There also are preserved in this collection a shield (late sixteenth century) adorned by Mexican Indians with a most elaborate "mosaic of feather-work," and a number of Spanish adargas of the same period, for playing the juego de cartas or "game of canes." The armoury contained in former days as many as forty-two adargas; but the fire of 1884 completely destroyed sixteen and badly damaged twenty-three, obliterating their heraldic and other decoration. A yet more sinister event befell on December 1st, 1808, when the Spanish mob, exasperated by the French, broke in and seized three hundred swords, not one of which was afterwards recovered. Mention of these disasters leads me to recall the quantity of beautiful or historic military gear that Spain has lost through many tribulations and vicissitudes. Formerly her noble families had excellent collections in their palaces or castles. Such were the private armouries of the Dukes of Pastrana at Guadalajara, and of the Dukes of Alburquerque at Cuellar Castle, near Segovia. Bertaut de Rouen describes the first as "une des plus belles qui se voyent pour un seigneur particulier. Il y a quantite d'armes anciennes, et l'on y void une epee qui s'allonge et s'accourcit quand on veut, de deux pieds et demy."1 The Cuellar armoury was pulled to pieces by Philip the Fourth to arm his troops against the French. "Send me," he wrote to the Duke from Madrid, in a letter dated April 16th, 1637, "all your pistols, carbines, harness for horses, breastplates and other arms for mounted fighting"; and the loyal nobleman complied upon the spot, despatching more than five hundred pieces, many of which were doubtless of the greatest interest.1
Jousting Harness Of Philip The Handsome (Royal Armoury, Madrid)
1 Voyage d' Espagne, p. 199.
Had I the erudition and the time, I would attempt to write, as it deserves to be written, an introduction to the history of Spanish swords. Of all the objects mentioned in these volumes, here is the most inherently symbolic of the Spanish character and history. The Spanish Moors and Spanish Christians spoke of it as something superhuman. "Once the sword is in the hand of man," observed, in solemn tones, the Wise Alfonso, "he hath it in his power to raise or lower it, to strike with it, or to abandon it." The Spanish Mussulmans talked of putting "clothes and breeches" on a sword that had a sheath, as though it were a breathing person; while a Spaniard of the time of Gongora would often use such language as the following: "Truly in point of look there is as great a difference between a costly sword and a Toledan Loyalty or Soldier's Dream, as between a marquis and a muleteer, or a washerwoman and the Infanta. Yet every sword is virtually an hidalgo. Does not the basest of our Toledanas, even to the perrillos and morillos, which have no core, and cost a dozen reales merely, afford a chivalrous lesson to its wearer, as it bids him no me saques sin razon, ni me envaines sin honor?1 The horse and the sword," he continued, taking a magnificently damascened rapier, and stroking it caressingly, "are the noblest friends of man, albeit the nobler is the sword; for the horse at times is obstinate or faint-hearted, but the sword is ready continually. The sword, moreover, possesses the chiefest of all virtues - justice, or the power of dividing right and wrong; a soul of iron, which is strength; and, last and greatest, the Cross, which is the symbol of the blessed Catholic Faith."2
1 Gonzalo de la Torre de Trassierra; Articles on Cuellar published in the Boletin de la Sociedad Espanola de Excursiones.
Notices of early Spanish sword-makers are far from common. Don Manuel G. Simancas quotes the following, dated in the thirteenth century: -
"Master Almerique. By letters of the King and Queen, to Master Almerique, for making the (sword) blades for the King; out of the MCC maravedis of his salary he received CCCC maravedis."
1 "Draw me not without a cause, nor sheathe me without honour." A sword with this inscription is in the Royal Armoury - (G. 71 of the official catalogue).
2 Leonard Williams; Toledo and Madrid: their Records and Romances; p. 102.
"Master Enrique. By letters of the King and Queen, to Master Enrique, for making the swords, MCCCC, (of which) he received CCCCXII maravedis."
Other entries of the same period relate to Juan Ferrandez, armourer, who received a sum for making coverings for arms and saddles; and to Master Jacomin, who was paid three gold dob/as, or sixty-three maravedis, for making a breastplate.
In the inventory (1560) of the Dukes of Albur-querque occurs a very curious notice which seems to show that mediaeval Spanish swords were manufactured even in the rural districts. The entry runs; "an old grooved sword of a broad shape, bearing the words Juanes me fezio ("John made me"). In the middle of the same a P within a parted wave, with Portuguese fittings, varnished, black silk hilt and fringes, and double straps of black leather, with varnished ends and buckles and black leather sheath. Juan de Lobinguez made this sword at Cuellar."
The Spanish guilds of armourers enjoyed high favour,1 since the examination for admission to this craft was very strict, as well as fenced about with curious prohibitions. Thus at Seville, "no Moor, Jew, black man, or other person such as the law debars, shall set up a shop for making and selling defensive arms, or undergo examination in this craft."1 The penalty for infringement of this law was confiscation of the arms, together with a fine of twenty thousand maravedis.
1 In the Corpus Christi festival at Granada the banner which preceded all the rest was that of the armourers and knife-makers, followed by that of the silk-mercers. Ordenanzas dc Granada; tit. 126.
Moorish Buckler (Osier and metal. Royal Armoury, Madrid)