"You would do well to cease talking about what you do not understand."
The renegade and his jesting companion replied in a series of remarks intended as wit, though full of insolence, Don Juan fuming inwardly as he continued to play. In the end they went too far, the courtier making an obscene comparison between the Virgin Mary and Amina, the mother of Mohammed. In an instant the old knight sprang up, white with rage, and dashing aside chess-board and chessmen. Drawing his sword, he dealt such a "hermosa cuchillada" ("handsome slash") across the head of the offending Moor as to stretch him bleeding on the floor. The renegade fled in terror, rousing the echoes of the palace with his outcries and stirring up guards and attendants, who rushed into the room where the irate Christian stood sword in hand defying Mohammed and his hosts. The alarm quickly reached the ears of the king, who hurried to the scene, his appearance at once restoring order. On hearing from the alcaide the cause of the affray, he acted with becoming dignity, ordering the guards from the room and directing that the renegade should be severely punished for daring to infringe the hospitality of the palace and insult an embassador.
Don Juan, his quick fury evaporated, sheathed his sword, thanked the king for his courtesy, and proposed a return to the camp. But this was not easy of accomplishment. A garbled report of the tumult in the palace had spread to the streets, where it was rumored that Christian spies had been introduced into the palace with treasonable intent. In a brief time hundreds of the populace were in arms and thronging about the gate of Justice of the Alhambra, where they loudly demanded the death of all Christians in the palace and of all who had introduced them.
It was impossible for Don Juan to leave the palace by the route he had followed on his arrival. The infuriated mob would have torn him to pieces. But it was important that he should depart at once. All that El Zagal could do was to furnish him with a disguise, a swift horse, and an escort, and to let him out of the Alhambra by a private gate. This secret mode of departure was not relished by the proud Spaniard, but life was just then of more value than dignity, as he appreciated when, in Moorish dress, he passed through crowds who were thirsting for his blood. A gate of the city was at length reached, and Don Juan and his escort rode quietly out. But he was no sooner on the open plain than he spurred his horse to its speed, and did not draw rein until the banners of Don Fadrique waved above his head.
Don Fadrique heard with much approval of the boldness of his envoy. His opinion of Don Juan's discretion he kept to himself. He rewarded him with a valuable horse, and wrote a letter of thanks to El Zagal for his protection to his emissary. Queen Isabella, on learning how stoutly the knight had stood up for the chastity of the Blessed Virgin, was highly delighted, and conferred several distinctions of honor upon the cavalier besides presenting him with three hundred thousand maravedis.
The outcome of the advances of the two kings was that Don Fadrique chose Boabdil as his ally, and sent him a reinforcement of foot-soldiers and arquebusiers. This introduction of Christians into the city rekindled the flames of war, and it continued to rage in the streets for the space of fifty days.
The result of the struggle between the two kings may be briefly told. While they contended for supremacy Ferdinand of Aragon invaded their kingdom with a large army and marched upon the great seaport of Malaga. El Zagal sought an accommodation with Boabdil, that they might unite their forces against the common foe, but the short-sighted young man spurned his overtures with disdain. El Zagal then, the better patriot of the two, marched himself against the Christian host, hoping to surprise them in the passes of the mountains and perhaps capture King Ferdinand himself. Unluckily for him, his well-laid plan was discovered by the Christians, who attacked and defeated him, his troops flying in uncontrollable disorder.
The news of this disaster reached Granada before him and infuriated the people, who closed their gates and threatened the defeated king from the walls. Nothing remained to El Zagal but to march to Almeria and establish his court in that city in which Boabdil had formerly reigned. Thus the positions of the rival kings became reversed. From that time forward the kingdom of Granada was divided into two, and the work of conquest by the Christians was correspondingly reduced.
THE KNIGHT OF THE EXPLOITS.
The dull monotony of sieges, of which there were many during the war with Granada, was little to the taste of the valorous Spanish cavaliers. They burned for adventure, and were ever ready for daring exploits, the more welcome the more dangerous they promised to be. One day during the siege of Baza, a strong city in El Zagal's dominions, two of these spirited young cavaliers, Francisco de Bazan and Antonio de Cueva, were seated on the ramparts of the siege works, bewailing the dull life to which they were confined. They were overheard by a veteran scout, who was familiar with the surrounding country.
"Senors," he said, "if you pine for peril and profit and are eager to pluck the beard of the fiery old Moorish king, I can lead you where you will have a fine opportunity to prove your valor. There are certain hamlets not far from the walls of El Zagal's city of Guadix where rich booty awaits the daring raider. I can lead you there by a way that will enable you to take them by surprise; and if you are as cool in the head as you are hot in the spur you may bear off spoils from under the very eyes of the king of the Moors."
He had struck the right vein. The youths were at once hot for the enterprise. To win booty from the very gates of Guadix was a stirring scheme, and they quickly found others of their age as eager as themselves for the daring adventure. In a short time they had enrolled a body of nearly three hundred horse and two hundred foot, well armed and equipped, and every man of them ready for the road.
The force obtained, the raiders left the camp early one evening, keeping their destination secret, and made their way by starlight through the mountain passes, led by the adalid, or guide. Pressing rapidly onward by day and night, they reached the hamlets one morning just before daybreak, and fell on them suddenly, making prisoners of the inhabitants, sacking the houses, and sweeping the fields of their grazing herds. Then, without taking a moment to rest, they set out with all speed for the mountains, which they hoped to reach before the country could be roused.
Several of the herdsmen had escaped and fled to Guadix, where they told El Zagal of the daring ravage. Wild with rage at the insult, the old king at once sent out six hundred of his choicest horse and foot, with orders for swift pursuit, bidding them to recover the booty and bring him as prisoners the insolent marauders. The Christians, weary with their two days and nights of hard marching, were driving the captured cattle and sheep up a mountainside, when, looking back, they saw a great cloud of dust upon their trail. Soon they discerned the turbaned host, evidently superior to them in number, and man and horse in fresh condition.
"They are too much for us," cried some of the horsemen. "It would be madness in our worn-out state to face a fresh force of that number. We shall have to let the cattle go and seek safety in flight."
"What!" cried Antonio and Francisco, their leaders; "abandon our prey without a blow? Desert our foot-soldiers and leave them to the enemy? Did any of you think El Zagal would let us off without a brush? You do not give good Spanish counsel, for every soldier knows that there is less danger in presenting our faces than our backs to the foe, and fewer men are killed in a brave advance than in a cowardly retreat."
Some of the cavaliers were affected by these words, but the mass of the party were chance volunteers, who received no pay and had nothing to gain by risking their lives. Consequently, as the enemy came near, the diversity of opinions grew into a tumult, and confusion reigned. The captains ordered the standard-bearer to advance against the Moors, confident that any true soldiers would follow his banner. He hesitated to obey; the turmoil increased; in a moment more the horsemen might be in full flight.
At this critical juncture a horseman of the royal guards rode forward,—the good knight Hernan Perez del Pulgar, governor of the fortress of Salar. Taking off the handkerchief which, in the Andalusian fashion, he wore round his head, he tied it to a lance and raised it in the air.
"Comrades," he cried, "why do you load yourself with arms if you trust for safety to your feet? We shall see who among you are the brave men and who are the cowards. If it is a standard you want, here is mine. Let the man who has the heart to fight follow this handkerchief."
Waving his improvised banner, he spurred against the Moors. Many followed him. Those who at first held back soon joined the advance. With one accord the whole body rushed with shouts upon the enemy. The Moors, who were now close at hand, were seized with surprise and alarm at this sudden charge. The foremost files turned and fled in panic, followed by the others, and pursued by the Christians, who cut them down without a blow in return. Soon the whole body was in full flight. Several hundred of the Moors were killed and their bodies despoiled, many were taken prisoners, and the Christians returned in triumph to the army, driving their long array of cattle and sheep and of mules laden with booty, and bearing in their front the standard under which they had fought.
King Ferdinand was so delighted with this exploit, and in particular with the gallant action of Perez del Pulgar, that he conferred knighthood upon the latter with much ceremony, and authorized him to bear upon his escutcheon a golden lion in an azure field, showing a lance with a handkerchief at its point. Round its border were to be depicted the eleven alcaides defeated in the battle. This heroic deed was followed by so many others during the wars with the Moors that Perez del Pulgar became in time known by the flattering appellation of "He of the exploits."
The most famous exploit of this daring knight took place during the siege of Granada,—the final operation of the long war. Here single combats and minor skirmishes between Christian and Moorish cavaliers were of almost daily occurrence, until Ferdinand strictly forbade all such tilts, as he saw that they gave zeal and courage to the Moors, and were attended with considerable loss of life among his bravest followers.
This edict of the king was very distasteful to the fiery Moorish knights, who declared that the crafty Christian wished to destroy chivalry and put an end to heroic valor. They did their best to provoke the Spanish knights to combat, galloping on their fleet steeds close to the borders of the camp and hurling their lances over the barriers, each lance bearing the name of its owner with some defiant message. But despite the irritation caused by these insults to the Spanish knights, none of them ventured to disobey the mandate of the king.
Chief among these Moorish cavaliers was one named Tarfe, a man of fierce and daring spirit and a giant in size, who sought to surpass his fellows in acts of audacity. In one of his sallies towards the Christian camp this bold cavalier leaped his steed over the barrier, galloped inward close to the royal quarters, and launched his spear with such strength that it quivered in the earth close to the tents of the sovereigns. The royal guards rushed out, but Tarfe was already far away, scouring the plain on his swift Barbary steed. On examining the lance it was found to bear a label indicating that it was intended for the queen, who was present in the camp.
This bravado and the insult offered Queen Isabella excited the highest indignation among the Christian warriors. "Shall we let this insolent fellow outdo us?" said Perez del Pulgar, who was present. "I propose to teach these insolent Moors a lesson. Who will stand by me in an enterprise of desperate peril?" The warriors knew Pulgar well enough to be sure that his promise of peril was likely to be kept, yet all who heard him were ready to volunteer. Out of them he chose fifteen,—men whom he knew he could trust for strength of arm and valor of heart.
His proposed enterprise was indeed a perilous one. A Moorish renegade had agreed to guide him into the city by a secret pass. Once within, they were to set fire to the Alcaiceria and others of the principal buildings, and then escape as best they could.
At dead of night they set out, provided with the necessary combustibles. Their guide led them up a channel of the river Darro, until they halted under a bridge near the royal gate. Here Pulgar stationed six of his followers on guard, bidding them to keep silent and motionless. With the others he made his way up a drain of the stream which passed under a part of the city and opened into the streets. All was dark and silent. Not a soul moved. The renegade, at the command of Pulgar, led the adventurers to the principal mosque. Here the pious cavalier drew from under his cloak a parchment inscribed in large letters with AVE MARIA, and nailed this to the door of the mosque, thus dedicating the heathen temple to the Virgin Mary.
They now hurried to the Alcaiceria, where the combustibles were placed ready to fire. Not until this moment was it discovered that the torch-bearer had carelessly left his torch at the door of the mosque. It was too late to return. Pulgar sought to strike fire with flint and steel, but while doing so the Moorish guard came upon them in its rounds. Drawing his sword and followed by his comrades, the bold Spaniard made a fierce assault upon the astonished Moors, quickly putting them to flight. But the enterprise was at an end. The alarm was given and soldiers were soon hurrying in every direction through the streets. Guided by the renegade, Pulgar and his companions hastened to the drain by which they had entered, plunged into it, and reached their companions under the bridge. Here mounting their horses, they rode back to the camp.
The Moors were at a loss to imagine the purpose of this apparently fruitless enterprise, but wild was their exasperation the next morning when they found the "Ave Maria" on the door of a mosque in the centre of their city. The mosque thus sanctified by Perez del Pulgar was actually converted into a Christian cathedral after the capture of the city.
We have yet to describe the sequel of this exploit. On the succeeding day a powerful train left the Christian camp and advanced towards the city walls. In its centre were the king and queen, the prince and princesses, and the ladies of the court, surrounded by the royal body-guard,—a richly dressed troop, composed of the sons of the most illustrious families of Spain. The Moors gazed with wonder upon this rare pageant, which moved in glittering array across the vega to the sound of martial music; a host brilliant with banners and plumes, shining arms and shimmering silks, for the court and the army moved there hand in hand. Queen Isabella had expressed a wish to see, nearer at hand, a city whose beauty was of world-wide renown, and the Marquis of Cadiz had drawn out this powerful escort that she might be gratified in her desire. The queen had her wish, but hundreds of men died that she might be pleased.
While the royal dame and her ladies were gazing with delight on the red towers of the Alhambra, rising in rich contrast through the green verdure of their groves, a large force of Moorish cavalry poured from the city gates, ready to accept the gage of battle which the Christians seemed to offer. The first to come were a host of richly armed and gayly attired light cavalry, mounted on fleet and fiery Barbary steeds. Heavily armed cavalry followed, and then a strong force of foot-soldiers, until an army was drawn up on the plain. Queen Isabella saw this display with disquiet, and forbade an attack upon the enemy, or even a skirmish, as it would pain her if a single warrior should lose his life through the indulgence of her curiosity.
As a result, though the daring Moorish horsemen rode fleetly along the Christian front, brandishing their lances, and defying the cavaliers to mortal combat, not a Spaniard stirred. The cavaliers were under the eyes of Ferdinand, by whom such duels had been strictly forbidden. At length, however, they were incensed beyond their powers of resistance. Forth from the city rode a stalwart Moorish horseman, clad in steel armor, and bearing a huge buckler and a ponderous lance. His device showed him to be the giant warrior Tarfe, the daring infidel who had flung his lance at the queen's tent. As he rode out he was followed by the shouts and laughter of a mob, and when he came within full view of the Spanish army the cavaliers saw, with indignant horror, tied to his horse's tail and dragging in the dust, the parchment with its inscription of "Ave Maria" which Hernan Perez del Pulgar had nailed to the door of the mosque.
This insult was more than Castilian flesh and blood could bear. Hernan was not present to maintain his deed, but Garcilasso de la Vega, one of the young companions of his exploit, galloped to the king and earnestly begged permission to avenge the degrading insult to their holy faith. The king, who was as indignant as the knight, gave the desired permission, and Garcilasso, closing his visor and grasping his spear, rode out before the ranks and defied the Moor to combat to the death.
Tarfe asked nothing better, and an exciting passage at arms took place on the plain with the two armies as witnesses. Tarfe was the stronger of the two, and the more completely armed. He was skilled in the use of his weapons and dexterous in managing his horse, and the Christians trembled for their champion.
The warriors met in mid career with a furious shock. Their lances were shivered, and Garcilasso was borne back in his saddle. But his horse wheeled away and he was quickly firm in his seat again, sword in hand. Sword against scimitar, the combatants returned to the encounter. The Moor rode a trained horse, that obeyed his every signal. Round the Christian he circled, seeking some opening for a blow. But the smaller size of Garcilasso was made equal by greater agility. Now he parried a blow with his sword, now he received a furious stroke on his shield. Each of the combatants before many minutes felt the edge of the steel, and their blood began to flow.
At length the Moor, thinking his antagonist exhausted, rushed in and grappled with him, using all his force to fling him from his horse. Garcilasso grasped him in return with all his strength, and they fell together to the earth, the Moor uppermost. Placing his knee on the breast of the Spaniard, Tarfe drew his dagger and brandished it above his throat. Terror filled the Christian ranks; a shout of triumph rose from those of the Moors. But suddenly Tarfe was seen to loosen his grasp and roll over in the dust. Garcilasso had shortened his sword and, as Tarfe raised his arm, had struck him to the heart.
The rules of chivalry were rigidly observed. No one interfered on either side. Garcilasso despoiled his victim, raised the inscription "Ave Maria" on the point of his sword, and bore it triumphantly back, amid shouts of triumph from the Christian army.
By this time the passions of the Moors were so excited that they could not be restrained. They made a furious charge upon the Spanish host, driving in its advanced ranks. The word to attack was given the Spaniards in return, the war-cry "Santiago!" rang along the line, and in a short time both armies were locked in furious combat. The affair ended in a repulse of the Moors, the foot-soldiers taking to flight, and the cavalry vainly endeavoring to rally them. They were pursued to the gates of the city, more than two thousand of them being killed, wounded, or taken prisoners in "the queen's skirmish," as the affair came to be called.
THE LAST SIGH OF THE MOOR.
In 1492, nearly eight centuries after the conquest of Spain by the Arabs, their dominion ended in the surrender of the city of Granada by King Boabdil to the army of Ferdinand and Isabella. The empire of the Arab Moors had shrunk, year by year and century by century, before the steady advance of the Christians, until only the small kingdom of Granada remained. This, distracted by anarchy within and assailed by King Ferdinand with all the arts of statecraft and all the strength of arms, gradually decreased in dimensions, city after city, district after district, being lost, until only the single city of Granada remained.
This populous and powerful city would have proved very difficult to take by the ordinary methods of war, and could only have been subdued with great loss of life and expenditure of treasure. Ferdinand assailed it by a less costly and more exasperating method. Granada subsisted on the broad and fertile vega or plain surrounding it, a region marvellously productive in grain and fruits and rich in cattle and sheep. It was a cold-blooded and cruel system adopted by the Spanish monarch. He assailed the city through the vega. Disregarding the city, he marched his army into the plain at the time of harvest and so thoroughly destroyed its growing crops that the smiling and verdant expanse was left a scene of frightful desolation. This was not accomplished without sharp reprisals by the Moors, but the Spaniard persisted until he had converted the fruitful paradise into a hopeless desert, and then marched away, leaving the citizens to a winter of despair.
The next year he came again, encamped his army near the city, destroyed what little verdure remained near its walls, and waited calmly until famine and anarchy should force the citizens to yield. He attempted no siege. It was not necessary. He could safely trust to his terrible allies. The crowded city held out desperately while the summer passed and autumn moved on to winter's verge, and then, with famine stalking through their streets and invading their homes, but one resource remained to the citizens,—surrender.
Ferdinand did not wish to distress too deeply the unhappy people. To obtain possession of the city on any terms was the one thought then in his mind. Harshness could come later, if necessary. Therefore, on the 25th of November, 1492, articles of capitulation were signed, under which the Moors of Granada were to retain all their possessions, be protected in their religious exercises, and governed by their own laws, which were to be administered by their own officials; the one unwelcome proviso being that they should become subjects of Spain. To Boabdil were secured all his rich estates and the patrimony of the crown, while he was to receive in addition thirty thousand castellanos in gold. Excellent terms, one would say, in view of the fact that Granada was at the mercy of Ferdinand, and might soon have been obliged to surrender unconditionally.
On the night preceding the surrender doleful lamentations filled the halls of the Alhambra, for the household of Boabdil were bidding a last farewell to that delightful abode. The most precious effects were hastily packed upon mules, and with tears and wailings the rich hangings and ornaments of the beautiful apartments were removed. Day had not yet dawned when a sorrowful cavalcade moved through an obscure postern gate of the palace and wound through a retired quarter of the city. It was the family of the deposed monarch, which he had sent off thus early to save them from possible scoffs and insults.
The sun had barely risen when three signal-guns boomed from the heights of the Alhambra, and the Christian army began its march across the vega. To spare the feelings of the citizens it was decided that the city should not be entered by its usual gates, and a special road had been opened leading to the Alhambra.
At the head of the procession moved the king and queen, with the prince and princesses and the dignitaries and ladies of the court, attended by the royal guards in their rich array. This cortege halted at the village of Armilla, a league and a half from the city. Meanwhile, Don Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza, Grand Cardinal of Spain, with an escort of three thousand foot and a troop of cavalry, proceeded towards the Alhambra to take possession of that noblest work of the Moors. At their approach Boabdil left the palace by a postern gate attended by fifty cavaliers, and advanced to meet the grand cardinal, whom, in words of mournful renunciation, he bade to take possession of the royal fortress of the Moors. Then he passed sadly onward to meet the sovereigns of Spain, who had halted awaiting his approach, while the army stood drawn up on the broad plain.
As the Spaniards waited in anxious hope, all eyes fixed on the Alhambra heights, they saw the silver cross, the great standard of this crusade, rise upon the great watch-tower, where it sparkled in the sunbeams, while beside it floated the pennon of St. James, at sight of which a great shout of "Santiago! Santiago!" rose from the awaiting host. Next rose the royal standard, amid resounding cries of "Castile! Castile! For King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella." The sovereigns sank upon their knees, giving thanks to God for their great victory, the whole army followed their example, and the choristers of the royal chapel broke forth into the solemn anthem of "Te Deum laudamus."
Ferdinand now advanced to a point near the banks of the Xenil, where he was met by the unfortunate Boabdil. As the Moorish king approached he made a movement to dismount, which Ferdinand prevented. He then offered to kiss the king's hand. This homage also, as previously arranged, was declined, whereupon Boabdil leaned forward and kissed the king's right arm. He then with a resigned mien delivered the keys of the city.
"These keys," he said, "are the last relics of the Arabian empire in Spain. Thine, O king, are our trophies, our kingdom, and our person. Such is the will of God! Receive them with the clemency thou hast promised, and which we look for at thy hands."
MOORISH KING PAYING HOMAGE TO THE KING OF CASTILE.
"Doubt not our promises," said Ferdinand, kindly, "nor that thou shalt regain from our friendship the prosperity of which the fortune of war has deprived thee."
Then drawing from his finger a gold ring set with a precious stone, Boabdil presented it to the Count of Tendilla, who, he was informed, was to be governor of the city, saying,—
"With this ring Granada has been governed. Take it and govern with it, and God make you more fortunate than I."
He then proceeded to the village of Armilla, where Queen Isabella remained. She received him with the utmost courtesy and graciousness, and delivered to him his son, who had been held as a hostage for the fulfilment of the capitulation. Boabdil pressed the child tenderly to his bosom, and moved on until he had joined his family, from whom and their attendants the shouts and strains of music of the victorious army drew tears and moans.
At length the weeping train reached the summit of an eminence about two leagues distant which commanded the last view of Granada. Here they paused for a look of farewell at the beautiful and beloved city, whose towers and minarets gleamed brightly before them in the sunshine. While they still gazed a peal of artillery, faint with distance, told them that the city was taken possession of and was lost to the Moorish kings forever. Boabdil could no longer contain himself.
"Allah achbar! God is great!" he murmured, tears accompanying his words of resignation.
His mother, a woman of intrepid soul, was indignant at this display of weakness.
"You do well," she cried, "to weep like a woman for what you failed to defend like a man."
Others strove to console the king, but his tears were not to be restrained.
"Allah achbar!" he exclaimed again; "when did misfortunes ever equal mine?"
The hill where this took place afterwards became known as Feg Allah Achbar; but the point of view where Boabdil obtained the last prospect of Granada is called by the Spaniards "El ultimo suspiro del Moro" or "The last sigh of the Moor."
As Boabdil thus took his last look at beautiful Granada, it behooves us to take a final backward glance at Arabian Spain, from whose history we have drawn so much of interest and romance. In this hospitable realm civilization dwelt when few traces of it existed elsewhere. Here luxury reigned while barbarism prevailed widely in Europe. We are told that in Cordova a man might walk ten miles by the light of the public lamps, while centuries afterwards there was not a single public lamp in London streets. Its avenues were solidly paved, while centuries afterwards the people of Paris, on rainy days, stepped from their door-sills into mud ankle-deep. The dwellings were marked by beauty and luxury, while the people of Europe, as a rule in that semi-barbaric period, dwelt in miserable huts, dressed in leather, and lived on the rudest and least nutritive food.
The rulers of France, England, and Germany lived in rude buildings without chimneys or windows, with a hole in the roof for the smoke to escape, at a time when the royal halls of Arabian Spain were visions of grace and beauty. The residences of the Arabs had marble balconies overhanging orange-gardens; their floors and walls were frequently of rich and graceful mosaic; fountains gushed in their courts, quicksilver often taking the place of water, and falling in a glistening spray. In summer cool air was drawn into the apartments through ventilating towers; in winter warm and perfumed air was discharged through hidden passages. From the ceilings, corniced with fretted gold, great chandeliers hung. Here were clusters of frail marble columns, which, in the boudoirs of the sultanas, gave way to verd-antique incrusted with lapis lazuli. The furniture was of sandal- or citron-wood, richly inlaid with gold, silver, or precious minerals. Tapestry hid the walls, Persian carpets covered the floors, pillows and couches of elegant forms were spread about the rooms. Great care was given to bathing and personal cleanliness at a time when such a thought had not dawned upon Christian Europe. Their pleasure-gardens were of unequalled beauty, and were rich with flowers and fruits. In short, in this brief space it is impossible to give more than a bare outline of the marvellous luxury which surrounded this people, recently come from the deserts of Arabia, at a time when most of the remainder of Europe was plunged into the rudest barbarism.
Much might be said of their libraries, their universities, their scholars and scientists, and the magnificence of their architecture, of which abundant examples still remain in the cities of Spain, the Alhambra of Granada, the palace which Boabdil so reluctantly left, being almost without an equal for lightness, grace, and architectural beauty in the cities of the world. Well might the dethroned monarch look back with bitter regret upon this rarest monument of the Arabian civilization and give vent, in farewell to its far-seen towers, to "The last sigh of the Moor."
THE RETURN OF COLUMBUS.
In the spring succeeding the fall of Granada there came to Spain a glory and renown that made her the envy of all the nations of Europe. During the year before an Italian mariner, Christopher Columbus by name, after long haunting the camp and court of Ferdinand and Isabella, had been sent out with a meagre expedition in the forlorn hope of discovering new lands beyond the seas. In March, 1493, extraordinary tidings spread through the kingdom and reached the ears of the monarchs at their court in Barcelona. The tidings were that the poor and despised mariner had returned to Palos with wonderful tales of the discovery of a vast, rich realm beyond the seas,—a mighty new empire for Spain.
The marvellous news set the whole kingdom wild with joy. The ringing of bells and solemn thanksgivings welcomed Columbus at the port from which he had set sail. On his journey to the king's court his progress was impeded by the multitudes who thronged to see the suddenly famous man,—the humble mariner who had discovered for Spain what every one already spoke of as a "New World." With him he brought several of the bronze-hued natives of that far land, dressed in their simple island costume, and decorated, as they passed through the principal cities, with collars, bracelets, and other ornaments of gold. He exhibited, also, gold in dust and in shapeless masses, many new plants, some of them of high medicinal value, several animals never before seen in Europe, and birds whose brilliant plumage attracted glances of delight from all eyes.
It was mid-April when Columbus reached Barcelona. The nobility and knights of the court met him in splendid array and escorted him to the royal presence through the admiring throngs that filled the streets. Ferdinand and Isabella, with their son, Prince John, awaited his arrival seated under a superb canopy of state. On the approach of the discoverer they rose and extended their hands to him to kiss, not suffering him to kneel in homage. Instead, they bade him seat himself before them,—a mark of condescension to a person of his rank unknown before in the haughty court of Castile. He was, at that moment, "the man whom the king delighted to honor," and it was the proudest period in his life when, having proved triumphantly all for which he had so long contended, he was honored as the equal of the proud monarchs of Spain.
At the request of the sovereigns Columbus gave them a brief account of his adventures, in a dignified tone, that warmed with enthusiasm as he proceeded. He described the various tropical islands he had landed upon, spoke with favor of their delightful climate and the fertility of their soil, and exhibited the specimens he had brought as examples of their fruitfulness. He dwelt still more fully upon their wealth in the precious metals, of which he had been assured by the natives, and offered the gold he brought with him as evidence. Lastly, he expatiated on the opportunity offered for the extension of the Christian religion through lands populous with pagans,—a suggestion which appealed strongly to the Spanish heart. When he ceased the king and queen, with all present, threw themselves on their knees and gave thanks to God, while the solemn strains of the Te Deum were poured forth by the choir of the royal chapel.
RECEPTION OF COLUMBUS BY FERDINAND AND ISABELLA.
Throughout his residence in Barcelona Columbus continued to receive the most honorable distinction from the Spanish sovereigns. When Ferdinand rode abroad the admiral rode by his side. Isabella, the true promoter of his expedition, treated him with the most gracious consideration. The courtiers, emulating their sovereigns, gave frequent entertainments in his honor, treating him with the punctilious deference usually shown only to a noble of the highest rank. It cannot be said, however, that envy at the high distinction shown this lately obscure and penniless adventurer was quite concealed, and at one of these entertainments is said to have taken place the famous episode of the egg.
A courtier of shallow wit, with the purpose of throwing discredit on the achievement of Columbus, intimated that it was not so great an exploit after all; all that was necessary was to sail west a certain number of days; the lands lay there waiting to be discovered. Were there not other men in Spain, he asked, capable of this?
The response of Columbus was to take an egg and ask those present to make it stand upright on its end. After they had tried and failed he struck the egg on the table, cracking the shell and giving it a base on which to stand.
"But anybody could do that!" cried the critic.
"Yes; and anybody can become a discoverer when once he has been shown the way," retorted Columbus. "It is easy to follow in a known track."
By this time all Europe had heard of the brilliant discovery of the Genoese mariner, and everywhere admiration at his achievement and interest in its results were manifested. Europe had never been so excited by any single event. The world was found to be larger than had been dreamed of, and it was evident that hundreds of new things remained to be known. Word came to Barcelona that King John of Portugal was equipping a large armament to obtain a share of the new realms in the west, and all haste was made to anticipate this dangerous rival by sending Columbus again to the New World.
On the 25th of September, 1493, he set sail with a gallant armament, which quite threw into the shade his three humble caravels of the year before. It consisted of seventeen vessels, some of them of large size for that day, and fifteen hundred souls, including several persons of rank, and members of the royal household. Many of those that had taken part in the Moorish war, stimulated by the love of adventure, were to win fame in the coming years in the conquest of the alluring realms of the West, and the earliest of these sailed now under the banner of the Great Admiral.
The story of Columbus is too familiar to readers for more to be said of it here. It was one in which the boasted honor of the Spanish court was replaced by injustice and lack of good faith. Envy and malice surrounded the discoverer, and in 1500 he was sent home in chains by an infamous governor. The king, roused by a strong display of public indignation, disavowed the base act of his agent, and received Columbus again with a show of favor, but failed to reinstate him in the office of which he had been unjustly deprived. The discoverer of America died at Valladolid in 1506, giving directions that the fetters which he had once worn, and which he had kept as evidence of Spanish ingratitude, should be buried with him.
PETER THE CRUEL AND THE FREE COMPANIES.
About the middle of the year 1365 a formidable expedition set out from France for the invasion of Castile. It consisted of the celebrated Free Companies, marauding bands of French and English knights and archers whose allegiance was to the sword, and who, having laid waste France, now sought fresh prey in Spain. Valiant and daring were these reckless freebooters, bred to war, living on rapine, battle their delight, revel their relaxation. For years the French and English Free Companies had been enemies. Now a truce existed between their princes, and they had joined hands under the leadership of the renowned knight Bertrand du Guesclin, at that time the most famous soldier of France. Sir Hugh de Calverley headed the English bands, known as the White Company, and made up largely of men-at-arms, that is, of heavy armed horsemen; but with a strong contingent of the formidable English archers. The total force comprised more than twelve thousand men.
"You lead the life of robbers," said Du Guesclin to them. "Every day you risk your lives in forays, which yield you more blows than booty. I come to propose an enterprise worthy of gallant knights and to open to you a new field of action. In Spain both glory and profit await you. You will there find a rich and avaricious king who possesses great treasures, and is the ally of the Saracens; in fact, is half a pagan himself. We propose to conquer his kingdom and to bestow it on the Count of Trastamara, an old comrade of yours, a good lance, as you all know, and a gentle and generous knight, who will share with you his land when you win it for him from the Jews and Moslems of that wicked king, Don Pedro. Come, comrades, let us honor God and shame the devil."
The Free Companies were ready at a word to follow his banner. Among them were many knights of noble birth who valued glory above booty, and looked upon it as a worthy enterprise to dethrone a cruel and wicked king, the murderer of his queen. As for the soldiers, they cared not against whom they fought, if booty was to be had.
"Messire Bertrand," they said, "gives all that he wins to his men-at-arms. He is the father of the soldier. Let us march with him."
And so the bargain was made and the Free Companies marched away, light of heart and strong of hand, with a promising goal before them, and a chance of abundance of fighting before they would see their homes again.
Peter the Cruel, King of Castile and Leon, amply deserved to be dethroned. His reign had been one of massacre. All whom he suspected died by the dagger of the assassin. He bitterly hated his two half-brothers, Fadrique and Henry. Fadrique he enticed to his court by a show of friendship, and then had him brutally murdered at the gate of his palace, the Alcazar of Seville. But his treatment of his queen was what made him specially odious to his people. He married a French princess, Blanche of Bourbon, but deserted her after two days to return to his mistress, Maria de Pedilla. Blanche was taken to Toledo, where she was so closely confined that the people rose and rescued her from the king's guards. Peter marched in anger against the city, but its people defied him and kept the queen. Then the crafty villain pretended sorrow and asked for a reconciliation. The queen consented, went back to him, and was quickly imprisoned in a strong fortress, where she was murdered by his orders in 1361.
It was this shameful act and the murder of his brother Fadrique that roused the people to insurrection. Henry of Trastamara, the remaining brother, headed a revolt against the tyrant and invited the Free Companies to his aid. These were the circumstances that gave rise to the march of Du Guesclin and Calverley and their battle-loving bands.
The adventurers wore crosses on their vests and banners, as though they were a company of crusaders raised in the service of the church. But in truth they were under the ban of excommunication, for they had no more spared the church than the castle or the cottage. Du Guesclin, determined to relieve them from this ban and force the Pope to grant them absolution, directed his march upon Avignon, the papal residence in France. It was not only absolution he wanted. The papal coffers were full; his military chest was empty; his soldiers would not remain tractable unless well paid; the church should have the privilege of aiding the army.
It was with dismay that the people of Avignon beheld the White Company encamp before their ramparts, late in the year 1365. An envoy from the Pope was sent in haste to their camp, with a promise from the Holy Father that he would remove the ban of excommunication if they would evacuate the territory of the Church. The envoy's mission was a dangerous one, for the fierce Free Companions had no reverence for priest or pope. He had hardly crossed the Rhone before he was confronted by a turbulent band of English archers, who demanded if he had brought money.
"Money?" he asked, in faltering tones.
"Ay, money!" they insolently cried, impeding his passage.
On reaching Du Guesclin's tent he was treated with more politeness, but was met with the same demand.
"We cannot control our troops," said some of the chiefs; "and, as they are ready to hazard their lives for the greater glory of the faith, they well deserve the aid of the Church."
"The Holy Father will incur much danger if he refuses the demand of our men," said Du Guesclin, in smooth but menacing tones. "They have become good Catholics in spite of themselves, and would very readily return to their old trade."
Imminent as the danger was, the Pope resisted, and tried to scare off that flock of reckless war-hawks by the thunders of papal condemnation. But he soon learned that appeals and threats alike were wasted on the Free Companies. From the windows of his palace he could see groups of his unruly visitors at work plundering farms and country houses. Fires were here and there kindled. The rich lands of Avignon were in danger of a general ravage.
"What can I do?" said Du Guesclin to the complaints of the people. "My soldiers are excommunicated. The devil is in them, and we are no longer their masters."
Evidently there was but one way to get rid of this irreligious crew. The chiefs agreed to be satisfied with five thousand golden florins. This sum was paid, and the knights companions, laden with plunder and absolved from their sins, set out in the highest spirits, singing the praises of their captain and the joys of war. Such was their farewell to France.
Onward they marched, across the Pyrenees and into Aragon, whose king had joined with Henry of Trastamara in requesting their presence. They were far from welcome to the people of this region of Spain. Pedro IV. of Aragon had agreed to pay them one hundred thousand golden florins on condition that they should pass through his dominions without disorder; but the adventurers, imagining that they were already in the enemy's country, began their usual service of fire and sword. In Barbastro they pillaged the houses, killed the burghers or tortured them to extort ransom, and set fire to a church in which some had taken refuge, burning alive more than two hundred persons.
If such was the course of these freebooting bands in the country of their friends, what would it be in that of their foes? Every effort was made to get them out of the country as soon as possible. Immediate action was needed, for the warlike mountaineers were beginning to revenge the robberies of the adventurers by waylaying their convoys and killing their stragglers. In early March, 1366, the frontier was passed, Sir Hugh de Calverley leading his men against Borja, a town of Aragon which was occupied by soldiers of Castile.
The garrison fled on their approach, and soon the army entered Castile and marched upon Calahorra, a town friendly to Prince Henry, and which opened its gates at sight of their banners. Here an interesting ceremony took place. Du Guesclin and the other leaders of the Free Companies, with as much assurance as if they had already conquered Castile, offered Henry the throne.
"Take the crown," said the burly leader. "You owe this honor to the many noble knights who have elected you their leader in this campaign. Don Pedro, your enemy, has refused to meet you in the battle-field, and thus acknowledges that the throne of Castile is vacant."
Henry held back. He felt that these foreigners had not the crown of Castile in their gift. But when the Castilians present joined in the demand he yielded, and permitted them to place the crown upon his head. His chief captain at once unfurled the royal standard, and passed through the camp, crying, "Castile for King Henry! Long live King Henry!" Then, amid loud acclamations, he planted the banner on the crest of a hill on the road to Burgos.
We need not delay on the events of this campaign. Everywhere the people of Castile fell away from their cruel king, and Henry's advance was almost unopposed. Soon he was in Burgos, and Don Pedro had become a fugitive without an army and almost without a friend. Henry was now again crowned king, many of the Castilian nobles taking part in the imposing ceremony.
The first acts of the new king were to recompense the men who had raised him to that high office. The money which he found in the treasury served as a rich reward to the followers of Du Guesclin. He gave titles of nobility and grants of land with a free hand to the chiefs of the Free Companies and his other companions in arms. On Du Guesclin he conferred his own countship of Trastamara, and added to it the lordship of Molino, with the domains appertaining to both. Calverley was made Count of Carrion, and received the domains which had formerly been held by the sons-in-law of the Cid. Lesser rewards were given to lesser chiefs, and none had reason to accuse Henry of Castile of want of generosity.
But the Free Companions soon became a sword in the side of the new king. As there was no more fighting to be done, they resumed their old occupation of pillaging, and from every side complaints rained in upon the throne. Henry felt it necessary to get rid of his unruly friends with all despatch. Retaining Du Guesclin and Calverley in his service, with fifteen hundred lances, mainly French and Breton, he dismissed the remainder, placating them with rich presents and warm thanks. Nothing loath, and gratified that they had avenged the murdered Queen Blanche, they took their way back, finding abundant chance for fighting on their return. The Castilians, the Navarrese, and the Aragonese all rose against them, and everywhere they had to force a passage with their swords. But nothing could stop them. Spain, accustomed to fight with Arabs and Moors, had no warriors fit to face these intrepid and heavily armed veterans. Through the Pyrenees they made their way, and here cut a road with their swords through the main body of a French army which had gathered to oppose their march. Once more they were upon the soil of France.
It was the English and Gascon bands that were principally opposed. It was known that the Black Prince was preparing to invade Spain, and an effort was made to cut off the free lances who might enlist under his banners. This famous knight, son of Edward III. of England, and victor at the battle of Poitiers, where he had taken prisoner the king of France, was a cousin of the fugitive king of Castile, who sought him at Cape Breton, and begged his aid to recover his dominions. The chivalrous prince of Wales knew little of the dastardly deeds of the suppliant. Don Pedro had brought with him his three young maiden daughters, whose helpless state appealed warmly to the generous knight. National policy accorded with the inclination of the prince, for the Castilian revolution had been promoted by France, and the usurper had been in the pay of the French king. These inducements were enough to win for Don Pedro the support of Edward III., and the aid of the Black Prince, who entered upon the enterprise with the passionate enthusiasm which was a part of his nature.
Soon again two armies were in the field, that of King Henry, raised to defend his new dominions, and that of the Prince of Wales, gathered to replace the fugitive Don Pedro upon the throne. With the latter was the White Company, which had aided to drive Pedro from his seat and was now equally ready to replace him there. These bold lancers and archers fought for their own hands, with little care whose cause they backed.
It was through the valley of Roncesvalles, that celebrated pass which was associated with the name of the famous Roland, the chief knight of French romance, that the army of the Black Prince made its way into Spain. Calverley, who was not willing to fight against his liege lord, joined him with his lances, King Henry generously consenting. Du Guesclin, a veteran in the art of war, advised the Castilian king to employ a Fabian policy, harassing the invaders by skirmishes, drawing them deep into the country, and wearing them out with fatigue and hunger. He frankly told him that his men could not face in a pitched battle the English veterans, led by such a soldier as the Black Prince. But the policy suggested would have been hazardous in Castile, divided as it was between two parties. Henry remembered that his rival had lost the kingdom through not daring to risk a battle, and he determined to fight for his throne, trusting his cause to Providence and the strength of his arms.
It was in the month of April, 1367, that the two armies came face to face on a broad plain. They were fairly matched in numbers, and as day broke both marched resolutely to the encounter, amid opposing shouts of "King Henry for Castile" and "St. George and Guyenne." It was a hard, fierce, bitter struggle that followed, in which the onset of Du Guesclin was so impetuous as for a moment to break the English line. But the end was at hand when the Castilian cavalry broke in panic before the charge of an English squadron, which turned Du Guesclin's battalion and took it in flank. The Captal de Buch at the same time fell on the flank of the Castilian vanguard. Thus beset and surrounded, the French and Spanish men-at-arms desperately sought to hold their own against much superior numbers. King Henry fought valiantly, and called on all to rally round his standard. But at length the banner fell, the disorder grew general, the ranks broke, and knights and foot-soldiers joined in a tumultuous retreat.
Their only hope now was the bridge of Najera, over the Najerilla, which stream lay behind their line. Some rushed for the bridge, others leaped into the river, which became instantly red with blood, for the arrows of the archers were poured into the crowded stream. Only the approach of night, the fatigue of the victors, and the temptation to plunder the town and the camp saved the wreck of the Castilian army, which had lost seven thousand foot-soldiers and some six hundred men-at-arms. Du Guesclin's battalion, which alone had made a gallant stand, was half slain. A large number of prisoners were taken, among them the valorous Du Guesclin himself.
Edward the Black Prince now first learned the character of the man whom he had come to aid. Don Pedro galloped excitedly over the plain seeking his rival, and, chancing to meet Lopez de Orozco, one of his former friends, now the prisoner of a Gascon knight, he stabbed him to the heart, despite the efforts of the Gascon in his defence. The report of this murder filled the Black Prince with indignation, which was heightened when Don Pedro offered to ransom all the Castilian prisoners, plainly indicating that he intended to murder them. Prince Edward sternly refused, only consenting to deliver up certain nobles who had been declared traitors before the revolution. These Don Pedro immediately had beheaded before his tent.
The breach between the allies rapidly widened, Don Pedro, as soon as he fairly got possession of the throne, breaking all his engagements with the Black Prince, while he was unable, from the empty state of his treasury, to pay the allied troops. Four months Prince Edward waited, with growing indignation, for redress, while disease was rapidly carrying off his men, and then marched in anger from Spain with scarcely a fifth of the proud array with which he had won the battle of Najera.
The restored king soon justified his title of Peter the Cruel by a series of sanguinary executions, murdering all of the adherents of his rival on whom he could lay his hands. In this thirst for revenge not even women escaped, and at length he committed an act which aroused the indignation of the whole kingdom. Don Alfonso de Guzman had refused to follow the king into exile. He now kept out of his reach, but his mother, Dona Urraca de Osorio, fell into the hands of the monster, and was punished for being the mother of a rebel by being burned alive on the ramparts of Seville.
These excesses of cruelty roused a rebellious sentiment throughout Castile, of which Henry, who had escaped to Aragon from the field of Najera, took advantage. Supplied with money by the king of France, he purchased arms and recruited soldiers, many of the French and Castilians who had been taken prisoners at Najera and been released on parole joining him in hopes of winning the means of paying their ransoms. Crossing the Ebro, he marched upon Calahorra, in which the year before he had been proclaimed king. Here numerous volunteers joined him, and at the head of a considerable force he marched upon Burgos, which surrendered after a faint show of resistance.
During the winter the campaign continued, Leon, Madrid, and other towns being captured, and in the spring of 1368 all northern Castile was in Henry's hands. Don Pedro, whose army was small, had entered into alliance with the Moorish king of Granada, who sent him an army of thirty-five thousand men, with which force a vigorous attack was made on the city of Cordova,—a holy city in the eyes of the Moors. Among its defenders was Don Alfonso de Guzman, whose mother had been burned to death. The defence was obstinate, but the Moors at length made breaches in the walls. They were about to pour into the city when the women, mad with fear, rushed into the streets with cries and moans, now reproaching the men-at-arms with cowardice, now begging them with sobs and tears to make a last effort to save the city from the brutal infidels.
This appeal gave new courage to the Christians. They rushed on the Moors with the fury of despair, drove them from the posts they had taken, hurled them from the ramparts, tore down the black flags which already waved on the towers, and finally expelled them from the breaches and the walls in a panic. The breaches were repaired and the city was saved. In a few days the Moors, thoroughly disheartened by their repulse, dispersed, and Don Pedro lost his allies.
Meanwhile, Henry was engaged in the siege of Toledo, the strongest place in the kingdom, and before which he persistently lay for months, despite all allurements to use his forces in other directions. Here Bertrand du Guesclin, who had been ransomed by the Black Prince, joined him with a force of some six hundred men-at-arms, all picked men; and hither, in March, 1369, Don Pedro marched to the city's relief at the head of a strong army.
Henry, on learning of this movement, at once gathered all the forces he could spare from the siege, three thousand men-at-arms in all, and hastened to intercept his rival on the march. Not dreaming of such a movement, Don Pedro had halted at Montiel, where his men lay dispersed, in search of food and forage, over a space of several leagues. They were attacked at daybreak, their surprise being so complete that the main body was at once put to flight, while each division was routed as soon as it appeared. Henry's forces suffered almost no loss, and within an hour's time his rival's kingdom was reduced to the castle of Montiel, in which he had taken refuge with a few of his followers.
Leaving the defeated army to take care of itself, Henry devoted himself to the siege of the castle, within whose poorly fortified walls lay the prize for which he fought. Escape was impossible, and the small supply of provisions would soon be exhausted. Don Pedro's only hope was to bribe some of his foes. He sent an agent to Du Guesclin, offering him a rich reward in gold and lands if he would aid in his escape. Du Guesclin asked for time to consider, and immediately informed Henry of the whole transaction. He was at once offered a richer reward than Pedro had promised if he would entice the king out of the castle, and after some hesitation and much persuasion he consented.
On the night of March 23, ten days after the battle, Don Pedro, accompanied by several of his knights, secretly left the fortress, the feet of their horses being bound with cloth to deaden the sound of hoofs. The sentinels, who had been instructed in advance, allowed them to pass, and they approached the camp of the French adventurers, where Du Guesclin was waiting to receive them.
"To horse, Messire Bertrand," said the king, in a low voice; "it is time to set out."
No answer was returned. This silence frightened Don Pedro. He attempted to spring into his saddle, but he was surrounded, and a man-at-arms held the bridle of his horse. An officer asked him to wait in a neighboring tent. Resistance was impossible, and he silently obeyed.
Here he found himself encompassed by a voiceless group, through whose lines, after a few minutes of dread suspense, a man in full armor advanced. It was Henry of Trastamara, who now faced his brother for the first time in fifteen years. He gazed with searching eyes upon Don Pedro and his followers.
"Where is this bastard," he harshly asked, "this Jew who calls himself King of Castile?"
"There stands your enemy," said a French esquire, pointing to Don Pedro.
Henry gazed at him fixedly. So many years had elapsed that he failed to recognize him easily.
"Yes, it is I," exclaimed Don Pedro, "I, the King of Castile. All the world knows that I am the legitimate son of good King Alfonso. It is thou that art the bastard."
At this insult Henry drew his dagger and struck the speaker a light blow in the face. They were in too close a circle to draw their swords, and in mortal fury they seized each other by the waist and struggled furiously, the men around drawing back and no one attempting to interfere.
After a brief period the wrestling brothers fell on a camp bed in a corner of the tent, Don Pedro, who was the stronger, being uppermost. While he felt desperately for a weapon with which to pierce his antagonist, one of those present seized him by the foot and threw him on one side, so that Henry found himself uppermost. Popular tradition says that it was Du Guesclin's hand that did this act, and that he cried, "I neither make nor unmake kings, but I serve my lord;" but some writers say it was the Viscount de Rocaberti, of Aragon.
However that be, Henry at once took advantage of the opportunity, picked up his dagger, lifted the king's coat of mail, and plunged the weapon again and again into his side. Only two of Don Pedro's companions sought to defend him, and they were killed on the spot. Henry had his brother's head at once cut off, and despatched the gruesome relic to Seville.
Thus perished, by an uncalled-for act of treachery on the part of Du Guesclin, for the castle must soon have surrendered, one of the most bloodthirsty kings who ever sat upon a throne. Don Fadrique, his brother, and Blanche of Bourbon, his wife, both of whom he had basely murdered, were at length avenged. Henry ascended the throne as Henry II., and for years reigned over Castile with a mild and just rule that threw still deeper horror upon the bloody career of him who is known in history as Peter the Cruel.
THE GREAT CAPTAIN.
The long and bitter war for the conquest of Granada filled Spain with trained soldiers and skilful leaders, men who had seen service on a hundred fields, grim, daring veterans, without their equals in Europe. The Spanish foot-soldiers of that day were inflexibly resolute, the cavalry were skilled in the brilliant tactics of the Moors, and the leaders were men experienced in all the arts of war. These were the soldiers who in the New World overthrew empires with a handful of adventurers, and within a fraction of a century conquered a continent for Spain. In Europe they were kept actively employed. Charles VIII. of France, moved by ambition and thirst for glory, led an army of invasion into Italy. He was followed in this career of foreign conquest by his successor, Louis XII. The armies of France were opposed by those of Spain, led by the greatest soldier of the age, Gonsalvo de Cordova, a man who had learned the art of war in Granada, but in Italy showed such brilliant and remarkable powers that he gained the distinguishing title of the Great Captain.
These wars were stretched out over years, and the most we can do is to give some of their interesting incidents. In 1502 the Great Captain lay in the far south of Italy, faced by a more powerful French army under the Duke of Nemours, a young nobleman not wanting in courage, but quite unfit to cope with the experienced veteran before him. Gonsalvo, however, was in no condition to try conclusions with his well-appointed enemy. His little corps was destitute of proper supplies, the men had been so long unpaid that they were mutinous, he had pleaded for reinforcements in vain, and the most he could do was to concentrate his small force in the seaport of Barleta and the neighboring strongholds, and make the best show he could in the face of his powerful foe.
The war now declined into foraging inroads on the part of the French, in which they swept the flocks and herds from the fertile pastures, and into guerilla operations on the part of the Spanish, who ambushed and sought to cut off the detached troops of the enemy. But more romantic encounters occasionally took place. The knights on both sides, full of the spirit of chivalry, and eager to prove their prowess, defied one another to jousts and tourneys, and for the time being brought back a state of warfare then fast passing away.
The most striking of these meetings arose from the contempt with which the French knights spoke of the cavalry of their enemy, which they declared to be far inferior to their own. This insult, when told to the proud knights of Gonsalvo's army, brought from them a challenge to the knights of France, and a warlike meeting between eleven Spanish and as many French warriors was arranged. A fair field was offered the combatants in the neutral territory under the walls of the Venetian city of Trani, and on the appointed day a gallant array of well-armed knights of both parties appeared to guard the lists and maintain the honor of the tournament.
Spectators crowded the roofs and battlements of Trani, while the lists were thronged with French and Spanish cavaliers, who for the time laid aside their enmity in favor of national honor and a fair fight. At the fixed hour the champions rode into the lists, armed at all points, and their horses richly caparisoned and covered with steel panoply. Among those on the Castilian side were Diego de Paredes and Diego de Vera, men who had won renown in the Moorish wars. Most conspicuous on the other side was the good knight Pierre de Bayard, the chevalier "sans peur et sans reproche," who was then entering upon his famous career.
At the sound of the signal trumpets the hostile parties rushed to the encounter, meeting in the centre of the lists with a shock that hurled three of the Spaniards from their saddle, while four of their antagonists' horses were slain. The fight, which began at ten in the morning, and was to end at sunset, if not concluded before, was prosecuted with great fury and varied success. Long before the hour of closing all the French were dismounted except the Chevalier Bayard and one of his companions, their horses, at which the Spaniards had specially aimed, being disabled or slain. Seven of the Spaniards were still on horseback, and pressed so hard upon their antagonists that the victory seemed safely theirs.
But Bayard and his comrade bravely held their own, while the others, intrenched behind their dead horses, defended themselves vigorously with sword and shield, the Spaniards vainly attempting to spur their terrified horses over the barrier. The fight went on in this way until the sun sank below the horizon, when, both parties still holding the field, neither was given the palm of victory, all the combatants being declared to have proved themselves good and valiant knights.
Both parties now met in the centre of the lists, where the combatants embraced as true companions in chivalry, "making good cheer together" before they separated. But the Great Captain did not receive the report of the result with favor.
"We have," said one of his knights, "disproved the taunts of the Frenchmen, and shown ourselves as good horsemen as they."
"I sent you for better," Gonsalvo coldly replied.
A second combat in which the Chevalier Bayard was concerned met with a more tragic termination. A Spanish cavalier, Alonzo de Sotomayor, complained that Bayard had treated him uncourteously while holding him prisoner. Bayard denied the charge, and defied the Spaniard to prove it by force of arms, on horse or on foot, as he preferred. Sotomayor, well knowing Bayard's skill as a horseman, challenged him to a battle on foot a l'outrance, or "to the death."
At the appointed time the two combatants entered the lists, armed with sword and dagger and in complete armor, though wearing their visors up. For a few minutes both knelt in silent prayer. They then rose, crossed themselves, and advanced to the combat, "the good knight Bayard," we are told, "moving as light of step as if he were going to lead some fair lady down the dance."
Bayard was the smaller man of the two, and still felt weakness from a fever which had recently prostrated him. The Spaniard, taking advantage of this, sought to crush him by the weight of his blows, or to close with him and bring him to the ground by dint of his superior strength. But the lightness and agility of the French knight enabled him to avoid the Spaniard's grasp, while, by skill with the sword, he parried his enemy's strokes, and dealt him an occasional one in return.
At length, the Spaniard having exposed himself to attack by an ill-directed blow, Bayard got in so sharp a thrust on the gorget that it gave way, and the point of the blade entered his throat. Maddened by the pain of the wound, Sotomayor leaped furiously on his antagonist and grasped him in his arms, both rolling on the ground together. While thus clasped in fierce struggle Bayard, who had kept his poniard in his left hand throughout the fight, while his enemy had left his in his belt, drove the steel home under his eye with such force that it pierced through his brain.
As the victor sprang to his feet, the judges awarded him the honors of the day, and the minstrels began to pour forth triumphant strains in his honor. The good knight, however, bade them desist, as it was no time for gratulation when a good knight lay dead, and, first kneeling and returning grateful thanks for his victory, he walked slowly from the lists, saying that he was sorry for the result of the combat, and wished, since his honor was saved, that his antagonist had lived.
In these passages at arms we discern the fading gleam of the spirit of mediaeval chivalry, soon to vanish before the new art of war. Rough and violent as were these displays as compared with the pastimes of later days, the magnificence with which they were conducted, and the manifestations of knightly honor and courtesy which attended them, threw something of grace and softness over an age in which ferocity was the ruling spirit.
Meanwhile, the position of the little garrison of Barleta grew daily worse. No help came, the French gradually occupied the strongholds of the neighboring country, and a French fleet in the Adriatic stood seriously in the way of the arrival of stores and reinforcements. But the Great Captain maintained his cheerfulness through all discouragement, and sought to infuse his spirit into the hearts of his followers. His condition would have been desperate with an able opponent, but he perfectly understood the character of the French commander and patiently bided his time.
The opportunity came. The French, weary of the slow game of blockade, marched from their quarters and appeared before the walls of Barleta, bent on drawing the garrison from the "old den" and deciding the affair in a pitched battle. The Duke of Nemours sent a trumpet into the town to defy the Great Captain to the encounter, but the latter coolly sent back word,—
"It is my custom to choose my own time and place for fighting, and I would thank the Duc de Nemours to wait till my men have time to shoe their horses and burnish up their arms."
The duke waited a few days, then, finding that he could not decoy his wily foe from the walls, broke camp and marched back, proud of having flaunted a challenge in the face of the enemy. He knew not Gonsalvo. The French had not gone far before the latter opened the gates and sent out his whole force of cavalry, under Diego de Mendoza, with two corps of infantry, in rapid pursuit. Mendoza was so eager that he left the infantry in the rear, and fell on the French before they had got many miles away.
A lively skirmish followed, though of short duration, Mendoza quickly retiring, pursued by the French rear-guard, whose straggling march had detached it from the main body of the army. Mendoza's feigned retreat soon brought him back to the infantry columns, which closed in on the enemy's flanks, while the flying cavalry wheeled in the rapid Moorish style and charged their pursuers boldly in front. All was now confusion in the French ranks. Some resisted, but the greater part, finding themselves entrapped, sought to escape. In the end, nearly all who did not fall on the field were carried prisoners to Barleta, under whose walls Gonsalvo had drawn up his whole army, in readiness to support Mendoza if necessary. The whole affair had passed so quickly that Nemours knew nothing of it until the bulk of his rear-guard were safely lodged within the walls of the Spanish stronghold.
This brilliant success proved the turning-point in the tide of the war. A convoy of transports soon after reached Barleta, bringing in an abundance of provisions, and the Spaniards, restored in health and spirits, looked eagerly for some new enterprise. Nemours having incautiously set out on a distant expedition, Gonsalvo at once fell on the town of Ruvo and took it by storm, in spite of a most obstinate defence. On April 28, 1503, Gonsalvo, strengthened by reinforcements, finally left the stronghold of Barleta, where he and his followers had suffered so severely and shown such indomitable constancy. Reaching Cerignola, about sixteen miles from Barleta, he awaited the advancing army of the French, rapidly intrenching the ground, which was well suited for defence. Before these works were completed, Nemours and his army appeared, and, though it was near nightfall, made an immediate attack. The commander was incited to this by taunts on his courage from some hot-headed subordinates, to whom he weakly gave way, saying, "We will fight to-night, then; and perhaps those who vaunt the loudest will be found to trust more to their spurs than to their swords,"—a prediction which was to prove true.
Of the battle, it must suffice to say that the trenches dug by the Spaniards fatally checked the French advance, and in the effort to find a passage Nemours fell mortally wounded. Soon the French lines were in confusion, the Spanish arquebusiers pouring a galling fire into their dense masses. Perceiving the situation, Gonsalvo ordered a general advance, and, leaping their intrenchments, the Spaniards rushed in fury on their foes, most of whose leaders had fallen. Panic succeeded, and the flying French were cut down almost without resistance.
The next morning the Great Captain passed over the field of battle, where lay more than three thousand of the French, half their entire force. The loss of the Spaniards was very small, and all the artillery, the baggage, and most of the colors of the enemy were in their hands. Rarely had so complete a victory been gained in so brief a time, the battle being hardly more than one hour in duration. The body of the unfortunate Duke of Nemours was found under a heap of the slain, much disfigured and bearing the marks of three wounds. Gonsalvo was affected to tears at the sight of the mutilated body of his young and gallant adversary, who, though unfitted to head an army, had always proved himself a valiant knight. During the following month Gonsalvo entered Naples, the main prize of the war, where he was received with acclamations of joy and given the triumph which his brilliant exploits so richly deserved.
The work of the Great Captain was not yet at an end. Finding that his forces were being defeated in every encounter and the cities held by them captured, Louis XII. sent a large army to their relief, and late in the year 1503 the hostile forces came face to face again, Gonsalvo being forced by the exigencies of the campaign to encamp in a deplorable situation, a region of swamp, which had been converted by the incessant rains into a mere quagmire. The French occupied higher ground and were much more comfortably situated. But Gonsalvo refused to move. He was playing his old waiting game, knowing that the French dared not attack his intrenched camp, and that time would work steadily in his favor.
GONSALVO DE CORDOVA FINDING THE CORPSE OF THE DUKE OF NEMOURS.
"It is indispensable to the public service to maintain our present position," he said to the officers who appealed to him to move; "and be assured, I would sooner march forward two steps, though it would bring me to my grave, than fall back one, to gain a hundred years of life."
After that there were no more appeals. Gonsalvo's usual cheerfulness was maintained, infusing spirit into his men in all the inconveniences of their situation. He had a well-planned object in view. The hardy Spaniards, long used to rough campaigning, bore their trying position with unyielding resolution. The French, on the contrary, largely new recruits, grew weary and mutinous, while sickness broke out in their ranks and increased with alarming rapidity.
At length Gonsalvo's day came. His opponent, not dreaming of an attack, had extended his men over a wide space. On the night of December 28, in darkness and storm, the Spanish army broke camp, marched to the river that divided the forces, silently threw a bridge across the stream, and were soon on its opposite side. Here they fell like a thunderbolt on the unsuspecting and unprepared French, who were soon in disordered retreat, hotly pursued by their foes, their knights vainly attempting to check the enemy. Bayard had three horses killed under him, and was barely rescued from death by a friend. So utterly were the French beaten that their discouraged garrisons gave up town after town without a blow, and that brilliant night's work not only ended the control of France over the kingdom of Naples, but filled Louis XII. with apprehension of losing all his possessions in Italy.
Such were the most brilliant exploits of the man who well earned the proud title of the Great Captain. He was as generous in victory as vigorous in battle, and as courteous and genial with all he met as if he had been a courtier instead of a soldier. In the end, his striking and unbroken success in war aroused the envy and jealousy of King Ferdinand, and after the return of Gonsalvo to Spain the unjust monarch kept him in retirement till his death, putting smaller men at the head of his armies rather than permit the greatest soldier of the century to throw his own exploits more deeply into the shade.
A KING IN CAPTIVITY.
Two great rivals were on the thrones of France and Spain,—Francis I., who came to power in France in 1515, and Charles I., who became king of Spain in 1516. In 1519 they were rivals for the imperial power in Germany. Charles gained the German throne, being afterwards known as the emperor Charles V., and during the remainder of their reigns these rival monarchs were frequently at war. A league was formed against the French king by Charles V., Henry VIII. of England, and Pope Leo X., as a result of which the French were driven from the territory of Milan, in Italy. In 1524 they were defeated at the battle of Sesia, the famous Chevalier Bayard here falling with a mortal wound; and in 1525 they met with a more disastrous defeat at the battle of Pavia, whose result is said to have caused Francis to write to his mother, "Madame, tout est perdu fors l'honneur" ("All is lost but honor").
The reason for these words may be briefly given. Francis was besieging Pavia, with hopes of a speedy surrender, when the forces of Charles marched to its relief. The most experienced French generals advised the king to retire, but he refused. He had said he would take Pavia or perish in the attempt, and a romantic notion of honor held him fast. The result was ruinous, as may be expected where sentiment outweighs prudence. Strongly as the French were intrenched, they were broken and put to rout, and soon there was no resistance except where the king obstinately continued to fight.
Wounded in several places, and thrown from his horse, which was killed under him, Francis defended himself on foot with heroic valor, while the group of brave officers who sought to save his life, one after another, lost their own. At length, exhausted with his efforts, and barely able to wield his sword, the king was left almost alone, exposed to the fierce assault of some Spanish soldiers, who were enraged by his obstinacy and ignorant of his rank.
At this moment a French gentleman named Pomperant, who had entered the service of Spain, recognized the struggling king and hurried to his aid, helping to keep off the assailants, and begging him to surrender to the Duke of Bourbon, who was close at hand. Great as was the peril, Francis indignantly refused to surrender to a rebel and traitor, as he held Bourbon to be, and calling to Lannoy, a general in the imperial army who was also near by, he gave up his sword to him. Lannoy, recognizing his prisoner, received the sword with a show of the deepest respect, and handed the king his own in return, saying,—
"It does not become so great a monarch to remain disarmed in the presence of one of the emperor's subjects."
The lack of prudence in Francis had proved serious not only to himself, but to his troops, ten thousand of whom fell, among them many distinguished nobles who preferred death to dishonor. Numbers of high rank were taken prisoners, among them the king of Navarre. In two weeks not a Frenchman remained in Italy. The gains from years of war had vanished in a single battle.
The tidings of the captivity of the French king filled France with consternation and Spain with delight, while to all Europe it was an event of the deepest concern, for all the nations felt the danger that might arise from the ambition of the powerful emperor of Spain and Germany. Henry VIII. requested that Francis should be delivered to him, as an ally of Spain, though knowing well that such a demand would not gain a moment's consideration. As for Italy, it was in terror lest it should be overrun by the imperial armies.
Francis, whom Lannoy held with great respect, but with the utmost care to prevent an escape, hoped much from the generosity of Charles, whose disposition he judged from his own. But Charles proposed to weaken his enemy and refused to set him free unless he would renounce all claims upon Italy, yield the provinces of Provence and Dauphine to form a kingdom for the Constable Bourbon, and give up Burgundy to Germany. On hearing these severe conditions, Francis, in a transport of rage, drew his dagger, exclaiming,—
"It were better that a king should die thus!"
A by-stander arrested the thrust; but, though Francis soon regained his composure, he declared that he would remain a prisoner for life rather than purchase liberty at such a price to his country.
Thinking that these conditions came from the Spanish council, and not from Charles himself, Francis now became anxious to visit the emperor in Spain, hoping to soften him in a personal interview. He even furnished the galleys for that purpose, Charles at that time being too poor to fit out a squadron, and soon the spectacle was seen of a captive monarch sailing in his own ships past his own dominions, of which he had a distant and sorrowful view, to a land in which he was to suffer the indignities of prison life.
Landing at Barcelona, Francis was taken to Madrid and lodged in the alcazar, under the most vigilant guard. He soon found that he had been far too hasty in trusting to the generosity of his captor. Charles, on learning of his captivity, had made a politic show of sympathy and feeling, but on getting his rival fully into his hands manifested a plain intention of forcing upon him the hardest bargain possible. Instead of treating his prisoner with the courtesy due from one monarch to another, he seemed to seek by rigorous usage to force from him a great ransom.
The captive king was confined in an old castle, under a keeper of such formal austerity of manners as added to the disgust of the high-spirited French monarch. The only exercise allowed him was to ride on a mule, surrounded by armed guards on horseback. Though Francis pressingly solicited an interview, Charles suffered several weeks to pass before going near him. These indignities made so deep an impression on the prisoner that his natural lightness of temper deserted him, and after a period of deep depression he fell into a dangerous fever, in which he bitterly complained of the harshness with which he had been treated, and said that the emperor would now have the satisfaction of having his captive die on his hands.
The physicians at length despaired of his life, and informed Charles that they saw no hope of his recovery unless he was granted the interview he so deeply desired. This news put the emperor into a quandary. If Francis should die, all the advantage gained from the battle of Pavia would be lost. And there were clouds in the sky elsewhere. Henry VIII. had concluded a treaty of alliance with Queen Louise, regent of France, and engaged to use all his efforts for the release of the king. In Italy a dangerous conspiracy had been detected. There was danger of a general European confederacy against him unless he should come to some speedy agreement with the captive king.
Charles, moved by these various considerations, at length visited Francis, and, with a show of respect and affection, gave him such promises of speedy release and princely treatment as greatly cheered the sad heart of the captive. The interview was short; Francis was too ill to bear a long one; but its effect was excellent, and the sick man at once began to recover, soon regaining his former health. Hope had proved a medicine far superior to all the drugs of the doctors.
But the obdurate captor had said more than he meant. Francis was kept as closely confined as ever. And insult was added to indignity by the emperor's reception of the Constable Bourbon, a traitorous subject of France, whom Charles received with the highest honors which a monarch could show his noblest visitor, and whom he made his general-in-chief in Italy. This act had a most serious result, which may here be briefly described. In 1527 Bourbon made an assault on Rome, with an army largely composed of Lutherans from Germany, and took it by assault, he being killed on the walls. There followed a sack of the great city which had not been surpassed in brutality by the Vandals themselves, and for months Rome lay in the hands of a barbarous soldiery, who plundered and destroyed without stint or mercy.
What Charles mainly insisted upon and Francis most indignantly refused was the cession of Burgundy to the German empire. He was willing to yield on all other points, but bitterly refused to dismember his kingdom. He would yield all claim to territory in Italy and the Netherlands, would pay a large sum in ransom, and would make other concessions, but Burgundy was part of France, and Burgundy he would not give up.
In the end Francis, in deep despair, took steps towards resigning his crown to his son, the dauphin. A plot for his escape was also formed, which filled Charles with the fear that a second effort might succeed. In dread that, through seeking too much, he might lose all, he finally agreed upon a compromise in regard to Burgundy, Francis consenting to yield it, but not until after he was set at liberty. The treaty included many other articles, most of them severe and rigorous, while Francis agreed to leave his sons, the dauphin and the Duke of Orleans, in the emperor's hands as hostages for the fulfilment of the treaty. This treaty was signed at Madrid, January 14, 1526. By it Charles believed that he had effectually humbled his rival, and weakened him so that he could never regain any great power. In this the statesmen of the day did not agree with him, as they were not ready to believe that the king of France would live up to conditions of such severity, forced from him under constraint.
FRANCIS I. REFUSING THE DEMANDS OF THE EMPEROR.
The treaty signed, the two monarchs seemed to become at once the best of friends. They often appeared together in public; they had long conferences in private; they travelled in the same litter and joined in the same amusements; the highest confidence and affection seemed to exist between them. Yet this love was all a false show,—Francis still distrusted the emperor, and Charles still had him watched like a prisoner.
In about a month the ratification of the treaty was brought from France, and Francis set out from Madrid with the first true emotions of joy which he had felt for a year. He was escorted by a body of horse under Alarcon, who, when the frontiers of France were reached, guarded him as scrupulously as ever. On arriving at the banks of the Andaye River, which there separated the two kingdoms, Lautrec appeared on the opposite bank, with a guard of horse equal to that of Alarcon. An empty bark was moored in mid-stream. The cavalry drew up in order on each bank. Lannoy, with eight gentlemen and the king, put off in a boat from the Spanish side of the stream. Lautrec did the same from the French side, bringing with him the dauphin and the Duke of Orleans. The two parties met in the empty vessel, where in a moment the exchange was made, Francis embracing his sons and then handing them over as hostages. Leaping into Lautrec's boat, he was quickly on the soil of France.
Mounting a Barbary horse which awaited him, the freed captive waved his hand triumphantly over his head, shouted joyfully several times, "I am yet a king!" and galloped away at full speed for Bayonne. He had been held in captivity for a year and twenty-two days.
Our tale of the captivity of the king ends here, but the consequences of that captivity must be told. A league was immediately afterwards formed against Charles, named the Holy League, from the Pope being at its head. The nobles of Burgundy refused to be handed over to the imperial realm, and an assembly called by Francis absolved him from his oath to keep the treaty of Madrid. Francis, bewailing his lack of power to do what he had promised in regard to Burgundy, offered to pay the emperor two millions of crowns instead. In short, Charles had overreached himself through his stringency to a captive rival, and lost all through his eagerness to obtain too much.
Ten years afterwards the relations between the two monarchs were in a measure reversed. A rebellion had broken out in Flanders which needed the immediate presence of Charles, and, for reasons satisfactory to himself, he wished to go through France. His counsellors at Madrid looked upon such a movement as fatally rash; but Charles persisted, feeling that he knew the character of Francis better than they. The French king was ready enough to grant the permission asked, and looked upon the occasion as an opportunity to show his rival how kings should deal with their royal neighbors.
Charles was received with an ostentatious welcome, each town entertaining him with all the magnificence it could display. He was presented with the keys of the gates, the prisoners were set at liberty, and he was shown all the honor due to the sovereign of the country itself. The emperor, though impatient to continue his journey, remained six days in Paris, where all things possible were done to render his visit a pleasant one. Had Francis listened to the advice of some of his ministers, he would have seized and held prisoner the incautious monarch who had so long kept him in captivity. But the confidence of the emperor was not misplaced; no consideration could induce the high-minded French king to violate his plighted word, or make him believe that Charles would fail to carry out certain promises he had made. He forgot for the time how he had dealt with his own compacts, but Charles remembered, and was no sooner out of France than all his promises faded from his mind, and Francis learned that he was not the only king who could enter into engagements which he had no intention to fulfil.
THE INVASION OF AFRICA.
As Italy was invaded by Gonsalvo de Cordova, the Great Captain, so Africa was invaded by Cardinal Ximenes, the Great Churchman, one of the ablest men who ever appeared in Spain, despite the fact that he made a dreadful bonfire of thousands of Arabian manuscripts in the great square of Granada. The greater part of these were copies of the Koran, but many of them were of high scientific and literary value, and impossible to replace. Yet, while thus engaged in a work fitted for an unlettered barbarian, Ximenes was using his large revenues to found the University of Alcala, the greatest educational institution in Spain, and was preparing his famous polyglot Bible, for which the rarest manuscripts were purchased, without regard to cost, that the Scriptures might be shown at one view in their various ancient languages. To indicate the cost of this work, it is said that he paid four thousand golden crowns for seven manuscripts, which came too late to be of use in the work. It is strange, under these circumstances, that he failed to preserve the valuable part of the Arabian manuscripts.
The vast labors undertaken by Ximenes at home did not keep him from enterprises abroad. He was filled with a burning zeal for the propagation of the Catholic faith, formed plans for a crusade to the Holy Land, and organized a remarkably successful expedition against the Moslems of Africa. It is of the latter that we desire to speak.