May 30, 2020

Isabel la Católica, the most austere royal wardrobe in Castilla

From her earliest childhood, Isabel la Católica, of whom 515 years of her death was fulfilled this past Tuesday, gave ample example of abstinence and restraint in her private life, although it is misjudged. A childhood and early adolescence in the sober home of Arévalo, next to his mother and away from the luxury and ostentation of the Court of his stepbrother and King Henry IV. Few infants like her grew up in such austerity. As a queen, her sobriety became even more apparent, in contrast to the Court's pageantry. We know how he dressed and ate, and how he behaved at parties of all kinds, especially for the attention of ambassadors or treaties with other sovereigns.

"It was so sober and temperate that it never drank wine," said Esteban de Garibay and Zamalloa. On one occasion, her confessor Hernando de Talavera reprimanded her for the excess of dresses and parties on the occasion of the delivery of the Roussillon by the French. We have the Queen's response letter, dated in Zaragoza, with instructions "to be burned." He says like this: «There were no new suits, neither in me nor in my ladies, nor even new dresses … Everything that I dressed there had dressed since we were in Aragon … And the same had been seen by the other French … Only I made a dress of silk, and with three gold frames, the flattest I could … The men's dresses, which were very expensive, I did not send, more and hindering as much as I could and admonished not to be done … ».

We know the great parties organized by the queen to celebrate the birth of the crown prince and his subsequent marriage, or the splendor with which he received the ambassadors of Burgundy. They were demands of the Court. But in 1492 she wrote to her confessor explaining the sobriety observed at the Perpignan festivities: «My will is not only tired in too many, but in all parties, however fair they may be». Diego Clemencín, academic of History, concluded thus very sure: «To this moderation and temperance the whole tenor of life of doña Isabel was adjusted».

Clemencín added that Isabel, her husband and their children ate for less than 40 ducats a day, when a few years later her grandson Carlos, newly arrived from Flanders and before even getting married, spent more than 400 at her table. We also know how she received the Castilian Treasury with 100 million maravedis and how he left her at his death with 550 million nothing less. Clemencín praised the composure in his suits, the moderation in his attire, because, as he said, he despised personal luxury as a vice of dwarfed hearts.

Loan in Valencia

Austera also with her personal jewelry, which barely shone on her because they were always in pawn shops, mainly from Valencia and Barcelona. In 1495 she had not yet performed, except the bullet collar that her husband gave her at the wedding. The jewels were for her not an ornament of the royal majesty, but a deposit and reserve for the needs of the kingdom.

In Valencia the royal crown, "the rich crown", in 35,000 florins, and the bullet necklace in another 20,000; which, along with other minor jewelry, supported the loan of 60,000 guilders from the city of Valencia for the war in Granada, equivalent to two million real fleece in Castilian currency. Most of his jewelry store reserved it for the marriages of his children. The relationship of jewels he gave to Margaret of Austria astonished when he came to marry the crown prince Juan is amazing.

Tightening his belt in private life, he preached with the example by extending that austerity to public life through the pragmatic or sumptuous laws of doubtful fulfillment, but still illustrating the spirit of the Servant of God. By the Pragmatics of Segovia, of September 2, 1494, the importation of cloths, brocades, satin, gold, silver, gold cloths thrown or embroidery of gold thread was prohibited, specifying that «neither clothes of these genres be made in the Kingdom, not being for church ornaments ».

And that it should not brown or silver on iron, copper or brass, or sword or dagger for this reason: «It is notorious how much, from a few times to this part, all states and professions of people, our subjects and natural, have become excessive messy in their clothes and suits … »

No game, temperance and sobriety

The bans on the game deserve special attention, which favored eutropelia. Not only of the game where fortunes were aired, as is the case today with casinos and other random clubs, but of the minor game that ruined modest families or compromised domestic happiness, as is the case of slot machines or card bets. The austerity extended to mourning and funerals, through another Pragmatic of January 10, 1502.

Note how the jargon dress was forbidden, replacing it with the black wool one. The same dress she forbade to wear in her will on the occasion of her death. Even in the smallest details, temperance was imposed in its sobriety aspect: if in some great lords the excess came to light fifteen hundred candles, the Pragmatic prescribed for "lords of vassals" twenty-four candles, and for the others, only twelve .


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