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Spanish Grant of Arms [Jan. 10th, 2012|02:43 pm]
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A while ago (as in about six years ago), I was lucky enough to be able to buy a Spanish Grant of Arms, granted by Felipe II to one of the few surviving conquistadors. Large document, lavish and excellent calligraphy and illumination, colored out the wazoo, and generally really, really nice to look at.
Unfortunately, it's in Spanish, which I do not understand. Several people have enquired about getting a translation done, so that the text might be used or modified in some way for SCA purposes. I finally got around to asking David Szewczyk, co-principal of Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts (from whom I purchased it) to translate, and he did, and here it is, finally.

Here are some not very good photos of the grant.

Felipe II, King of Spain. Illuminated Document Signed (on his behalf by his sister/regent, "La Princesa"). In Spanish, on vellum. Valladolid: 17 March 1559. Folio (58 x 54.5 cm; 23" x 21.5"; h x w), 1 leaf.

Pedro de Villanueva was one of the conquistadores of Mexico. He was among Cortés's original party, part of the Francisco de Saucedo (also spelled "Salcedo") contingent, whose ship was delayed in leaving Cuba. With Saucedo, a friend of Cortés, he arrived at Villarica de Veracruz in July of 1519, shortly after Cortés and his men had destroyed the "idols" at Cempoala.
Villanueva was among the small but grand "army" that marched into Tenochtitlán in the Spring of 1520 and in July of the same year were to flee the western world's largest city fighting for their lives, on the "Noche Triste." He survived the hell and slaughter of the causeways and later returned with the greatly augmented force that destroyed the Aztec capital and its empire. Still later he was with Cortés in the exploration and conquest of Pánuco and following that with Nuño de Guzmán in the exploration and conquest of Zacatecas and Jalisco. He and his brother Fernando (also a member of the Saucedo contingent) jointly received an encomienda (Quechula) and settled in Puebla de los Angeles where Pedro served as a regidor on the town council in the 1540s and 1550s.
In the last years of the 1550s Villanueva petitioned the crown for the grant of a coat of arms in recognition of his service to the crown in the conquest of Mexico. Felipe II honored that request in this impressive document. He enumerates the Conqueror's deeds, specifically mentioning Don Hernando Cortés and Nuño de Guzmán and the various conquests in which Villanueva participated. He describes the coat of arms being granted and the significance of the colors and symbols. The granted arms are beautifully accomplished in many colors within the text of the document, with that text yielding space to the large miniature: Measuring 17.5 x 15 cm (7" x 6"), the arms are painted with a formal frame delimiting their presentation on a red field with corner brackets of gold over blue. Surmounting the arms is a knight's helm with plumage, trailing from which are decorative "swooshes." The new Villanueva arms are quartered, showing a cyphered "M" surmounted by a fleur de lis in the upper left, a crowned lion en passant in the upper right, an arm holding a sword rising out of a flowing river in the lower left, and a castle on a hill in the lower right.
The text of the grant of arms is elegantly indited in a standard court semi-round gothic in sepia ink and is enclosed on the left, right, and top sides by an illuminated and historiated sash-like border. In the upper left and right corners are miniatures of Justice and Knowledge in sylvan settings. Running between those two along the top of the document is a decorative panel incorporating flowers, fruits, mythic animals, and cherubs. Below this, the king's name is accomplished in large letters of gold on a field of red accented with gold, and the "D" of his honorific "Don" is given special treatment. This is elaborated in an ornate, almost baroque style that comes close to obfuscating the fact of its being a majuscule "d": Wrought in gold, the letter at first appears to be merely a "frame" for the royal coat of arms that fills its center. The king's arms are accomplished in gold, white, black, red, and blue; the whole being laid on a blue field with white accents.
The panels running down the left and right sides of the document are accomplished in red, gold, green, pink, white, red, blue, and brown, many in several shades. The decoration includes birds of several varieties including a fine owl, animals including a watchful rabbit, strawberries and other fruits, and flowers, ribbons, grotesques, and butterflies.
The document is signed in the king's name by Juana (Joanna Habsburg) de Austria, "princesa de Portugal." Married to Prince Juan of Portugal, young Juana (b. 1537) was the regent of the Spanish crown from 1554 until her brother Philip's return to Spain in September of 1559. She had just lost her husband to death and borne his posthumous son, both in January, 1554, when she left Portugal and her child in the Spring of that year to assume the regency throne in Valladolid.
In format and content this document differs dramatically from the cartas executorias de hidalguía that most collectors are familiar with. Here we have a single large sheet of vellum handsomely engrossed, artfully illuminated, and exquisitely decorated with a composite border containing miniatures, not a bound volume of copies of documents created for storage in the family archive. This was created for display in a prominent place of honor; and it is a magnificent display item. Neither a grant of nobility nor a confirmation of it based on something that some vague ancestor did, this is a grant of a coat of arms to a man who himself performed significant military and other service for the Crown and whom the Crown wishes to honor both publicly and privately. Only a few hundred of Cortés's men survived the Noche Triste, the reentry into and destruction of Mexico City, and the subsequent conquests in Panuco and elsewhere. The number of grants such as this to actual members of Cortés's original "army" were few.
This is the only royal grant of a coat of arms to an actual member of Cortés's "army" that we have seen that has ever appeared in the marketplace. Via published auction records and our extensive archive of dealer catalogues, we trace no instance before this one of the offering for sale of a grant of arms to a Conqueror of Mexico. Yes, there are examples in various libraries and museums in Mexico and Spain, and probably in the U.S., but such examples seem to have entered their institutional resting places via donation from descendants of Conquerors, not via purchase.
Provenance: It is awesome to realize that this is no mere retained secretarial copy of Felipe's grant of arms to Pedro de Villanueva. This gorgeous document not only records the king's rewards to one of Cortés's men, but was that Conqueror's personal property. It is the copy of the decree sent to him expressly, by the Crown!
On Villanueva, see: Icaza, Diccionario autobiográfico de conquistadores y pobladores de la Nueva España, I, 88–89; Thomas, Who's Who of the Conquistadors, 146; Himmerich y Valencia, The Encomenderos of New Spain, 1521–1555, 262; Díaz del Castillo, Verdadera historia de la conquista de la Nueva España, chap. LIII. On Juana de Austria, see: the work of Dr. Kelli Ringhofer. Overall in very good condition. Some fold tears, some minor rubbing of small areas of images, stains as visible in our illustrations. The wax seal and its silk cords no longer present. Text clear, not faded, and colors strong.

(The translator is David Szewczyk, co-principal of Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts, from whom I bought the grant.)
Don Felipe by the grace of God King of Castile, of Leon, of Aragon, of the Two Sicilies, of Jerusalem, of Navarre, of Granada, of Toledo, of Valencia, of Galicia, of Mallorcas, of Seville, of Sardinia, of Cordoba, of Corsica, of Murcia, of Jaen, of the Algarves, of Algeciras, of Gibraltar, of the Canary Islands, of the islands and terra firma of the Indies of the Ocean Sea; Count of Barcelona, Lord of the Biscay; Duke of Athens and Neopatria; Count of Roussillon and of Cerdanya; Marquise of Oristan and of the Goceano; Archduke of Austria; Duke of Burgundy, of the Bravant, of Milan, Count of Flanders and of the Tryol, etc. Whereas on behalf of you Manuel de Villanueva, citizen y magistrate of the city of [Puebla de] los Angeles that is in New Spain, we have been informed that you, desiring to serve Us, went to the aforesaid New Spain and that you are one of the first conquerors of it. You found yourself with your person and your arms in the conquest and pacification of the city of Mexico and all of the towns and provinces that were conquered by Don Hernando Cortes, Marques de la Valle, in which con- quests you served at your own expense and [sense of] mission, without any salary from Us or any other person. And after having achieved the conquest of the said city of Mexico and its provinces, you went in Our service with the said Don Hernando Cortes to the province of Panuco and later to the province of Zacatecas and the province of Jalisco with Nuño de Guzman, in which provinces and conquests you served us with your body, arms, and horse, once again at your own cost. In accomplishing all of this you suffered great periods of hunger and privation and put your life in danger. You told and recounted all of this in a document sent to Our Council of the Indies. On your behalf [the Council] made a presen- tation [to Me] and it implored Me to reward you for your services. And because of you and the others famous in memory, We order that you be granted a coat of arms, quartered, that in the upper right bears an “M” in cipher and a fleur-de-lis above, all in gold on a field of blue; and in the upper left a crowned lion rampant on a silver field. In the lower right an arm with an unsheathed sword in its hand arising out of a river, on a field of red; and in the lower left quadrant a silver castle on a rock with a yellow and red banner flying from a turret, on a field of green. And on the border of the shield six “Ms” each with a fluer-de-lis above, each one like that in the quartering. And for [“timble”] a helmlet with its visor closed and bearing feathers [“con sus trasoles de dependencias afollages”] of blue and gold or as my grant shall be. And respecting Us with your aforesaid services and because you and the others [who will be] present perpetually in [Our] memory We make this grant to you and your descendants that you all shall be greatly honored.
By this present [document] We make a grant and We wish and We order that you have and wear for your recognized arms the said arms that are above described and which is here painted and expressed. Which said [arms] you [now] have and may wear and put on your houses and your [“reposteros”] and on each and every one of [those of] your descendants’, and in every other place you or your descendants shall choose. And by this Our letter or by a copy of it attested to [for its accuracy] by a notary public we order His Highness Prince Don Carlos, Our very dear and very loved son, and the very dear infantes Our brothers, and the prelates, and the dukes, marquises, counts, hombres ricos, masters of [religious] orders, priors, knight commanders, knight sub-commanders, mayors of castles of forts and plains, and members of our councils, royal magistrates, governors, mayors, sheriffs, shepherding officials, provosts, the Twenty-four Sworn Commanders, knights, squires, officials, and good men of all the cities, villages, and places of Our said kingdoms and holdings and of the said Our Indies, islands, mainland of the Ocean Sea, this equally for those [holdings] now and as may come to be in the future, individually and jointly, no matter where the jurisdiction may be, that you keep and respect and make others keep and respect him and his descendants in regard to this grant just as We made to you of your arms that you [now] have as your recognized arms.
Given in the city of Valladolid on l7 days [sic] of the month of March of one thousand five hundred and fifty-nine years. I The Princess

[User Picture]From: reynardine
2012-01-10 09:10 pm (UTC)


[User Picture]From: julifox
2012-01-10 10:48 pm (UTC)


This is awesome and inspirational - thanks so much for sharing it with us!