Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand had taken their court to Barcelona for the winter. They regularly held audiences to hear grievances and resolve criminal and civil cases of their common subjects and, at noon, Ferdinand finished an audience at the Casa de Deputacion.
As he descended the steps to the Plaza of Kings, Ferdinand was attacked by an assailant wielding a knife and gravely wounded. Ferdinand’s advisers mobbed the attacker, intent on lynching him to death, but Ferdinand retained consciousness and ordered that the man’s life be spared for an interrogation to identify conspirators. Isabella immediately suspected Catalan dissidents or French agents and ordered Barcelona’s priests to lead her subjects in prayer.
The assailant’s interrogation revealed he was an elderly Catalan peasant who believed himself the rightful king of Aragón and entitled to kill Ferdinand. The interrogators found him lunatic and that he had acted alone, and Catalans everywhere felt tremendous relief that reprisals were not due. Ferdinand publicly attributed the wound as punishment for his own sins and recommended leniency.
The royal council promptly sentenced the assailant to a gruesome public death. The hand that caused the offense was dismembered, the heart and other body parts that assisted the crime were plucked with red-hot pincers, and the onlookers finished the punishment by stoning and burning what remained. It was reported that the queen felt the lunatic deserved mercy and ordered that he be strangled first.
Ferdinand recovered slowly. Throughout the kingdom, word was disseminated that the devil had sought to end the king’s Christian service and that the Lord had let the act occur to demonstrate the king’s indefatigability.