Friday, May 15


The Requiem of Ferdinand of Aragon, 1516

"Almost two months later, on 13 March 1516, Charles [V], now undoubted King of Spain, wrapped in a black mourning cloak, set out in procession with his fellow knights of the Golden Fleece from the ducal palace in Brussels to the cathedral of St. Gudule to celebrate a requiem for a dead knight. Two thousand burghers lined the streets holding oil-soaked flambeaux, their shafts wrapped in black cloth, while in the cathedral, the interior was bright from innumerable candles and tapers. The elaborate tapestry wall-hangings and the rich cloth-of-gold frontals, the gilded side altars and the great high altar itself, all shimmered in the flickering light. The knights took their place under their banners, Charles closest to the pulpit. The chaplain of the order preached a sermon on the theme that 'This is a dance of death which all must read, even kings and princes. This is the irrevocable law of life. Scepters and crowns must fall. Let us not forget how swiftly joy and feasting may run to mourning and lamentation.' Then the heralds of the order twice issued the summons into the echoing silence of the church: 'Don Ferdinand!' Three times the answer came back, 'He is dead.' Then his banner was lowered to the ground, and the herald rose again calling loudly, 'Long live their catholic Majesties Queen Juana and King Charles!' Then Charles came forward, letting slip his mourning cloak and stood alone before the high altar. The Bishop of Badajoz took a short jeweled sword or dagger from the altar, where it had been blessed, and gave it to the new king. He raised it on high, pointing to the four corners of the cathedral, signifying the world, and a great shout rang out from all parts, 'Vivat, Vivat, rex!'

--Andrew Wheatcroft, The Habsburgs: Embodying Empire, 1995, p. 115.

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