Noncalendrical Festivals: Life Cycles and Power
ON May 13, 1543, a young Philip, barely sixteen years old, married by proxy the princess Doña María of Portugal. The Spanish ambassador to the Portuguese court, Don Luis Sarmiento de Mendoza, stood for the prince in concluding a series of nuptial negotiations agreed more than five months earlier on December 1, 1542.1 In an earlier chapter, I glossed the events that surrounded Doña Maria’s crossing of the border into Castile. We have seen the elaborate procession that accompanied her ritual entry under a red palio into Salamanca, where her espousal to Philip was to be consummated. The arrogant young princess had given evidence throughout her slow journey from Lisbon to Salamanca of at times petulant behavior, but now with all the rituals of the entry behind her, she stepped in an almost seamless fashion into the cycle of festivities organized to highlight the importance of her wedding to the heir of the Spanish realms and its varied possessions throughout the globe.
On November 14, 1543, the young couple was married once again by the Cardinal of Toledo. María and Philip had been lodged in adjacent houses, connected by a large salon or wide hall built just for the occasion. Master Vargas, who has provided us with a contemporary account of the ceremony and who was obviously impressed by this ephemeral construction, does not fail to give us its dimensions: seventy-three feet long, fortythree wide, and twenty high. It was richly decorated with tapestries and contained two stages, one for the musicians and another for the bride and groom. Doña Maria sat on cushions of brocade. When Philip entered the room and ascended the stage each sought to kiss the other’s hands; Philip as his courtly nature demanded; Doña Maria in obeisance to her new husband and king.2 As the two teenagers sat on the stage, they received the homage of those present who now came to kiss the prince and princess’s hands. Only then did the wedding ceremony take place. It is noteworthy that the setting was not in a church or a cathedral, but one of those artificial constructions so common in late medieval and early modern spectacles. The bridge between the two lodgings echoes the ritual spaces, so famously examined by van Gennep, that provide the physical
1 Maestro Vargas, Recibimiento que se hizo en Salamanca a la Princesa doña María de Portuga (1543), 7–8.
2 Ibid., 78–79.