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It is curioues how the only catholic Queen born in Córdoba went down in History as the “Discreet Queen” and she came in to this world during “the Fair of the Discreet”, that is also the title of a Pío Baroja’s novel set in Córdoba –an author profoundly acquainted with the nature and intimacies of the city. A strange coincidence that links the city to a certain quality: “Discretion”.

It is amazing to know that such a discreet lady would end up Queen of Portugal, mother of kings, mother-in- law of Charles I, grand mother of Philip II and wife to Manuel I ( key figure in Portugal’s History, ruler of a great colonial empire: during his reign Brazil is discovered. Constructor of the great Portuguese monuments to the point of naming the Gothic architecture style in Portugal: Manueline style.

Very few facts has reached us about this Discreet Queen, even fewer portraits. Little is known about her for she chose a low profile during her regency. Although I am sure there was not much time for cocktails and celebrations while giving birth to 10 children. Plus, she was a true catholic, she never skipped mass, rosaries or novenas, there is not a lot of time left after all that. She did, however, make one or two mistakes while in politics, such as the support to the pogrom of Lisbon that resulted in the death of 2.000 Jews. She had to make public amends and apologize for it.

María de Aragón (the Discreet Queen) was born on the 29 th of June of 1482 in Córdoba, back then a common residence for the itinerant Court of Isabel and Fernando. At the time the Catholic Kings were in battle with the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada. That very same year, Boabdil seized power from his father Muley Hacén and became the last Nasrid King of Granada.

María had a twin sister who was stillborn. She was the fourth daughter of the Catholic Kings, before her were Isabel, Juan, Juana and the last one Catalina.
The birth of the Infanta María was celebrated throughout the city for many days. In fact, the first documented bullfight in Córdoba took place during the celebrations to honor the birth of the fourth daughter of the Catholic Monarchs. María was baptized in the Cathedral of Córdoba on the 7 th of July and, although, no testimonies have reached our days from the celebrations that accompanied this event, it is reasonable to think that they were of similar proportions as those celebrated in Seville for the baptism of her brother Juan, with the sole difference that he was the Crown Prince.

María received a dedicated education, many great scholars tutored her under the thorough supervision of the Queen herself, as she was specially keen on equally giving her children an education in languages, history, humanities, among other subjects, in order to make them good kings and queens for the modern times to come.

María was of pale skin, blue eyes and blond reddish hair. She was thin an tall, despite her parents being of average stature. She inherited Trastámara’s features. The Queen María was never mentioned by her beauty, it is likely that she was not considered as beautiful as her other sisters. However, those few portraits of the Discreet Queen show us a delicate woman not deprived of beauty.

At first, the destiny of María was put on hold. While her older sister was destined to be Queen of Portugal, the Prince Juan King of Castile and Aragon and Juana thought to be married to the archduke of Burgundy, she remained waiting for a role in the marriage-alliances policy set in motion by the Catholic Kings. The sudden death of her sister Isabel broke the legal ties, so carefully drawn, with Portugal. In order to maintain those ties, María took her sister’s place. She had little influence in the Court, she devoted herself to the role of a Queen consort: give an heir to the Throne. She did not just provided the King of Portugal with one heir but ten, among them: King Juan III, Cardinal Enrique later known as Enrique I King of Portugal and Infanta Isabel who would become the wife of his cousin Carlos, King of Spain and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Queen María died on the 7 th of March of 1517 at child birth. Her son the Infante Antonio died with her. She was only 34 years old. The funeral took place in the Jerónimos Monastery of Belém in Lisbon, where the remains of this Discreet Queen born in Córdoba rest.


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