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. 59-82.
“ — for you must know that this Doña Maria de Padilla was very beautiful and of good intelligence and small in stature.” — AYALA.
AND now the young King, who was eighteen years of age, was to fall in love. Maria was the lady’s name, Doña Maria de Padilla, a name of interest to readers of English History, inasmuch as its possessor became the grandmother of one of our own monarchs.
Isabella, who married Edmund of Langley, the son of Edward III., was a daughter of Maria de Padilla by Peter the Cruel, so that in the English royal family there came to flow the blood of the Sovereigns of Castile.
Maria was a little lady, sprightly, beautiful, young, engaging, affectionate, and, as we shall see, of kind and tender heart. As one old chronicler of those times puts it, with a rapture rare in the writings of these staid and careful gentry, “she was the handsomest damsel in the world.”
But when one is eighteen, is it not always the handsomest damsel in the world with whom one falls in love? It is only when one gets a little older that one becomes either less fortunate or more careless 60 in these matters, and has, perforce, to qualify one’s passion with less extravagant adjectives.
This handsome damsel, who has inspired innumerable poems, plays, and operas was an orphan, and occupied the position of companion to the wife of Alburquerque, Isabel by name.
She was of good family, but had fallen upon evil times, for her house had been attached to the unfortunate Lara faction, with whom sudden death and the vengeance of Alburquerque had worked so disastrously.
Under what circumstances the Portuguese minister had offered a refuge to the young girl, I do not know, but, as a courtier, when he saw an opportunity of getting a recompense for the shelter he had offered her, he was quick to take it.
No doubt, it was by Alburquerque’s influence that the King came to Gijon, near to the place where Maria was living in the minister’s house, for the designing courtier hoped, with rather weak judgment, to attach himself more closely to his impetuous monarch, and to have him more surely under his control by bringing about his attachment to a lady who had enjoyed his and his wife’s hospitality.
DOÑA MARIA DE PADILLA
The Portuguese minister perceived in Don Pedro a rising tide of passion and independence, which, if not otherwise diverted, would surely turn itself to the limitation, if not the complete overthrow of his own authority. We do not know whether Pedro had yet cast eyes on any of the ladies of the court; probably some signs of a quick and eager fancy in this direction 61 had already been remarked by Alburquerque, and had led him to take matters into his own hands. The whole affair of Maria seems to have been a matter of arrangement between the girl’s family and the minister and his wife. Her uncle, Juan de Henestrosa, especially delighted in the idea; “did not hesitate,” says Dillon, “to consign her to the arms of the Spanish gallant.” Though, all things considered, Don Pedro could not have been very much of a gallant in those days. At any rate, a very callow, inexperienced gallant, though, no doubt, of great promise in this particular direction.
It was at Saint Fagund, a town near Gijon, that Pedro first met Maria. She was then a year or so older than the King, and the sparkle of her dark eyes, the gleam of her warm and olive skin, and the flashings of her merry wit, threw the passionate young Castilian into all the fever of furious love at first sight. How anxiously the conspirators must have watched the first effects of the introduction, contrived perhaps to look as though it had happened by the merest accident. Isabel no doubt assisted her scheming husband in the affair. We know that she was fond of Maria, and was amused by her wit; and the bringing together of the young people must have been something more to her than a part of her duty as the wife of a politician. If she resented the idea, there is at any rate no evidence of it, but it is improbable that she had a more tender conscience in such a matter than the rest of her contemporaries. One can well imagine that deep and beautiful obeisance of Maria which would look so 62 spontaneous, but would be really the result of diligent coaching and practice, in response to which Don Pedro would peep at her out of his sharp, keen eyes, and say, doubtless, in aristocratic and fourteenth century Spanish: “How does your ladyship do! I am charmed to meet you.”
And then in due time Isabel and Alburquerque would leave the young couple together to build their own substantial ambitions upon the vague and pretty dreams of youth. The chronicle is silent as to details of this first interview between Maria and Pedro, but the plan of the minister was successful, for the King and the young girl fell in love at once, a love on the lady’s part that was something more than the merely compensatory affection which wealth and rank and power can evoke, while, as for Don Pedro, his heart was always mortgaged to Maria even when he was gambling with it elsewhere in the wildest excesses of his later years.
He had, after all, a certain talent for faithfulness, this ferocious Castilian polygamist. It is impossible to avoid remarking in him a certain unobtrusive métier de mari which, however, unfortunately for his wife, he only cultivated when at all, for the benefit of his mistress.
Pedro was now a personable young prince. He was high-spirited, generous, masterful, and passionate. He wooed Maria with ardour and the impatience of youth. But though the lady loved, she had scruples. Whether these were inspired by religion, or interest and a natural desire for self-protection not yet 63 swallowed up in her love of the King, does not appear. Doubtless memories of what Doña Isabel, her patron, had counselled only a little while before seemed to her to conflict strangely with the advice of to-day. Maria was more a woman of heart than of head, though she was clever enough, and perhaps in this case the counsels of love and interest were really one.
The position offered her was a usual and an important one, and, after a certain amount of maidenly hesitation, she accepted it, much to the delight of her relations.
There was probably a promise of marriage. According to reports, there actually was a secret marriage, but of this there is no evidence. Had there been such a marriage we may think that, as things turned out later, Maria would never have been able to keep quiet about it.
At any rate, we learn that the scruples of Maria were eventually overcome, whether by the tenderness of her wooing, the representations and persuasion of her family, or the promise of marriage, is not known.
Mariana permits himself a fierce tirade at the morality which could so cold-bloodedly arrange liaisons for princes, and indeed, if one is going to preach about the matter at all, it is against Alburquerque and the Padilla family that one must direct such reproaches. But the whole history of these times is so filled with craft and cruel callousness that one is inclined to refrain from retrospective blame and abuse, lest one turn the whole chronicle into a bad sermon.
Don Pedro, at any rate, was very much in love and very happy. We may presume that he expressed many thanks to his old tutor for preparing for him 64 so exquisite and delightful a lesson as Maria. The tutor, however, was watching the result of his scheming with doubting eyes. From a young girl, full of pious exercises, and as discreet and obedient as a light-hearted nun, there was rapidly evolving something very different.
The Maria of the last few months, the gentle, beautiful stranger at the hospitable board, was becoming a young woman of character. Love was ripening her, quickening new and violent impulses in her heart; flattery, success, and the admiration of a king and court were stirring moods and ideas of ambition.
As an almost immediate result of being so wise and statesmanlike as to have a Maria in their family, the Padillas were raised to various offices and dignities, Henestrosa became an important courtier, with the appointment of Alcade de los fidalgos. Diego Garcia de Padilla found himself a privado of the King; and Don Juan Tenorio1, little dreaming of the lovely music and fantastic wit to be, one day, woven over his famous patronymic, came at this time into the friendship and counsels of Don Pedro. The latter was made Repostero Mayor, and began to dislodge Alburquerque from his former position by the royal ear. It is no wonder that Pedro, becoming the object of all these new and violent influences, found himself 65 drifting away from the voice that had taught him how to decline mensa and given him his earliest lessons in the art of mediæval kingship.
“Throw off your tutelage!” Maria would say to him. “You are a man now. Be the King yourself, instead of the Portuguese.” To such advice were added the subtle, more delicate arguments of praise and flattery by all the new courtiers, anxious to earn and deserve their new good fortunes by the current coin of their kind.
Don Juan Tenorio, too, must have been an influence to turn the young Sovereign’s ideas into different and more independent channels.
Talk o’ nights, perhaps, brave frothy talk of inexperience, talk of women and wine, and the sweet chances of youth.
Don Pedro had not been eighteen and a king of Castile, if some of all this new life had not gone to his head. And yet, so strong was the old influence on him, so well had Alburquerque etched his personality into the young monarch’s mind, that open revolt was as yet an impossibility to him.
“He conspired against his minister in secret,” a poor, weak, unkindly thing to do. He sought a generous and full reconciliation with his brothers, Don Enrique and Don Tello. All these young men gathered together, and plotted against the wisdom and authority of the old minister.
“It was,” says Mérimée, with a pretty touch, “a conspiracy of scholars against their tutor.”266
The inclusion in these rash and youthful councils of Don Pedro’s brothers seems to have been the result of his own initiative. No doubt the two young princes, who were designed by the nature of their birth and their circumstances for a life of plotting and revolt, were only too glad to be for once engaged in a revolution with the King on their side.
It is noticeable that no mention of the name of Don Fadrique is included in the accounts of these meetings of the King and his young friends. Against this brother Pedro seems always to have had a strong antipathy.
It is suggested by some writers that Fadrique was then with the ambassadors in France seeking on behalf of Castile (as represented by the Queen-mother and Alburquerque) the hand of the lady whom Pedro was eventually to marry, but Ayala makes no mention of the fact.
Several other theories have also been advanced for the dislike of the King towards Fadrique, which will be considered later.
So successful were the young conspirators in their designs against the authority of Alburquerque, that they managed to persuade him to undertake a political wild goose chase to Portugal. Thither the minister went to see the King of his native land on a mission whose frivolity and uselessness he was only later to discover. We may imagine how the young King and his boy courtiers laughed at the success of this trick of theirs.
The departure of the old head from the councils 67 of the young had one result in a display of fêtes and tournaments.
The young people, in fact, set out to enjoy themselves, undisturbed and unreproved.
The King took up his residence at Torrijos near Toledo, and proceeded to abandon himself to a life of pleasure.
Aided by the wit and experience of Don Juan Tenorio, who occupied the post of a sort of Arbiter Elegantiarum to his master, Don Pedro devoted himself entirely to pleasure and excitement.
Revelling in the love and freshness of Maria, courted, flattered, and admired on all sides, he tasted fully the intoxicating delights of youth and
1 This person cannot be identified with his famous namesake of Molière and Mozart although there is some evidence to show that he led a similar kind of life. There are at least two original Don Juans, one of whom (Don Juan de Mañara) is known to have actually existed. See A. de Latour, “Don Juan.”
2 Mérimée,” p. 136, vol. i. Eng. Ed.
MEANWHILE an alliance of a more regular and serious nature had been arranged for Don Pedro by Alburquerque and the Queen-mother.
Even before this, many years ago, Pedro had been affianced by solemn treaty to a daughter of King Edward III. of England, but had by death lost his youthful betrothed.
In this second case, however, it was to France that Castile turned.
Ambassadors had gone to Paris to ask in marriage, on behalf of their sovereign, Blanche, the niece of John of France, and daughter of the Duke of Bourbon.
Blanche was a little girl, not quite fifteen, of sweet and good disposition, and simple, modest beauty.
Unfortunate child! She was one of those princesses who must prove the frequent bitterness of high estate.
Instead of a young lover with smiles on his lips came two or three grave, bearded, old gentlemen full of ceremony, officiousness, and long speeches. We learn that when the princesses of the House of Bourbon were brought before the ambassadors, they chose Blanche as being the most beautiful and charming of them all.69
She must have peeped at them with especial curiosity as they stood in their quaint old, black coats and gold chains and high velvet collars, scrutinizing the modest little row of sisters. For if these gentlemen were Castilians, it would give her an idea of what her own husband might grow into.
Then later the legal document, that treaty full of “honorable” and “most high potents,” which gave to Castile a princess of France.
Then followed preparations: the weaving and webbing of lovely gowns — as should become a daughter of France and a niece of France’s King — and packing of jewellery, and trinkets, and treasures, and the wedding dress, and the little things that were popped into the boxes at the last moment by the princess herself when nobody was looking.
She was going to Spain to be married; it might be a long time before she saw her old home at Moulins again.
And then followed a long journey through France and Spain, accompanied by a retinue of lords and squires, until she came to the city of Valladolid.
No sign came to her from her betrothed, no little note or word, no offering to brighten her stranger’s way. Everybody seemed extremely glad to see her, and extremely polite, except him, for whose sake she had made that toilsome journey over all those hills and valleys.
Nor did time make of Pedro a kinder suitor, for when, at last, Castile was reached it was to no 70 hospitable house that Blanche went. The little French princess had need of all her courage and piety, for it seemed she had come to a lover who was too busy to think of her. So she turned for sympathy to her friend Claire, and said her prayers and waited. Days passed and still no word came from the King. Her time was passed anxiously. Was Castile perhaps so great a country that messages took so long to deliver?
The knights and squires of France, who had accompanied their Princess, expressed, we know, their disgust at this casual treatment of her. The Spanish ambassadors felt themselves at a disadvantage when they tried to soothe these rufflings of their French friends’ honour. A strange state of tension existed in the ancient city of Valladolid: for the French retinue, insulting and annoying; for the ambassadors, Queen Maria, and the good folk of the town, painful and false; for Blanche — looking with anxious eyes from the palace windows for the lover who never came — a bitterness beyond the strength of her years.
Don Pedro, in whom the kisses of Maria de Padilla worked forgetfulness, must, nevertheless, have sometimes risen from her arms to remember that his betrothed awaited his coming in Valladolid. A wound which he sustained at a tourney was an additional excuse to prevent him hurrying to the city.
Even a little reading between the lines of the old chronicles will allow us to perceived how the situation struck them at Torrijos. The young courtiers con 71 sidered it no doubt as an excellent jest against Alburquerque. Meanwhile, Blanche could only wonder and wait, and turn over her wedding-dress and ask herself if it was ever to be used after all.
But into this false and painful situation came hot from that foolish errand to Portugal the old minister of the King.
Alburquerque, to whom rumours of the strangest doings had been carried, and in a temper which may well be imagined, suddenly descended on the gay and frivolous crowd that surrounded King Peter at Torrijos.
Again that swish of the ex-tutor’s black robes, and the sight of his black hat surmounting a frown of more than pedagogic proportions must have thrilled and alarmed Don Pedro as the memory of old authority grown impotent can never fail to do.
The young people, with smiles that faded from their lips, and jests that shrivelled at his approach, were to be reminded that one must live seriously at times. Imagine this pretty court, rich in all that money could buy and youth could spend — Pedro, Maria, Tenorio de Cerda, all of them brought by a minister’s frown to a remembrance of the demands of their country and their people.
In a grave and solemn speech, in which no doubt the minister put some of the feeling that he had gained for Don Pedro as the moulder of his early days, and had not as yet lost as reprover of his imperious passions, he explained the gravity of the situation.72
“Think,” he told the King, “of the affront which you offer to the noble and powerful house of France. Can you, Sire, who have so lately come to your throne, afford to make such powerful enemies? Remember, Sire, when you lay ill soon after your accession, how full of trouble and dissension Castile showed itself. You cannot tell friend from foe when all goes well!”
Alburquerque further pointed out how the King’s subjects had hoped, in seeing him allied to the royal family of France, to find a guarantee for the peach and tranquility so desirable in a Christian land.
He urged the solemnity of the treaty, the pathos of the position of Blanche — who had come among strangers at his bidding — the gallantry and courtesy which as a knight, let alone a monarch, chivalry demanded of him. The counsels of age and wisdom prevailed. The wine-cup was banished and the roses tossed away. Kisses, song, music, jousts, tourneys, happy days of the chase, and tender nights of love were brought to an end. The king dared not disobey his minister in this matter, as to the rights of which he could have had no doubts. Leaving Maria, after having taken precautions for her safety and comfort, he set out to join Blanche. But his affections were in the Castle of Montalvan with the Padilla, if his majesty and sense of duty were journeying for Valladolid.
DOÑA BLANCA DE BOURBON
There is no account of the meeting of the French Princess and the young Castilian. Ayala, who is 73 a severe historian, seldom gives any space in his chronicle to detailing sentimental episodes.1
But we know that Blanche found small favour in her bridegroom’s eyes. He hurried on the marriage merely with the idea of fulfilling a diplomatic obligation. The dowry of 300,000 gold florins which she brought him does not seem to have allowed him to look at her any more tenderly.
The failure of Blanche to arouse any love or even interest in Pedro has been the subject of much discussion, some scandal, and many theories.
Not only does she seem to have failed entirely to charm him in the least degree, but one may almost suspect a feeling of something like dislike for her in his general attitude and behaviour. It is really a little extraordinary.
He was, of course, in love with Maria, in love with her more or less during the whole of her life, but not so much in love that he could not look for and find other charming objects for his amorous fancy from time to time. He seems, as we shall see in his escapade with Doña Juana de Castro, to have been very much a creature of impetuous fancy and lightning-like vagary, in his dealings with women as well as with men; subject to sudden likes, and therefore naturally inclined to sudden aversions. Here, I fancy, we may find the true cause of Pedro’s dislike, for his youthful 74 bride. Even if, in the full fervour and romantic devotion of his first great passion, his youthful sense of what his love demanded of him had forbidden him to regard Blanche in any other light than a political argument in French petticoats, the cynicism which years brought him would have absolved his conscience in this regard, and have allowed him to make love to his own wife without any feeling of having outraged his sense of chivalric fidelity.
As for the other reasons which history and legend have furnished for his coldness towards his wife, though nearly all the historians who write of this reign, including Mariana, have condemned them as groundless scandal, they nevertheless include them in their words. In one’s own turn, one can hardly do less.
The story, set forth in four lines of an old ballad, runs as follows: —
“Entre las gentes se dice
Mas no por cos sabida
Que la reina Doña Blanca
Del Maestre esta parida.”
that is, “People say among themselves, but only as a rumour, that Queen Blanche had a child by the Master.”
“The Master” is, of course, Don Fadrique, the Master of Santiago, who, it is alleged, was one of the Ambassadors sent to demand the Princess’s hand from John of France, and it is declared by the gossips that Blanche fell in love with the princely ambassador, and on the journey back to Castile became his mistress. 75 Commentators have adduced the long time occupied by Blanche and her suite in returning to Castile as some sort of additional evidence for the story. The Conde de la Roca says with evident enjoyment though really without the slightest justification for the main premise of his argument: “If the Infante Don Fadrique was a year, and more, as is asserted, conducting Queen Blanche to Valladolid, it proves either that the roads were very bad, or that they did not take the best.”2
Unfortunately for this story, there is no evidence of Don Fadrique ever having been in Paris with the Ambassadors on this mission. Ayala does not mention him as being so engaged, and the whole of the episode rests mainly on vague traditions. Señor Llaguno, the editor of Ayala, says that the mere fact that Don Fadrique was not at the wedding is sufficient proof that he was not with Blanche in France.
Contemporary opinion settled the mystery of the royal disagreement in true mediæval fashion with the assistance of magic and sorcery. Maria de Padilla, for whom a mysterious ancestry has been quite incorrectly discovered, was supposed to have enchanted the youthful king to the extent, that on the day of his marriage instead of appearing to lead a charming young bride to the altar, he saw beside him an object of I know not what horror and repulsiveness.
Mariana relates the story of a magic girdle: —
Blanche made offering to her husband of a beautiful 76 golden girdle, which became changed by the sorceries and arts of Maria and a few friends of hers into a monstrous snake. When this girdle-snake began to writhe upon the King’s body and to hiss, the King and his courtiers were naturally surprised and horrified. At this point, Maria ventured the explanation that Blanche must have wrought this sorcery with the intention of procuring the King’s ruin.3
But, firm believer in magic that I am, I must protest that this story will not serve to account for the King’s coldness to Blanche at the wedding and immediately afterwards, for the chronicle left Maria, in her castle at Montalvan, no doubt, as the legends would have it, concocting deadly philtres, and turning her jewellery into live-stock, but at any rate out of communication with the King and Court.
The noble couple were married of the 3rd of June with some display and ceremony.
A rather remarkable procession was formed to the church of Santa Maria la Nueva, where the ceremony took place. The Conde de Trastamara and Don Tello, who but a few days before had met the King outside Valladolid on his way to Blanche with retinues so large as to seem hostile, and who had then only just escaped a conflict, now walked in all amity and brotherliness to this alliance of France and Castile. The two bastard brothers led the palfrey of the bride; the Infante of Aragon the mule on which his mother, the 77 Dowager, rode; while his brother Don Juan did the like honour to Queen Maria of Castile.
It is interesting to know that Doña Leonor was dressed in white woollen robes, while Maria wore white samite and plumes.
The horses of the King and his bride were white. Robes of gold brocade, bordered with ermine, adorned the royal couple. There followed a great train of knight, courtiers, and nobles of various factions, “perhaps somewhat surprised,” says Mérimée, “to find themselves together anywhere but on a battlefield.” Alburquerque stood by the King during the ceremony, while Doña Leonor, Queen of Aragon, acted as mother to the young bride. Ayala, the chronicler, must almost certainly have been present at the wedding, as we know he was with Don Pedro but a few days previously, arranging, in his character of page, a little matter of chivalry with Pero Carillo.
The King went through the ceremony with an uneasy look in his eyes, and no bridegroom’s smile upon his lips. What greater chance could the populace, to whom rumour and idle tales are always desirable, have wished for as an opportunity for gossip and talk. A king who frowned upon his queen, as he led her to the altar; a lover with no love to offer.
Small wonder is it that stories of snakes and sorceries and treacherous brothers went quickly from mouth to mouth. How the women’s tongues must have pattered; each with some fresh bit of observation or news, some new and scandalous story to offer. Nor did time mend things.78
But two days of restlessness and fret did Pedro pass in the same palace as Blanche, and two nights during which, legend tells us, he never even touched the latch of the bridal chamber.
The inference and the outcome were obvious, and on the Wednesday following his marriage, when the King was dining alone and companionless in the great dining-hall of his palace, word was brought to him of a small feminine deputation that was waiting to see him just outside the door.
Nerving himself for a scene that was bound to be unpleasant to one of his stern and essentially masculine nature, Don Pedro prepared to receive the deputation. It consisted of his mother, Queen Maria, and his aunt, Doña Leonor.
“Then,” to quote Ayala’s4 words, “the King rose from the table and spoke with them aside, and as both he and they afterwards reported, they said to him: —
“‘My lord, it is made known to us that you are minded to go from hence and rejoin Doña Maria de Padilla, and we beg you in mercy to desist. For, if you do this thing, you make but little of your honour in thus forsaking your wife immediately after your marriage, when all the highest and best of your kingdom are assembled here. And further, the King of France will have good cause of complaint against you, who has newly allied himself to you by this marriage, and has sent you this niece of his, whose hand you asked of him; and he sent her hither with great pomp and retinue, as was but just. Further, 79 my lord, it will cause grave scandal in your kingdom, should you thus go hence, for all the highest in your kingdom have come hither at your command, and it will not be for your good service thus to depart without word and speech with them.’ ”
Although “as both he and they afterwards reported, they said to him,” I think one may justifiably suspect that their actual language was less formal and moderate. These remarks, no doubt, contained the gist of their talk, but they read to me rather like what the good ladies thought they said, tempered by the style of Ayala.
At any rate, they made not the slightest effect upon the King, who, perceiving the futility of arguments in such a case, expressed in diplomatic vein his surprise that any such idea should have occurred to them. He thus avoided a scene, and had his own way.
A little later in the day he called for his mules, saying that he intended to pay a visit to Doña Maria, his mother. But, to nobody’s surprise, he rode away out of Valladolid and covered part of the distance that separated him from Maria de Padilla and the Castle of Montalvan, passing the night at a place called Pajares.
Messages had passed between the King and his mistress, and the lady came part of the way to meet her knight, encountering him at the village of Montalvan. We may imagine the meeting: Pedro happy at finding himself so near to the belovéd bosom where he might forget the remonstrances and outcries of his mother and the bishops; the Padilla eager to 80 read in his eyes if there were anything in Blanche to be feared as a rival.
The news of the King’s desertion of his bride was received in different part by different members of the Court and State. With the populace, whose heart is ever on the side of respectability and the right, it was a move likely to make the young monarch decidedly unpopular. With Alburquerque and the people, who had engineered the match, such conduct was voted outrageous and deplorable. The minister, along with Don Juan Nuñez de Prado and some other nobles, set out to overtake the King in order to impress him with the need for more responsible behaviour.
Many of his courtiers had agreed with him on this question to the extent, at any rate, of accompanying him more or less closely in his flight for Montalvan.
Among the ecclesiastics who dared actively to oppose the royal methods was the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo, a man of courage and honesty. This man, almost alone amongst the clergy, seems to have ventured a reprimand in the name of the church to the King. His advice and reproofs found, however, no favour with Don Pedro, and before long the Cardinal betook himself to Avignon to lend his counsels to the Papacy.
The Conde de Trastamara, Don Tello, and the Infante of Aragon followed Pedro at a little distance as though endeavoring to flavour acceptance of his views with mild reproof of them at the same time.
The stay at Montalvan was a short one. Counsels of prudence prevailed. The nobles and courtiers with 81 Don Pedro advised his return to his wife for at any rate a certain time.
So the court went back to Valladolid, and for two days there was peace and contentment in the women’s quarter of the Alcazar.
So secure, however, did Maria feel of the royal affections, that with a consideration for the sorrows of others, which she frequently showed during her life, she advised her lover’s return to Valladolid.
But for two days only. Irritated by the presence of Blanche, or anxious to return to his mistress, Pedro within forty-eight hours was in the saddle again, this time en route for Oviende, where Maria was awaiting him. He never, says Ayala, saw his wife again.
Blanche, in her misfortunes, had to a large extent the people on her side and in particular those of the city of Toledo, where, by order of the King, she was later brought to be imprisoned, although it was not called by that name.
When Blanche came to the city she insisted on being allowed to visit the church of Santa Maria, for she feared, she said, death at the hands of the King’s servants and the minions of the Padilla faction.
And, once there, no promises or appeals by Juan de Henestrosa, who had been charged with her fortunes, were of avail to move her. Surrounded by bishops, priests, and some nobles of the city who felt sympathy for her sad case, she claimed sanctuary and peace. And Henestrosa, tired of the trouble and fuss, and ill-pleased with his mission, betook himself to Don Pedro, 82 full no doubt of the terrible experiences he had suffered in Toledo.
After his departure, a little boudoir conspiracy arose. The noble ladies of the city, who came partly from curiosity and partly from kindness to visit the young queen, found her so gentle, so lovable, and withal so unfortunate, that they all put their heads together, and as a consequence determined to have the support of their lords in the matter.
“They would be,” the ladies said, each in her manner to her respective lord, “the meanest men on earth if such a queen as this, their lady and the wife of their lord the king, should die such a death in the city where they were, and since they had the power, let them prevent it.5
So many were their supplications and so great a wave of sympathy swept over Toledo for the unhappy Blanche, that nearly all the knights and nobles of the place prepared themselves to defend her safety to the last.
And when it was rumored that Pedro was outside the city’s gates with members of the Padilla family and many knights and soldiers, the city rose and put the image of its honour, Blanche, into the Alcazar, and prepared to defend her as best it might.
“And the time was Thursday, at the hour of terce of the eve of the feast of St. Mary in the month of August.”5
1 It comes almost as a revelation to learn from his nephew Fernan Perez de Guzman in “Generaciones y Semblanzas,” that Ayala loved women very much, more than befitted a gentleman of his wisdom.
2 Sotomayor, too, has no illusions about Blanche’s virtue, but unfortunately neither has he any evidence.
3 Histoire des Papes d’Avignon, Balvze, quoted by Llaguno in his notes to Ayala, 1353, Cap. XII. Polydore Virgil also mentions the story.
4 Ayala, year 1353, Cap. XII.
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