1450-1499 · Spain · The Ferdinand and Isabella Saga

Ferdinand & Isabella, pt. 3: The Troth…


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To read part 1: Gaining a Kingdom, click here.

To read part 2: A Queen Among Women, click here.


Previously on Do Things Worth Writing…

Princess Ysabel (or Isabella, as we know her), after the death of her beloved little brother, was reconciled with her older half-brother, King Enrique of Castile, and established as the heir of the kingdom in place of Enrique’s wife’s illegitimate daughter, Juana. This reconciliation was in accordance with the advice of Marques Juan Pacheco, but against the advice of Archbishop Carrillo. At that time, Carrillo had his doubts that Pacheco was truly loyal to the young princess or that the king would fulfill his promises to Ysabel. Unfortunately, in the last seven months, his suspicions have proven to be all too true.

4 March, 1469 • Ocaña Court

Eighteen-year-old Princess Ysabel curtsied to her partner, Juan Pacheco, as the music ended. It had been a slow dance on the lyre, and one of her favorites, except that she had to be partnered with this traitor. Not too many months before, he had pretended to be her friend and supporter.  As soon as she reconciled with King Enrique, Pacheco had shown his true colors. Once again, he was Enrique’s favorite.

What a fool I was for ever trusting him. I should have known better. Ysabel took a steadying breath. Maintain control.  As Pacheco held out his hand to lead her from the dance floor, Ysabel smiled graciously and took it, despite the sour taste in her mouth when he touched her. To distract her, she glanced around the Great Hall. The walls were lined with skillfully embroidered tapestries and genuine Persian rugs lay under the highest tables. In the dying sunlight, all the candelabras cast friendly shadows around the room. Thanks to them, dancing could continue for hours.

Ysabel, however, couldn’t wait for the feast to end. Attending these functions was necessary now that she was the crowned princess, but with her own future so uncertain, she didn’t enjoy being so close to Enrique and his friends. Soon, she would sit next to Ferdinand and dance with him at these feasts.

A smile played on the corner of her mouth. Ferdinand. By all accounts, he was brave and handsome; he even enjoyed dancing and hunting just as much as she did! As Pacheco continued to lead her to the dais, she let her favorite daydream play in her mind. When they met, Ferdinand would smile and bow. She would smile and curtsy. Perhaps there would be love at first sight. He would take her hand and the tingles would run up her arm. Or at least, that’s what happened to Beatriz, Ysabel’s best friend, when she had first met her own husband, Andres de Cabrera…

“My sister, your mind seems far away tonight,” King Enrique said as Pacheco handed Ysabel to her seat. His brown eyes, normally large and gentle, squinted at her coldly. His face was angular and his brown hair and beard were sprinkled with grey hairs, compliments of his age and position.

Ysabel blinked, suddenly aware that somehow her calm mask had slipped in the ten feet from the dance floor. As Pacheco sat on Enrique’s left, she demurred quietly, “My apologies, my lord. My mind was quite far, I’m afraid. In London, England, to be precise.”

It wasn’t a total lie. She had been thinking of Prince Richard, brother of Edward, King of England, while dancing. King Edward’s ambassadors had met with her again that afternoon, to convince her that Richard was a good matrimonial choice. It was a joke, really. The only reason why they had even been permitted to come was because Enrique had been trying to distract her thoughts from a certain young prince in Aragon.

A very bad joke, indeed.

Enrique’s eyebrows lifted. “Oh? Would he be your choice, then?”

Ysabel smiled slightly, glad he had taken the bait. “Would he be yours, my king?”

Enrique’s lip curled. Last September when they had reconciled, they had agreed, among other things, that Ysabel would be allowed to choose her own husband so long as Enrique agreed. When he had tried to force her into marriage with King Alfonso of Portugal, Ysabel and her advisers believed that the Treaty at Toros de Guisando was legally null and void.

Enrique, on the other hand, still held that Ysabel was responsible for her side of the bargain. Since he could make life incredibly worse for her– and had actually threatened to a couple of times– she maintained the farce of being the dutiful, obedient heir.

“I think you know my first choice,” he snarled. He looked down at his goblet and took a deep breath. When he spoke again, his voice was honeyed. “However, if you would prefer Charles over Alfonso, I would be willing to relinquish my desires.”

“My king is most generous,” Ysabel cooed. Generous fool, that is. A weak-minded simpleton and block-headed ox, as well. “However, I would like some time to think and pray before I agree to France’s proposals.”

Enrique cunningly smiled. “Of course, my sister. Whatever pleases you in this matter would make me most happy.”

Pedro de Velasco, sitting on the other side of Pacheco, leaned over and whispered in the king’s ear, “Don’t believe…” But the music started again and drowned out the rest of his words. She took a drink of wine and watched out of the corner of her eye as Enrique’s mouth dropped into a sour grimace. Pacheco, listening closely, nodded at Velasco’s little speech. Irritation sputtered to life in her mind and she had difficulty keeping her face neutral as she gently set down her goblet. May it be to me, be it ever so severe, if when I am queen, I do not pay back to Enrique’s inner circle the due penalty for their venomous influence on the king against me! 

Just then, the door to the great hall opened and a squire entered. He ran up to the dais and bowed. “My king, my princess, Archbishop Carrillo has arrived from the country!”

Ysabel froze. Carrillo? Her heart pounded, but she hid her excitement. If this had anything to do with the marriage contract with Ferdinand, his presence could endanger everything. She didn’t want to complicate things by showing suspiciously eager expressions. When she noticed Enrique, Pacheco, and Velasco looking at her, she rounded her eyes innocently and returned their stares. “I know nothing, my lords,” she demurred. Enrique looked back at the boy, but Pacheco and Velasco held Ysabel’s gaze.

“Tell him that we will welcome him momentarily in the chapel,” Enrique informed the squire. Ysabel dropped her eyes as the servant left. Enrique watched the dancers for a moment then rose. “Pacheco and Ysabel, you will both accompany me,” he commanded. Velasco jumped, his gaze flitting back and forth between Pacheco and Ysabel.

Pacheco, however, stared at the King. “My lord king, do you think it’s wise for her to joins us?”

Velasco nodded. “I would not advise you to take her, sire. We know that she and Carrillo are plotting something–“

“Do you think his appearance has anything to do with us?” Enrique replied tersely. “Besides, there’s nothing they can do while we are with them.” He looked down at Pacheco. “Come! He’s waiting for us!”

Pacheco pursed his lips but rose from the table and glared at Ysabel. As they walked towards the door, he fell behind the king and grabbed her arm. To anyone watching, it would look like he was courteously escorting her, but as he squeezed the flesh above her elbow, she had to focus on Enrique’s back to keep from grimacing. “Try anything, and I will see to it that the king makes your life miserable,” he murmured in her ear.

“What could you possibly fear that I would try?” Ysabel cooed back. Pacheco squeezed again until Ysabel had to bite her tongue to keep from whimpering.

“You don’t have as much power as you think you have. And have the king’s ear. Don’t ever forget that.” As he let go, Ysabel dropped her gaze to the carpet leading to the Great Hall door. Her arm throbbed, but she refused to rub it.

When Ysabel saw Archbishop Carrillo a few minutes later, her shoulders relaxed. She had missed her wise friend greatly. Carrillo bowed to Enrique and repeated the motion to Ysabel, adding a fleeting but encouraging smile for her. He ignored Pacheco completely.

“We welcome you to court, Archbishop,” Enrique said. “I trust your journey was uneventful?”

“Quite so, my king,” Carrillo replied with a deferential nod of his head.

“To what do we owe the gift of your presence?” Pacheco asked tersely.

Ysabel raised an eyebrow. The two had always disliked each other, but to launch into business this early in the conversation was simply rude. Carrillo, however, only smiled tightly. “Two reasons. First, I came to enjoy myself at court for a few days. Second, I have my doubts about the confessors that my lord the King keeps, so I came to hear anyone confess who may feel the need.”

“That is quite gracious, your excellency,” Enrique said with a smile. “I know that I would be happy to put you to that use. I, too, have doubts about them, but what can I say? I can’t pack them off to a monastery and send for others; for how can I know if the new ones would offer me such cheap indulgences?” He chuckled.

“Should it please my king, I would also like to confess to him,” Ysabel said to Enrique. His laughter died instantly. Every stone saint, standing in their alcoves, seemed to hold their breath waiting for the king’s reply.

“You? What purpose could you possibly have in confessing to him?” Enrique snapped.

“If my lord is doubtful that the confessors that we have at court truly have the ear of God, then I want to be sure that someone can hear me who can ensure that my sins will be forgiven.”

Enrique sputtered, glancing at Pacheco for help. The king’s adviser glared at Ysabel, but said nothing.

“I believe her highness’ request is a valid one, sire,” Carrillo said. “If it please you, we can do so right here and now. You can stay in the room even, so long as you give us space for the Princess’ privacy.”

Ysabel forced herself not to look meaningfully at Carrillo. Here? Now? Enrique, however, calmed considerably. “Well, if you must, I suppose I can’t stop you.”

Pacheco shook his head angrily. “Sire, you can’t! They’ll–“

“They’ll what? We’re right here and can hear every word they say.”

My thoughts exactly, Ysabel thought as Carrillo gently took her arm to steer her toward the confessionals. She jumped as his fingers brushed her sore elbow.

“You’re making a mistake, sire!” Pacheco hissed.

The fight continued as Carrillo moved his hand to Ysabel’s back as they continued towards the back of the chapel. “Are you hurt?” He whispered.

“It’s just a bruise. But what are you thinking?” She hissed back. Fortunately, the conversation behind them was loud enough to cover their words.

“That you are a very clever princess, and that this may be the only time you and I can make a few secure plans without spies listening on the other side of the door.”

Ysabel’s throat constricted, heat rushing to her face. “And instead of spies, we have two archenemies in the room with us!”

“Do you honestly think they’ll be able to hear us over themselves?”

As they reached the confessionals, Ysabel looked back at them. “How do you expect me to promote your good if you refuse to listen to me at critical moments?” Pacheco yelled, “This is exactly what happened when Prince Alfonso began the rebellion!”

“As I recall, you started that! You and Carrillo!”

“Only because you wouldn’t listen to me in the first place! If you had, your right to reign would never have been contested!”

Ysabel smiled and stepped into the confessional. Carrillo was right. She closed the door and waited until the Archbishop did the same. Then she said loud enough to convince the two men across the church, “Forgive me, father, for I have sinned.” She glanced out of the wicket door at them. The two were still shouting at each other, glancing over at the confessionals occasionally.

“Not so loud, my daughter,” Carrillo said just as clearly, then whispered feverishly, “I have the marriage contract from Aragon. Both Juan and Ferdinand signed it.” Ysabel’s heart leaped in her chest. Once she signed it and participated in a troth-plight, or betrothal ceremony, nothing– not even the evil men yelling on the other side of the chapel– could legally stop their marriage. Before she had time to respond, Carrillo continued, “In this godless court, I assume you’re the only one who uses the private chapel?”

“Of course,” Ysabel said loudly, responding to both their faux conversation and their whispered one.

“Good. Meet me there after the midnight prayer service for the proxy troth-plight. I’ll be late to ensure our security. My son will stand in for King Ferdinand.” Taking a deep breath, he spoke a short Latin blessing.

Ysabel nodded and took a deep breath. Then she cleared her throat and said for Enrique and Pacheco, “Shall I confess my venial sins first?”

“If you so choose, my daughter,” Carrillo said with a wink through the confessional window.


Dark and still was the private chapel that night, the echoing light from her prayer candle flickered on the statue of the Virgin Mary. The feast had ended a couple of hours ago, and Ysabel had used the time to pray for God’s guidance and blessing. Although she had started with Saint Joseph, the patron saint of marriage and family, she had moved to the private chapel and the Virgin Mary after the midnight prayers. Now, as she waited for the Archbishop, Ysabel watched the blessed mother as she prayed. Tonight, her fate would be sealed.

I’m breaking faith with Enrique… Can God bless that? A guilty knot that had been forming in Ysabel’s stomach constricted again as she remembered the bruise on her arm. Already, it was a livid purple and shaped like Pacheco’s fingers. She rubbed her abdomen and took a deep breath. Steeling her nerves, she whispered to herself, “Enrique faulted first. That renders my promises null and void.” Despite the logic, the knot remained.

“My princess?” Beatriz Bobadilla gently whispered from behind. “Archbishop Carrillo and his son have arrived.” Ysabel clutched her stomach. The knot had turned into a stone. Nonetheless, she rose from the velvet kneeler and squared her shoulders. Across from her, in the back of the chapel, Archbishop Carrillo and a younger man bowed deeply. Ysabel studied the younger man. He had Carrillo’s high cheekbones, piercing gaze, and Grecian nose, but overall, his features were much more pleasing than his father’s. What a pity he’s illegitimate. He could have made a name for himself in court otherwise.  She walked back to them and curtsied. “Welcome, Archbishop.”

“Thank you, Princess Ysabel. May I introduce my eldest son, Troilos Carrillo.”

Ysabel bowed her head slightly towards Lupe. “King Ferdinand and I are grateful to you for this service. You honor us and your country.”

Troilos smiled and bowed again. “To stand in for his highness is a privilege I will remember to my dying day.”

Carrillo glanced back at the closed chapel door. “Your highness, if you are ready, we must begin. Although our friend Gonzalo Chacón is guarding the door, we can’t be certain that we won’t be interrupted.”

Ysabel nodded and Troilos offered his hand to escort her back to the altar. As soon as they reached it, Carrillo turned to them. “We are gathered here in the sight of this witness,” he nodded to Beatriz, “to establish a contract of matrimony between the Lady Ysabel, Princess of Asturias, and Ferdinand of Aragon.” From the folds of his robe, Carrillo pulled out a parchment and opened it. “To assure the ready and free consent of Ferdinand, I will now read the marriage contract. ‘I, Lord Ferdinand, by the grace of God, king of Sicily along with his Majesty, the King, my very honorable father, with whom I reign jointly in the said kingdom of Sicily…”

Ysabel listened carefully as Carrillo read through all twenty-four points of the contract, outlining the compromises that they had reached over the last few months. All in all, she was very pleased with it. Although she and Ferdinand would reign jointly upon inheriting the realms, she would be in no way subservient to her husband. In fact, in many of the points, Ferdinand promised to gain her consent before making decisions.

Carrillo carefully handed the parchment to Beatriz, then turned to Troilos. “Dost thou, as Ferdinand’s representative, agree to follow this contract?”

“I do,” Troilos replied solemnly.

“And dost thou,” Carrillo turned to Ysabel, “agree to follow this contract?”

“I do,” Ysabel said clearly.

He turned back to Troilos. “Then repeat after me. ‘I, for his majesty, King Ferdinand…”

“I, for his majesty, King Ferdinand,” Lupe repeated, taking Ysabel’s hand in his.

“Do solemnly swear…”

“Do solemnly swear…”

“That I will take thee, Princess Ysabel, to wed.”

“That I will take thee, Princess Ysabel, to wed.”

Ysabel smiled, and repeated the same vow as Carrillo prompted. Then, he said, “Beatriz, please bring the wine and fruit.”

Beatriz retrieved a silver platter from the window alcove. On it was an ornate goblet filled with red wine and two kiwi wedges. Ysabel looked from the kiwi to Beatriz and raised an eyebrow. Especially since becoming Princess of Asturias, Ysabel had attended many troth-plights. “Kiwi, Beatriz?” she whispered, letting go of Lupe’s hand. “That’s not a very romantic fruit. Why not an apple? Or at least some other fruit representing love.”

Beatriz blushed under Ysabel’s gaze. “The kitchen was out of apples, and the pineapples haven’t come on yet. This was all I could find this afternoon. At least it’s fresh…” She explained apologetically.

A smile slowly crept around Ysabel’s mouth. Of all the things that could go wrong just now–and so far hadn’t–eating a kiwi ought to be the least of her worries. “No matter. Continue the ceremony.” Troilos nodded and took one of the pieces and handed it to Ysabel, then took the other himself. Then, they looked to Carrillo for the blessing.

Carrillo raised his hand. “As ye take–“

“Shhh!” Beatriz hissed, looking towards the door of the private chapel. “Footsteps!”

Ysabel froze. Sure enough, there were footsteps echoing on the stone floor outside.

Click here for part 4!


Author’s Notes

Much thanks to Deacon Rick Childress for helping me out with the nuances of Catholic prayers and confessions! I would have been lost without his willingness to help me in this area.

Several of these characters are known in this part of the world by the Anglicized form of their names, but I have chosen to keep their Old Spanish names. Following is a complete list, along with their Anglican names: Enrique (Henry), Juan (John), and Ysabel (Isabella).


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For Further Exploration


Isabella of Castile: The First Renaissance Queen by Nancy Rubin

Isabella: The Warrior Queen by Kirstin Downey

Twelth Night by William Shakespeare, pg. 105 The New Hudson Shakespeare ©1911

Early Modern Spain: A Documentary History ed. John Cowans, pg. 7-9


Cabrera, Andrés de. Marquis of Moya (1430-1511) by MCN Biografias

The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church by Florida International University

Fruits by Season in Spain by fruitinfo.com

Fruits of Love by manhattanfruitier.com

How Did People Tell Time in the Middle Ages? by Quora

Marriage in the Middle Ages by The Finer Times

The Ritual of Marriage by The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia


Birth, Marriage, and Death pt. 2 of 3 by BBC


6 thoughts on “Ferdinand & Isabella, pt. 3: The Troth…

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