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  • Susan Stoderl

Women Writers | Three Prodigies of the Spanish Golden Age


Bernal, Castro Egas and Galindo
Three Women Prodigies of the Spanish Golden Age

Beatriz Bernal (b. 1501/1504, d. 1563)


Her Cristalián de España, printed in 1545, was the first and possibly the only woman-authored chivalric romance. Her authorship was established when her daughter applied for permission to reprint the novel. She was also one of the notable female authors of the Spanish Golden Age. The complete title is daunting: Historia de los invitos y magnánimos caballeros don Cristalián de España, príncipe de Trapisonda y del infante Lucescanio, su hermano, hijos del famosísimo emperador Lindedel de Trapisonda.


Bernal’s female characters’ novel thoughts and actions defied the genre conventions. Best-sellers among the French, German, Dutch, and English were in high demand. Thirty years after publication, her work was still popular and admired. Besides translations, the book inspired fan fiction as continuations and supplements to the major works. In The Mirrour of Princely Deedes and Knighthood, published in London in 1578, the translator, Margaret Tyler, included a dedication to Bernal, showing Bernal’s permanent place for women in the world of the arts and chivalric fiction.


 

Ana de Castro Egas was born in the late 16th century. The date of her death is unknown. Castro Egas was a revered poet and biographer of the Spanish Golden Age (1492-1659). Although they do not survive, we know Castro Egas wrote well-respected poems and prose stories, because many major poets and writers of the time acknowledged her work. In his work “El Laurel de Apolo,” Lope de Vega, one of the most distinguished playwrights of the time, included her among the esteemed poets of the era. He noted her contributions to the cultural and intellectual life of Spain. In her time, she supported including women in literary and academic circles.


 

Beatriz Galindo (c. 1465–1535) mastered Latin at twelve, which earned her the nickname La Latina. She taught Latin and grammar to Queen Isabella of Castile and her children, including Catherine of Aragon, the first and longest-lived wife of King Henry VIII. The causes of death among the six wives were egalitarian — two of cancer, two of childbirth, and two decapitations. In all, she tutored five different queens.


In addition, Galindo wrote poetry and a commentary on Aristotle. She was one of the first women to be active in public life. She founded the Hospital of the Holy Cross in 1506 in Madrid, which still exists.


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