Alexander Samson, Ed. the Spanish Match: Prince Charles' Journey to Madrid, 1623

Seventeenth-Century News, Spring-Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Alexander Samson, Ed. the Spanish Match: Prince Charles' Journey to Madrid, 1623


Alexander Samson, ed. The Spanish Match: Prince Charles' Journey to Madrid, 1623. Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate, 2006. x + 243 pp. + 20 illus. $99.95. Review by BRENNAN C. PURSELL, DESALES UNIVERSITY.

The sudden appearance of the Prince of Wales in Madrid was sensational in its own day and makes for one of the best stories of the early seventeenth century. Alexander Samson's delightful volume is the result of an interdisciplinary gathering of experts in the fields of early modern European art, clothing, public ceremonies, and literary studies, held in Stratford-on Avon in April 2003.

In the first chapter, Jerry Brotton argues that Charles and Buckingham's art acquisition reflected the fluctuating fortunes of the match negotiations. The Prince's collecting actually began in the years before the journey and show preparation for it. Purchased tapestries and paintings from Italy and Spain, devoted to Catholic themes, attest to the Stuarts' public commitment to a limited ecumenism. The collection building process is described in detail, but Brotton's comments about motives concerning individual artworks are highly speculative. Nonetheless, looking at Charles' selections on the whole, one must conclude that he had a "preference for highly erotic classical scenes by sixteenth-century Italian masters" (24). Turning to dress, Lesley Miller argues that it was a "significant tool" in the negotiation process (48). Charles did his best to attire himself in accordance with Spanish style, British expectations, and Philip IVs intermittent sumptuary legislation. The impact of the Prince's clothing, Miller admits, remains anyone's guess. David Sanchez Cano provides a richly detailed description of the many festivals and processions held during the visit, which were meant to impress the Prince with "messages" about "political power and religious propaganda" (73). Henry Ettinghausen surveys Andres de Almansa y Mendoza's vividly composed letters, adding that their ability to influence what Spaniards thought of it all "cannot have been negligible" (88).

Chapters five to eleven are devoted to contemporary literary developments in England, France, and Spain, all in response to Charles' romantic journey. Alexander Samson addresses Spanish texts that were translated into English in 1623. These were mainly grammar books and dictionaries but also some literary works and religious tracts meant for England's small Catholic minority, not to mention an array of pamphlets for London's literate, interested population. Jeremy Robbins examines the Spanish literary response to the Prince's visit. Amid reams of bad poetry, certain common characteristics emerge: general approbation of the Prince's chivalric, knightly daring in having come so far despite the vagaries of winter; light mockery of his periodic bouts of love-struck behavior, compounded by a general ignorance about Spanish courtly behavior; the usual comparisons and references to figures of classical mythology; emphasis on the friendship between Charles and Philip; the innate superiority of Roman Catholicism and the possibility of the Prince's conversion. Unlike in England, Robbins notes, there is no discernible sign of critique of the Spanish monarchy or revulsion for the other side after the match fell apart. The lasting impression is that the marriage simply could not have worked without bastardizing the Catholic faith. The next chapter, by Karen Britland, concerns the next romance in the story, that between Charles and Henrietta Maria of France, and how its literary supporters interpreted the debacle of 1623 in retrospect. These writers did their best to downplay the shows of affection that Charles had directed toward the Infanta. …

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