The Emperor Meets His Natural Son

carlosv_i1The Emperor Charles V (Charles I of Spain)

“Put my leg up.”

The servant stooped down to see that the board holding up the Emperor’s left leg was solid, then cranked it higher. The orthopedic chair was an invention of his doctor’s.
“And throw this damn shawl over my shoulders. It’s chilly this morning.”

That he couldn’t manage such a simple thing himself made the Emperor Charles cross. Gout had begun to ruin him years ago already but he would never get used to being an invalid.
And now an unspeakable sadness hit him when the servant drew back the drapes and he saw the brilliant day outside. I can’t walk in that sun anymore! I will never walk in that sun anymore!

Tranquilo, he told himself. You know what Soto would say: “Resignation, Sire”. Soto was his confessor.
Remember why you came to Yuste. You were going to renounce the world.
Yeah, but who is renouncing who? I don’t FEEL like renouncing the world, damn it!
…It’s not as though you had much choice, old man.

He popped a couple of marzapan horses into his mouth for consolation and swallowed them down after just one bite. His bite was no good because of his protruding Habsburg jaw. Unchewed food caused him endless problems of digestion and also occasional embarrassment during audiences.
“Are they out there?” he asked his servant.

“Senor Quijada and his son arrived early this morning from Cuacos, Sire. They have been waiting in the antechamber for some time now.”

“Send Quijada in alone. Tell the boy we won’t be long. Give him something to play with. Show him that silver ship from Amberes.”

Quijada barged in as soon as the door was open, went right up to the Emperor, and kissed his hand. “Sire.”
“How are you doing, old friend?” Charles asked.

Quijada was his mayordomo and Master of the Horse. He was closer to the Emperor than many of his royal relatives, though Quijada was from peasant stock. They had been together for thirty-odd years, through most of Charles’ wars, in camps as well as palaces, and Quijada had more than once saved the Emperor’s life, shielding him from crossbow bolts and escaping with him from enemy traps. For his service the Emperor had made him a knight and given him an encomienda near Valladolid.


Ruins in García del Campo (Valladolid) of Quijada’s castle

Quijada lived there in a castle with his wife and the boy and had not yet been to Yuste since Charles’ was installed.
“You’re getting too fat, Sire,” he told him now.

Quijada said what he thought and often said it without tact. Charles, who was surrounded by flatterers and pretty-spoken courtesans, liked Quijada for his blunt and truthful ways. He smiled. “I don’t get much exercise anymore. It’s not like our campaigns in Flanders when…”
“Who’s your doctor? Still that idiot Matisio?”
“He’s a great doctor.”
“He’s a coward. Why does he allow you to have all those damned sweetmeats?”
Quijada looked with disgust at Charles’ sweets table. “Gout is cured by closing your mouth, Sire. He knows that or ought to. So do you.”

The Emperor kept smiling. “Try one of these dried figs my daughter sent from Oran. Or one of her raisins.” He enjoyed teasing Quijada.
Suddenly he got serious. “What’s the boy like, Quijada?”

“He’s a good one, Sire,” said Quijada. “Quick to learn. Rides like a little elf and you should see him with a sword.
Not bad at books, either, they tell me, though you know I’m no judge there.”

Quijada was the only one in all of Spain who knew that the boy was the Emperor’s natural son by the daughter of a Salzburg comic.
When she had sent word that she was pregnant, Charles had quickly found her a husband and had them married. But after only three years the woman died and Charles gave the boy to the faithful Quijada to raise.
Not even Quijada’s wife knew. She assumed the lad was her husband’s own bastard. But she loved him and set about raising him as a great nobleman as soon as he turned up at the castle. She taught him French and Latin and court manners. Quijada himself saw to it that the boy learned riding and hunting and was skilled with weapons.

His enthusiastic report made the Emperor impatient. He had never met the boy. “Tell him to come in. I guess we’ve kept him waiting too long. Waiting is hard on a child.”
“Let him learn patience, Sire. That is also part of being a man.”
“You stay away for a few minutes, Quijada. I want to meet him alone.”

Juan de Austria’s presentation to Emperor CarlosV  atYuste by Eduardo Rosales (Wikicommons public domain photo)

(Meet the boy in The Emperor Meets His Natural Son II)


This entry was posted in books, history, Spain, travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Emperor Meets His Natural Son

  1. Pingback: Charles V Quits and Goes to Yuste | Great Names in History

  2. Pingback: The Emperor Meets His Natural Son II « Great Names in History

  3. 100swallows says:

    Expat 21: It’s true one doesn’t hear much about gout but it is still around. My baker has it and the joints of his big toes hurt him terribly. Something about uric acid crystals depositing there and elsewhere like bits of glass. Obesity doesn’t seem to be a cause but if your joints hurt it doesn’t make much sense to increase the load on them. Charles’ son Philip II had gout too and suffered very much in old age. In the Escorial they show you a chair with straps and handles made specially to carry him around. Any little bit of movement made him howl.
    Yes, nowadays the Habsburg jaw would be corrected with surgery.
    Any other questions for Doctor Swallows?

  4. 100swallows says:

    Erika: Thanks for all your sweet compliments. When I start to charge I’ll give you a month’s reading absolutely free. And for the advice. Maybe you are right. WordPress doesn’t allow ads, does it?
    Publishing a novel online, as long as it has already been written, might be tried. But publishing a chapter at a time BEFORE the whole novel is finished seems real virtuosity or recklessness (trapeze somersaults without a net to catch you if you fall). I marvelled when I read that writers like Charles Dickens could do that. Ken Fowlett says he works out every detail of the plot and characters, even down to the chapters, before he begins to write. I find I have to make little corrections in chapter one all the time while writing chapter two or three. Writing historical fiction also requires research. Now, for instance, having gotten hold of another biography of Charles V, I learned that in the codicil he attached to his will he recommended that Jeromín become a clergyman. And that his mother was a singer. I could have, should have, made something of those facts in the story.

    Of course a post is not the same as the chapter of a novel. A post must be SHORT—or so I tell myself. I don’t hold out long at anyone else’s blog. Still, once you’ve hooked a reader and he comes to read a “chapter”, I guess length (a little) can be allowed.

    Another thing is your aim in writing. Brown’s priority was to entertain. Mine, at least in the blog, is to inform, educate. It is another way of presenting the basic facts of history.

  5. erikatakacs says:

    It sounds like Chapter 1 of a good novel. If the story is interesting, they will read through the history parts, which by the way are not boring at all. You make the historic figures come alive. I know I mentioned him before, but look at Dan Brown’s success. What could be possibly be a more boring subject than the politics of the Catholic church served with history and art history lessons. But millions of average people read through it and maybe even learned a thing or two.

    You don’t need to chase publishers nowadays, the Internet, your blog can be tools to reach a wide audience. Gotta be creative. Look, everybody with a computer reads newspapers on the net. The paper version of them are hardly making any money anymore. But I’m sure the net compensates them with all the flashy ads.
    You could publish a novel on your blog in installments and place Google ads on the pages. It’s not a sellout, it can be done in an unobtrusive way, you pick where you place them. You could make some money to get started. A lot of good quality websites make money to self-sustain themselves this way, it’s nothing wrong with it. People understand. And that’s just one idea, basically a no-brainer. Who knows how many other great possibilities are out there.

    It’s a really good story and an easy read. You’re an excellent writer.

  6. expat21 says:

    How old was he at the time he had gout? What causes gout exactly? (People are overeating much more in the modern world, but we don’t seem to be hearing about gout–I wonder why not?) I wonder what people of this time would think if they could see nearly all children going to orthodontists as they do today…..

    Looking forward to the next installment.

    Thanks for adding me to your blog roll!

    Expat 21
    “Expat Abroad” in the Middle East

  7. 100swallows says:

    Danu: Thanks for the nice things you say, Danu. You are a writer’s dream reader—interested, knowledgeable, with your own accompanying ideas and imagination. For you I’d assemble the stories and print the book right now. But it looks to me like self-published books reach even fewer people than a blog. And a publisher is after a dream buyer, not a dream reader. How many people would really read something about Cervantes or Carlos V, let alone shell out good money to do it?

  8. ivdanu says:

    I wonder, G, when will you asemble all these wonderful stories of yours in a book?! (I hope I don,t give ideeas to the ideea thieves!)

    I would love to read a book like that – since I really love reading your stories on the blogs… and then re-read them…

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