Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Spaniard and the Earl of Derby

One of the Spanish maids of honour that accompanied Princess Catharine of Aragon to England upon her marriage to Prince Arthur in 1502 was Maria de Rojas (b.1488). Maria was the daughter of Francesco, Count of Salinas. After the death of Prince Arthur, Maria remained in England with Princess Catharine, and in 1504 she was being courted by the Earl of Derby. 

Thomas Stanley

Thomas Stanley (1485-1521), at the time of the courtship, had only recently succeeded his grandfather as the Earl of Derby in November 1504, as Thomas' father had already died. 
Thomas Stanley was betrothed in 1498 to Elizabeth Wells, a granddaughter of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. An advantageous marriage for the future earl, however as Elizabeth Wells' mother Princess Cecily of York had died in 1498, the betrothal was cancelled as the marriage did not take place. Therefore, in 1504, Thomas Stanley was a young and wealthy nobleman - and quite without a wife. He would have a matrimonial prize among the ladies of the royal court, who would unquestioningly marry well as he had been previously betrothed to a daughter of a king.

It would appear that Catharine of Aragon approved of the match between Maria and Thomas, and wrote to her parents, the King and Queen of Spain, about giving their permission for the marriage to take place. King Henry VII of England also gave his approval for the marriage, however as Maria was a Spanish subject, he chose to leave the decision to the Spanish monarchs.
However, there was someone who was highly opposed to the marriage going ahead; Catharine of Aragon's duenna Dona Elvira Manuel. Elvira wanted Maria to marry her son Inigo Manrique. Inigo was also a member of Princess Catharine's household, as the Master of her Pages. Maria herself was a matrimonial prize, as she was the only child, and heiress, of a wealthy landowner in Spain.

The following letter was written by De Puebla, the Spanish ambassador at the English royal court, to the King and Queen of Spain.

Her Highness the Princess is writing at the present time to your Highnesses ; and, according to what she has told me, it is about a marriage of Doña Maria de Rojas, respecting which I desire to make known to your Highnesses what has taken place. Some few days ago the King's step-father, who was Constable of the Realm and Earl of Derby, died. He left as his heir, a grandson, the son of his eldest son, who is 22 years of age. But, in addition to what he has by right of succession from his father, he inherits from his mother, so that he is, at present, the best match in the kingdom. I have told Doña Rojas she must not venture to conclude such a match without the permission of your Highnesses, telling her what I had done in a similar case. At the same time I have not neglected to learn the wishes of the King of England ; and I find that it is quite certain he desires this marriage more for Doña Maria De Rojas than for any other lady in his kingdom. Notwithstanding, the King does not wish to conclude the matter, excepting with the consent of the family, who make some little difficulties. But even supposing that they might, in the end, consent, I would not meddle in the matter without being first directed by your Highnesses. I entreat your Highnesses, therefore, to inform me what you think will be most for your interests, and if you should decide that I am to conclude this business, it will be necessary to know what will be given with her for a marriage portion, since the property which Doña Maria has in Spain is in the hands of your Highnesses. For, if the future husband of Doña de Rojas should not be able to obtain her property in Spain, this, or any other marriage, would be impossible, even with a man possessed of much less money. 5 Dec 1504

It can be presumed that the response from the Spanish monarchs was not one of approval as Maria returned to Spain not long after this letter was sent. She was replaced in her position in Catharine's household by Maria de Salinas. Once back in Spain, Maria was married to Don Alvero de Mendoza y Guzman. The couple had four children together; Luis, Alvero, Ines and Francisca. 
It was not long after that Thomas Stanley married, on the 17th December 1505, to Anne Hastings. Thomas and Anne had three children together; Edward, Margaret and John.

Due to Maria's close relationship with Catharine of Aragon during the period of her first marriage to Prince Arthur of England and the few years after, Maria was sought out in Spain for her testimony concerning the divorce of Queen Catharine and King Henry VIII. Maria was questioned via written correspondence from the English royal court to the Lord Mayor of Madrid, near to where Maria was living with her husband and children.

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