Inheritance and Apprenticeship
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Inheritance and Apprenticeship book
On the night of Saturday to Sunday 11-12 December 1474, Henry IV of Castile lay dying in the castle (alcázar) of Madrid. Already in poor physical and mental health, the king had for several weeks been seeking well-being by hunting in the nearby royal forest of El Pardo. He died in the early hours of the 12th, his death apparently being sudden and its direct cause uncertain.1 What happened next can best be described as a partially constitutional coup, in which Henry’s half-sister Isabella immediately claimed the Castilian throne, thus precipitating four years of civil and international conﬂict. First thing on Sunday morning, one of Henry’s courtiers, Rodrigo Ulloa, travelled north to Segovia, where Isabella was awaiting events with her little court, having used the city, in which royal archives and treasure were stored, as her base since the beginning of 1474. Although, on the instructions of the committee of nobles that had been appointed to run the kingdom during his illness, Ulloa asked her to do nothing concerning the throne and to await a judicial determination between her and Henry’s ofﬁcially recognized daughter, Joanna, the action she took was very different. The rest of that Sunday was spent in preparations for her proclamation as queen. She rehearsed the ceremony, but rumblings from those among her entourage who were subjects of John II of Aragon meant that much of the day was spent on legal niceties. Her husband Ferdinand was absent during the whole proceeding. The next day (13 December), being the feast of St Lucy, a simple ceremony took place in the main square of Segovia, in which Isabella swore to obey the commandments of the Church and respect its prelates, to seek the common good of the Castilian people and the expansion of its Crown’s domains, which she swore never to divide or give away. She promised to respect all the privileges, liberties and exemptions of the nobility and of the towns and villages. After this, she was accepted by the assembly as queen of Castile and this was conﬁrmed by the conventional cry, led by the royal heralds, of ‘Castile, Castile, Castile, for the queen and our lady,
Queen Doña Isabella and for the king Don Ferdinand, as her legitimate husband! ’ The only other thing known for certain about the ceremony in Segovia on 13 December 1474 is that no ﬁrst-or second-rank nobles were present and at most one prelate, the local diocesan bishop, Juan Arias Dávila. With this limited amount of open backing, she had not only to secure the allegiance of Castile but also to obtain the support of her husband, who was then over 200 miles away, in the Aragonese capital, Zaragoza.