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Three of the craftiest royal rogues in Christendom strove hard to cozen and outwit each other in the last years of the fifteenth and the earlier years of the sixteenth century. No betrayal was too false, no trick too undignified, no hypocrisy too contemptible for Ferdinand of Aragon, Maximilian of Austria, and Henry Tudor if unfair advantage could be gained by them; and the details of their diplomacy convey to modern students less an impression of serious State negotiations than of the paltry dodges of three hucksters with a strong sense of humour.

Of the three, Ferdinand excelled in unscrupulous falsity, Maximilian in bluff effrontery, and Henry VII. in close-fisted cunning: they were all equal in their cynical disregard for the happiness of their own children, whom they sought to use as instruments of their policy, and fate finally overreached them all. And yet by a strange chance, amongst the offspring of these three clever tricksters were some of the noblest characters of the age.

John, Prince of Castile, and Arthur, Prince of Wales, both died too young to have proved their full worth, but they were beloved beyond the ordinary run of princes, and were unquestionably gentle, high-minded, and good; Katharine of Aragon stands for ever as an exalted type of steadfast faith and worthy womanhood, unscathed in surroundings and temptations of XIII unequalled difficulty; and Margaret of Austria, as this book will show, was not only a great ruler but a cultured poet, a patron of art, a lover of children, a faithful wife, a pious widow, and, above all, a woman full of sweet feminine charm.

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