Festivals in Late Medieval and Early
Modern Spain: An Introduction
ON the 14th of May 1554, Prince Philip, already the king-consort of England’s Queen Mary and a mere two years away from becoming the ruler of the vast Habsburg inheritance in Spain, Italy, Flanders, North Africa, and the lands across the Ocean Sea, departed Valladolid for La Coruña. There a small fleet waited to transport him to his joyless and unfruitful marriage and to face the displeasure and opposition of many of his English subjects.1 Andrés Muñoz, a servant (lacayo) of the nine-year-old and ill-fated Prince Don Carlos (Philip’s son from his first marriage) published an account of Philip’s sojourn in 1554, receiving 50,000 maravedíes for his efforts as both the chronicler of this voyage and a member of the princely entourage that accompanied Philip (and for part of the voyage Don Carlos) on their way from the heart of Castile to England. Not unlike other late medieval and early modern accounts, Muñoz’s Viaje de Felipe Segundo á Inglaterra provides painstaking descriptions of the garments that the prince and the high nobility accompanying him took on the voyage, of the costly jewels that were to be presented to Queen Mary as a wedding gift, and of other such details that reasserted, in the typical sycophantic fashion of such accounts, the majesty of the ruler.2
What interest me most in this narrative are two minor entries made along the route from Valladolid to La Coruña, a seaport town in northwestern Galicia. Philip, as was often the case in princely travels, took his time along the way, hunting, resting, and sightseeing. His young son, the Infante Don Carlos, preceded him into Benavente, a small town ruled by a powerful noble, the Count of Benavente. There, the young Infante received a sumptuous reception according to the protocol proper to princely
1 Accounts of his progression through Castile on the way to Galicia and of his reception in England can be found in Muñoz, Viaje de Felipe Segundo á Inglaterra, 31. For the English reaction to Philip’s arrival, see Barbara Fuchs, Exotic Nation: Maurophilia and the Construction of Early Modern Spain (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), 119–27 et passim. As this book was going into press, I was informed of the publication of Geoffrey Parker’s voluminous new study in Spanish of Philip II’s life and reign. I have not been able to obtain this new work, but, as I note below, Parker has long been the authority on the subject.
2 Muñoz, Viaje de Felipe Segundo á Inglaterra, 12–31.