Estropeado Español

Rarely do letters of recommendation carry the purpose of destiny that the two held by the young private did on September 26, 1575. Folded neatly into fours and bound with a thin silk strand, he kept them tucked into his doublet covering the two thimble-sized pink scars on his breast. His left hand, irreparably maimed, reached up and patted them reflexively every few minutes to make sure that they were still there. The few paragraphs of flourished script marked upon those papers, he knew, would determine the course of the rest of his life.

One was signed by Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, the Duque de Sessa, and the second by none other than the hero of Lepanto, Don Juan de Austria. With them, King Philip of Spain would grant him the merced so necessary for his promotion to a Captaincy in the Spanish army. An illustrious past behind him, a long and likely distinguished career now lay before.

The letters were never to reach their destination. This fact however did not hinder their purpose; they were still indeed to alter the life of the holder, just not in the way that he had expected.

Only a few miles from the Spanish coast, the ship carrying the letter-bearer was surprised by a small fleet of Turks. Those few Christian soldiers who survived the short battle were bound to be galley-slaves for the remainder of their short tortured lives, lost to the memory of Europe forever. But when the royal letters of recommendation were found on one prisoner, the pirates knew they had a special prize worthy of a hefty ransom.

The letters not only spared his life, they set him on a new path. In the five years that Miguel de Cervantes spent as prisoner awaiting ransom, he began to write.


Enbrethiliel said...


There's something heartbreaking about Christian soldiers falling into the hands of Turk slavers so soon after Lepanto--not in the big political sense, but in the sense of evil always coming back to take out its spite on the little people.

(Captcha is "lepart" . . . which looks a little like "lepant" if you cross your eyes!)

cyurkanin said...

I think so too, and also that all the gains that were made at that battle in defense of the West were all but nearly wiped back away within a few years due to the renewal of all the political infighting.

cyurkanin said...

You and your constant "captcha" watching! lol

Enbrethiliel said...


One of those "swept back, having accomplished nothing but an epic" things that Hillaire Belloc wrote of, I guess.

Wonderfully heroic stuff to read about . . . but I've started to wonder about these ineffectual "epics" that Belloc and G.K. Chesterton have taught more recent generations--the generations which them out of the charming Englishy obscurity which became them far more than their new sacred cow status--to revere as the most glorious moments in Church history. I suppose all Catholics need a triumphalist fix now and then, but that alone makes for a very narrow and very naive view.

PS--I just came across a blogger who said that captchas are her biggest pet peeve. When she sees them, she doesn't bother to leave a comment: they disgust her so. I couldn't believe it! Captchas are like the fortune cookies you get for free in a restaurant--or (so I've heard) like the grits you get for free in a Southern restaurant--and like, you know, grace (like Igor)! Let Forrest Gump have his boxes of chocolates: I say that life is like a list of captchas!

PPS--So . . . does "smsigler" mean anything to you?

cyurkanin said...

Smsigler? ... someone said that to me once... once... lol!

I think Belloc and Chesterton serve their purpose but I've never held them up as the sacred cows that they are now. Especially now as never before. I think you're right about their epic views but I nevertheless do love Chesterton's poem.