for 5 unaccompanied Timpani
“After this great and prosperous event…A black and lamentable accident… Was on a miserable Lady seen, Who, after she was dead, was made a Queen.”
Luis de Camões, The Lusiads, III, 118
trans. Richard Fanshawe
The inspiration for this piece comes from a tragic love tale dating back to fourteenth century Portugal. Dom Pedro, son of Alfonso IV and heir to the throne, wed the Infanta Constanza of Aragon in 1340 in a politically-arranged marriage. Dom Pedro, however,
was taken with Inês de Castro, one of the Infanta’s ladies-in-waiting. The relationship of Pedro and Inês grew as they became lovers, parents, and soul mates. The scandal at the court proved to be too much so the King had Inês banished to Spain. Dom Pedro persisted and had Inês and their children installed in the convent of Santa Clara some fifty miles from Alcobaça. For some ten years, Pedro and Inês maintained their relationship. Alfonso, torn between Pedro’s happiness and political pressure, finally yielded to his advisors and allowed Inês and her children to be brutally murdered on January 7, 1355.
Dom Pedro’s grief was immeasurable. He swore revenge and led a bloody rebellion against his father but was unable to gain victory nor revenge. Dom Pedro yielded, having to accept the pardon of the three assassins as a condition of the surrender. Alfonso died soon after, and the prince ascended to the throne as Pedro I. He had the three assassins extradited and was finally able to have his revenge; the last thing the assassins would see before they died was the beating of their own hearts. Still yearning for his dead Inês, Pedro revealed that he and Inês had been secretly married. He then proceeded to stage the coronation his queen never had.
“[Dom Pedro] had Inês’ body exhumed and, legend has it, dressed the cadaver in a purple robe, put a crown upon its head and compelled the nobility of the realm to come and kiss the decomposed hand of the “Dead Queen.”
Portugal, Michelin et Cie, 1985