Of kings and clouds and technicolor worms

When Philip IV (III of Aragon and Portugal) came to Barcelona for the first time, he paused at the Valdoncellas/Valldonzellas convent, which was then outside the city. There they dressed him up in rosa seca (surely more than dry rose), hat (Iberian, not Mexican), feathers and diamonds (from the finest of which hung a pearl called “orphan” because it was so singular), and then the nuns waved goodbye and on the city walls the artillery started saluting and the minstrels started strumming, and, as he approached, an angel descended from a cloud and presented him with the keys to the gate. (I know gods and angels regularly descend on magnificent mechanical clouds in Renaissance dramas, but this is what the woggly refer to as “so Barcelona”. Maybe taxi-drivers should try it.)

By happy chance, one of the couple of other mentions of nuues in Gonzalo de Céspedes y Meneses’ Primera parte de la historia de D. Felippe el IIII., Rey de las Españas (1631) is of the clouds of terrifying butterflies which chilled Poitou (France) a while later, covering the sun, as a particularly dry summer ended in storms and terror. There is more, none of which, however, has anything to do with Barcelona: in various parts of Europe it rained blood, so much that fields and tools were left red and springs bled violently; swarms of locusts had to be burnt on huge fires to prevent them invading houses; hailstones fell which turned into technicolor thready worms with Gollum grins; anthropomorphic flying toads were also observed; the only news of humans was of a girl born in Nijmegen with two bodies, one head, and two tongues (someone probably found this amusing); finally, there was also a monstrous fish on the Vistula, but then there usually was, until the US got rid of the communists and the EU financed a clean-up.

(Unfortunately el Gonz doesn’t seem to have done indexes, and without wasting lots of time I’m not going to be able to figure out from the text which years he is referring to. Sorry!)

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