Today I am departing from the strict definition of fairy tale to delve into a legend: I have always been curious of my mother’s name and decided to see if I could find out where it comes from. Let me explain a bit. My mother’s name—LaQuita—is much different from her siblings. She is not Spanish, but was named after a character her aunt found in a Spanish storybook which she thought was a very pretty name.
After some attempts at googling “La Quita Spanish Fairy Tale,” I concluded that my great aunt must have read a story about La Quinta das Lágrimas and the Legend of Inês de Castro. Below, I will attempt to summarize the myth, but if you want to read the full story, visit The Royal Articles.
The Legend of Inês de Castro
Inês was the cousin of Constança de Castile—the fiancée of Prince Pedro (son of King Afonso IV) of Portugal—sent to attend to Constança as one of her ladies-in-waiting. However, Pedro and Inês fell madly in love with each other. Constança and Pedro were married shortly after Inês arrived in 1340; however, the prince quickly began neglecting his wife in favor of Inês. Legend says they even sent love letters through an aqueduct from La Quinta das Lágrimas (at the time called Quinta do Pombal) to the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha, where Inês stayed.
After the birth of a son to Constança and Pedro, Constança attempted to break up the affair by inviting Inês to be her son Luís’ godmother: in the eyes of the Catholic Church, this would make Inês part of the family, deeming her relationship with Pedro incestuous. But it didn’t work. The king himself also tried to split up the lovers, banishing Inês from Portuguese Court to Castile in 1344. Still, it did not work, as Pedro traveled to visit Inês in Castile.
When Constança died in November 1345 shortly after giving birth to a third child, Pedro immediately brought Inês back to Coimbra, where they began living together openly and went on to have four children. Other royals were not so pleased with the situation, however, and began jockeying for position in court. King Afonso IV even feared that one of Inês’ sons might try to claim the throne over the legitimate heir, Dom Fernando (the surviving son of Constança and Pedro), either by starting a civil war or attempting to kill him. Because of this, King Afonso IV determined to have Inês assassinated.
According to the Chronicles of Cristóvāo Rodrigues Acenheiro (which has influenced many writers and poets), Inês approached King Alfonso IV surrounded by her children as soon as the assassins arrived, hoping he would be swayed by his feelings as a grandparent. But he finally left the room, telling his counselors, “Do whatever you want.” They then executed Inês.
And although according to history, Inês was executed in Santa Clara-a-Velha, legend claims she was murdered at La Quinta das Lágrimas (“The Estate of Tears” in English) where the water turned red upon her death. These were the same waters upon which Pedro and Inês’ love letters had traveled. The myth claims it was at La Quinta das Lágrimas that Inês cried out for the last time while being pierced by the assassins’ daggers, and people still believe her blood tarnishes the red rocks on the stream bed of the estate.
As soon as he heard the news, Prince Pedro staged a revolt against his father, the King, but his mother, the Queen, was able to get the two to agree to a truce. When his father died two years later, however, the new King Pedro I was able to track down two of Inês’ killers and had them executed in a way representing what Pedro felt they had done to him—he had both their hearts ripped out, one through the back and one through the chest—in front of the Royal Palace as Pedro watched while he supped. (This helped to earn him the nickname “Pedro the Cruel”, a nickname that was spread by the nobles who did not like the fact that he curbed the excesses of the nobility. In fact, he came to be known as “Pedro the Just” among the people because of how he protected them and for his love of justice.)
Then in 1360, Pedro announced that he had secretly married Inês several years earlier in the town of Bragança, although ironically, none of the witnesses could seem to recall when exactly the wedding had taken place. Still, it was enough to have Inês officially proclaimed Pedro’s lawful wife and legitimate Queen of Portugal; her body was exhumed and buried in the Monastery of Alcobaça in an excessively elaborate ceremony.
The reburial was fact, but out of it many myths have sprung. Some say Inês’ tomb was placed opposite of Pedro’s in a such a way that the two could gaze into each other’s eyes on Judgment Day. Others say that Pedro had Inês placed on the throne with the royal crown upon her skull and ordered the entire court to swear allegiance to the dead queen and kiss the hand of her corpse.
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. . . And my mom’s name? Yeah, I know, the term “LaQuita” does not appear in the Legend of Inês, but you have to admit that “LaQuita” is pretty close to “La Quinta”, especially to non-Spanish speakers. And yes, La Quinta is actually not a person’s name, either, but still, maybe . . .
Do you know a lot about Spanish Fairy Tales? Or do you know of any Spanish Fairy Tale with a character named La Quita? Please, leave a comment and tell me!!