Lot 44: Ferdinand and Isabella Mete out Justice: "Because of a certain offense he committed against a woman, had his hand cut off and was banished from this city for as long as we see fit"
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: Ferdinand and Isabella Mete out Justice: “Because of a certain offense he committed against a woman, had his hand cut off and was banished from this city for as long as we see fit” ********** FERDINAND OF ARAGON (1452-1516) and ISABELLA OF CASTILE. (1451-1504). Catholic King and Queen of Castile, Aragon, Sicily, and Naples; patrons of Christopher Columbus. DS. (“I the King,” & “I the Queen”). 1p. Small folio. Segovia, August 4, 1494. To Doctor Alonso Ramírez de Villaescusa. In Spanish with translation. ********** The King and the Queen********** Doctor Alonso Ramírez de Villaescusa, our chief magistrate of the noble city of Valladolid: the Bishop of Palencia, senior chaplain in our household and Council, has given us an account of how Fernando Latonero, because of a certain offense he committed against a woman, had his hand cut off and was banished from this city for as long as we see fit; and who, having being forgiven by the said woman, has begged us to lift the said banishment. Therefore, if this be so, we order you to allow and permit him to enter and remain in the abovementioned city, for we hereby are lifting the aforementioned exile and giving license for it; and do not go contrary to what is ordered. From the city of Segovia on the fourth day of the month of August, in the year [one thousand four hundred and] ninety four. ********** I, the King I, the Queen********** By command of the King and the Queen, [signed] Juan de la Parra********** Ferdinand and Isabella began to consolidate their power upon their marriage in 1479, and with the implementation of the 1489 Ordinances of Medina they established Valladolid as the permanent seat of the Royal Audencia, the highest court in the Spanish judicial system. They also created the Royal Council or Council of Castile, which appointed municipal judges such as our letter’s recipient, Alonso Rodriguez de Villaescusa, to enforce their laws at a local level. The establishment of the Council was an attempt by Ferdinand and Isabella to diminish the power of the nobility by taking aim at the Cortes Generales, the body which controlled taxation. The monarchs’ unification of the Castilian judicial system became integral to the pacification of Castile, making it one of the continent’s first strong nation states. ********** Our document cites another of Ferdinand and Isabella’s trusted officials, the Bishop of Palencia Alonso de Burgos (active 1477-1499), who was the royal court’s confessor and special advisor to the Catholic monarchs. The Dominican priest held judicial positions in addition to his ecclesiastical ones, including president of the Council of Castile. In that role, he helped secure funding for Christopher Columbus’ celebrated voyage to the new world. ********** Our document was signed in the midst of Spain and Portugal finalizing the historically important Treaty of Tordesillas that divided newly discovered territories east (to Portugal) and west (to the Crown of Castile) between the two powerful maritime nations. Ferdinand and Isabella signed the agreement in July 1494 and Portugal finalized it in early September. It resolved a dispute created by Columbus’ epic first voyage, the findings of which he first reported on his way back to Spain to Portuguese King John II in Lisbon, and which violated the 1479 Alcaçovas Treaty between the two countries. Concurrent to the treaty, Columbus was on his second voyage to the New World. He had recently returned to Hispaniola where he proclaimed himself governor in late August 1494. ********** In addition to the Catholic monarchs, our document is signed by court scribe Juan de la Parra, who has added on the verso “Which I complied with as their Highnesses had dispatched it and ordered it to me, on behalf of their Majesties, on the sixth of August.” ********** Regarding the punishment mentioned in our document, it is worthwhile noting that the Spanish writer, Hernando del Pulgar (1436-c.1492) commented about Isabella: “She was very inclined to justice, so much so that she was reputed to follow more the path of rigor than that of mercy, and did so to remedy the great corruption of crimes that she found in the kingdom when she succeeded to the throne,” (quoted in “Historiography with License: Isabel, the Catholic Monarch, and the Kingdom of God,” Isabel la Católica, Queen of Castile: Critical Essays, Boruchoff). ********** Scattered age toning and light wear. Paper strengthening along the folds on the verso and in very good condition.