This blog has previously talked about the relationship between Spanish history and Lois McMaster Bujold’s fantasy masterpiece, The Curse of Chalion. I thought I’d done a big post about Beatriz de Bobadilla, the real life counterpart to Bujold’s likeable Lady Betriz. But I can’t find it, so apparently not.
Here’s a lovely portrait of Beatriz, on a page which unfortunately includes some fairly narsty allegations about her personal life (conflated with nasty allegations about her younger sister’s personal life). But all in Spanish.
So aren’t you all lucky! Here’s an article that’s actually in English! Since it’s in the middle of a long 1991 newsletter for fans of Columbus, I’m taking the liberty of reproducing it here.
Christopher Columbus and the Bobadilla Family
by Gloria Miller and Lynne Guitar
There is a mysterious beauty whose name many historians have confused with that of her elder sister, Beatriz de Bobadilla. This beautiful lady, Eleanora de Bobadilla, is important to the Columbus story because of her rumored love affair with him in the Old World before he left to discover a new one.
The Bobadilla family was already a noble line when Pedro de Bobadilla, the girls’ father, fought against the Moors in Spain (his wrists and ankles showed scars from the chains with which he’d been bound in Moorish dungeons). Pedro was made Guardian and Caretaker of the Dowager Queen Isabella of Portugal and her two young children, Isabella and Alfonso. They lived in the castle of Arevalo near Segovia.
Pedro’s daughter, Beatriz, was the same age as Princess Isabella, and the two young girls were best friends. When Isabella became Queen of Castile in 1474, Beatriz became her personal Lady-in-Waiting. And Beatriz was with Isabella when she married Ferdinand of Aragon on October 18, 1469. (Their friendship was a lasting one–she was also at the Queen’s deathbed on November 26, 1504). Beatriz de Bobadilla married Andres de Cabrera, the Marquis de Moya, and used her influence as Marquesa and as the Queen’s confidante to plead the cause of a handsome foreigner, one Christopher Columbus, who had a scheme to reach the riches of the East Indies by sailing west across the unknown Ocean Sea. Throughout the eight years that Columbus sought funding for his enterprise, the Marquesa remained one of his most avid supporters.
Several years earlier, Beatriz de Bobadilla had brought her younger sister, Eleanora, to the court of Ferdinand and Isabella. But the beautiful young girl caught the eye of King Ferdinand, so Queen Isabella determined to send her away. She had Eleanora married off to Ferdinand de Peraza, Governor of Gomera in the Canary Islands. Peraza was killed in a riot among the natives,
and Eleanora, still under thirty years of age, became the Lady Governor of Gomera.
On September 2, 1492, Christopher Columbus’ last stop in the known world was at Gomera, where his small fleet of three ships stocked up on fresh water and provisions for the ocean crossing. Eleanora was not on the island when Columbus arrived, but they did meet before he sailed. On his second voyage, in October of 1493, Eleanora lavishly entertained Admiral Columbus and his officers when he stopped again to provision his ships at Gomera, and the rumors flew that the Admiral was smitten by the lovely Lady Governor. (The rumors of their love affair were neither proved nor disproved; however, in 1497, Eleanora de Bobadilla married Alfonso de Lugo, Governor of all the Canary Islands).
Another Bobadilla entered the Columbus story in 1500 — Francisco de Bobadilla, Chevalier and Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Calatrava (he was Beatriz and Eleanora’s uncle).
Francisco was sent to the island of Hispaniola by royal order of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand to investigate a flood of complaints against Christopher Columbus, the Governor, and his two brothers, Bartholomew and Diego. Upon his arrival at the capital of the Indies, Francisco put the three Columbus brothers in chains and sent them back to Spain to face trial. Queen Isabella was furious that Francisco de Bobadilla had overstepped his authority and humiliated her Admiral. She personally ordered the chains struck from Columbus’ wrists and ankles, and had Bobadilla recalled to Spain.
But Bobadilla never made it. He perished in a hurricane just a few days out from Hispaniola in June, 1502. Columbus, who was on his fourth voyage at the time, had warned Bobadilla not to set sail, for a hurricane was making up. Bobadilla had laughed at his warning, “Ha! He thinks he can predict the weather!” (Enemies of Columbus later swore that he’d “conjured up” that hurricane to punish Bobadilla.)
The scars of humiliation that Francisco de Bobadilla had inflicted upon the Admiral never left him. He kept the chains mounted on his bedroom wall and, at his orders, they were buried with him in 1506.
1. Most books on Columbus call the Lady Governor of Gomera “Beatriz,” following the lead of Henry Harisse and Samuel Eliot Morison, two of history’s foremost Columbian scholars. But Roger Bigelow Merriman, late Professor of History at Harvard University and author of “The Rise of the Spanish Empire in the Old World and the New”, says in Volume II, “… these authors are clearly
mistaken in stating that it was Beatriz de Bobadilla whom Peraza married. Beatriz was the Queen’s most intimate friend and Camarera Mayor, and was married to Andres de Cabrera, Marquis of Moya. Peraza’s bride was her sister, Eleanora.”
Gloria Miller, a retired art teacher, and Lynne Guitar, a writer and editor, collaborated on a historical-fiction novel about the Columbus family, for which they are seeking a publisher.
Unfortunately, it’s starting to look as though Columbus’ chains were a fair cop.
By the way, it seems that Bujold was not the first great American writer to take Isabella and Beatriz for her subjects. No! Longfellow wrote about them too, in his novel Mercedes of Castile, or The Voyage to Cathay! Yup, it’s a novel mostly about Columbus.
Here’s a picture of Beatriz’ lovely home. Cozy, ain’t it? Since this article in Spanish tells us more concrete information, I’ll translate the relevant bits here.
“Andres Cabrera was the royal majordomo of King Enrique IV, the monarch who entrusted him with the palace of Segovia, where the legendary royal treasury was kept…
Cabrera, who is thought to have been of Jewish origin, suppressed an uprising against the New Christians in Segovia. Afterward, he decided that Segovia and the royal treasury would go to Isabella upon the death of the king… and with the approval of the king, he sought an interview with the Princess Isabella and Prince Fernando.
Beatriz de Bobadilla went to Aranda de Duero — they say dressed as a farmwife to avoid raising suspicions — and he invited Isabella to Segovia. Enrique received Isabella, and then Fernando, splendidly, but in a few days he fell ill and died (in 1474).
After the king’s death, Isabella was proclaimed queen of Castile and received the unconditional fealty of Cabrera, along with all the crown’s money…
Isabella knew very well she could not repay the acts of Don Andres de Cabrera and her lady-in-waiting Beatriz de Bobadilla, for which she gave them the title of Marques and Marquesa of Moya.
In 1476, Andres being absent from Segovia, a riot broke out against him. Pleading the town’s poverty, the rioters also captured the queen’s daughter. Beatriz de Bobadilla managed to escape and warn Isabel, who went alone and without escort, took over the situation, and kept Andres in his post, after studying the complaints and finding them unfounded, perhaps set about by the disgruntled previous alcalde, Maldonado.
In 1480, after the Catholic Kings’ victory, they granted Andres de Cabrera and Beatriz de Bobadilla the new seignory of Chinchon, which included the Sixth of Valdemoro, and the villages of Serranillos, Moraleja, Villaviciosa de Odón, Brunete, San Martin de la Vega y Boadilla del Monte from the Sixth of Casarrubios, practically all the Segovian possessions to the east of the Guadarrama River in the actual province of Madrid, in addition to lands outside the area (Bayona, etc.).
In 1487, they participated in the siege of Malaga, where a fanatical Moor wounded Beatriz after mistaking her for the queen. They also participated in the taking of Guadix, Baza, and finally Granada, the surrender of which was confirmed by Andres along with the prelates and grandees of Castile.
In 1504, Queen Isabella died, and dedicated a full paragraph of her will to confirming all of the privileges granted to Andres de Cabrera and his wife Beatriz.
…Later, Charles I in 1520 granted Fernando Cabrera, son of Andres and Beatriz, the title of Count of Chinchon….”
Here’s a page from Chinchon, which includes a picture of Beatriz’ castle.
By the way, it seems that at least one Bobadilla lady wasn’t just interested in exploring. Isabel de Bobadilla married Hernando de Soto and became Lady Governor of Cuba.