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And, during the interval, when the contesting knights had withdrawn to their tents, the English ambassadors, sent by King Henry VII, came to pay their respects. Queen Isabella, sovereign of Castile in her own right, and her husband Ferdinand of Aragon were well aware of their purpose. They came from a king whose title to his crown was dubious, to say the least. Although three years had now elapsed since Henry Tudor had usurped the throne of England after defeating Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, at the battle of Bosworth, he was still working hard to consolidate his position.

He had, in fact, no title at all to the crown by descent; therefore he professed to claim it by right of conquest and through a questionable descent from the early British kings — not for nothing did he name his eldest son, born in , Arthur. Neverthe less, there were still living at least six male members of the House of Plantagenet with a better lineal claim to the throne than Henry VII, and he knew it. There were, at that time, two major powers in Europe: France and Spain. English distrust of the French, engendered by nearly years of war, forced Henry VII to consider a more congenial alliance for his son with Spain, then a new political entity.

Until , Spain had been made up of a group of minor kingdoms ruled by interrelated monarchs, and since the eighth century, much of the Spanish peninsula had been held by the Moors. Slowly, the Christian rulers had reclaimed the land. This long struggle against the Moors was in fact the greatest source of a sense of national identity, and the biggest single unifying factor, more so even than the marriage between Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile that brought the Spanish kingdoms together under a single monarchy.

No Spanish rulers were more zealous in eliminating the Moors than Ferdinand and Isabella, and by only the Moorish kingdom of Granada remained unconquered by the Christians. The sovereigns were rulers of the rest of the Iberian peninsula, save for the kingdom of Portugal, and it would only be a matter of time before Granada too came under their dominion. Spain was therefore taking its place as a major European power.

Ferdinand and Isabella represented everything that seemed desirable to Henry VII: they were the descendants of ancient monarchies, their position was strong, and their reputation glorious. If they could be persuaded to agree to a marriage alliance between Prince Arthur and one of their four daughters, then the Tudor dynasty would be far more secure than hitherto. Moreover, Spain and France were hereditary enemies, and therefore a joint pact between England and Spain would benefit both sides.

The Spanish sovereigns were well aware of the potential advantages to themselves of such an alliance, but they were in no hurry to make a commitment. Ferdinand was as wily a politician as Henry Tudor, and was not prepared to sign any treaties until he could be sure that the English King was firmly established on his throne. There was, however, something that Ferdinand desired very much, and that was military assistance against the French. A Spanish herald, Ruy Machado, was moved to comment on the charming impression made on the envoys by both the little girl and her mother, the Queen.

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Ferdinand and Isabella were impressed by their reports, but still not happy about sending their daughter to a realm whose king might be deposed at any time. The alliance was ratified, and the dowry confirmed, by the Treaty of Medina del Campo, which was signed by the Spanish sovereigns on 27 March Her son by Henry succeeded his father as John I, and married his cousin, Isabella of Portugal; they were the parents of Isabella of Castile. Isabella had been born into a land ravaged by war, both dynastic and holy. Her brother, Henry IV, was a spineless weakling, and her mother went insane when she was a girl.


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Fortunately, in a marriage was arranged for Isabella with her cousin, Ferdinand of Aragon, a vigorous youth eleven months her junior. The new Queen was of middle height with a good figure that would soon be ruined by ten pregnancies in quick succession.


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  • She had skin so fair it looked white, and her eyes were a greeny blue. She was graceful, beautiful, modest and pious, but was also blessed with a sense of humour and boundless energy. In , the King of Aragon died and Ferdinand succeeded him. Thus, for the first time in her history, Spain became united under centralised rule, with only the Moorish Kingdom of Granada refusing allegiance to the sovereigns.

    The reconquest of this Infidel bastion was to be the great enterprise of their reign, to which they would devote most of their time and resources. Campaign followed campaign, with the ever growing family of the King and Queen being trailed after them in the wake of their army, from city to city, through inhospitable and hostile territory, the monarchs themselves sometimes suffering gruelling privation in their quest for a holy victory.

    This left the Queen with little time to devote to her children. Her first child, Isabella, was born in , and was followed in rapid succession over the next fifteen years by nine others. Sadly, all the campaigning took its toll: five babies died young. However, the rest grew to maturity. An heir to the throne, the Infante John, was born in ; then there was Juana, born in , Maria in , and Katherine who was called Catalina in her native land , born on the night of December in the palace of the Bishop of Toledo at Alcala de Henares, in the midst of war. The Queen had been in the saddle all day, and rose from her bed the day after the birth to go back on the march, consigning her youngest daughter to the care of nurses.

    Nevertheless, she cared deeply for all her children, and personally supervised their education. They, in turn, all loved and respected her, especially Katherine, who grew up to be the most like her in looks and character. While Isabella lived, Katherine had a champion who would consider her welfare and security before all else.

    In appearance he was of medium height with a wellproportioned body, and had long dark hair and a good complexion.

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    He was genial, charismatic and a good conversationalist. Like his wife, he possessed great energy which he put to good use on military campaigns but also expended on women. His contemporaries thought him compassionate, yet this did not always extend to his own family; he later abandoned one daughter to penury and had another declared insane in order to seize her kingdom.

    He was notorious as a great dissimulator, and for being fond of political intrigue. Yet for all his failings, he loved his wife, and theirs was a dynamic and successful partnership. The only glimpse we have of Katherine of Aragon during her childhood is at the tournament where she was presented to the English ambassadors. After the conquest of Granada, the four infantas were sent there to live in the Moorish palace of the Alhambra. There they grew to maturity and were educated among the arched courtyards and splashing fountains where once the caliphs had kept their harem. The Christian princesses rarely left their sunny home, except for the great occasions of state at which their presence was required.

    Before her eyes was the image of her pious mother as the supreme example of Christian queenship, an example that Katherine would try to emulate all her life. Ferdinand and Isabella arranged advantageous marriages for all their children, although none turned out as successfully as they had hoped. Isabella was married in to the Infante Alfonso of Portugal. Although it was an arranged marriage, the young couple quickly fell in love, but their happiness was shattered when, only seven months later, Alfonso was killed after a fall from his horse.

    In , Isabella died giving birth to a son, the Infante Miguel, who only lived two years. Juana, the second daughter of the sovereigns, was volatile and highly unstable, yet her parents arranged for her an even more glorious marriage. Their fame had led many princes to seek alliance with them, one such being the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, Hapsburg ruler of vast territories, including Austria, parts of Germany, Burgundy and the Low Countries.

    He had two gifted children, Philip and Margaret, and Ferdinand and Isabella were happy to ally themselves with Maximilian by marriages between Philip and Juana and Margaret of Austria and the Infante John, the heir to Spain. Juana and Philip were married in So what kind of characters are we, the 9.

    We are mostly not like those flamboyant political manipulators from the 0. We are also mostly, but not entirely, white. One of the hazards of life in the 9. We gaze upon the 0. As a consequence, we are missing the other big story of our time.

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    How high would you have to jump to make it into the 9. In financial terms, the measurement is easy and the trend is unmistakable. In , you would have needed to multiply your wealth six times. By , you would have needed to leap twice as high—increasing your wealth fold—to scrape into our group.

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    On this measure, the s look much like the s. That is not a typo. That and another , cups of coffee will get you into the 9. N one of this matters, you will often hear, because in the United States everyone has an opportunity to make the leap: Mobility justifies inequality. In the United States, it also turns out not to be true as a factual matter. The strength of the rubber determines how hard it is for you to escape the rung on which you were born. If your parents are high on the ladder, the band will pull you up should you fall; if they are low, it will drag you down when you start to rise.

    An IGE of one says that the destiny of a child is to end up right where she came into the world. Today, it is about 0. IGE is now higher here than in almost every other developed economy. The story becomes even more disconcerting when you see just where on the ladder the tightest rubber bands are located. Canada, for example, has an IGE of about half that of the U. The difference is in what happens at the extremes. Here in the land of opportunity, the taller the tree, the closer the apple falls.

    They wash up together on every shore. Across countries, the higher the inequality, the higher the IGE see Figure 2. But around the world and throughout history, the wealthy have advanced the crystallization process in a straightforward way. They have taken their money out of productive activities and put it into walls.

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    Throughout history, moreover, one social group above all others has assumed responsibility for maintaining and defending these walls. Its members used to be called aristocrats. The main difference is that we have figured out how to use the pretense of being part of the middle as one of our strategies for remaining on top.

    Krueger liked the graph shown in Figure 2 so much that he decided to give it a name: the Great Gatsby Curve.

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    It was published in , just as special counsel was turning up evidence that bonds from that company had found their way into the hands of the secretary of the interior. Stewart was running away from subpoenas to testify before the United States Senate about his role in the Teapot Dome scandal. We are only now closing in on the peak of inequality that his generation achieved, in But it can buy a private detective.