The Garden Guide

Book: Journey and Embassy to Samarkand
Chapter: Preface

Christian Ladies in harem

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Amongst these presents there were two Christian ladies, who had been rescued by Timur, from the harem of the brutal Turk, named Angelina and Maria. Angelina was the daughter of Count John of Hungary {Probably taken prisoner at the fatal battle of Nicopolis, in 1386}, and Maria was a Greek. The Hungarian, Angelina, was one of the most beautiful ladies of the age, and her loveliness was celebrated by many poets. {Amongst others a Genoese knight, named Francesco Imperial, who lived at Seville, wrote some coplas in her honour. Argote de Molina gives them, but they are devoid of merit}. After landing at Seville, the lovely strangers set out for the Castillian court, in company with their protector, the envoy Sotomayor; and on the road they came to a town called Xodar, where they were hospitably received by Sotomayor's cousin, the young lord of Xodar and Carpio. Angelina's tent was pitched near a fountain, and Maria's was close by. Here Sotomayor declared his love for the beautiful Grecian, and he had a son by her. This love passage by the village fountain, is celebrated in an ancient song,- 'En la fontana de Xodar Vi la nina de ojos bellos: E finque herido dellos, Sin tener de vida, una hora.' Angelina married a Spanish knight of noble family, named Diego Gonzalez de Contreras, magistrate of Segovia; and the inscription on her tomb may still be seen in the chapel of St. John, in that city. {Translation:-'Here lies Dona Angelina, of Greece, daughter of count John, and niece of the king of Hungary. Wife of Don Diego Gonzalez de Contreras, magistrate of this city.' The arms, a lion, or, on a field, azure}. There were several children by this marriage, and the descendants of Angelina, with Hungarian Christian names, and bearing the arms of their mother, long resided in the town of Arevalo. The fate of these lovely captives may perhaps be considered sufficiently interesting, to excuse this short digression. On the return of Sotomayor and Palazuelos, King Henry determined to send another embassy to the court of the mighty Timur. The persons who were selected to represent the majesty of Castille at Samarkand, on this occasion, were Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo, a knight of Madrid, Gomez de Salazar, and a master of Theology named Fray Alonzo Paez de Santa Maria {Clavijo was a very ancient name in that city.-Hijos de Madrid, iv, p. 302}. Timur's envoy, Mohammed al Cazi, accompanied them, and they sailed from the port of Seville, on the 22nd of May, 1403.