Сontent | Library | Late Middle Ages

...the great peril that we face it we do not impede what is very to happening. And if it should happen, I expect that I shall not see it, because I shall have gone to carry out my duty.[1]

The early months of 1587 were bitterly cold in Castile, with 'ice and snow never before seen in this time of the year'.[2] In the Casa de Campo all the ponds froze. Several Flemish courtiers put on for the court a display of ice-skating, a sport unknown in Spain.  Philip, well wrapped up inside his coach, went out to see the skaters, and made the acquaintance of one of them, the newly arrived Jean Lhermite[3]. At San Lorenzo some weeks later it snowed during Holy Week. The monks on Palm Sunday could barely carry the palms for the bitter cold. 'We thought here this Easter that we would freeze,' the king wrote; 'it cannot be called an Easter of flowers because they all froze, and the fruit as well, so that food will I think be in short supply this summer.'[4] His poor health was now continuous. In May he was 'in bed, crippled by gout.' Confined to a chair, he could barely walk for the gout in his fleet. 'This gout is so persistent,' he wrote in July, 'that it won't let me go. It won't let me walk without help, and for five or six days now has not let me walk at all. It has been worst in this hand, not letting me write or do anything. Nor has my eyesight been very good.'[5] Since the previous summer, he had not had full use of his right hand. 'In order not to tire my hand,' he wrote to Carlo Emanuele in May, 'I am leaving some matters for another letter.'[6]

Deprived of Catalina, he relied more and more on Isabel. It was a common sight during their sojourns at San Lorenzo to see father and daughter walking slowly together, unaccompanied, through the grounds of the monastery. When he felt better, the king also went out for excursions [269] into the countryside. His beard and hair now were white, his face thinner and wan. But he held himself firm and erect.