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Oliver Otis Howard

Marriage of Isabella's Daughter

"The bard has sung, God never formed a soul

Without its own peculiar mate, to meet

Its wandering half, when ripe to crown the whole

Bright plans of bliss, most heavenly, most complete!"

—Maria Brooks

Isabella's Eldest Daughter Isabel, Betrothed to Alonso, Prince of Portugal—The Betrothal at Seville by Proxy—The Tournaments and Festivities—The Journey to Portugal—The Meeting with the King and Prince of Portugal. The Marriage at Elbora—Isabella Sorrowing with Her Daughter.

During April of 1490, while the court was at Seville, Isabel, the eldest daughter, was affianced, as promised in the treaty of Alcantara, to the Prince of Portugal. Concerning this betrothal, Prescott remarks "that an alliance with this kingdom, which from its contiguity possessed such ready means of annoyance to Castile, . . . was an object of importance to Ferdinand and Isabella. No inferior consideration could have reconciled the queen to a separation from this beloved daughter, her eldest child, whose gentle and uncommonly amiable disposition seems to have endeared her beyond their other children to her parents."

How strange it seems that even the sovereigns should settle with enemies at the price of a most precious child! But happily in this betrothal and subsequent marriage the prince was of a proper age and worthy of the infanta, who came to love him with an affection that death itself did not subdue. The ceremony of betrothal was negotiated and completed through ambassadors.

Don Ferdinando de Silveria stood hypothetically for Prince Alonso. After the betrothal came the usual tourneys and festivities, belonging rather to a time of peace than of war. The principal scene was outside the city, upon grounds temporarily fenced in, prepared and decorated like a grand amphitheatre.

The city of Seville and the court, as we have been viewing it, were full of liveliness and joy during the trials of skill at these tournaments, when the king and his courtiers participated, and ladies of rank, with the Infanta Isabel among them, occupied the main stand; and crowds of beautiful women filled the richly adorned galleries, in order to view the manly and martial exercises of the day.

The dance, to which the severe and exacting Talavera had on another occasion so much objected, again took place here after the trials of horsemanship and arms were over, and the sounds of hilarity and joyous music hardly ceased throughout the night which followed.

Before the end of the year this beloved child was borne away toward her new home, for the meeting with her spouse and for the marriage ceremony. The Master of Santiago and the grand cardinal formed part of her splendid escort. The greatness of her dower, the magnificence of her dresses, and the wealth of her trousseau are set down in the history of the event. How happy was Queen Isabella at this season! How full of promise were all her plans! and but for the war, not quite completed, how cloudless just then the skies of Castile!

The King of Portugal and the prince, his son, met the young princess at the border, near Estremos. They took her between them, the king riding at her left. The real betrothal in propria persona  took place on November 14th, 1490, at that city, and the marriage ceremony the next day. Soon the happy party journeyed on to Elbora. The festivities were prolonged for weeks at that place, and at Santarem, the temporary residence of the Portuguese court. One evening, during the summer of 1491, the King of Portugal rode to the outside of Santarem, purposing to take a walk along the banks of the Tagus; Prince Alonso, who accompanied him on horseback, in the exhilaration of his young manhood challenged his favorite friend, Juan de Melendez, to a race. During the running the prince's spirited horse, pressed beyond his strength, slipped and fell. His whole weight came upon the rider and crushed him to death. Now in quick revulsion the great joy was turned to mourning, and young Isabel, the broken-hearted bride, was carried back to her royal mother, whose grief and disappointment were hardly less than her own.