A House Made of Gold and Roses.

Chapter 16: The end of the Neapolitan rebellion and the Mediterranean pacification (1496-1499).
Chapter 16: The end of the Neapolitan rebellion and the Mediterranean pacification (1496-1499)

The Neapolitan embassy reached Atienza on August 15, 1495, the same day that a despondent Giovanni Borgia was found dead after a heavy drinking session with his few loyal captains at Puzzuoli. After being offered the crown to his son, Margarita replied that, before the offer could be accepted, the Royal Council of Castille had to be consulted. Eight days later, the council advised the queen to accept the offered crown. After this, the queen decided to send 2,500 knights and foot soldiers to Naples. On September 13, the Aragonese troops laid siege again to Naples, but it became a failure and the siege was raised on October 3. Ricardo then withdrew and attempted to conquer Benevento, but without luck. Then he attacked and sacked Foggia (October 9) and after this he took Bari (October 31), which became the stronghold of the royalist forces. There Ricardo I settled his Neapolitan court and the administration of the kingdom. By then, the king only controlled Bari, Tarento and Potenza. On November 12, he returned to Barcelona to face the likely Castilian invasion. His father, Richard of Gloucester, who had taken care of the kingdoms in his son's absence, was sent to Bari.

In late November, the Castilian forces, under the command of Íñigo López de Mendoza y Quiñones, Marquis of Mondéjar and count of Tendilla, invaded Aragon, taking Belchite. When Ricardo arrived at Zaragoza at the head of his forces, de Mendoza withdrew back to Castille and, in January 1496, both kingdoms reached a fragile truce. Meanwhile, Richard of Gloucester left Bari at the head of a powerful army and laid siege to Foggia in March, taking the city on July 6. This disaster for the rebels forced the Castilian court to hurriedly send reinforcements to Italy. That same month the rebels suffered a new disaster when the governor of Salerno, Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, defected to the royalist side, shocking the rebel council at Naples. After this, the condottiero Bertoldo Del Balzo Orsini and the Castilian commander, Rodrigo Téllez Girón, mustered their forces to meet the loyalist offensive. Thus, when Gloucester laid siege to Benevento, Del Balzo and Téllez Girón departed to face him on the battlefield. To their surprise, Gloucester found them first, at Tressanti (November 28). Gloucester had with him 60 knights, 600 light cavalry and 1,000 infantry. Against these forces his enemies formed 130 knights, 500 light cavalry and 2,000 infantry in close ranks. Soon Gloucester daringly using his cavalry, soon had his enemies surrounded and forced them to capitulate. Even if Téllez Girón escaped, most of the enemy army and his captains were captured after the battle. The war was lost, but the rebel council refused to give in. When the moderate faction demanded to open peace talks with Gloucester, they were purged by the war faction led by Francesco de Chiaromonte.

Then Caserta surrendered to the loyalists and Margarita of Castile made a peace offer to Aragón (January 30, 1497). In Naples, the defeats and the economic crisis led many to raise their voices against the war. Those who had not dared to defy the radical war faction now began to talk openly about peace. Thus, on February 15, Ricardo I proposed to the city of Naples the same terms that he had offered to Caserta. They were rejected by the city council of the city, controlled by the radicals. Then, on March 2, the French ambassadors told the council that Louis XII was in no position to keep supporting them. When the royal army conquered Nocera, panic engulfed the city. Its demoralized inhabitants claimed for peace and desertions reduced the rebel army to a shell of its former self. Finally, Naples surrendered on March 27. To the surprise of many, Ricardo I did not punish the rebels as it was feared and expected, but for the main leaders. He had the royal estates returned, indeed and then, in September, he called the Neapolitan Parliament, where he thus ended the war without winners or losers, but had the Parliament to approve a loan of 100,000 silver pounds to the king, who used this money to compensate the loyalists for their losses and for the conquered lands that they had to return to their former owners. In addition to this, the king established that both losers and winners would have to pay the taxes (the "censales"), but with some differences that "would redress the former while not damaging the latter".

Once Naples was pacified and the trade route to Alexandria was once more running safe, Ricardo turned West, both to give a new breath to the trade with England and Flanders and to begin in earnest the discovery of a new way to Catay. Using Melilla and Mazalquivir as a starting point, the Aragonese explorers Pere Margarit and Miguel Ballester surveyed the Moroccan Atlantic coast but found their way blocked by the Portuguese navy and settlements in the area and the Castilian Canary islands. Thus, when he was informed of this setback, Ricardo began to plan a way to remove both crowns out of his way.

Meanwhile, after the success of the Taules de Canvi created in the first decade of the 15th century, which became small public banks by the late 1450s, became the first source of loans to the crown and the cities and, by the early 1490s, half of the citizens of Barcelona, Valencia and Zaragoza trusted their savings to those Taules, which gave them the chance of increase the size and the scope of their business. The victory of the Sicilian and Neapolitan rebels had allowed Aragon to reassert its dominion on the local markets, which during the war were again open to Genoa, whose merchants and government had supported the rebels. Now, Genoa was excluded again from the south of Italy, even if Ricardo would open, later on, a friendly policy towards la Superba that would last almost to the end of his life (from 1499 to 1512). The Aragoneses were ready to take profit of its financial expertise, with some kind of success as some Taules de Canvi would be reformed following the model of the Bank of Saint George and the Banca Carige. However, this rapprochement would collapse in the 1520s, as we shall see. However, by then the Aragonese economy had not only expanded but also modernized thanks to the relation with the Genoese bankers.

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Chapter 17 The Discovery of Africa and the Aragonese Military Reforms (1500-1504)
Chapter 17 The Discovery of Africa and the Aragonese Military Reforms (1500-1504)

It is possible that the ills of Ricardo I of Aragón were caused by an inexplicable bout of depression caused by the stress of the Neapolitan war and that laid dormant since the end of the conflict just to break out with the death of his father, Richard of Gloucester (August 22, 1500). Gloucester had not been well for a good while since the end of the war and after Christmas of 1499, he relinquished his officers and withdrew from the court. He seemed to enjoy his new life and spent most of his time with his grandsons Jaime (b. in 1495) and Ricardo (b. 1498), but by the end of January 1499 his health began to deteriorate further as he increasingly suffered from bronchitis. During one of the visits of his grandsons, Richard suffered a momentary loss of consciousness. In April his health failed him and, during a meeting with his son, Richard collapsed. He remained in the royal palace of Barcelona to convalesce. On May 27 he returned to his palace at Pedralbes, still suffering from severe bronchitis. Then, suddenly, on August 6, Richard's health suffered a severe downturn, even if he refused to go to bed. Eventually, around close to the midnight of August 21, 1499. he lost consciousness for the last time and was carried to his bed. He died about half an hour later, August 22. The change in the mood and temper of Ricardo I that followed the death of his father began to be noticeable around 1501. His mood darkened and hardened, losing his forgiving nature, which was replaced by sudden outburst of rage. Records show that the Royal Palace of Pedralbes, the residence of Richard after he moved away from the court, was never again used as a royal residence by his son and, in 1510, the king ordered that it was annexed to the monastery that Queen Elisenda de Montcada established in Pedralbes in 1326. When Ricardo was informed of the return of Pere Margarit from their third discovery voyage, his mood seemed to recover once more, as he had opened Morocco for the Aragonese expansion.

After the failed attempts of Afonso V to expand into Morocco that were crushed in the disasters of Tanger (1437) and Arzilla (1471), North Africa had laid more or less forgotten until Margarit and Miguel Ballester landed there. Thus, after recovering Melilla in late 1495 and establishing there a small colony, Margaret moved West and conquered Castellet (1) in April 1496 as the Wattasid rule imploded once more when the Marinid attempted once more to recover his lost power. Thus, by the late 15th century, the Kingdom of Fez was too weak to face the Portuguese, Castilian and Aragonese onslaught. Two years later, the discovery by Joan de Serrallonga of a new island very much to the north of the lands discovered and explored by the English (2) had reignited the interest of the Crown in the matter, which led to Ricardo I to support the enlargement of Melilla and the conquest of Ceuta (1500), which had been briefly held by the Portuguese from 1415 to 1438. Then, the sudden death of Afonso VI of Portugal (1500) left the kingdom in the hands of the boy-king, Juan II, who was then thirteen years old. The unexpected death of the young king two months later (April 9, 1500) led to many fingers pointing at the new king, the uncle of the late king, Manuel, Duke of Beja, who became Manuel I of Portugal. Many historians claimed that Manuel took the throne to save himself, as grew up amidst conspiracies of the Portuguese upper nobility against the crown and against each other that often led to violent vendettas, as the one who murdered Manuel's older brother Diogo, Duke of Viseu, in 1494 (3).

Manuel's royal absolutism soon made him too many enemies, unifying factions by their common hatred to him. In October began the secret meetings between the conspirators led by Jaime, Duke of Braganza, a former ally of Manuel whose absolutists ways had alienated Braganza's loyalty, and the Castilian crown. Thus, the Castilian Prince of Asturias found himself being offered a crown for second, four years later, with a strong claim this time as Alfonso was a son of Afonso V of Portugal. When Manuel heard about that, he made overtures to Aragon, offering military support against France in exchange for the same support against Castille. It goes without saying that Ricardo paid no attention to these offers and turned his back to what happened in the other corner of the Peninsula. Eventually, when Alfonso, Prince of Asturias, finally crossed the border with the neighbour country at the head of a Castilian-Portuguese army, thus starting the Portuguese War of Succession (1500-1501), Aragon was busy with its two new advanced settlements (Anfa and Azamor) in the Sahara region while helping half-heartedly the Marinids against the Wattasids to keep them busy and destroying each other. The surprising news of the defeat of the Castilian army, that outnumbered its rivals, and the death of Alfonso in the battle of Vimeiro (July 18, 1501) did not alter Ricardo's strategy. As Castille plunged into chaos as Jaime, Duke of Sevilla, who was then four years old, became the new heir to the crown, Ricardo's gaze fixed in Africa. The turmoil caused by the war had increased the greed of the Aragonese king, who used the chance to conquer Arguin, using the confusion existing in the outpost caused by the civil war in the mainland (May, 1500) and then landed further south, creating a small settlement called Nova Tortosa (4), from where they began to explore the area (April, 1502).

However, an unexpected event broke again the peace in Europe. In 1499, Cesare Borgia was appointed commander of the papal armies with a number of Italian mercenaries, supported by 300 cavalry and 4,000 Swiss infantry sent by the King of France, Louis XII. Pope Alexander VI sent him to capture Imola and Forlì, ruled by Caterina Sforza (mother of the Medici condottiero Giovanni dalle Bande Nere). Despite being deprived of his French troops after the conquest of those two cities, Borgia returned to Rome in January 1500 to celebrate a triumph. In 1500 he conquered Urbino, Pesaro and Rimini, and in May 1501, Cesar was created duke of Romagna. Hired by Florence, In June 1502 he started his third campaign, being able to capture Camerino by treason, and the Republic of San Marino in 1503. Ricardo watched those events to unfold themselves with a relaxed attitude that surprised the royal council and most of the nobility and merchantmen. Then, suddenly, Alexander VI died on August 18, 1505 and, when Borgia's deadly enemy, Giuliano Della Rovere, was elected as Pope Julius II by the near-unanimous vote of the cardinals, Borgia found himself bereft of allies and support. Thus, he asked Louis XII for money and support, but the French king was neither in no position to help him nor willing to defy the Pope. Thankfully for Borgia, after another bout of malaria in Rome, Julius II died (October 17, 1505) and Cardinal Raffaele Riario became Pope Lucius IV (1505-1514) , something that the Medici family did not enjoy and, eventually, would cause the Second Italian War (1522-1526), when Francis I offered the dispossessed lords of the Romagna to submit to him in exchange for aid in regaining their dominions.

Before that could happen, Ricardo I recovered from his depression and devoted himself to reform the Aragonese armies. First he studied the defeats suffered by the late Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and then the lessons learnt during the Neapolitean Revolt (1494-1497). The beginning of the war was characterized by the actions carried out by initiative of the great lords. Thus, the failed incursion against the retreating army of Louis of Orléans (May 1495) was planned and directed by Hug Roger III, count of Pallars-Sobirà. From it then, it was Richard of Gloucester who resumed the command and with it the methodical planning of war agains thte French invaders of Aragon. This represented a considerable improvement in the coordination of efforts in a time when Aragon was fighting a two-front war over long distances. The absence of pitched battles after the Aragonese defeat suffered at the battle of Procida (October 17, 1945) is notable, except for some raids that, furthermore, ended in failure. From then on, the operations were based on the siege of the enemy fortresses (Foggia, Bari). Consequently, the employment of light cavalry prevailed over the heavy knights, and the use of infantry was gradually increased. Only in Occitania the heavy calvary remained as the main strength of the Aragonese armies.

As for mobility, the increase in artillery made necessary the dedication of abundant personnel for the preparation of lanes and roads. As an example of this, in order to transfer the pieces to the first siege of Naples (1487) it was necessary to employ almost 4,000 men. Another important advance was the progressive provision of firearms to the infantrymen, the first arquebuses, which were called espingardas. The sieges of the fortresses demonstrated the effectiveness of artillery against the defensive walls with a straight profile, where the guns managed to open wide gaps in the defences. When the war began, the Aragonese artillery park was very scarce, but strong investments and the hiring of foreign technicians (largely French and Bretons), along with the creation of workshops and construction parks in Valencia and Tarragona, which became barracks and artillery depots throughout the war. All this made it possible to have at least 100 guns, almost all of which were used during the siege of Nocera (March 1497). The first consequence of all this was the promulgation of an Ordinance (1500) updating the legislation on cavalry, reinforcing its combat capacity against the fearsome French heavy knights. The following year, the Aragonese infantry was divided in two classes by another Ordinance: half of them were to be armed with long spears shaped like the German pikes, and the other half would be armed with crossbow and espingardas. The third one (1501) created a reserve force of men, ready to be called to arms by the king, it also organized the administration of the war and would apply to all troops, whether royal or coming from levies and both in Aragon or outside from the mainland. The Aragonese pike had a 25 cm steel point attached to a 5 m pole, and was used in a very closed formation, like a box. In this way, cavalry and enemy infantry faced a monolithic block from which protruded the pikes in the first four ranks, with armored soldiers to protect them from the tremendous shock of the enemy charge.

The value of this reforms would be soon tested in the battlefield.

(1) OTL Alcazarseguer
(2) OTL Newfoundland
(3) 1484 in OTL
(4) OTL Dakar
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Rest in peace to my baby. Richard, you did so well.
He did wonderfully well. He secured the delicate regency of his son and gave him a strong kingdom that went through the dangerous process of changing a dinasty a having a minor as king without lossing not an inch of neither land nor prestige (eat that, Henry VI!). And he rests with the great Aragonese kings of old.

There lies a great king, be sure of that.
Rest in peace to my baby. Richard, you did so well.
He did wonderfully well. He secured the delicate regency of his son and gave him a strong kingdom that went through the dangerous process of changing a dinasty a having a minor as king without lossing not an inch of neither land nor prestige (eat that, Henry VI!). And he rests with the great Aragonese kings of old.

There lies a great king, be sure of that.
Rest well good prince!
Chapter 18: The Gathering Storm (1504-1514)

Panoramic view of the Saló de Cent in 2020.

Chapter 18: The Gathering Storm (1504-1514)

The war had erupted again in Italy in 1503 Just as Cesare Borgia carved a kingdom for himself, a trade dispute between Milan, in one side, and Venice and Genoa in the other had led to a French intervention as Louis XII saw his chance and invaded Milan in support of Genoa in September 1500. The city was tanken before winter fell and this scared the Italian Lords, who suddenly saw themselves caught between him and Cesare. However, Louis XIi was to surprise his enemies once more. Before England and the German Empire could react, he reached a diplomatic settlement with Miland and Venice. In exchange for a trade concession for France and Genoa and a five year peace treuce in Italy, he withdrew to Franc and dropped his claim over the Duchy of Milan. With Alexander VI as witness of the Peace of Tortona (1504). Ricardo I was worried by this development of events, as the recovery of Genoa meant troubles for the Aragonese trade.

By then, even if the Aragonese king was only 26 (in 1504), he look older, as a man in his forties. Whether he sensed the gathering of the storm or he was still depressed by the death of his father, towards 1505 a change in his style of government began to be noticed. It began in 1502, when the Consell de Cent ("Council of One Hundred" -1-) had to replce some older officials. Almost without exception these replacements were younger, and most of them came from smaller families and were thus more loya lto the king. ; it would be this round of appointments which would see Joan d’Agramunt, Jaume Rasqui and Joan Orpí begin their rise to higher offices. Thus, he would also supported a young priest from the monastery of Montserrat called Bernard Boil, who would equally make a name for himself in administration in the near future. All of these men came from more limited means, Wolsey the son of a butcher, and were promoted for their skill and talent, not their bloodlines. Thus maked a new course in the Aragonese judiciary and bureaucracy, which moved away from depending on relatives or personal friends and saw its horizons greatly enlarged. much to the benefit of the different realms of the Crown, even if Joan, the last count of Urgell, kept his role on the Royal Council, as some other members of the "old guard": after all if a man was capable, impartial, and already in position, then there was little need to replace him.

However, a small peasant's revolt -a memento of the Peasants' Wars of the last century- in Llerona which was easily supressed, made Ricardo I to felt more pressure to expand his kingdoms to ease with new lands the social pressure. Thus, the Crown encouraged the inmigration to Melilla, Castellet (2), Ceuta, Terranova (3) and Nova Tortosa (4), but with limited success (but for Terranova, who soon had two big settlements mainly populated by fishermen). The next step was the creation of another outpost, Sant Pere (5) in 1505, a natural harbour that soon attracted the attention of the Aragonese merchantmen. followed by the discovery of the islands of Sant Jaume (6). This small colonies would transform the Aragonese economy, as from those forts and trading posts the Catalans, as the Portuguese did, engaged profitably in the slave and gold trades. It was then when Ricardo I had his most daring and adventurous idea.

After the discovery of the New World, the Portuguese became obssesed by the idea of reaching India throught other route, just as Ricardo of Aragon was. However, when Bartolomeu Dias (in 1488) and Vasco de Gama (1497) vanished without a trace in their attempts to discover the passage around southern Africa, many thought that either the passage did not exist or that it was too dangerous to round it, if it existed. Thus, all the efforts to explore the southern tip of Africa ended at the end of the century. However, Ricardo was to stubborn and optimistic to give up. Having access through unknown means (problably spies) to the astronomical tables of Abraham Zacuto, and of his new type of astrolabe, a new expedition was prepared. It would depart from Valencia in 1507. Joan d’Agramunt, who had asked a leave to the king to leave his work in the royal administration of Catalonia to lead the expedition, with three ships and set sail to Sant Jaume, where d'Agraumunt, once he had his ships supplied with fresh water, food and new volunteers, departed to explore the coast of West Africa and reached the Golf de Montsterrat (7) by December 1507, where a violent storm hit the expedition, heavily damaging one of the ships, which was later on dismanted to obtain timbers for Fort Sant Sebastià, as its construction began on December 26. Then, he returned to Aragon. D'Agramaunt would return to Sant Sebastià in 1508 with a second expedition (four ships) and settlers. This time he managed to round the Cape and to reach the southern shores of Africa, landing close to the coast of Algoa Bay, near Bushman's River Mouth on March 3, 1509. In 1510, his third attempt would take him to Calicut.

Meanwhile, the Americas were in flames and the fire threatened to extend into Europe as well.

Even if the causes are many and are still disputed in endless and countless arguments between historians, facts are quite simple: in 1508 to better protect Portugal from the Castilian claims to its crown, Edward V of England married his daughter Mary with the Crown Prince, Manuel, and his elder, son, Henry, with Princess Isabel of Portugal (8). Both Portuguese princes were the nephews of Ricardo of Aragon. By then Portugal was heavily involved in the west, in the so-called Brazil, and appreciated the English help (and the Aragonese) against the never ending Castillian threat. It was a welcomed success of Edward V, who was slowly loosing his ascendant over his Burgundian ally, as Maximilian became Holy German Emperor and was in a stronger position than his ancestors. Another cold shower would come later, when the attempts to marry the new born English princess, Anne, with James, Duke of Rothesay, were received with coldness in Holyrood.

By that time, also, started the Anglo-Castillian rivalry over Central America. The Castillian explorers, departing from modern-day Venezuela, were marching north and south, both by land and sea. They had discovered the Panama Istmus and the Pacific Ocean in 1500 and, from 1507 onwards, they came into contact with the Aztecs in a place called Xoconocho (9). The Spanish had a sizable presence in the New World by 1510, but so did also the English. Thus, both realms began to try to avoid a conflict until some pirate raids began to hit the English trade in 1509. It is unknown how loong took the English to realise these attacks were orchestrated by the Castilian governor of New Castille (10), Nicolás de Ovando and his lieutenants, including Juan Ponce de León and Juan de Esquivel . Thus, from 1510 onwards, the English reinforced his presence in the arae and began to carry out anti-piracy patrols and some "unofficial" raids against some Castillian colonies in Panama. In those actions, two young English noblemen, Henry Tudor and Charles Brandon, would made themselves a name and caught his king's eye. Eventually, Tudor would be named Admiral of the English Caribbean fleet in 1512, and was ordered to chase the Castillian pirates. Through this, the English would came into contact with the Aztecs in 1514. This would take the Anglo-Castilian rivalry into a different, and deadlier, level in 1516, when Charles (b.1500), grandson of Maximilian of Austria, married María, Princess of Castille (b. 1504), the third daughter of Queen Margarita.

(1) The Consell de Cent was a governmental institution of Barcelona. It was established in the 13th century and lasted until the 18th century.
(2) OTL Alcazarseguer
(3) OTL Newfoundland
(4) OTL Dakar
(5) OTL Freetown
(6) OTL Santo Tomé
(7) OTL Walvis Bay
(8) Edward V of England (1470-1538) m Anne of Brittany (1477-1518)
  • Henry (1490-1526)
  • Elizabeth (1494-1555) m. Fernando of Aragon (b.1481), son of Ricardo I
  • Constance (1498-1530), m . Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland, KG (c. 1502 – 1537)
  • Edward (1500-1545; future Edward VI of England
  • Richard (1503-1571); future Richard I of Scotland
  • George (1505-1510)
  • Anne (1508-1571)
(9) OTL Soconusco
(10) OTL Venezuela
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Chapter 19: The birth pains of a new world (1510-1520)

D'Agramunt's first landing in India.

Chapter 19: The birth pains of a new world (1510-1520)

D'Agramunt's third trip would take him to Calicut in 1510. He had departed with five ships from Valencia on July 6 and took his two months to reach Fort Sant Sebastià, One month later, he beached at Algoa Bay, and from there explored Mozambique. When he discovered that the island was under Muslim administration, he departed to the continent. On April 2, 1511, he was at Malindi, where he met several Indian traders, but he was unable to contract the services of a pilot. Eventually, d'Agramunt, who had resorted to piracy after leaving Mozambique and had looted Arab merchant ships, was lucky when he captured an unarmed trading vessel and "persuaded" her pilot to guide him to Calicut in exchange for his life. The expedition departed to Calicut (1) on June 8, 1510. The fleet arrived at the Malabar Coast, near Calicut, on July 2. D'Agramunt was able to meet the King of Calicut, the Samudiri (Zamorin), but without success, as he failed to impress the king and his officials. After such disappointment, D'Agramunt had to struggle with the winds to return to Aragon, and it was not until early January 1511 when he saw land again, in Somalia. By the time the expedition arrived at Malindi on January 7, 1512, they were in a terrible state, as half of the crews had died during the crossing and most of the survivors were ill, a D'Agramunt barely had enough sailors to crew two of the four ships. Anyway, the rest of the sailing was smoother and, after stopping at Algoa and crossing the Cape of Good Hope, they returned to Fort Sant Sebastià (April 25, 1512). The remnants of the expedition arrived in Barcelona on July 11, 1512.

In spite of the lack of success, D'Agramunt and his men were hailed as heroes, with a triumphal procession and public festivities. He had brought with him just a few quantities of spices and some few trade goods, and that brought hope to King Ricardo I, whose ill had suffered a dangerous downturn with the death of his younger son, Jaime (1497-1511). The king became thus persuaded of the excellent trade potential of Calicut, and thus he ordered D'Agramunt to prepare a second expedition to Calicut. Thus, on March 9, 1513, the new expedition departed: 15 ships and 2,000 men and magnificent gifts to present to the Zamorin . Ricardo left nothing to chance: through peaceful negotiations or by brutal force, Aragon was to win a foothold in such a vital area before Europe would be at war. The Aragonese king was obsessed about this question, as he felt surrounded by such mortal enemies as France and Castile. However, Ricardo would not live to see the Second Expedition to India, as he died on February 20, 1513 of sorrow and heart-broken. He left two sons, Fernando of Aragon (b.1481), who had married Elizabeth of York (b. 1494), daughter of King Edward V of England: and Eduardo, Duke of Valencia (b. 1482), married to Elizabeth of Denmark (b.1485). While Eduardo was a hard realist and a zealous political calculator, his elder brother was hot-tempered and passionate, unforgiving and stubborn. In fact, his reign was determined by an event that took place when he was just the Crown Prince.

Whilst visiting Toulouse in 1509, Fernando fell in love with an Occitan lady named Esclarmonde. She became his mistress and remained with him until her death. Their relationship was not interrupted by Christian's marriage to Elizabeth of Denmark, as it was part of his father's attempt to find new allies in Northern Europe, as he rightly feared that the Empire was going to clash, sooner than later, with his English ally. Fernando and Elizabeth were married by proxy in 1514 and she arrived in Barcelona a year later. Esclarmonde died in 1517, though, and Fernando believed that she had been poisoned by some Aragonese plotters. Eventually, he had Fernando de Alagón arrested and tried. As he was a nobleman, he should have been tried by his peers. However, King Fernando II had him brought to trial by a common jury at Benasqued. He was found guilty and executed in November 1517. This act precipitated the division between the king and aristocracy, as even the Catalan noblemen, the most steadfast supporters of the crown, became horrified by such a disregard of the law and such a blatant demonstration of tyranny. Even worse, Fernando II was to follow the example set by his father to promote able men from the bourgeoisie but to a degree that tightened the relations of the king and the aristocracy.

The king was meanwhile preparing for the inevitable war with Castile and France, even if the kingdom was divided between the anti-Castilian faction, headed by a great number of the Consell de Cent, the Catalan parliament, and the pro-Castilian party, which was very strong in Valencia and Aragón. This question became a pressing matter in 1516, after the royal houses of Borgoña-Avís and Habsburg became united by the wedding of Carlos and María. Thus, in 1518 Fernando II attempted to win the support of the Aragonese faction, but the execution of de Alagón was still fresh in the minds of the Aragonese aristocrats and the advances of Fernando were rejected with coldness. A second attempt the following year came also to nothing. The danger of war seemed to diminish after the Anglo-French negotiations in the so-called Field of Gold, when Edward V of England and Francis I of France reached some sort of agreement over their disputes, removing France from the English (and Aragonese) list of enemies. Meanwhile, the religious fire created by Martin Luther's Theses threatened to break the unity of the Holy Roman Empire, and thus weakening the Castilian ally. However, when Martin Luther was eventually excommunicated in 1521, the problems of Charles V multiplied themselves, as we shall see.

However, before the religious crisis reached that climax, events had gone out of hand in the New World. Tensions had been growing in the Caribbean area, even more when Ovando sent one of his lieutenants, Hernán Cortés , with a small army and presents to win the Aztec's favour. Cort´3es arrivbed to Technotitlan by Autumn 1519 just to discover that the English had arrived before and were in a very strong diplomatic position. Even worse for Cortés, they had generously dotted the Aztec with modern weapons (some Aztec chiefs even wore European plate armours). After spending the winter there and not being able to win Moctezuma's sympathies, Cortés had found himself in a tight spot. Had not been such a stubborn man, Cortés would have given up here and there and would have returned to tell de Ovando that going north was a waste of time. Alàs, he was not that kind of man. Thus, he sent some couriers to Venezuela and prepared to find an excuse to get rid of Moctezuma and, if possible, of the English "devils" as well. What happened next is only known through the reports that the English military commander (no one else but Henry Tudor) sent to London and the diary left by a captain of Cortés named Gonzalo de Sandoval. It seems that he allied himself with several tribes, but he was only successful with the Tlaxcaltecs. Meanwhile, de Ovando had finally reacted and sent 1,100 under Pánfilo de Narváez. Narváez managed to arrive just in time to take part in Cortés's plans: he attempted to capture Moctezuma and force him to expel the English from his Empire. However, were he betrayed or simply too careless, the Aztecs (and his English allies) were waiting for him.

With around 2,000 Castilian soldiers and 1,000 Tlaxcaltec warriors, Cortés attempted to storm the palace of Moctezuma in the early hours of June 1, 1520, but found himself ambushed and his men cut to pieces while his Tlaxcaltec allies were unable to enter into the city and were slaughtered by the superior numbers of their enemies. It is not know when Cortés fell or by whom, but according to Sandoval, he was killed in the first moments of the battle (although Tudor wrote in his report that Cortés was killed while fleeing the battlefield when his forces collapsed), but his force fought an uphill battle against 20,000 Aztecs and an unknown number of English "advisors". In the end, only Sandoval managed to escape with 73 men. When he finally arrived at Cartagena de India, he had less than ten with him. When the news of the disaster arrived in Castille, it is said that Queen Margarita, who was by then 46 years old, smiled with glee. She had the casus belli she had been waiting for so long. Furthermore, she had the might of his powerful ally and son-in-law, the Emperor Charles. It was her chance to finish the English power for once and all and to settle accounts with both Portugal and Aragon.

(1) OTL Kozhikode
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Chapter 20: Europe in Flames, Part One (1520-1527)

Chapter 20: Europe in Flames, Part One (1520-1527)

When Europe finally exploded, Fernando II's attention was fixed in North Africa. In 1516 the three Reis brothers had captured Algiers from the Castilians and eventually assumed control over the city and surrounding region, forcing the previous ruler, Abu Hamo Musa III of the Beni Ziyad dynasty, to flee. In spite of his best efforts, Jaime, the Castilian Crown Prince had been utterly unable to expel the brothers from Algiers. One of them, Oruç, after consolidating his power and declaring himself Sultan of Algiers and, then, in 1517 to protect himself against Castile and Aragon, joined the Ottoman Empire, their main rival, evene if that meant relinquishing his title of Sultan of Algiers to the Ottoman Sultan Selim I, and thus Algiers became an Ottomanprovince, with Oruç as its Governor and Chief Sea Governor of the West Mediterranean. Then, in May 1518, Fernando II conquered Oran and then, with 10,000 soldiers and joined by thousands of local Bedouins, attacked two of the Reis brothers, Oruç and Ishak, at Tlemcen, where they waited him with 1,500 Turkish and 5,000 Moorish soldiers. The siege of the city lasted for twenty days but, eventually, Tlemcen fell and the two brothers were slain in the battle.

The suviving Reis brother, Khizr, was given the title of Beylerbey by Sultan Selim I, along with janissaries, galleys and cannon, inherited his brother's position. He recaptured Tlemcen in December 1519. Then, after waiting for new reinforcements, he attacked again in 1520 and captured Bone and defeated an Aragonese army that tried to recapture the city. Still in 1520, he raided Provence, Toulon and the Îles d'Hyères; in 1522, he raided the Balearic Islands and later captured several Castilian ships returning from the New World off the coast of Cádiz. In 1524 he was away, taking part in the Ottoman conquest of Rhodes, which surrendered in 1525. Just in time, as Francis of France and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V signed the treaty of Mantua (1522). In exchange of Milan returning to French hands, Francis would support his former enemy against England. Thus in the Spring of 1523 a French army formed near Amiens whilst a Spanish force landed at Flanders. However, neither the local population nor the weather helped them, but on the contrary, made their advance as difficult as possible. The "great" offensive thus ended without harming the English.

In the Aragonese front, a 8,000 strong Castilian army crossed the border towards Valencia in April 1523, but found its path blocked by Hugo de Moncada and 7,500 Aragonese troops. With a heavy storm hitting hard the Castilian fleet and forcing its withdrawal, the invading army had no other option but to return to Castille, plundering some villages on the way. Problems mounted to Fernando II, as in June 1525, Khizr Reis raided the coasts of Sardinia. Then, in 1525 too, Edward V invaded Flanders with 20,000 men. In a small version of the past chevauchées of the past century, the English forces moved around Flanders, reaching Antwerp, as if to prove that the English king could go anywhere he wished. To prove that point, he gave the French a black eye in a small skirmish that harmed the French pride more than if they had suffered a second Agincourt. Reis returned again in May 1526, when he landed at Crotone in Calabria and sacked the city, and then went to raid the Adriatic Sea but retreated after seeing the fleet of Andrea Doria and the Knights of St John off the coast of Piombino. Then, Fernando made the fatal move that would cost him his throne.

On July 26, 1526, Archbishop Angelo Leonini accused several leading citizens of Naples of heresy and of following the teaching of Martin Luther. In fact, most of them belong to families who took part in the rising against Ricardo I. His son, Fernando II, seized on this as an opportunity to cement his control over Naples by removing his opponents. He acted quickly and convened an ecclesiastical court. On 8 and 9 August, sixteen Neapolitean noblemen were executed. Even the bodies of one of the rebel captains was dug up and burnt. Several noblemen were sent as prisoners to Barcelona. The bloodbath would not to reinforce Fernando's control over Naples, rather the opposite, as it lead in short order to Naples's rebellion as the remaining Neapolitean nobility, appalled by the bloodbath, rose in arms again in March 1527, and, out of the blue, Cesare Borgia appeared in the city with his own army. In Aragon, many began to look for a way to restrain their reckless king. By 1528, in an attempt to damage the Italian allies of the Neapolitean rebels, Fernando raised the taxes which affected trade between Aragon and its Mediterranian partners. This damaged the Catalan trade and, in turn, caused a domestic rebellion against Fernando which started in Valencia on January 1529, as its Parliament offered the crown to his brother Eduardo, Duke of Valencia. In short time, Eduardo's army gained control over most of Valencia and Aragon and, in April, Fernando departed Toulouse, where he had taken refuge, to seek help abroad. On May 1, he landed in Plymouth. His brother Eduardo, now crowned as Eduardo of Aragon, Catalonia, Navarre, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Sardinia, Sicily and Naples, faced the storm that his elder brother had caused. Just in time, as Jaime, now king Jaime I after his mother's abdication, invaded Valencia again with 2,000 cavalry, 9,000 infantrymen and 1,000 artillerymen with several cannons. To face them, Hugo de Moncada, who had been stripped of most of his men by Fernando to reinforce Sicily, had barely 2,000 militiamen and one cannon to resist the Castilian tidal wave.

Overconfident, King Jaime I marched towards Valencia and, on June 14, he entered in Xativa. After it was thoroughly sacked, the city was put to the torch. Two days later, Jaime resumed his march to Valencia, ready to crush the "peasant" army that opposed him. Hugo de Moncada, hoping for reincforcements hurried from Barcelona, waited for them in the Jucar River, with his tiny army deployed covering the only ford of the area. The militia transformed the landscape into a natural fortress, effectively blocking the enemy path. Also, they broke some dykes, flooding the surrounding land. The Castilian army left Xativa in early morning under an unexpected heavy rain and, when they came closed to the river, they discovered that the land surrounding their route was waterlike and nearly impassable. Finally, about noon, the head of the army found the enemy forces. By early afternoon, the attack began. The Castilian guns opened fire a few times before discovering that the powder has been rendered wet and useless. The infantry formed the battleline and moved forward, but, to their astonishment, in spite of their ferocity, the assault of the battlements failed and the defenders held their ground. The cavalry was unable to move in the swamp that the battlefield had become and were little more that half-moving targets for the few arquibuses of the few professional soldiers that Moncada had with him. For two hours, the Castilian forces attacked the battlements, failing in face of the near fanatical defence of the militia, who were defending their homes and had the news about Xativa fresh in their minds. In the end, a reluctant Jaime ordered to stop the attack and began to withdraw under the fire of the only enemy gun. All in all, casualties were low, (70 Castilians died and 150 wounded for less than 40 Aragonese killed and wounded). Jaime I, hurt in his pride, returned home defeated.

Meanwhile, Edward V had kept Francis I of France at bay. He had caused great damage in his raids against Calais and in his invasion of Brittany but, eventually, he had been forced to withdraw by the end of the summer of 1526. However, he was not going to be reinforced soon. After Hungary was crushed by the Ottomans in the battle of Mohacs (August 1526) and the4 childless King Louis II of Hungary killed in the disaster, the Emperor was forced to turn his attention to the Balkans once more., as Hungary was divided in two, as western Hungary supported Archduke Ferdinand I of Austria, his brother, and claimant to the vacant Hungarian throne; while a noble called John Zápolya, from a power-base in Transylvania, challenged him for the crown and was recognised as king by Suleiman the Magnificent in return for accepting vassal status within the Ottoman Empire. Ferdinand set out to enforce his claim on Hungary and captured Buda in 1527 and then Charles was able to turn his attention once more to England. However, in February 1527, Clement VII proclaimed a ceasefire, to put an end to the hostilies and bring the contending factions to go into a crusade against the Ottomans. If the Pope trully hoped he could force Edward V to surrender, he could not have been worse advised. In any case, he tried. The English king was admonished to repent and to make peace with his enemies, surrendering to their claims (that is, loosing Brittany to Frances, most of Flanders to Charles and their colonies in central America), otherwise he would be excommunicated and declared a heretic. The answer of Edward V came in September of that year. He not only refused to give up his claims, but also he no longer recognised the authority of the Pope in Rome. Then, he asked the Parliament to approve the Act of Supremacy which made him and his successors as the Supreme Head of the Church, replacing the pope.

This was to place Eduardo I of Aragon in a delicate situation, as his best and stronger ally was now an excommunicated heretic; furthermore, he had little reasons to trust or even to have deals with the Holy League. Then another problem further troubled the king when, in 1528, he had to suppress revolts among the peasants in Navarre and Aragon who demanded the restoration of his brother Fernando .


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Chapter 21: Europe in Flames, Part Two (1527-1530) New
Chapter 21: Europe in Flames, Part Two (1527-1530)

Even if the rebellions were nothing to be afraid of, they were part of the mounting problems that Eduardo of Aragon was facing. To this, another one was added when Charles VIII of France decided Luis II de Beaumont (or Luis I of Navarre) to make king of all Navarre and not only of the Lower Navarre. When this rumour was heard by Queen Margarita, she decided to act first in order to avoid having such a close "ally" like the French on the other side of the Pyrénees. However, in this matter, she clashed with his son. Jaime after his last defeat in Valencia, was in no mood to fight the Aragonese. Furthermore, he was determined to pick an "easy" target like the Portuguese and thus take revenge for the death of his elder brother. In this matter, the Crown Prince was supported by the Consejo de Castilla, as it wanted to protect its western border, and by the recently created Consejo de Andalucia, also concerned with Portugal, but with a twist: to control America, Castila needed to remove Portugal, the English knife in the Castilian back. Once Portugal was no longer a threat, the Atlantic Ocean would be a bit more safer (at least more than defeating Aragon, as it was pointed out).

The need of changing the Castilian strategy seemed to be confirmed with the "Great Raid" that the English fleet launched into Venezuela in the Summer of 1527. The Castilian fleet was utterly destroyed and the Castilian colonies in Venezuela were entirely at the mercy of the English, who, nevertheless, refrained from further attacks as the bulk of their forces in the New World was send to England in the face of the great offensive that was to follow the interdict against England. However, the Holy League had his own problems. Charles had seen the Lutheran faith spreading to Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and was thus obviously concerned about it. To confirm this, most of the Northern states were moving closer to the heretics, some of them going as far as drifting towards England, be it for religious reasons or to find a powerful ally against their overlord. This was a further reason for Charles to destroy Edward V. Then, in March 1528, Charles VIII of France moved against Brittany and Charles moved to support his ally. The next campaign would be fought north, close to the shores of the English Channel.

Thankfully for Eduardo I of Aragon, his two main enemies had their attention fixed away from Aragon, but Castille remained. Thus, as Jaime I of Castille moved towards Portugal with 30,000 men, Margarita mustered as many loyalists as she could and prepared her own army to march against Navarre. Meanwhile, Charles launched 30,000 men against the English in Flanders in May. In the end, the Imperial offensive of 1528 would fail to achieve its objectives, even if it caused great losses to the English army. However, the most important fact is that, figthing the Imperials and defending Brittany from the French offensivey, it meant that England had little help to spare to neither Portugal nor Aragon. Both kings knew it, and braced themselves for the worse. Thus, the war in the Peninsula began with the siege of Braga, as Alfonso sent 15,000 men under the command of the Duke of Alba to attack the city, King Eduardo I breathed with relief, as he would not meet the bulk of the enemy forces in Navarre. King Joao III, of course, was not so pleased, and swiftly sent 8,000 men under the command of his younger brother, Luís, Duke of Beja, who managed to hold the city for four months and a half (April 19 – September 6). However, after losing half of his forces and out of resources, without any prospect of being rescued by his royal brother, Beja had to surrender with the tattered remnants of his forces. Nevertheless, he had managed to hold off the enemy offensive, as Jaime, who had lost only 1,100 men, was unable to advance as his reinforcements were away, fighting in Navarre for his mother.

Gonzalo de Córdoba, with legendary swiftness, had invaded Pamplona with barely 7,000 men and conquered Guardia and Viana in a matter of days, finding little resistance. To the North, the Beaumonteses rose again in arms, forcing the Aragonese commanders to fortify themselves in the south, around Azagra and Caparroso. Meanwhile, Eduard I rushed reinforcements to Navarre, but not his main army as conflicting reports kept the king of Aragon hesitating, unable to crush Cordoba's little army before he could receive any help. By July 1528, the Aragonese troops were under siege at Argetas, the last loyalist stronghold. Thus, Eduardo finally reacted and began to reinforce the defences around Argetas and to raise an army in the south. He quickly built his numbers. Then, his elder son, Fernando, rushed north with 12,000 men, against his father's orders, believing he outnumbered the enemy three to one. By then, Córdoba had 21,000 men with him and Fernando simply withdrew, but most of his army deserted and joined the enemy. Without a battle, Córdoba had increased his numbers and reduced one of his enemies without a battle (August 9, 1528). Even if quite disappointed with his son, Eduardo kept his sang froid and brought more reinforcing to Argetas while waiting for any friendly event. Navarre was close to be lost, but the Aragonese king had a plan to recover her in 1529, with or without the help of his English ally. Margarita, who had conquered Navarre in barely three months, prepared for the enemy onslaught as 40,000 men arrived as reinforcements from Castille. There was also another arrival, even if an unexpected one: a furious King Jaime I, who berated her mother for undermining his campaign in Portugal. However, he had to admit that the situation in Navarre was far better than he expected. Thus, leaving Alba in charge of the defence of Braga and after sending his mother to Toledo, he began to study how to take profit from the Navarrese campaign.

However, Joao III was not too willing to sit down and to wait for Jaime to decide and, in early April 1530, he put Braga under siege. To face him, Jaime I of Castille departed with 50,000 men and 30 guns, the bulk of the Castilian artillery, leaving the forces defending Navarre quite depleted. Nevertheless, in such a crucial moment, Eduardo of Aragon hesitated. As Edward V battled against the two Charles and Portugal saw the Castilian army massing at her border, the Aragonese economy began to show symptons of exhaustion. The Second Armada to India had finally opened the trade routes and the Aragonese took control of the entrances to the Indian Ocean after conquering Ormuz and Socotra in 1522 and fortresses were built in the island of Mozambique and Mombasa, on the Kenyan coast. Madagascar was partly explored and the Aragonese treasury began to notice it just in time. However, Suleiman the Magnificent, after the defeat of his European campaign, turned his attention to Ormuz. Even worse , the war in Europe put all that in jeopardy.

In fact, all the warring factions were exhausted by the war. England was suffering from both lack of men and funds; Charles V had finally crushed the Muslim armies and was trying to bring peace to Germany while kept a close eye on Edward V, waiting for the chance to destroy his forces in the field for once and all; France was bereft of a king, as Francis I had fell seriously ill during the Breton campaign and the members of the regency council began to quarrell among themselves. Meanwhile, Jaime I of Castille was caught in a deadlock and was utterly unable to defeat Joao III of Portugal. In a fast campaign he was able to force his enemy to withdraw from the Northern provinces in barely two months but, after that, he was unable to press with his advantage and soon the war became stalemated. Seeing this, Eduardo of Aragon attacked Navarre. On April 21st he began the siege of Pamplona, which fell five months later. The Castilian army withdrew in good order after being unable to help the doomed garrison of Pamplona, but to no avail. On October 29th, Eduardo's forces had surrounded a quarter of Alba's forces in Los Arcos while the remnants of the Castillian army fortified themselves in the north of Navarre and hoped for French help. By the end of the year, Alba had managed to escape, leaving behind most of his soldiers to surrender and a French attempt to counter-attack was crushed at Aibar in early December. However, by then Jaime I had returned to Navarre after leaving Portugal under the care of Gonzalo de Cordoba.

In that situation, Aragon's fate hinged on England's capacity to crush France and the Empire.

Jaime I of Castille
played by Rodolfo Sancho
in the series "The Invincible King" (2012-2014)