21 May 2013

The Spanish princess marriages

 Alfonso V.

"Spanish Princess" came into the United States by the 19th century as the name of a scam, and it would be difficult to prove that it was not a scam used on the Palaiologues in the 1440s.  The phrase may derive from the "Spanish prisoner" scam of 1588 in which money was sought to free a high-ranking prisoner. A high-ranking lady was offered as part of the reward in that one.

From 1442 to 1458, Alfonso V of Aragon, Barcelona, and Mallorca, was also king of Naples and Sicily.  Many of the Catalan ships that turn up in Moreote history were his -- it was one of his ships that took Constantine to Constantinople to be Emperor. When Constantine briefly held Athens between 1444 and 1446, Alfonso asked for Constantine to give it to him so he could renew Catalan Greece. For at least a decade, Alfonso held out promises -- to Constantinople, to Constantine, to Theodoros, to Thomas, to Demetrios -- of financial aid, of ships and troops, of brides.  Brides were of some concern: there were no male heirs after their generation to the throne of the Eastern Empire, and Constantine and Theodoros were currently unmarried.

story of Alfonso V is much too involved to relate here but some very slight details from the Spanish-princess promises have survived.

The summer of 1443 the Neapolitan consul to Constantinople, Pere Rocafort, had taken the new King Alfonso a series of proposals he had worked out with John: in exchange for the support of twenty to twenty-five galleys, Alfonso could have his choice of Imbros, Lemnos, or Skiros. John's brothers in the Morea could produce 40,000 horsemen and 20,000 archers (again, the epenthetic zero appears). Alfonso was to have a consul at Patras.  Thomas was asked for a coastal castle, while Constantine was to give Alfonso the fief of Chalandritza, inland from Patras, for a colony.  Bessarion thought this would be a great help for the Morea and wrote Constantine, "It will be of great benefit to our power and our future hopes to give an enthusiastic welcome to volunteers from whatever part of the external world who wish to dwell in Peloponnesus."

In addition, Alfonso was to arrange marriages for Constantine and Theodoros to two Spanish ladies related to him:
 "la una, jermana de don Pedro de Cardona, l'altra, filla del comte Gilabert dels Exovars."  The one for Theodoros was Beatriu Coloira Caterina de Cardona i de Villena, daughter of the Catalan Count of Collesano in Sicily, but whatever happend, she was married to two other people.

From 1443 through the summer of 1448, Theodoros was Despot of Selybria, a two-day ride from Constantinople, and a position that allowed him to obsess about becoming Emperor himself. He must have been conducting his own negotiations as in 1444, the Prince of Taranto had contracted to give him his niece and heir, Isabella of Claramonte, as a bride. 

Isabella was heiress to much of southern Italy, and the titles of Prince of Achaia and Latin Emperor of Constantinople had belonged to several direct ancestors. Probably no heiress in western Europe was more suitable for marriage to an heir to the throne of Constantinople.  Unfortunately for Theodoros, Taranto's overlord, Alfonso V of Naples, stepped in very quickly and married her to his (bastard) son and heir, Ferdinand. Ferdinand had six children by her, eight by other women. 

Theodoros apparently continued to negotiate for a Spanish bride, but he died abruptly of plague at the end of July 1448, before anything could happen.  One of the eulogies for him says: 

O most holy despot, you sent out envoys to Iberia suggesting a most advantageous course for yourself, but time had different ideas and wedded you to a tomb. The returning messenger will carry a fine message, that you are dead, you have been committed to burial and that you have no further concern with life. How your betrothed will cry out, as instead of being surrounded by brilliance and splendor, she becomes dark and downcast. No wedding hymn will be sung for her, nor will the bridal lamps be lit; there will be only sad music, the shearing of her hair in mourning and wailing, prophetic of many evils, All this she has unhappily come to through your death.

That is all we know about that one. 

My great appreciation to Daniel Duran y Duelt for introducing me to this topic.

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