Almost six hundred years ago, an epidemic much less widespread than the coronavirus, but much more lethal with the medicine of the time, surprised a group of ambassadors who, coincidentally, were in Madrid. The result of that was the current Glorieta de Embajadores.
Before the establishment of what we now call “capitals”, the Royal Courts of the medieval Europe used to settle where their kings did, and one of them, John II of Castile, chose Madrid on several occasions to call the Court, organize literary conferences, receive foreign embassies and, in short, install himself.
In 1434, John II was in Madrid with his favourite, Álvaro de Luna, to receive an embassy of the King of France led by the archbishop and the Seneschal of Toulouse, Luis de Molins and mosén Juan de Monais. In the Royal Palace, ambassadors were received by twenty pages and an extravagant ceremonial, and even a lion that, according to the tradition, would end up bursting because of the heat at the Bridge of Segovia.
In the best of history, and after several years of drought, there was a tremendous downpour that, according to the chronicles of that time, “lasted nonstop from 29 October that year to 7 January next year”. As a consequence, waters overflowed, drinking water got mixed up with sewage and, in 1435, Madrid was a prey to a terrible plague.
John II chose to flee to Illescas, in Toledo, but foreign ambassadors that happened to be in Madrid (of Tunisia, Navarra, Aragon and those already mentioned of France) preferred to wait for evacuation to a camp located outside Madrid.
Tunisia’s Ambassador went to the villa of San Pedro, that of Aragon to the villa (and current street) of Santiago el Verde and to other immediate properties (currently located at the Huerta del Bayo Street and in the Casino de la Reina park) and those of Navarra and France to other nearby properties. A fence was built in order to separate them from the infected city and, since then, the people started calling that enclosure Campo de Embajadores, a name that, with its variants, has remained forever.
Two years after the plague, an entrance was open in the fence, called the Portillo de Embajadores, whose location hosts at the moment the Glorieta de Embajadores, the same in which, in 1790, one of the most important and zarzuela-like industrial centres of the history of Madrid was built, the Tobacco Factory.