lauravonIn the last episode: The year is 1521. The Spanish have discovered the Lowcountry. The natives call the place Chicora. The Spanish call it the Land of Giants because its people are large and healthy. (They also happen to be very pale compared to the Spaniards, which kind of makes you wonder because in the old cowboy movies weren’t the palefaces the ones of European descent?) Spanish slavecatchers kidnap 60 of these pale giants and carry them away to labor on the sugar plantations of Hispaniola. Hoping to go home, a slave named Chick convinces his master that the Land of Giants is full of gold and silver. But the master does not rush to Chicora for a treasure hunt, as Chick had expected. Instead the Spaniard – Lucas “Luke” Vasquez de Allyon – sails home to seek authority to conquer and colonize Chicora in the name of Spain.  


Luke did not feel the least bit sheepish about asking the king for the rights to Chicora. You see, Luke was a bit presumptuous, and indeed he always had been. From early in his infancy his elders had instilled in him a sense of entitlement. They were Castillians, and the Castillians were the top dogs in Spain.

Castillians – the guys from region of Castille – were golden. I mean that almost literally because so much of their wealth was from the gold trade. They were loaded. And in the social hierarchy of Spain, the Castillians were the ones who went to the best colleges, wore expensive clothing and got plum jobs through their fraternity connections.

The Castillians were also known for having a bad attitude about the King of Spain.


You may have noticed that I have not referred to the king using a name and number. That’s because it’s kind of complicated. Usually a king name follows this formula:  NAME + ROMAN NUMERAL = KING NAME.

That’s for writing. For speaking purposes, the formula is NAME + “THE” + ORDINAL NUMBER = KING NAME. So Henry VIII is “Henry the Eighth” and Louis XIV in “Louis the Fourteenth” etc.)

This system of nomenclature is pretty reliable as long as you are dealing with just one little kingdom. Once you get into the business of empire building, though, it goes to pot.

This particular king, thanks to his multiple royal bloodlines and his backstabbing ways, ended up conglomerating a bunch of European territories into something that almost resembled a modern superpower.

But one of the disadvantages of having multiple royal bloodlines was that he was saddled with multiple royal names. For simplicity’s sake, we will call him Charlie.

Charlie is best known to history as King Charles V, Holy Roman Emporer. But if Interpol were trying to track him down and take him into custody, they’d have a lot of aliases to cope with. Here are some of the names Charlie ruled under:

Charles I

Charles II

Charles III

Charles IV

Charles V

Keep in mind that the Charles part could take the form of Karl, Karel or Carlos. Maybe even Carlo. And in addition to the name and number, you had to attach the name of a place to make it complete.

So, for example, Charlie was Charles I, King of Spain; Charles II, Count of Holland; Charles III, Duke of Luxemburg; Charles IV, King of Naples, and Charlest V, Holy Roman Emperor. All at the same time.

And that’s just a short list. These are all of his titles:

Holy Roman Emperor, King of Germany, King of Italy, King of all Spains, of Castile, Aragon, León, Navarra, Grenada, Toledo, Valencia, Galicia, Majorca, Sevilla, Cordova, Murcia, Jaen, Algarves, Algeciras, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, King of both Sicilies, of Sardinia, Corsica, King of Jerusalem, King of the Western and Eastern Indies, Lord of the Islands and Main Ocean Sea, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Lorraine, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Limburg, Luxembourg, Gelderland, Athens, Neopatria, Württemberg, Landgrave of Alsace, Prince of Swabia, Asturia and Catalonia, Count of Flanders, Habsburg, Tyrol, Gorizia, Barcelona, Artois, Burgundy Palatine, Hainaut, Holland, Seeland, Ferrette, Kyburg, Namur, Roussillon, Cerdagne, Zutphen, Margrave of the Holy Roman Empire, Burgau, Oristano and Gociano, Lord of Frisia, the Wendish March, Pordenone, Biscay, Molin, Salins, Tripoli and Mechelen.

Take a deep breath. And resist the temptation to look up all those obscure place-names. (Swabia? Neopatria? Namur? And TWO Sicilies?)

So Charlie had a lot of monikers to keep up with. But you know what? I bet that you have just as many names, if not more.Think about your computer. And the internet. And all your accounts. And try to add up your total number of usernames. There are probably dozens. So maybe that gives you a little empathy for Charlie.

All I can say is that it’s a good thing they didn’t have a no-fly list back then because all of Charlie’s names would have jammed up the system.

And if you were a commoner named Charles, you’d probably have spent a lot of time in airport security, much of it cursing your parents for giving you that name. If they had to give you a king name, why couldn’t it have been a less common one, like maybe Nebudchadnezzar?

You start daydreaming about how they could have called you Chad for short, which have been kind of cool. In fact it could have changed your life. As a Chad, you might have been seen as being more handsome and metrosexual than if you were a Chuck or a Charlie, and your sweet, lopsided smile might have been perceived by the ladies (and some of the gentlemen) as a deliciously different, devil-may-care grin.

But as the security guys sieze your passport, rifle through your carry on bag and strip you down to your tighty whities, give thanks for this: you did not have Charlie’s giant, unignorable jaw.

It was so humongous it made Charlie’s head look like the Iberian Peninsula with a face drawn on it.

He made up for it with his great personality, although some would disagree. Namely, his mother. More about that later.

Despite his inability to chew food as easily as other boys did, Charlie developed an impressive skill set and was good at leadership and organizational development kinds of stuff. He was also a good communicator, and as ruler of so many dozens of places, Charlie knew how to speak many European languages.

Unfortunately none of them was Spanish.

You heard that right. The King of Spain did not speak Spanish.

After Charlie had been in Spain few years, the Castillian noblemen got fed up and gave him an ultimatum: learn Spanish or they’d take away the crown. That threat motivated him and he studied hard, kind of like that farm boy learning Rosetta Stone Italian so he can impress the supermodel. But Charlie never became truly fluent.

To make matters worse, not only could he not speak Spanish, Charlie was not really the King of Spain.

Joanna, Charlie’s mom, was supposed to be in charge. But Charlie was impatient and power-hungry. He definitely didn’t want his mom meddling in his business and trying to pull rank on him all the time. So he claimed she was crazy and kept her locked away for the last 50 years of her life.


Whether his reign in Spain was legitimate or not, one of Charlie’s major contributions was creating the Council of Indies in 1524. Charlie delegated to them the task of managing the Americas.

The Council of Indies was a sort of multi-purpose governmental entity. You know how we have three branches of government in the U.S.? Executive, legislative and judicial? Well, the Council of Indies was responsible for all three branches. Kind of like a three-for-the-price-of-one special. Sounds efficient and economical, but it was missing a key ingredient: balance of power.

Even if the power had been better balanced it wouldn’t have made that much of a difference. The governing body was called the Council of Indies, but it was not physically LOCATED in the Indies, which put it at a marked disadvantage when it came to actually enforcing its policies.

Next: Was Luke going to get permission to conquer Chicora? Who was going to foot the bill for all of this conquering? Once the natives were conquered, would it be all right to torture them just a little — but only for purposes of national security?

Read more My Lowcountry