Page images
PDF
EPUB

capital, conformably to his stipulations at Loja, which guar. anteed this, on the capitulation of Baza, Almeria, and Guadix. That time had now arrived; King Abdallah, however, excused himself from obeying the summons of the Spanish sovereigns, replying that he was no longer his own master, and that, although he had all the inclination to keep his engagements, he was prevented by the inhabitants of the city, now swollen much beyond its natural population, who resolutely insisted on its defence.

It is not probable that the Moorish king did any great violence to his feelings, in this evasion of a promise extorted from him in captivity. At least, it would seem so from the hostile movements which immediately succeeded. The people of Granada resumed all at once their ancient activity, foraying into the Christian territories, surprising Alhendin and some other places of less importance, and stirring up the spirit of revolt in Guadix and other conquered cities. Granada, which had slept through the heat of the struggle, seemed to revive at the very moment when exertion became hopeless.

Ferdinand was not slow in retaliating these acts of aggression. In the spring of 1490, he marched with a strong force into the cultivated plain of Granada, sweeping off, as usual, the crops and cattle and rolling the tide of devastation up to the very walls of the city. In this campaign he conferred the honor of knighthood on his son, prince John, then only twelve years of age, whom he had brought with him, after the ancient usage of the Castilian nobles, of training up their children from very tender years in the Moorish wars. The ceremony was performed on the banks of the grand canal under the battlements almost of the beleaguered city. The dukes of Cadiz and Medina Sidonia were prince John's sponsors; and, after the completion of the ceremony, the new knight conferred the honors of chivalry in like manner on several of his young companions in arms.

In the following autumn, Ferdinand repeated his ravages in the vega, and, at the same time appearing before the disaffected city of Guadix with a force large enough to awe it into submission, proposed an immediate investigation of the conspiracy. He promised to inflict summary justice on all who had been in any degree concerned in it; at the same time offering permission to the inhabitants, in the abundance of his clemency, to depart with all their personal effects wherever

they would, provided they should prefer this to a judicial investigation of their conduct. This politic proffer had its effect. There were few, if any of the citizens, who had not been either directly concerned in the conspiracy, or privy to it. With one accord, therefore, they preferred exile to trusting to the tender mercies of their judges. In this way, says the Curate of Los Palacios, by the mystery of our Lord, was the ancient city of Guadix brought again within the Christian fold; the mosques converted into Christian temples, filled with the harmonies of Catholic worship, and the pleasant places, which for nearly eight centuries had been trampled under the foot of the infidel, were once more restored to the followers of the Cross.

A similar policy produced similar results in the cities of Almeria and Baza, whose inhabitants, evacuating their ancient homes, transported themselves, with such personal effects as they could carry, to the city of Granada, or the coast of Africa. The space thus opened by the fugitive population was quickly filled by the rushing tide of Spaniards.

It is impossible at this day, to contemplate these events with the triumphant swell of exultation, with which they are recorded by contemporary chroniclers. That the Moors were guilty (though not so generally as pretended) of the alleged conspiracy, is not in itself improbable, and is corroborated indeed by the Arabic statements. But the punishment was altogether disproportionate to the offence. Justice might surely have been satisfied by a selection of the authors and principal agents of the meditated insurrection ;– for no overt act appears to have occurred. But avarice was too strong for justice; and this act, which is in perfect conformity to the policy systematically pursued by the Spanish crown for more than a century afterward, may be considered as one of the first links in the long chain of persecution, which terminated in the expulsion of the Moriscoes.

During the following year, 1491, a circumstance occurred illustrative of the policy of the present government in reference to ecclesiastical matters. The chancery of Valladolid having appealed to the pope in a case coming within its own exclusive jurisdiction, the queen commanded Alonso de Valdivieso, bishop of Leon, the president of the court, together with all the auditors, to be removed from their respective offices, which she delivered to a new board, having the bishop of Oviedo at its head. This is one among many examples of the constancy with which Isabella, notwithstanding her reverence for reli. gion, and respect for its ministers, refused to compromise the national independence by recognizing in any degree the usurpations of Rome. From this dignified attitude, so often abandoned by her successors, she never swerved for a moment during the course of her long reign.

The winter of 1490 was busily occupied with preparations for the closing campaign against Granada. Ferdinand took command of the army in the month of April, 1491, with the purpose of sitting down before the Moorish capital, not to rise until its final surrender. The troops, which mustered in the Val de Velillos, are computed by most historians at fifty thousand horse and foot, although Martyr, who served as a volunteer, swells the number to eighty thousand. They were drawn from the different cities, chiefly, as usual, from Andalusia, which had been stimulated to truly gigantic efforts throughout this protracted war, and from the nobility of every quarter, many of whom, wearied out with the contest, contented them. selves with sending their quotas, while many others, as the marquises of Cadiz, Villena, the counts of Tendilla, Cabra, Ureña, and Alonso de Aguilar, appeared in person, eager, as they had borne the brunt of so many hard campaigns, to share in the closing scene of triumph.

On the 26th of the month, the army encamped near the fountain of Ojos de Huescar, in the vega, about two leagues distant from Granada. Ferdinand's first movement was to detach a considerable force, under the marquis of Villena, which he subsequently supported in person with the remainder of the army, for the purpose of scouring the fruitful regions of the Alpuxarras, which served as the granary of the capital. This service was performed with such unsparing rigor, that no less than twenty-four towns and hamlets in the mountains were ransacked, and razed to the ground. After this, Ferdinand returned loaded with spoil to his former position on the banks of the Xenil, in full view of the Moorish metropolis, which seemed to stand alone, like some sturdy oak, the last of the forest, bidding defiance to the storm which had prostrated all its brethren.

Notwithstanding the failure of all external resources, Granada was still formidable from its local position and its defences. On the east it was fenced in by a wild mountain

barrier, the Sierra Nevada, whose snow-clad summits diffused a grateful coolness over the city through the sultry heats of summer. The side toward the vega, facing the Christian encampment, was encircled by walls and towers of massive strength and solidity. The population, swelled to two hun. dred thousand by the immigration from the surrounding country, was likely, indeed, to be a burden in a protracted siege; but among them were twenty thousand, the flower of the Mos. lem chivalry, who had escaped the edge of the Christian sword. In front of the city, for an extent of nearly ten leagues, lay unrolled, the magnificent vega,

“Fresca y regalada vega,
Dulce recreacion de damas
Y de hombres gloria immensa;

whose prolific beauties could scarcely be exaggerated in the most florid strains of the Arabian minstrel, and which still bloomed luxuriant, notwithstanding the repeated ravages of the preceding season.

The inhabitants of Granada were filled with indignation at the sight of their enemy, thus encamped under the shadow, as it were, of their battlements. They sallied forth in small bodies, or singly, challenging the Spaniards to equal encounter. Numerous were the combats which took place between the high-mettled cavaliers on both sides, who met on the level arena, as on a tilting-ground, where they might display their prowess in the presence of the assembled beauty and chivalry of their respective nations; for the Spanish camp was graced, as usual, by the presence of Queen Isabella and the infantas, with the courtly train of ladies, who had accompanied their royal mistress from Alcalá la Real. The Spanish ballads glow with picturesque details of these knightly tourneys, forming the most attractive portion of this romantic minstrelsy, which, celebrating the prowess of Moslem, as well as Christian warriors, sheds a dying glory round the last hours of Granada.

The festivity, which reigned throughout the camp on the arrival of Isabella, did not divert her attention from the stern business of war. She superintended the military preparations, and personally inspected every part of the encampment. She appeared on the field superbly mounted, and dressed in complete armor; and, as she visited the different quarters and reviewed her troops, she administered words of commendation or sympathy, suited to the condition of the soldier.

On one occasion, she expressed a desire to take a nearer survey of the city. For this purpose, a house was selected, affording the best point of view, in the little village of Zubia, at no great distance from Granada. The king and queen stationed themselves before a window, which commanded an unbroken prospect of the Alhambra, and the most beautiful quarter of the town. In the meanwhile, a considerable force, under the marquis duke of Cadiz, had been ordered, for the protection of the royal persons, to take up a position between the village and the city of Granada, with strict injunctions on no account to engage the enemy, as Isabella was unwilling to stain the pleasures of the day with unnecessary effusion of blood.

The people of Granada, however, were too impatient long to endure the presence, and as they deemed it, the bravado of their enemy. They burst forth from the gates of the capital, dragging along with them several pieces of ordnance, and commenced a brisk assault on the Spanish lines. The latter sustained the shock with firmness, till the marquis of Cadiz, seeing them thrown into some disorder, found it necessary to assume the offensive, and, mustering his followers around him, made one of those desperate charges, which had so often broken the enemy. The Moorish cavalry faltered; but might have disputed the ground, had it not been for the infantry, which, composed of the rabble population of the city, was easily thrown into confusion, and hurried the horse along with it. The rout now became general. The Spanish cavaliers, whose blood was up, pursued to the very gates of Granada, “and not a lance," says Bernaldez, “that day, but was dyed in the blood of the infidel.” Two thousand of the enemy were slain and taken in the engagement, which lasted only a short time; and the slaughter was stopped only by the escape of the fugitives within the walls of the city.

About the middle of July, an accident occurred in the camp, which had like to have been attended with fatal consequences. The queen was lodged in a superb pavilion, belonging to the marquis of Cadiz, and always used by him in the Moorish war. By the carelessness of one of her attendants, a lamp was placed in such a situation, that during the night, perhaps owing to a gust of wind, it set fire to the drapery or

« PreviousContinue »