Character Spotlight: Constanza (the Younger Years)

     Character Spotlight is something I’ve really wanted to do – there’s a lot about the characters I don’t really get to use in the book because it would take too long or be a bit too off-topic to actually mention.  Mainly, it’s a “biography” of how I’ve portrayed the character in the universe, filling in the gaps between known facts with my own ideas and such.  Let me say this again in large, bolded font – this is NOT 100% historically accurate, this is a fictional character biography, do not use this as a source for anything! k?  k.

     First and foremost, no one actually knows who Constanza Enríquez de Castilla’s mother was, or when she was born, though it seems to be generally accepted that she was born in 1358; for the purpose of La Bastarda, I gave her the birthdate of 7 November, 1358, and I generally think she was born somewhere between 2 and 3 in the morning.  I ended up researching a bit and finding that Enrique de Trastámara was most likely in the French army at that point, having been exiled by his brother Pedro the Cruel, so I made Constanza’s mother French.

     Originally, I wrote Constanza’s mother as a “close cousin of the French King”, but I ended up having to make her a distant cousin.  Jeanne d’Enghien was possibly a daughter of Isabeau, Countess of Brienne and daughter to the Duke of Athens, who lost his duchy to the Cátalans, ended up losing his riches, and married his daughter to a “simple” yet rich knight, Gautier d’Enghien.  They had children (one of whom, Isabeau, ended up becoming the abbess of Flines), and an unnamed daughter on whom I partially based Jeanne.  It would have been easier to take a random peasant or title in abeyance and “give” it to someone, but I wanted someone historically accurate, who I could have seen at court since Enrique never took a peasant mistress.  As Isabeau had recently inherited the claim to the Duchy of Athens, crown of Jerusalem, etc., I could see her looking at the young Castilian casanova at court and going, “Hm, I wonder…”  The support of Castile against the Cátalans for her young daughter’s hand in marriage and a promise of soldiers for his own cause must have seemed like a pretty good bargain.

     I also wouldn’t doubt that Jeanne’s family would have seen a pregnancy out of wedlock to a foreigner as a disgrace.  It would have been assumed that Enrique wouldn’t have had sex with Jeanne (or if he did, it would have been expected that he would have taken pains not to get her pregnant; it wasn’t like she was going to have a husband anyway, so she didn’t need to remain pure, just chaste).  The way I wrote Enrique, though, made me realize he wasn’t as honest with them about certain parts of his life, and Jeanne’s family (and little Jeanne herself) probably believed that Enrique was going to divorce his wife.

     I don’t want to say too much, though, because that’s coming in Enrique’s bio.  😉

     Anyway, once they realized Jeanne wasn’t going to become the next Queen of Castilla, they planned to ship her off to the convent in Flines where her sister had once lived.  Those close to Enrique had a hand in keeping her out of it, though, planning to spirit her away to Castilla once the baby was born.  Constanza was born in Flines purely by accident, with the assistance of two midwives and a surgeon.  I originally wanted Constanza’s mother to remain alive because I kind of think orphans in fiction are really cliché, but it worked best with the story for me to off the poor girl, because if she’d stayed alive, Constanza probably would have lived with her for most of her childhood, considering she was a girl, and I wanted to jump into the Castilian part of the story right away.  Sorry, Jeanne!

     She was taken to her father by a disguised Bertrand du Guesclin; at that point, Enrique was a persona non grata at the French court, so he was trying to make his way to Aragón in disguise, though the birth of his baby daughter definitely slowed things down.  A few months later, he found it safe enough to his way into Castilla (only for a little while).

     Constanza spent the first year or so of her life in Épila, a city which would remain loyal to her father, as his household would later return there after his second loss at Nájera.  Her 20-year-old stepmother, Juana actually did care for her as best she could, brushing her hair and giving her bumps and bruises as many kisses as they needed to feel better, but any time Enrique came home it seemed to her he would dote on his bastard daughter more than he doted on his son and heir.  It was about that time when Juana took a less hands-on approach to raising her husband’s daughter, preferring the old aya to keep tabs on her; it only took a few months for her to stop considering Constanza as anything more than an outsider.

     After they moved to Languedoc and Leonor was born (in July 1364), Constanza basically became a glorified babysitter for her younger half-sister.  She was expected to amuse, feed, dress, and otherwise care for the small child, while Juana did whatever it was that duchesses-in-exile do.  On the occasions that Juana would call for her daughter, Constanza would be allowed to play with other children in the household (as long as she wasn’t at her lessons).

     She liked her lessons well enough, and geography and languages were her strong suits.  She could dance fairly well, and her needlework was good, but she could neither carry a tune in a bucket nor read/spell very well (not her tutor’s fault, as she just never took to the subjects, nor was it something that truly mattered as she’d have a scribe later in life).  She did have a complex when it came to her half-brother, Juan, always wanting to beat him in everything; once she realized it was impossible, she started ignoring him or treating him like his opinion didn’t mean anything to her.

     In March of 1365, Enrique moved from the underdog category and onto the serious contenders list by capturing Burgos, then the capital of Castilla.  A hastily planned procession of triumph was made by the Queen-claimant and her court, Constanza among them.  Whenever they stopped in places such as Pamplona, Navarra, the royal retinue seemed to gain more and more members, and it was one of those people who would impact Constanza’s life more than she could ever imagine – Constanza met Juana de Sousa just prior to their entrance into Burgos, starting a friendship which would span more than a decade and would end in heartbreak.

     They spent a year in Burgos as Enrique chased his half-brother Pedro through the countryside, leaving destruction and pain in their wake.  Enrique laid siege to the city of Leon, a stronghold still loyal to Pedro, supposedly razed an entire small port to the ground as punishment for their lack of support, and was otherwise seen as moderately ruthless and cunning, and a great commander.  He had moments of being completely on top of the world, and moments of rolling in the firepit while mourning the loss of a bastard son in 1366, an image which stayed with Constanza for the rest of her life.  She had once believed her father to be the most perfect human being, but to see him capable of such self-harm, and knowing she was of his bloodline, terrified her.

     This is where I’m going to leave off with Constanza’s story, though I’ll continue it very soon!  If you have any questions about Constanza’s life to this point, let me know!  🙂


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