Son of Spain Chapter 1
An unusually warm day, was made warmer still, within the gaily dressed reception hall at the Pacheco family home. Roses and seasonal flowers, many still in bud that April dawn, as afternoon gave way to night, fully opened in celebration. Bright primary colours reached out with heady scents, set amongst rich, green foliage, accented with pristine white lilies, the romantic flower declaring its colour of purity.
It was the year of our Lord 1618, the year when Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez publicly declared his love for Juana Pacheco Miranda, not quite sixteen, in marriage before their families and close friends.
Juana’s serene, gentle face was beautifully balanced by naturally sculptured, deep-chocolate eyebrows, a noble nose, and contently relaxed lips. Over her hips fell a narrow-pleated skirt, finished with an expensive lace cummerbund embellished with delicate tassels that only a doting father would afford his loving daughter. Her finely embroidered wrap-around bodice came to a modest V discreetly below her neck. The sheerness of the fabric gracefully fell over her shoulders and gathered in below her elbows, allowing two inches of the material to frill, accentuating her youth.
Her dark-brown, immaculately styled hair parted to the right, swept softly across her forehead, passed easily around her ears, to settle into an intricate bun at the back. Its depth of colour caused her white lace head-dress to frame her face as a halo an angel. Pearl-encrusted clasps complemented with small, white flowers held the lace firmly at each side allowing it, from that point, to fall free. Such was the fineness, that the fabric effortlessly submitted to each wave of gentle offshore breeze, repeatedly billowing and then settling down over her shoulders arms and thighs, as if trying to catch tomorrow and all it promised.
“Yes,” Diego mouthed, seeing his demure young wife on the veranda. “A bride to cherish.!
He sauntered towards her, drawn by mutual love.
“Diego!” Juana uttered as if to scold him for not arriving at her side sooner. Her eyes left his returning to survey the reddening horizon. “See the day, the clouds. Feel the breeze. Today, we are married.”
Diego said nothing. He smiled at her with pride and love, wrapping his arms around the carved pillar that spiralled up to the ceiling, the same pillar that Juana was leaning against as she looked out over the rooftops to the river Guadalquivir and on to the many-faced Golden Tower by the port.
Seville was their native city, Spain’s wealthiest, a place they knew well, where ornate churches were easily found on many street corners and where the remains of noble Christopher Columbus lay. This city, steeped in much culture and hard-fought history, was where Juana would be happy to reside forever.
“Juana, come. The guests await, and Pacheco wishes to say a few words.”
Her dreaming was interrupted. “Again!” she replied before thinking. Her father, flushed with pride, was more vocal than usual.
Together, they moved to the door that took them back to the wedding guests and their bridal table, back to the merriment and laughter Juana had retreated from to ponder and bathe in the realisation that her day had finally come.
Diego’s brothers and sister, on seeing him return, made bold by the festivities, set about to point out the failings of their eldest sibling, outdoing each other as they entertained the attentive guests. They jeered and offered words of commiseration and advice to Juana. She closed her eyes and shook her hands and head in friendly gesture, confirming the hardships she would have to endure. This only encouraged the hecklers all the more. After all, that would be their last moment to enjoy payback. The firstborn needed to be humbled.
Only thirteen months prior, their brother the extraordinary painter had been accepted as Master Painter of Religious Images. He wasn’t yet eighteen then and had been under his master, Juan Pacheco, less than six years. What could any younger brother or sister do to match that, given the rest of their years? No, now was the time to bring him down a peg or two, if only in jest. Diego’s cheeks reddened under the verbal onslaught that had been promised for weeks.
Juana found her seat promptly, giving a quick nod to Pacheco, who usually carried an air of confidence; yet she noted him tense. Certainly, he was fully ready to speak, mentally keeping his place while waiting for the frivolity to abate. This jesting was not laying an appropriate platform for him. A little decorum was needed.
Francisco Pacheco, having waited long enough, decided to address the room regardlessly. Calling the gathering to give ear caused the youth to be overcome by sudden embarrassment. This, compounded by wizen stares of elders, subdued the young ones, who swiftly concluded their revelling. The teasing stopped, and a less than well-composed Diego let go. All eyes watched in silence, only interrupted by stifled giggles of children and faint jeers that escorted the groom past the linen-clad tables garnished with white-and-peach-coloured roses and back to Juana.
Straightening his dishevelled black tunic with a series of short tugs and preening his white cuffs helped compose mind and body. His fingers moved swiftly to reveal his slender face from behind his black, tousled hair, all one length on top, falling from a side parting and cut in shorter-graded layers around his ears and neck. A style going some way to balance the smallness of face with his tall, wiry build.
I, Pacheco, was moved by his virtue, his integrity and his good parts.”