MoboReader> Literature > Women of the Romance Countries

   Chapter 17 No.17

Women of the Romance Countries By John R. Effinger Characters: 33581

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The Age of Isabella-Spanish Unity

In the first half of the fifteenth century in Spain there was one woman, Isabella of Portugal, who deserves to be remembered for her many good qualities and for the fact that she was the mother of the great Queen Isabella. It was as the wife of John II. of Castile that the elder Isabella was brought into the political life of the time and made to play her part. This King John was one of the weakest and in some ways the most inefficient of monarchs, for, in spite of his intelligence, his good manners, and his open and substantial appreciation of the learned men of his time, his political life was contemptible, as he was completely under the control of the court favorite, Alvaro de Luna. Alvaro de Luna era el hombre más politico, disimulado, y astuto de su tiempo [Alvaro de Luna was the most politic, deceitful, and astute man of his time], so says the Spanish historian Quintana; and as Burke puts it, he had the strongest head and the bravest heart in all Castile. There was no one to excel him in knightly sport, no one lived in greater magnificence, and he was, in truth, "the glass of fashion, the mould of form, the observed of all observers." To this perfect knight, the king was a mere puppet who could be moved this way or that with perfect impunity. So complete was the ascendency of Luna, that it is said on good authority that the king hesitated to go to bed until he had received his favorite's permission. When King John's first wife, Maria of Portugal, died in 1445, it was his desire to marry a princess of the royal house of France; but, for his own reasons, the Lord of Luna willed otherwise, and the king, submissive, obeyed orders and espoused Isabella of Portugal, a granddaughter of King John I. No sooner had this fiery princess taken her place beside King John, after their marriage in 1450, than she began to assert her independence in a way which caused great scandal at the court and brought dismay to the heart of Alvaro de Luna. Isabella opposed the plans of this masterful nobleman at every turn, refused to accept his dictation about the slightest matter, declined to make terms with him in any way, and declared herself entirely beyond his control, in spite of the fact that he had been responsible for her marriage. King John was at first as much surprised as any of the other people at the boldness of his young queen, but he soon saw that it would be possible, with Isabella's aid, to throw off the hateful yoke which Luna had put about his neck, and this is what took place in a very short time. The queen was more than a match for all who opposed her, court intrigues, instigated by Luna, were to no avail, and in the end he had to give up, beaten by a woman, and one whom he had hoped to make his agent, or ally, in the further subjection of the king. A year after the marriage of John and Isabella, the Princess Isabella was born, and with her advent there came new hope for Spain.

In the neighboring little kingdom of Navarre there was another princess who lived at about the same time, who distinguished herself not by the same boldness of manner perhaps, but by a quiet dignity, and by a wise and temperate spirit which was often sorely tried. Blanche, Princess of Navarre, had been married in 1419 to the Prince of Aragon, John; but in the early years of their married life, before Navarre, the substantial part of Blanche's marriage portion, came under her definite control, the young prince spent the most of his time in Castile, where he was connected with many of the court intrigues which were being woven around the romantic figure of Alvaro de Luna. Finally, Blanche became Queen of Navarre, upon her father's death in 1425, but John was still too much concerned with his Castilian affairs to care to leave them and come to take his place at the side of his wife's throne. For three years Blanche was left to her own devices, and during that time she ruled her little state without the aid or assistance of king or prime minister, and was so eminently successful in all her undertakings that her capacity was soon a matter of favorable comment. Finally, in 1428, John was forced to leave Castile, as Luna had gained the upper hand for the moment, and he considered this as a favorable opportunity to go to Navarre and gain recognition as Queen Blanche's husband. Accordingly, he went in great state to Pamplona, the capital city, and there, with imposing ceremonies, the public and official coronation of John and Blanche was celebrated. At the same time, Blanche's son Charles was recognized as his mother's successor in her ancestral kingdom. But Navarre was not a congenial territory for King John, who was of a restless, impulsive disposition; and he was so bored by the provincial gayety of Pamplona that after a very short stay he could endure it no longer, and set off for Italy, leaving Blanche in entire control as before. Navarre was a sort of halfway ground between France and the various governments of Spain, and was often the centre of much intrigue and plotted treachery; but John was so completely overshadowed now by Luna's almost absolute power, that he knew there was no field for his activity at home. Blanche, however, was confronted more than once by the most delicate situations, as her good city of Pamplona was constantly filled with the agents of foreign powers; but so firm was the queen's character, and so careful were her judgments, that she was able to administer her government until her death, in 1441, with much success and very little criticism.

The next woman to occupy a conspicuous place in the annals of Aragon and Navarre is Do?a Juana Henriquez, the second wife of this same John II. Do?a Juana was the daughter of Don Fadrique Henriquez, Admiral of Castile, who had become the most influential man in the kingdom during a moment of temporary disgrace for Alvaro de Luna; and at this time of his success, for factional reasons, John considered that an alliance with the admiral might further his own plans with respect to Castile. This second wife was not a woman of high birth, and was totally unaccustomed to the new surroundings in which she found herself placed; but with the quick adaptive power which is possessed by women to so marked a degree, Juana was soon able to hold her own at court and to make a good showing, in fact, on any occasion. She was a very beautiful woman, of the traditional Spanish type, with dark eyes and dark hair, and a very engaging manner, and to her cleverness she joined a great ambition which made her unceasing in her efforts for her husband's advancement. She was inclined to be haughty and domineering in tone, was not overscrupulous, as might have been expected of one who had lived in the atmosphere of the Castilian court at this time, and the sum total of her efforts did little more than to perpetuate the period of strife and turmoil. The admiral, Don Fadrique, was in control for but a short time; and upon the return to power of Alvaro, John was driven out of the country, after being wounded in battle, and the admiral himself was killed in the fighting at Olmedo. John took his wife with him to Pamplona, where he now went, as that city offered him a most convenient exile. His return to his wife's country was not made in peace, for no sooner had he arrived than he proceeded to dispossess his son Charles, who had been openly acknowledged as his mother's heir at the time of her coronation. In the warfare which ensued, and which was a snarl of petty, selfish interests, Juana did yeoman service in her husband's cause. At the time of her hurried flight to Navarre, she had tarried for a short time in the little town of Sos, in Aragon, and there she had given birth to a son, Fernando, who was to be instrumental in bringing peace and glory to Spain in spite of the fact that he first saw the light in the midst of such tumult and confusion. Notwithstanding her delicate condition, Juana was soon in the thick of the fray, as she hastened to the town of Estella, which had been threatened, fortified the place, and defended it effectually from all the attacks made upon it by the hostile forces. She seems to have been a born fighter, and, though her efforts may often have been misdirected, she must have exerted a powerful influence upon the mind of her son, who was to show himself at a later day as good a fighter in a larger cause.

To turn back to Castile now for a time, in the labyrinth of this much involved period, where the duplication of names and the multiplicity of places makes it difficult to thread one's way intelligently, it will be found that the court, during the reign of Henry IV., was chiefly distinguished by its scandalous immorality. Quintana, in his volume entitled the Grandezas de Madrid, gives enough information on the subject to reveal the fact that the roués of that period could learn little from their counterparts to-day, as the most shameless proceedings were of everyday occurrence, and men and women both seemed to vie with each other in their wickedness. It would be somewhat unjust to include the great body of the people in this vicious class, as the most conspicuous examples of human degradation and degeneracy were to be found at the court, but the fact remains that public ideas in regard to moral questions were very lax; the clergy was corrupt, and the moral tone of the whole country was deplorably low, as judged by the standards of to-day. Women deceived their husbands with much the same relish as Boccaccio depicts in his Decameron; passions were everywhere the moving forces, in the higher and lower classes as well, and nowhere was there to be seen the continence which comes from an intelligent self-control.

In the midst of this carnival of vice and corruption, King Henry, the older brother of the Princess Isabella, was a most striking figure. He had been divorced from his first wife, Blanche of Aragon, on the ground of impotence, but had succeeded, in spite of this humiliation, in contracting another alliance, this time with the beautiful, but not overscrupulous, Juana of Portugal. Beltran de Cueva, a brilliant nobleman, was the favorite and influential person at the court at this time, and his gradual rise to favor had been due in no small measure to the protection of the new queen, who was Beltran's all but acknowledged mistress and took no pains to conceal the matter at any time. In fact, at a great tournament held near Madrid in 1461, soon after Juana's arrival at the court, Beltran posed as her preferred champion, and held the lists against all comers in defence of his mistress's pre?minent and matchless beauty. The king was far from displeased at this liaison between Beltran and the queen, and he was so delighted at the knight's unvarying success in this tournament, that the story goes that he founded a monastery upon the spot and named it, in honor of Saint Jerome and Beltran, San Geronimo del Paso, or of the "passage of arms"! The king was little moved by all this, for the simple reason that he was paying a most ardent court at the same time to one of the queen's ladies in waiting. This Lady Guiomar, his mistress, was beautiful, but bold and vicious, as her relations with such a king demonstrate, but for a time at least she was riding upon the crest of the wave. Proud in her questionable honor, and daring to be jealous of the real queen, she made King Henry pay dearly for her favors, and she was soon installed in a palace of her own and living in a splendor and magnificence which rivalled that of the queen herself. The Archbishop of Seville, strange to relate, openly espoused her cause. Her insolent and domineering ways were a fit counterpart to those of the queen, and the unfortunate people were soon making open complaint. Beltran, the king in fact, was the open and accepted favorite of the queen, and Henry, the king in name only, was devoting himself to a vain and shallow court beauty who wished to be a veritable queen and longed for the overthrow of her rival! Such was the sad spectacle presented to the world by Castile at this time, but the crisis was soon to come which would clarify the air and lead to a more satisfactory condition in the state. Matters were hastened to their climax when the queen gave birth, in 1462, to a daughter who was called after her mother, Juana; but so evident was the paternity of this pitiful little princess, that she was at once christened La Beltraneja in common parlance; and by that sobriquet she is best known in history. It is doubtful if the sluggish moral natures of this time would have been moved by this fact, if the king had not insisted that this baby girl should be acknowledged as his daughter and heiress to the crown of Castile. This was too much for the leaders of the opposition, and they demanded that Henry's younger brother, Alfonso, be recognized as his successor. This proposition brought about civil warfare, which was ended by Alfonso's death in 1468, and then Isabella was generally recognized as the real successor to her unworthy brother Henry, in spite of the claims he continued to put forth in favor of La Beltraneja.

Before the cessation of domestic hostilities, Isabella had been sorely tried by various projects which had been advanced for her marriage. She had been brought up by her mother, Queen Isabella, in the little town of Arevalo, which had been settled upon her at the time of the death of her husband, King John II. There, in quiet and seclusion, quite apart from the vice and tumult of the capital, the little princess had been under the close tutelage of the Church, as her mother had grown quite devout with advancing years; and as Isabella ripened into womanhood, it became evident that she possessed a high seriousness and a strength of character quite unusual. Still, all was uncertain as to her fate. Her brother Henry had first endeavored to marry her to Alfonso V. of Portugal, the elder and infamous brother of his own shameless queen, but Isabella had declined this alliance on the ground that it had not been properly ratified by the Cortes of Castile, and as a result the plan was soon dropped. In the midst of the rebellion which had broken out after Henry's attempt to foist La Beltraneja upon the state, he had proposed as a conciliatory measure that one of the most turbulent of the factional leaders, Don Pedro Giron, Grand Master of Calatrava, should wed Isabella, and the offer had been accepted. This man, who was old enough to be her father, was stained with vice, in spite of his exalted position in the religious Order of Calatrava, and his character was so notoriously vile that the mere mention of such an alliance was nothing short of insult to Isabella. Again she did not allow herself to be dominated by her brother, and after announcing that she utterly refused to consent to such an arrangement, she shut herself up in her apartments and declared her intention of resisting any attempts which might be made to coerce her. But the king gave no heed to her remonstrances, and made arrangements for the wedding festivities, the bridegroom having been summoned. The pope had absolved the profligate grand master from his vows of celibacy, which he had never kept, and poor Isabella, sustained only by the moral support of her courageous mother, was beginning to quake and tremble, as she knew not what might happen, and the prospect for her future happiness was far from good. A providential illness overcame the dreaded bridegroom when he was less than forty leagues from Madrid, as it turned out, and Isabella was able to breathe again freely.

With the death of the younger Alfonso, there were many who urged Isabella to declare herself at once as the Queen of Castile and to head a revolution against her brother, the unworthy Henry. Her natural inclinations, as well as the whole character of her early education, had made her devout, almost bigoted, by nature, and it was but natural that her advisers at this time in her career were mostly members of the clergy, who saw in this young queen-to-be a great support for the Spanish Church in the future. But this girl of sixteen was wiser than her advisers, for she refused to head a revolution, and contented herself with a claim to the throne upon her brother's death. Such a claim necessarily had to run counter to the claim of the dubious Princess Juana, and to discredit her cause as much as possible her sobriquet La Beltraneja was zealously revived. Sure of the support of the clergy, and still wishing to be near to her advisers, Isabella went to the monastery at Avila, where, it is said, deputations from all parts of Castile came to entreat her to assume the crown at once. Her policy of delay m

ade possible an interview between sister and brother, at which Henry, unable to withstand the manifest current of public sentiment, agreed to accept Isabella as his successor and as the lawful heir to the throne of Castile. With this question settled in this satisfactory way, the matter of Isabella's marriage again became an affair of national importance. There were suitors in plenty, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, brother of Edward IV. of England, and the Duke of Guienne, brother of Louis XI. and heir to the French throne, being among the number; but the young Isabella, influenced as much by policy as by any personal feeling in the matter, had decided that she would wed Fernando, son of John II. of Aragon and his second wife, the dashing Do?a Juana Henriquez, and nothing would change her from this fixed purpose. In a former day it had been a woman, Queen Berenguela, who had labored long and successfully for the union of Castile and Leon; and now another woman, this time a girl still in her teens, was laboring for a still greater Spanish unity, which will consolidate the interests of the two kingdoms of Aragon and Castile and give to all Spain the peace which was now such a necessity to the future well-being of the country. There were numerous obstacles thrown in the way of this marriage, which was not pleasing to all of the Castilian factions. The Archbishop of Seville tried to kidnap Isabella to prevent it, and would have done so but for the activity of another prelate, the Archbishop of Toledo, who rescued the unfortunate maiden and carried her off to sure friends in Valladolid, where she awaited Fernando's coming.

Burke gives an admirable description of Isabella at this time, in the following lines: "That royal and noble lady was then in the full bloom of her maiden beauty. She had just completed her eighteenth year. In stature somewhat superior to the majority of her countrywomen, and inferior to none in personal grace and charm, her golden hair and her bright blue eyes told perhaps of her Lancastrian ancestry. Her beauty was remarkable in a land where beauty has never been rare; her dignity was conspicuous in a country where dignity is the heritage not of a class but of a nation. Of her courage, no less than of her discretion, she had already given abundant proofs. Bold and resolute, modest and reserved, she had all the simplicity of a great lady born for a great position. She became in after life something of an autocrat and overmuch of a bigot. But it could not be laid to the charge of a persecuted princess of nineteen that she was devoted to the service of her religion." Such was Isabella when she married Fernando; and the wedding was quietly celebrated at Valladolid, in the house of a friend, Don Juan de Vivero, while the warlike Archbishop of Toledo had charge of the ceremony. Never was there a simpler royal wedding in all the annals of Spanish history: there was no throng of gay nobles, there were none of the customary feasts or tournaments, there was no military display, no glitter of jewels, no shimmer of silks and satins, but all was quiet and serious, and the few guests at this solemn consecration seemed impressed with the dignity of the occasion. The pathway of the young princess was not all strewn with roses, however, as her marriage seemed to enrage her degenerate brother and to stimulate him to new deeds of unworthiness. In spite of the fact that King Henry's shameless conduct in private life had been given a severe rebuke, by implication at least, at the time that Isabella was being urged on all sides to declare herself as queen and dispossess her brother, this perverted monarch continued his profligate career in most open fashion. He had not only one mistress but many of them at the court, he loaded them with riches and with favors, and often, in a somewhat questionable excess of religious zeal, he appointed them to posts of honor and importance in conventual establishments! No sooner had Isabella's wedding been celebrated than Henry began to stir up trouble again, declared that the queen's daughter, La Beltraneja, was the only lawful heir to his estates, and to further his projects he succeeded in arranging for a betrothal ceremony between this young woman and the young Duke of Guienne, heir presumptive to the crown of France, who had been one of Isabella's suitors, as will be remembered. This French alliance, threatening for a moment, was soon impaired by the unexpected death of the young duke, and Isabella's position was strengthened daily by the growing disbelief in La Beltraneja's legitimacy. To give in detail an account of all the plots which were concocted against Isabella would take many chapters in itself, for she met with bitter opposition in spite of the fact that she seems to have won the sympathies of the larger part of the population of the two countries.

In the midst of this continual intrigue came the news of King Henry's death in 1474, and then Isabella, who had been biding her time, was proclaimed queen by her own orders, and the proclamation was made at Segovia, which was then her place of residence. As a mere matter of curiosity, it may be interesting to record the long list of titles which actually belonged to Isabella at this time. She was Queen of Castile, Aragon, Leon, Sicily, Granada, Toledo, Valencia, Galicia, the Mallorcas, Seville, Sardinia, Cordova, Corsica, Murcia, Jaen, the Algarves, Alguynias, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, Countess of Barcelona, Sovereign Lady of Biscay and Molina, Duchess of Athens and Neopatria, Countess of Roussillon, Cerdagne, Marchioness of Ovistan and Goziano! After assuming the heavy burden implied by this somewhat overpowering list of titles, the young queen's first serious annoyance came from her husband, strange as the case may seem. Fernando of Aragon was the nearest living male representative of King Henry, and he somewhat selfishly began to take steps to supplant Isabella in her succession. Little did he know his wife, however, if he imagined it possible to deprive her of Castile, and events soon showed that she was the stronger of the two. At her orders, the laws and precedents with regard to royal succession were carefully examined, and it was soon published abroad that there was no legal objection to her assumption of power. Fernando was appeased to some degree by certain concessions made by his wife, their daughter Juana was recognized as heiress of Castile, and, all in all, in spite of his disgruntled state of mind, he wisely concluded to remain at Isabella's side and help to fight her battles. A new cause for alarm soon appeared: another of Isabella's former suitors, Alfonso, King of Portugal, was affianced to the pitiful La Beltraneja, the two were proclaimed King and Queen of Castile, and the country was at once invaded by a hostile force. Isabella interested herself personally in the equipment of her troops, she faced every emergency bravely, and after a short campaign her banners were triumphant and all things seemed to indicate that an era of peace had been begun. The pope dissolved the marriage between Alfonso and La Beltraneja soon after, and these two unhappy mortals forthwith retired from the world, she to the convent of Saint Clare at Coimbra, while the poor king resigned his crown and became a Franciscan monk. So great, in fact, was Isabella's victory at this time, and so keen was her appreciation of the fact that her greatest cause for alarm had been completely removed from the scene of action, that she walked barefooted in a procession to the church of Saint Paul at Tordesillas, to express her feeling of thanksgiving for her great success.

Following close upon the heels of this last stroke of good fortune for Castile came the news that the old King of Aragon, Fernando's father, was dead, and now, in truth, came that unity of Spain which had been the dream of more than one Utopian mind in days gone by. With fortune smiling upon them in so many ways, the sovereigns of this united realm were still confronted by many serious problems of government, especially in Castile, which called for speedy settlement. The long years of weak and vicious administration had filled the country with all kinds of abuses, and the task of internal improvement was difficult enough to cause even a stouter heart to quail. The queen in all these matters displayed a rare sagacity and developed a rare faculty for handling men which stood her in good stead. The recalcitrant nobles and the rebellious commoners were all brought to terms by her influence, and her power was soon unquestioned. She had an army at her back and a crowd of officers ready to carry out and enforce her instructions to the letter, but, more than all this, her great and personal triumph was the result of her tremendous personal power and magnetism. She travelled all over Spain in a most tireless fashion, she met the people in a familiar manner, and showed her sympathy for them in countless ways; but there was always about her something of that divinity which doth hedge a king, which made all both fear and respect her. No nook or corner of the whole country was too remote, her visits covered the whole realm, and everywhere it was plain to see that her coming had been followed by the most satisfactory results. Having thus created a great and mighty public sentiment in her favor, Isabella was not slow to attack the great questions of national reforms, which were sadly in need of her attention. She boldly curtailed the privileges of the grandees of Spain, and to such good effect that she transformed, in an incredibly short space of time, the most turbulent aristocracy on the continent into a body of devoted and submissive retainers, the counterpart of which was not to be found in any other country of Europe. Her wide grasp of affairs is seen in the support she was willing to give to Columbus in his voyage overseas, and time and time again she showed herself equal to the most trying situations in a way which was most surprising in one of her age and experience. Her firmness of character was ever felt, although her manners were always mild and her whole attitude was calculated to conciliate rather than to antagonize.

Pure and discreet in every way, Isabella was ever a zealous Christian, and she never failed to aid the Church when the means were within her reach. The gradual decline of the Moorish power in Spain had given rise to a most unfortunate spirit of religious intolerance, with which Isabella was soon called upon to deal, and her action in this matter is but characteristic of the time in which she lived. Spain was filled with Jews, who had settled unmolested under the Moslem rule, and there were also many Moriscoes, or people of mixed Spanish and Moorish origin; and these unfortunates were now to be submitted to the tortures of that diabolical institution known as the Inquisition, because they were not enthusiastic in their support of the Catholic religion. Isabella tried to oppose the introduction of these barbarous practices into Castile, but by specious argument her scruples were overcome and she was made to bow to the will of the pope and his legates. In the workings of the Inquisition little distinction was made between men and women, and both seem to have suffered alike at the hands of these cruel ministers of the Church. In 1498, for the first time, it was decreed that men and women held under arrest by order of the inquisitor should be provided with separate prisons, and it is easy to imagine from this one statement that Isabella must have been very much of a bigot, or she could not have allowed so flagrant an abuse to exist for any length of time, no matter what the occasion for it. When the power of the inquisitor seemed about to extend to the Jews for the first time, they offered to Fernando and Isabella thirty thousand pieces of silver, for the final campaigns against the Moors, if they might be allowed to live unmolested. The proposition was being favorably entertained, when Torquemada, the chief inquisitor, suddenly appeared before the king and queen, with a crucifix in his uplifted hand; and if the traditional account be true, he addressed them in these words: "Judas sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver, your highnesses are about to do the same for thirty thousand; behold Him, take Him, and hasten to sell Him." Impressed by this dramatic presentation of the subject, Isabella was impelled to sign the decrees which banished the Jews from Spain and led to so much slaughter and persecution. All of this side of Isabella's character causes some expression of surprise perhaps, but it must be remembered that her religious zeal and enthusiasm were such that anyone who dared to oppose the power of Rome in any way could have no claim upon her of any kind.

This same trait of character is everywhere prominent in Isabella's treatment of the Moors. In the year 1487 the important Moorish city of Malaga was compelled finally to surrender to the armies of Fernando and Isabella after a most heroic defence, but these Christian rulers could feel no pity for their unfortunate captives, and were unwilling to show any sense of appreciation of their valor. Accordingly, the whole population of some fifteen thousand people was sold into slavery and scattered throughout Europe! Prescott, in his history of the time of Fernando and Isabella, states that the clergy in the Spanish camp wanted to have the whole population put to the sword, but to this Isabella would not consent. Burke gives the following details with regard to the fate of all these prisoners of war: "A hundred choice warriors were sent as a gift to the pope. Fifty of the most beautiful girls were presented to the Queen of Naples, thirty more to the Queen of Portugal, others to the ladies of her court, and the residue of both sexes were portioned off among the nobles, the knights, and the common soldiers of the army, according to their rank and influence." If Isabella showed herself tender-hearted in not allowing a regular massacre of these poor Moors, she was far less compassionate with regard to the Jews and the renegade Christians who were within the walls of Malaga when the city was taken. These poor unfortunates were burned at the stake, and Albarca, a contemporary Church historian, in describing the scene, says that these awful fires were "illuminations most grateful to the Catholic piety of Fernando and Isabella."

Isabella shows this same general mental temper in her whole attitude to war and warlike deeds, for she seems to have possessed little of that real sentiment or pity which women are supposed to show. Tolstoi has said that the first and chief thing that should be looked for in a woman is fear, but this remark cannot be applied in any way to Isabella, for no fear was ever found in her. In the camp at Granada, in those last days of struggle, the queen appeared on the field daily, superbly mounted, and dressed in complete armor; and she gave much time to the inspection of the quarters of the soldiers and reviewed the troops at her pleasure. One day she said, in talking to some of her officers, that she would like to go nearer to the city walls for a closer inspection of the place, whereupon a small escort of chosen men was immediately detailed to take the queen to a better point for observing the city and its means of defence. They all advanced boldly, the queen in the front rank, and so angered the Moors by their insolence, so small was their party, that the gates of the city suddenly opened and a large body of citizens came forth to punish them for their temerity. In spite of the unequal numbers, the Christian knights, inspired by the presence and the coolness of their queen, who was apparently unmoved by the whole scene, performed such miracles of valor that two thousand Moors were slain in a short time and their fellows compelled to retire in confusion.

With the conquest of the Moors, the spreading of the influence of Spain beyond the seas became a more immediate question. Its solution, however, was still prevented by the theories of statesmen and theologians. Columbus had won the queen to his cause during the famous audience at the summer court at Salamanca, when he was presented to the sovereigns by Cardinal de Mendoza, at which interview, we are told, he "had no eyes for any potentate but Isabella." But after years of disappointment to Columbus, the queen was again the great power to further his project: she offered to pledge her crown jewels to defray the cost of the expedition. Thus a speedy issue was obtained, and to Isabella's determination Spain owes a glory which gilds the reign of this queen with imperishable lustre.

* * *

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares