“Good faith and truthful ignorance”: A case of transatlantic Bigamy
Good faith and truthful ignorance: a case of transatlantic bigamy is a biography of Francisco Noguerol, a Spanish conquistador who was little known during his time. In addition, the book resonates Spain’s attempt at protecting the rights of women in that Era. This is reflected by the Judiciary’s attempt at making sure that the women involved enjoyed their bequeathed rights. Each woman involved in the story had a right of retaining Francisco as their own spouse. This is derived from the fact that each had been legally married to Francesco; despite the incumbent circumstances. Generally, the book revolves around the Spanish society, marriage, and the legal environment. The book also manages to shed a light on the reasons why individuals engaged in certain actions. The society’s exploration is expressed by an aspect of arranged marriages. The author manages to give a breakdown of some aspects of confusion that can arise as a result of arranged marriages. In addition, the book sheds light on how women were able to circumvent Spanish law 1. To this end, this paper aims at looking into whether Francisco was guilty, or not, of good and truthful ignorance as depicted in the book Good and Truthful Ignorance: A Case of Transatlantic Bigamy.
In this aspect, Francisco’s troubles began a few years earlier when his mother, who was controlling, arranged for him to get married to a wealthy merchant’s daughter. Her aim was to ensure that their family gained prestige; a family that already boasted a noble title, Hidalgo. Despite the noble title, Francisco’s family had very little money, a factor that may have caused his mother to arrange for that kind of marriage. Noguerol decided to go elsewhere and make a new life for himself, and free himself from a coerced marriage.
Noguerol went to South America in the Peru region. On arrival, he allied himself to Diego Almargo as they tried to plunder the Peruvian area. Unfortunately, Francisco Pizarro executed Almargo in 1538 and lured Almargo’s supporters including Noguerol to his camp. For agreeing to be Pizarro’s ally, Noguerol was granted the control over Los Ubinas Indians. He decided to build a home in a city called Arequipa. It was during this period that Noguerol’s sisters, Ynes and Francisca misled him; regarding the demise of his first wife. Noguerol believed his sisters based on the existence of consanguinity and their stature in the society. A few years later, after the demise of Charles V, an ordinance as passed. He ordinance required that all encomendors to be married; as a prerequisite. Noguerol decided to marry Dona Catalina in an endeavor of saving his title. She was a widow of Doctor Tejada who had also passed on a few years earlier.2
With regards to his return home, Francisco learns about the existence of a mischief. He returns home in 1556 to find that he was facing the law on charges of bigamy. This was based on the fact that both his wives were alive; although by undue circumstances. During his trial, Noguerol told the Council of Indies that the legitimacy of his first marriage to Dona Beatriz was null. He argued that he neither consummated the marriage nor lived with Dona Beatriz. However, the council forced Noguerol and Beatriz to separate even as the trial was still in progress. In the end, Noguerol’s marriage to Catalina was ruled to be null and void by the council in 1557. The couple later appealed to Pope Paul IV, which led to the recognition of their marriage in 1558. Even though, they had united, they had undergone a lot of tribulations to get there. They settled in Medina where they lived until Noguerol passed on in 1581.
In this perspective, the claims by Noguerol were founded. Due to misinformation, Noguerol believed his wife to be dead. He later remained due to the existence of a law requiring that he be married. However, the Spanish legal system at the time did not recognize his claims, arguing that he had known well that he had a wife when he married Catalina. Noguerol did not have any ill intention based on the fact that bigamy was illegal. Noguerol had left to avoid an arranged marriage. From the onset, his intentions were not to replace his ‘wife’. Even after being informed of his wife’s demise, he still did not marry. It was only after the implementation of a new decree that he decided to remarry. To this end, Francisco can be said to be a victim of circumstances. Noguerol’s innocence can be further reinforced by the existence of evidence suggesting otherwise. Two respectable nuns sent him a letter articulating the demise of his wife. Basically, Noguerol was innocently led to believe that his wife had passed on, and remarrying as necessary.3
In addition, Noguerol’s sisters confirmed of their authorship of the letters. However, a questionable aspect arises when they are not questioned regarding their actions after discovering that Beatriz was alive. Also, it was not clear whether Noguerol had been notified of the existence of his first wife thereafter. This was adequate proof of Noguerol’s claims of ‘truthful ignorance’. He had made the decision to marry Catalina was made on a truthful basis; he did believe that Beatriz was dead. Furthermore, the law required that of him. The king had passed a new ordinance that required all encomenderors like Noguerol to be married. Therefore, Noguerol wanted to safeguard his encomienda status when he married Catalina. However, doubt is cast on Francisco’s claims after the discovery that had information regarding his first wife prior to going home4. Noguerol had had information from unreliable sources that his first wife was alive. However, prior information from his sisters outweighed this new information.
In conclusion, Noguerol’s claims of being a truthful ignorant person were true. Noguerol’s decision to marry Catalina was entirely in good faith as he believed his first wife to be dead. In addition, it was a prerequisite to his stature that he be married. This was after the passing of a decree by the King. Evidence suggests that he would have shied away from marrying had he known that Beatriz was alive. Perhaps, he might have gone for her. Therefore, Noguerol was absolutely right when he claimed that he was guilty of truthful ignorance and good faith only.5
Cook, Alexandra Parma and Noble David Cook. Good Faith and Truthful Ignorance: A Case of Transatlantic Bigamy. reprint, illustrated. New York: Duke University Press, 1990.