Re-imagining Cardenio

Souring relationships

January 5, 2011

It was such an unlikely event to have occurred. Gabaleone must have thought he had so nearly secured an enormously important royal match, coupling the line of his royal master, Testa di Feu ('Fire Head'), with the crown of England.

After the prince's funeral, the Savoyard ambassador prepared to return home to Turin. Foscarini writes: “Last Saturday, Gableone took his leave of the King.” Apparently James insisted that Savoy could count on the support of England as if the marriage had taken place, and to show his affection for the ambassador he made him a Knight of the Rose (“A Cavalliere di Rosa” says Foscarini) with “the right to wear the rose of England and the thistle of Scotland as crest to his arms.” In a personal gesture of goodwill the king then took off his finger a diamond worth a thousand five hundred crowns and gave it to Gabaleone.

The ambassador's personal influence can also be marked by the fact that the queen herself received him, and spent an hour in conversation with him “though living as much retired as possible” and she too gave Gabaleone a ring, a diamond cluster, of a similar value to the king's gift.

It is possible that the Savoy Ambassador had an idea that he would at some point propose that the Infanta Maria might be an eligible bride for the new heir to the throne, young Prince Charles.

When he returned in June, it is not surprising perhaps that he should be graciously entertained by their royal highnesses, and that the king would command his players to revive the Spanish play they had written especially for the Christmas season, and which because of sad and unforeseen events, the Savoyard ambassador had missed.

There is no record of the play being registered for publication at this time, so, as far as we know, there is no possibility that the Savoyard ambassador returned with a copy of the play to the Court in Turin, and probably little point therefore in launching a search of the Ducal libraries for evidence of its survival.

In fact, as it seems relationships with Spain were distinctly souring at this point, there would perhaps have been little market for a play on a Spanish subject. If the Extraordinary Ambassador to the Court of King Philip in Spain had deigned to attend the wedding Masque and seen the Virginian Indians proclaiming the success of the new colony, he would not have approved. Spain regarded the British expansion into the Americas as treading heavily on their own toes and their own territory. In fact by that time they had launched a fleet of eight warships. James' spies could not initially discover whether the fleet was bound for Ireland, or for the new colony. But the new friendly relationship seemed very close to being over.

We have no idea if the June 8th performance represents the last performance of Cardenio, but it is possible that three weeks later the script was lost forever.

Note: Spare a thought for the Infanta from Savoy who was to have married Prince Henry, what became of her? Maria Apollonia was the same age as Henry. She never married, but like her sister Francesca, she became a nun. Her older brother Maurice had already become a cardinal and bishop of Vercelli aged 14. It seems she ended her days making copies of the family's most precious possession, the Turin shroud, for friends. At least seven are known to exist.

by Greg Doran  |  No comments yet

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