Du Guesclin, his popularity at the French Court is pointedly remarked. As for the Infante Don Fernando, he represented a possible rival to his brother, Pedro IV., and a still more immediate one to the Conde. To the throne of Castile his title was superior from the point of inheritance. Thus, in the resulting proportion, he stood to be wiped out as a useless common factor, if the interests of the other members’ things leant that way. A sign of the coming ill fortune against this prince was shown in the proclamation issued by Pedro IV., forbidding anyone but the Conde to recruit in France
The Infante had, however, his supporters, among whom it is rather curious to find those colourless 242 princes Don Tello and Don Sancho. These, with several Castilian knights, definitely ranged themselves under the banner of the Aragonese Prince.
The Infante Don Fernando, who had some character, was guilty at Zaragossa of an act which earned for him the bitter enmity of his royal brother. In his town the troops were so clamorous for their pay, and the prince so wearied with his own incessant excuses to them, that he stormed the house of the King’s treasurer, and, breaking open the coffers with an axe, scattered their gold among the greedy soldiers. This act of authority, though it retained the wavering loyalty of the Aragonese troops, found no favour with the owner of the coffers. Its perpetration led to plot and counter-plot between the King, Fernando, and Enrique. Their short-lived brotherhood of arms was disappearing in a cloud of angry quarrels and treacherous double-dealing.
The Infante, disgusted with the turn things had taken, decided to offer his sword to the King of France. Pedro IV. begged his brother to remain, and sent him a herald to invite him to a meeting. This took place at Castellon on the 10th July, when the Spanish summer is at its fiercest.
Pedro IV. received his brother with open arms, and made him extremely welcome with the wine of his household and the affection of his heart.
After the meal, which the brothers had shared in all amity and happiness, Don Fernando retired to take a siesta. Over the princely slumber there watched four knights, a bodyguard indicative of 243 the amount of trust which the great ones of the earth of those times reposed in each other’s hospitality.
One of these caballeros was the Castilian, Diego Perez Sarmiento, who had narrowly escaped the wrath of Peter the Cruel.
It would seem that Sarmiento and his companions, as well as the prince himself, must have slumbered a little in the overheated chamber on this burning afternoon of July. For, when suddenly an alguazil of the Court came to the little group of men, he was able to awake Don Fernando without any protest from his bodyguard.
“In the King’s name you are my prisoner!” he said.
“Prisoner!” shouted the prince, still sleepy and heavy. “Who dares arrest men of my rank?”
Embarrassed at the Prince’s firm attitude, the official returned to Pedro IV. and related his words. But in a little space he was back again, and there was a tramping of armed men to be heard in the palace.
“ ‘There is no dishonour in such an arrest,’ says the King,” was the message of the alguazil.
To this, Sarmiento, to whom the real meaning of the affair was now clear, replied by drawing his sword.
“Better to die sword in hand than surrender,” he said, with perhaps a recollection of Don Fadrique’s end, at which he had assisted.
The alguazil at these words fled and left the Infante, and the other knights drew their swords and prepared 244 to put their five bodies between their honour and death.
With what furniture they could lay hands on, they quickly barricaded the apartment. Behind this little defence the five swords bristled like a hedge of steel. While all the palace was in confusion, they waited, wondering from what direction the first attack would come. The voice of Don Enrique calling his men to the assault must have sounded ominously in Don Fernando’s ears.
The door was locked and secure, but the defenders soon heard the Conde’s men struggling to break it open. And in the ceiling of the room above hole were being bored, so that destruction might be rained down on the five tethered victims below.
So far, it was only noise that troubled them, but such an ominous, engulfing noise that the Infante could bear the tension no longer.
He opened the door of the room and flung himself, sword in hand, on the assailants outside. To his aid there rushed, staunchly enough, Sarmiento and the other Castilian; but the two Aragonese knights climbed out of the window and escaped. Almost the first face that the Infante Fernando saw among the men outside the room was that of the Conde himself. Mad with despair, and furious at this treachery, Don Fernando sprang upon him with passion. A squire of the Conde was just in time to proffer his body for the sword-thrust meant for his lord. So furious and delirious was the onslaught of these three caged men fighting for their lives against 245 this mass of swords, that the attackers were momentarily driven back from the door. But the men outside were all in steel, and the defenders were unprotected by armour. For a little while, the bravery lasted. Cut and thrust, and thrust and parry, till the quick eye of that tremendous servant, Pero Carillo, caught the Infante at a momentary disadvantage. Under his guard slipped the sword, and the right arm, drained of its strength, fell limp and helpless.
There were some scores of men at the door; in the room, only three, so that all was soon over.
1 See Ledo del Pozo: Apologia del Rey Don Pedro; and the Conde de la Roca.
SPEAKING of the knight-errants, La Curne de Sainte-Palaye says in his Memoirs of Ancient Chivalry that they lived mostly in forests, that their food consisted almost entirely of venison, and that the following was the method they employed to prepare it.
There were, he says, placed in the forests and wild places large, flat stones to assist these knights in their culinary operations. Who provided them he does not make clear. Probably the earliest knigh-errants gathered and left them for their descendants; perhaps a government anxious to encourage romance saw to their disposition. The buck or kid which they had killed was placed on one of these large, flat stones, covered with another, and its blood squeezed out. The result was called Pressed Kid: Food of Heroes.1
A mind that can turn an unplesant mess such as is described above into a food of heroes may compass much on its journeyings? The gnarled and lumpy oaks will all be giants or monsters, Phyllis of the Inn, a princess strayed into Arcadia; the 247 indifferent sherry, Imperial Tokay. The comrade-in-arms will be a Cœur de Lion, a Du Guesclin, a Black Prince or the sourest villain unhung, just as may be.
Surely a heart that could deal in magic like that was worth having — at any rate for a year and a day. For such a length of time it usually was that these young knights gave to their missions.
One morning when his accolade still lay lightly on his shoulders, a sudden passion of romance would perhaps seize the young knight. There was no wonder in the world at home: beauty, love, glory, life, lay on the other side of yonder forest; his youth chafed in this indignity of comfortable idleness. It is always thus: at twenty-four or so, life is always on the other side of the forest, in the streets that we do not know, in the houses to which we are not invited, houses whose curtains tempt us like the drooping lids of beautiful strangers. And so the liege lord was approached; the vows made, and for a year and a day2 one became pledged to go bustling through the world as an amateur providence, righting the wrong, succouring beauty in distress, being a true, loyal, and gentle knight for 366 days, without taking a single, cynical, reflective breath. What did these young gentlemen do when the partings were said, and the parental drawbridge had fallen back into its place again? They fought; they made love; by their camp fires in the hearts of the great forests which stretched over Europe they entertained themselves at night with song and story. 248 They sang to the firs, and the oaks, and the stars, the tapestry-like old airs of troubadours such as Arnaud Daniel or Geoffroi Rudel.
And when they were hungry, they ate, as we have seen, Pressed Kid: The Food of Heroes.
Now, of course, when they grew older, a comfortable cyniscism replaced that romance of theirs.
Food of Heroes is all very well in its way, when one is twenty-four and more than a trifle foolish, but there is so much in a man that is not heroic and yet requires feeding too.
Easily enough, we may believe the romantics became the practicals. A lesson or two in the business of plunder and rapine showed them the real advantages of knighthood as compared with its sentimental ones. The gold of burghers, their fat and succulent beeves, all served to turn romantic knight-errants into extremely sensible and hard-headed fellows like Du Guesclin. Of such a class were his own soldiers. Few of them were in their first youth. They were experienced fighters, old campaigners, shaped into professional style on the plains of Normandy and Aquitaine. No Pressed kid for them, no Hero’s Food, so long as there was a farm to be sacked, or a vineyard to be broken into.
All the chroniclers of the time agree in calling these knight of the Free Companies very bad names. They are freebooters, ruffians, thieves, pirates, desperadoes, and intolerable nuisances.
In the prose Chronicle of Du Guesclin it is said that: —249
“There were then in France certain folk of various countries, who during the wars had taken the part of England. They occupied fortresses, destroyed many towns and castles, and committed pillage generally. These folk called themselves Les Grandes Compagnies. King Edward” adds the chronicler, “secretly supported them.”
We learn that they “cut off the arms and gouged out the eyes of poor people.” Most of the nationalities of Europe had representatives among them, but the greater part were from England, Gascony, and Brittany.
Famous captains among them were the Captal de Buch, the Comte de Foix (Froissart’s friend and travelling companion), Sir Hugh de Calverley, Robert Scot, the Green Knight, Gutier Huet, Matthieu de Gournay, and as Generalissimo in the advance into Spain, the famous and redoubtable Bertrand du Guesclin. They were all of them excellent fighters, hardened in many a campaign, but their presence in France was an intolerable nuisance to everybody. Various plans to draw them away into some other country were tried, but these tumultuous warriors preferred the fat, rich France they knew to the Eldorados of which they had only heard. The King of Hungary wished to employ these gentry against the Turks, and made them an offer in return for their assistance through the medium of some of their captains. He went to Pope Urban V. at Avignon to ask his influence in the affair. But the freebooters were all against travelling so far. In their ignorance, 250 they drew pictures for one another of a terrible land, full of difficulties and terrors, and so far away, that if they should ever reach it, they would certainly never return. These, then, were the men who were soon to come into Spain. Already Don Enrique, in a tentative way, had urged that they should be invited. He knew them; was sure of them. In their forces were those with whom he had fought as well as those who had from time to time been matched against him. In some measure, the Conde was a cosmopolitan. He had lived in Paris, then the heart of such civilisation as Europe possessed. He knew that for these doughty fighters the levies of Castile would be no match.
But, for the present, his suggestions were unfavourably received by his allies.
“Why purchase foreigners’ services at so dear a rate,” they asked, “whilst our own troops are so poorly recompensed?”
So the matter stood for a little while, and Don Enrique, Carlos the Bad, and Pedro began a series of secret intrigues and understandings with one another.
The King of Navarre, whom we have seen forced into an unwilling hostility by Don Pedro of Castile, was now approached by the King of Aragon with a view to the purchase of the neutrality of his army.
Enrique de Trastamara is thought to have organised this piece of diplomacy, and the two knights met “with much mystery” on the 20th August in the castle of Uncastillo.251
It was then arranged that Don Carlos should receive a certain sum of money in return for his services, and that a further amount of 200,000 florins would be paid to him if he should deliver up, dead or alive, Don Pedro of Castile.
Very elaborate precautions were taken by the plotters to prevent this arrangement becoming known to their common enemy of Castile. The matter of hostages and surrendered castles was so devised as to remain temporarily incomplete in order that Don Pedro might suspect nothing.
It was also settled that the Infante de Navarre3 should allow himself to be surprised by Don Enrique, who would appear to take him as a prisoner of war, though really he would be a hostage already agreed on.
Though Don Enrique was cognizant of all the clauses in the treaty between the two kings, they entered into a few further articles of agreement as between themselves and against him of which he was kept entirely in ignorance.
The whole of the affair was a very remarkable piece of double dealing and entangled intrigue, and goes to show that only a king with a cool and business-like head could hope to retain his kingdom long in the Europe of those days.
The result of these various councils was further war. The petty foraging and pillaging parties were changed into small armies. Don Pedro, suspicious of new 252 treachery, launched his troops at the Murcian frontier, and took the towns of Elche and Alicante.
He put a new fleet into commission, and relinquished his decorative and architectural improvements of the Alcazar of Seville, in order to lead his troops in person.
As usual, he swore, and, when the chance offered, took a terrible vengeance on his enemies. His soldiers were in the main successful against those of Aragon and Navarre. It is probable that Don Pedro was a good leader of men, if no great tactician, for we find in the history of these times that he was generally able to claim the victory in encounters where the odds were tolerably even. The King of Aragon was rather frightened at the success of Don Pedro’s forces, while the Conde saw in it an opportunity to magnify his own importance in the Peninsula.
There followed on the 10th of October, 1363, a new treaty by which the Conde sought to improve his position in the eventual dismemberment of Castile, to which he and his so-called friends looked forward.
This document again was further complicated by all those evidences of bad faith and mutual distrust, which were so much part and parcel of any treaty or document as to make one wonder why these fourteenth century diplomatists wasted their time on such futile scribblings at all.
Meanwhile Peter the Cruel was generally victorious in his encounters with these half-hearted allies, and, but for the general hatred of himself which his misdeeds had emplanted in his nobles’ hearts, might 253 have brought Aragon, Navarre, and his brother Henry to complete submission.
But he was feared and hated by the men whose aid was most necessary to his success.
And over the Pyrenees were those knights of the Great Companies, only awaiting an invitation to descend into Spain.
These men were not treaty-makers and treaty-breakers. They were fighters who rarely engaged in diplomacy, not diplomats who occasionally fought.
Du Guesclin was a prisoner in the hands of John Chandos, but was later ransomed for a large sum.
The battles of Auray and Cocherel had thrown many good knights as prisoners into their enemies’ hands. But from time to time nearly all were ransomed. And so they gathered together again in Languedoc where they lived in great style. The time for their descent into Castile was not yet, but it was quickly approaching.
If the natural food of heroes was sometimes Pressed Kid, it is certain that the heroes of all time have ever replenished their spirits on the subtle ambrosia of honour. Chivalry was very exacting in the private relations of life, and the most blackguardly publicist seems often to have been a Cato in the justice of things intimate.
Don Enrique, who broke and made treaties as lightly as may be, was capable of executing the most clear-cut justice where his private honour was touched.254
This is the story of the love of Pero Carillo, Pero, pilot of wandering princes and princesses in distress, rescuer of high-born dames, faithfullest servant in an age of almost universal infidelity.
In the early days of Pedro’s reign when the world was young for a young king, and the beacon of his majesty and power was not yet fully ablaze in the hand of Castile, a certain Ferdinand de Castro married, it may be remembered, much to Don Pedro’s chagrin, a certain Doña Juana, the sister of the Conde.
Don Enrique himself gave her away, and the marriage was celebrated with some magnificence.
Had we been there we should have seen the estimable mayor-Domo of the bastard prince watching with more than natural interest the scene. For it was here that Carillo loved. No woman of low degree for him; nothing less than a princess of the blood royal.
Carillo, we must think, disguised his affection in those days, and we cannot tell whether Juana loved Ferdinand as truly as he loved her. Soon after this alliance, however, we know that the marriage was declared dissolved by Don Pedro on his return to freedom, and the lady went into Aragon to share the wanderings of her brother Henry.
Then it was that Pero found his opportunity.
It is to be regretted that the charming French habit of writing memoirs when one has something worth remembering was not yet common in the less cultured land of Spain. Had we the story of the lady Juana from her own hand, it would make interesting material for this narrative of old Castile255
In the wall of solid facts, which the grave annalists oppose to a frivolous curiosity, there are hardly any chinks through which one may peep at this old romantic tapestry.
We are only able to judge the story by its end, and to be pretty sure of Pero’s good fortune by the price he paid for it.
According to Mérimée, “she received his attentions with pleasure” and “distinguished the knight” by her society.
We may feel fairly certain that Pero was a man not without charm, as we know he was certainly not without experience. There was that romantic ride through Spain with the Conde and Condessa at Don Pedro’s accession, and the famous rescue of the same lady a little later. Pero, no doubt, had learnt something of gallantry in Paris, where he must certainly have accompanied his master. Altogether, he probably made a very charming substitute for Ferdinand.
It had been said that there was a secret marriage. But be that as it may, love must always tread warily in high places, and the favoured of noble ladies have very often paid with their lives for their presumption. There were Cleopatra, Messalina, Catherine of Russia, and the occupant of the Tour de Nesle, not to mention the princesses of the Eastern fairy tales.
These ladies sullied their honour on one day and revenged it on the next, or even earlier, but Pero’s end was compassed by an indignant brother, not by the lady herself.256
“A secret injury requires a secret revenge,” is a Spanish proverb which Mérimée quotes.
And on a certain hawking expedition, Don Enrique drew Pero Carillo aside from the others into a retired spot, and slew him with his javelin.
Such a deed was strictly just according to the laws of chivalry. If Carillo and Henry had been equals, a joust would perhaps have decided the matter.
Thus honour, that necessary theoretical counter-poise to life as it was lived at this time, received its tribute.
1 Ste Palaye.
2 Ste Palaye.
3 This person led a very adventurous life and was, according to Froissart, married to the famous Joan of Naples.
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