Historical Tales - The Romance of Reality - Volume VII
by Charles Morris
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The early events of the war were unfavorable to the Moors. Their strongholds were invaded by a powerful Spanish force under the Marquis of Mondejar, and their forces soon put to flight. Aben-Humeya was so hotly pursued that he was forced to spring from his horse, cut the hamstrings of the animal to render it useless to his pursuers, and seek refuge in the depths of the sierras, where dozens of hiding-places unknown to his pursuers could be found.

The insurrection was now in a desperate stage. Mondejar was driving the rebels in arms in terror before him; tower and town fell in succession into his hands; everywhere his arms were victorious, and only one thing was wanting to bring all opposition to an end,—the capture of Aben-Humeya, the "little king" of the Alpujarras. This crownless monarch was known to be wandering with a few followers in the wilds of the mountains; but while he lived the insurrection might at any moment blaze out again, and detachments of soldiers were sent to pursue him through the sierras.

The captain of one of these parties learned from a traitor that the fugitive prince remained hidden in the mountains only during the day, finding shelter at night in the house of a kinsman, Aben-Aboo, on the skirts of the sierras. Learning the situation of this mansion, the Spanish captain led his men with the greatest secrecy towards it. Travelling by night, they reached the vicinity of the dwelling under cover of the darkness. In a minute more the house would have been surrounded and its inmates secured; but at this critical moment the arquebuse of one of the Spaniards was accidentally discharged, the report echoing loudly among the hills and warning the lightly sleeping inmates of their danger.

One of them, El Zaguer, the uncle of Aben-Humeya, at once sprang up and leaped from the window of his room, making his way with all haste to the mountains. His nephew was not so fortunate. Running to his window, in the front of the house, he saw the ground occupied by troops. He hastily sought another window, but his foes were there before him. Bewildered and distressed, he knew not where to turn. The house was surrounded; the Spaniards were thundering on the door for admittance; he was like a wolf caught in its lair, and with as little mercy to hope from his captors.

By good fortune the door was well secured. One possible chance for safety occurred to the hunted prince. Hastening down-stairs, he stood behind the portal and noiselessly drew its bolts. The Spaniards, finding the door give way, and supposing that it had yielded to their blows, rushed hastily in and hurried through the house in search of the fugitive who was hidden behind the door. The instant they had all passed he slipped out, and, concealed by the darkness outside, hastened away, soon finding a secure refuge in the mountains.

Aben-Aboo remained in the hands of the assaillants, who vainly questioned him as to the haunts of his kinsmen. On his refusal to answer they employed torture, but with no better effect. "I may die," he courageously said, "but my friends will live." So severe and cruel was their treatment, that in the end they left him for dead, returning to camp with the other prisoners they had taken. As it proved, however, the heroic Aben-Aboo did not die, but lived to play a leading part in the war.

With kindly treatment of the Moriscos he would probably have given no more trouble, but the Spanish proved utterly merciless, their soldiers raging through the mountains, and committing the foulest acts of outrage and rapine. In Granada a frightful deed was committed. A large number of the leading Moriscos, about one hundred and fifty in all, had been seized and imprisoned, being held as hostages for the good behavior of their friends. Here, on a night in March, the prison was entered by a body of Spaniards, who assailed the unfortunate captives, arms in hand, and began an indiscriminate massacre. The prisoners seizing what means of defence they could find, fought desperately for their lives, and for two hours the unequal combat continued, not ending while a Morisco remained alive.

This savage act led to terrible reprisals on the part of the insurgents, who in the subsequent war treated with atrocious cruelty many of their captives. The Moriscos were soon in arms again, Aben-Humeya at their head, and the war blazed throughout the length and breadth of the mountains. Even from Barbary came a considerable body of Moors, who entered the service of the Morisco chief. Fierce and intrepid, trained to the military career, and accustomed to a life of wild adventure, these were a most valuable reinforcement to Aben-Humeya's forces, and enabled him to carry on a guerilla warfare which proved highly vexatious to the troops of Spain. He made forays from the mountains into the plain, penetrating into the vega and boldly venturing even to the walls of Granada. The insurrection spread far and wide through the Sierra Nevada, and the Spanish army, now led by Don John of Austria, the king's brother, found itself confronted by a most serious task.

The weak point in the organization of the Moriscos lay in the character of their king. Aben-Humeya, at first popular, soon displayed traits of character which lost him the support of his followers. Surrounded by a strong body-guard, he led a voluptuous life, and struck down without mercy those whom he feared, no less than three hundred and fifty persons falling victims to his jealousy or revenge. His cruelty and injustice at length led to a plot for his death, and his brief reign ended in assassination, his kinsman, Aben-Aboo, being chosen as his successor.

The new king was a very different man from his slain predecessor. He was much the older of the two, a man of high integrity and great decorum of character. While lacking the dash and love of adventure of Aben-Humeya, he had superior judgment in military affairs, and full courage in carrying out his plans. His election was confirmed from Algiers, a large quantity of arms and ammunition was imported from Barbary, reinforcements crossed the Mediterranean, and the new king began his reign under excellent auspices, his first movement being against Orgiba, a fortified place on the road to Granada, which he invested in October with an army of ten thousand men.


The capture of this place, which soon followed, roused the enthusiasm of the Moriscos to the highest pitch. From all sides the warlike peasantry flocked to the standard of their able chief, and a war began resembling that of a century before, when the forces of Ferdinand and Isabella were invading the Kingdom of Granada. From peak to peak of the sierras beacon-fires flashed their signals, calling the bold mountaineers to forays on the lands of the enemy. Pouring suddenly down on the lower levels, the daring marauders swept away in triumph to the mountains the flocks and herds of their Christian foes. The vega of Granada became, as in ancient times, the battle-ground of Moorish and Christian cavaliers, the latter having generally the advantage, though occasionally the insurgent bands would break into the suburbs, or even the city of Granada, filling its people with consternation, and causing the great bell of the Alhambra to peal out its tocsin of alarm and call the Spanish chivalry in haste to the fray.

We cannot describe, even in epitome, the varied course of this sanguinary war. As might well have been expected, the greater force of the Spaniards gradually prevailed, and the autumn of 1570 found the insurgents almost everywhere subdued. Only Aben-Aboo, the "little king," remained in arms, a force of four hundred men being all that were left to him of his recent army. But these were men warmly devoted to him, and until the spring of 1571 every effort for his capture proved in vain. Hiding in mountain caves and in inaccessible districts, he defied pursuit, and in a measure kept alive the flame of rebellion.

Treason at length brought his career to an end. One of the few insurgent prisoners who escaped death at the hands of the Spanish executioners revealed the hiding-place of the fugitive king, and named the two persons on whom Aben-Aboo most relied, his secretary, Abou Amer, and a Moorish captain named El Senix.

An effort was made to win over the secretary by one who had formerly known him, a letter being sent him which roused him to intense indignation. El Senix, however, becoming aware of its contents, and having a private grudge against his master, sent word by the messenger that he would undertake, for a suitable recompense, to betray him to the Christians.

An interview soon after took place between the Moor and Barredo, the Spanish agent, some intimation of which came to the ears of Aben-Aboo. The king at once sought a cavern in the neighborhood where El Senix was secreted, and, leaving his followers outside, imprudently entered alone. He found El Senix surrounded by several of his friends, and sternly demanded of him the purpose of his interview with Barredo. Senix, confused by the accusation, faltered out that he had simply been seeking to obtain an amnesty for him. Aben-Aboo listened with a face of scorn, and, turning on his heel with the word "treachery," walked back to the mouth of the cave.

Unluckily, his men, with the exception of two guards stationed at the entrance, had left the spot to visit some near-by friends. Senix, perceiving that his own life was in danger, and that this was his only opportunity for safety, fell with his followers on the guards, one of whom was killed and the other put to flight. Then an attack was made on Aben-Aboo. The latter defended himself desperately, but the odds were too great, and the dastardly El Senix ended the struggle by felling him with the butt-end of his musket, when he was quickly despatched.

Thus died the last of the Omeyades, the famous dynasty of Arabian caliphs founded in 660, and established in Spain in 756. Aben-Aboo, the last of this royal race, was given in death a triumphal entrance to Granada, as if he were one whom the Spaniards delighted to honor. The corpse was set astride on a mule, being supported by a wooden frame, which lay hidden beneath flowing robes. On one side rode Barredo; on the other the murderer El Senix bore the scimitar and arquebuse of the dead prince. The kinsmen and friends of the Morisco chief rode in his train, and after them came a regiment of infantry and a troop of horse.

As the procession moved along the street of Zacatin salvos of musketry saluted it, peals of artillery roared from the towers of the Alhambra, and the multitude thronged to gaze with silent curiosity on the ghastly face. Thus the cavalcade proceeded until the great square of Vivarambla was reached. Here were assembled the principal cavaliers and magistrates of the city, and here El Senix dismounted and delivered to Deza, the president of the tribunal before which were tried the insurgent captives, the arms of the murdered prince.

And now this semblance of respect to a brave enemy was followed by a scene of barbarity worthy of the Spain of that day. The ceremony of a public execution was gone through with, the head of the corpse being struck off, after which the body was given to the boys of Granada, who dragged it through the streets and exposed it to every indignity, finally committing it to the flames. The head, enclosed in a cage, was set over the gate that faced towards the Alpujarras. There it remained for a year, seeming to gaze towards the hills which the Morisco chief had loved so well, and which had witnessed his brief and disastrous reign.

Such was the fate of Aben-Aboo, the last of a line of great monarchs, and one of the best of them all; a man of lofty spirit, temperate appetites, and courageous endurance, who, had he lived in more prosperous days, might have ruled in the royal halls of Cordova with a renown equal to that of the most famous caliph of his race.


As the seventeenth century passed on, Spain, under the influence of religious intolerance and bad government, grew weak, both at home and abroad. Its prominent place in Europe was lost. Its vast colonial provinces in America were scenes of persecution and anarchy. There the fortresses were allowed to decay, the soldiers, half-clothed and unpaid, to become beggars or bandits, the treasures to be pilfered, and commerce to become a system of fraud; while the colonists were driven to detest their mother land. This weakness was followed by dire consequences. Bands of outcasts from various nations, who had settled on Spanish territory in the West Indies, at first to forage on the cattle of Hispaniola, organized into pirate crews, and, under the name of buccaneers, became frightful scourges of the commerce of Spain.

These wretches, mainly French, English, and Dutch, deserters and outlaws, the scum of their nations, made the rich merchant and treasure ships of Spain their prey, slaughtering their crews, torturing them for hidden wealth, rioting with profuse prodigality at their lurking-places on land, and turning those fair tropical islands into a pandemonium of outrage, crime, and slaughter. As they troubled little the ships of other nations, these nations rather favored than sought to suppress them, and Spain seemed powerless to bring their ravages to an end. In consequence, as the years went on, they grew bolder and more adventurous. Beginning with a few small, deckless sloops, they in time gained large and well-armed vessels, and created so deep a terror among the Spaniards by their savage attacks that the latter rarely made a strong resistance.

Lurking in forest-hidden creeks and inlets of the West India islands, they kept a keen lookout for the ships that bore to Spain the gold, silver, precious stones, and rich products of the New World, pursued them in their swift barks, boarded them, and killed all who ventured to resist. If the cargo was a rich one, and there had been little effort at defence, the prisoners might be spared their lives; if otherwise, they were flung mercilessly into the sea. Sailing then to their place of rendezvous, the captors indulged in the wildest and most luxurious orgies, their tables groaning with strong liquors and rich provisions; gaming, music, and dancing succeeding; extravagance, debauchery, and profusion of every kind soon dissipating their blood-bought wealth.

Among the pirate leaders several gained prominence for superior boldness or cruelty, among whom we may particularly name L'Olonnois, a Frenchman, of such savage ferocity that all mariners of Spanish birth shuddered with fear at his very name. This wretch suffered the fate he deserved. In an expedition to the Isthmus of Darien he was taken prisoner by a band of savage Indians, who tore him to pieces alive, flung his quivering limbs into the fire, and then scattered the ashes to the air.

Most renowned of all the buccaneers was Henry Morgan, a native of Wales, who ran away from home as a boy, was sold as a slave in Barbadoes, and afterwards joined a pirate crew, in time becoming a leader among the lawless hordes. By this time the raids of the ferocious buccaneers had almost put an end to Spanish commerce with the New World, and the daring freebooters, finding their gains at sea falling off, collected fleets and made attacks on land, plundering rich towns and laying waste thriving settlements. So greatly had Spanish courage degenerated that the pirates with ease put to flight ten times their number of that Spanish soldiery which, a century before, had been the finest in the world.

The first pirate to make such a raid was Lewis Scott, who sacked the town of Campeachy, robbing it of all its wealth, and forcing its inhabitants to pay an enormous ransom. Another named Davies marched inland to Nicaragua, took and plundered that town, and carried off a rich booty in silver and precious stones. He afterwards pillaged the city of St. Augustine, Florida. Others performed similar exploits, but we must confine our attention to the deeds of Morgan, the boldest and most successful of them all.

Morgan's first enterprise was directed against Port au Prince, Cuba, where, however, the Spaniards had received warning and concealed their treasures, so that the buccaneer gained little for his pains. His next expedition was against Porto Bello, on the Isthmus, one of the richest and best fortified of American cities. Two castles, believed to be impregnable, commanded the entrances to the harbor. When the freebooters learned that their leader proposed to attack so strong a place as this the hearts of the boldest among them shrank. But Morgan, with a few inspiring words, restored their courage.

"What boots it," he exclaimed, "how small our number, if our hearts be great! The fewer we are the closer will be our union and the larger our shares of plunder."

Boldness and secrecy carried the day. One of the castles was taken by surprise, the first knowledge of the attack coming to the people of the town from the concussion when Morgan blew it up. Before the garrison or the citizens could prepare to oppose them the freebooters were in the town. The governor and garrison fled in panic haste to the other castle, while the terrified people threw their treasures into wells and cisterns. The castle made a gallant resistance, but was soon obliged to yield to the impetuous attacks of the pirate crews.

It was no light exploit which Morgan had performed,—to take with five hundred men a fortified city with a large garrison and strengthened by natural obstacles to assault. The ablest general in ordinary war might well have claimed renown for so signal a victory. But the ability of the leader was tarnished by the cruelty of the buccaneer. The people were treated with shocking barbarity, many of them being shut up in convents and churches and burned alive, while the pirates gave themselves up to every excess of debauchery.

The great booty gained by this raid caused numerous pirate captains to enlist under Morgan's flag, and other towns were taken, in which similar orgies of cruelty and debauchery followed. But the impunity of the buccaneers was nearing its end. Their atrocious acts had at length aroused the indignation of the civilized world, and a treaty was concluded between Great Britain and Spain whose chief purpose was to put an end to these sanguinary and ferocious deeds.

The first effect of this treaty was to spur the buccaneers to the performance of some exploit surpassing any they had yet achieved. So high was Morgan's reputation among the pirates that they flocked from all quarters to enlist under his flag, and he soon had a fleet of no fewer than thirty-seven vessels manned by two thousand men. With so large a force an expedition on a greater scale could well be undertaken, and a counsel of the chiefs debated whether they should make an assault upon Vera Cruz, Carthagena, or Panama. Their choice fell upon Panama, as the richest of the three.

The city of Panama at that time (1670) was considered one of the greatest and most opulent in America. It contained two thousand large buildings and five thousand smaller, all of which were three stories high. Many of these were built of stone, others of cedar wood, being elegantly constructed and richly furnished. The city was the emporium for the silver- and gold-mines of New Spain, and its merchants lived in great opulence, their houses rich in articles of gold and silver, adorned with beautiful paintings and other works of art, and full of the luxuries of the age. The churches were magnificent in their decorations, and richly embellished with ornaments in gold and silver. The city presented such a prize to cupidity as freebooters and bandits had rarely conceived of in their wildest dreams.


The daring enterprise began with the capture by four hundred men of the Fort of St. Laurence, at the mouth of the Chagres River. Up this serpentine stream sailed the freebooters, as far as it would bear them, and thence they marched overland, suffering the greatest hardships and overcoming difficulties which would have deterred men of less intrepid spirit. Eight days of this terrible march brought the adventurers within sight of the far-spreading Pacific, and of the spires of the coveted city on its shores.

The people of Panama had been apprised of what was in store for them, and had laid ambuscades for the buccaneers, but Morgan, by taking an indirect route to the town, avoided these. Panama was but partly fortified. In several quarters it lay open to attack. It must be fought for and won or lost on the open plain. Here the Spaniards had assembled to the number of two thousand infantry and four hundred cavalry, well equipped and possessing everything needed but spirit to meet the dreaded foe. They had adopted an expedient sure to prove a dangerous one. A herd of wild bulls, to the number of more than two thousand, was provided, with Indians and negroes to drive them on the pirate horde. The result resembled that in which the Greeks drove elephants upon the Roman legions. Many of the buccaneers were accustomed to the chase of wild cattle, and, by shouts and the waving of colored flags, turned the bulls back upon the Spanish lines, which they threw into disorder.

The buccaneers followed with an impetuous charge which broke the ranks of the defenders of the town, who, after a two hours' combat, were completely routed, the most of them being killed or taken prisoners. The assault was now directed upon the town, which was strongly defended, the pirates being twice repulsed and suffering much from the numerous Spanish guns. But after a three hours' fight they overcame all opposition and the city fell into their hands.

A scene of frightful bloodshed and inhumanity followed. The buccaneers gave no quarter, killing all they met. Lest they should be exposed to a counter assault while intoxicated, Morgan called them together and forbade them to taste the wine of the town, saying that it had been poisoned. Conflagration followed massacre. Fires broke out in several quarters of the city, and great numbers of dwellings, with churches, convents, and numerous warehouses filled with valuable goods were reduced to ashes. These fires continued to burn during most of the month in which the freebooters held the city, and in which they indulged to the full in their accustomed cruelty, rapacity, and licentiousness.

Treasure was found in great quantities in the wells and caves, where it had been thrown by the terrified people. The vessels taken in the harbor yielded valuable commodities. Detachments were sent into the country to capture and bring back those who had fled for safety, and by torturing these several rich deposits of treasure were discovered in the surrounding forests. A few of the inhabitants escaped with their wealth by sea, seeking shelter in the islands of the bay, and a galleon laden with the king's plate and jewels and other precious articles belonging to the church and the people narrowly escaped after a hot chase by the buccaneers. With these exceptions the rich city was completely looted.

After a month spent among the ruins of Panama Morgan and his villainous followers departed, one hundred and seventy-five mules carrying their more bulky spoil, while with them were six hundred prisoners, some carrying burdens, others held to ransom. Thus laden, they reached again the mouth of the Chagres, where their ships awaited them and where a division of the spoil was to be made.

Treachery followed this stupendous act of piracy, Morgan's later history being an extraordinary one for a man of his infamous record. He was possessed with the demon of cupidity, and a quarrel arose between him and his men concerning the division of the spoil. Morgan ended it by running off with the disputed plunder. On the night preceding the final division, during the hours of deepest slumber, the treacherous chief, with a few of his confidants, set sail for Jamaica, in a vessel deeply laden with spoils. On waking and learning this act of base treachery, the infuriated pirates pursued him, but in vain; he safely reached Jamaica with his ill-gotten wealth.

In this English island the pirate chief gained not only safety, but honors. In some way he won the favor of Charles II., who knighted him as Sir Henry Morgan and placed him on the admiralty court in Jamaica. He subsequently, for a time, acted as deputy governor, and in this office displayed the greatest severity towards his old associates, several of whom were tried before him and executed. One whole crew of buccaneers were sent by him to the Spaniards at Carthagena, in whose hands they were likely to find little favor. He was subsequently arrested, sent to England, and imprisoned for three years under charges from Spain; but this was the sole punishment dealt out to the most notorious of the buccaneers.

The success of Morgan's enterprise stimulated the piratical crews to similar deeds of daring, and the depredations continued, not only in the West Indies and eastern South America, but afterwards along the Pacific, the cities of Leon, in Mexico, New Granada, on the lake of Nicaragua, and Guayaquil, the port of Quito, being taken, sacked, and burned. Finally, France and England joined Spain in efforts for their suppression, the coasts were more strictly guarded, and many of the freebooters settled as planters or became mariners in honest trade. Some of them, however, continued in their old courses, dispersing over all seas as enemies of the shipping of the world; but by the year 1700 their career had fairly come to an end, and the race of buccaneers ceased to exist.


In 1714 certain events took place in Spain of sufficient interest to be worth the telling. Philip V., a feeble monarch, like all those for the century preceding him, was on the throne. In his youth he had been the Duke of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV. of France, and upon the death of that great monarch would be close in the succession to the throne of that kingdom. But, chosen as king of Spain by the will of Charles II., he preferred a sure seat to a doubtful one, and renounced his claim to the French crown, thus bringing to an end the fierce "War of the Succession," which had involved most of the powers of Europe for many years.

Philip, by nature weak and yielding, became in time a confirmed hypochondriac, and on the death of his wife, Maria Louise, in 1714, abandoned himself to grief, refusing to attend to business of any kind, shutting himself up in the strictest seclusion, and leaving the affairs of the kingdom practically in the hands of the Princess Orsini, the governess of his children, and his chief adviser.

Sorrow-stricken as was the bereaved king, affairs were already in train to provide him with a new wife, a plan being laid for that purpose at the very funeral of his queen, as some writers say, between the ambitious Princess Orsini and a cunning Italian named Alberoni, while they, with a show of grave decorum, followed Maria Louise to the grave.

The story of Alberoni is an interesting one. This man, destined to become prime minister of Spain, began life as the son of a gardener in the duchy of Parma. While a youth he showed such powers of intellect that the Jesuits took him into their seminary and gave him an education of a superior character. He assumed holy orders and, by a combination of knowledge and ability with adulation and buffoonery, made his way until he received the appointment of interpreter to the Bishop of St. Domino, who was about to set out on a mission from the Duke of Parma to the Duke of Vendome, then commander of the French forces in Italy.

The worthy bishop soon grew thoroughly disgusted with Vendome, who, high as he was in station, displayed a shameless grossness of manner which was more than the pious churchman could endure. The conduct of the affair was therefore left to the interpreter, whose delicacy was not disturbed by the duke's behavior, and who managed to ingratiate himself fully in the good graces of the French general, becoming so great a favorite that in the end he left the service of the Duke of Parma for that of Vendome.

Subsequently the duke was appointed to a command in Spain, where he employed Alberoni in all his negotiations with the court of Madrid. Here the wily and ambitious Italian won the favor of the Princess Orsini so fully that when, on Vendome's death, he returned home, the Duke of Parma sent him as his envoy to Spain.

The princess little dreamed the character of the man whom she had taken into confidential relations, and who was plotting to overthrow her influence at court. Bent on retaining her influence by the choice of a tractable queen, she spoke to Alberoni of the urgent necessity of finding another bride for the disconsolate king. The shrewd diplomat named several eligible princesses, each of whom he dismissed as objectionable for one reason or another. At the end he adroitly introduced the name of Elizabeth Farnese, step-daughter of the Duke of Parma, of whom he spoke carelessly as a good girl, fattened on Parmesan cheese and butter, and so narrowly educated that she had not an idea beyond her embroidery. She might succeed, he hinted, to the throne of Parma, as the duke had no child of his own, in which case there would be a chance for Spain to regain her lost provinces in Italy.

The deluded Princess Orsini was delighted with the suggestion. With such a girl as this for queen she could continue to hold the reins of state. She easily induced Philip to approve the choice; the Duke of Parma was charmed with the offer; and the preliminary steps to the marriage were hurried through with all possible rapidity.

Before the final conclusion of the affair, however, the Princess Orsini discovered in some way that Alberoni had lied, and that the proposed bride was by no means the ignorant and incapable country girl she had been told. Furious at the deception, she at once sent off a courier with orders to stop all further proceedings relating to the marriage. The messenger reached Parma in the morning of the day on which the marriage ceremony was to be performed by proxy. But Alberoni was wide awake to the danger, and managed to have the messenger detained until it was too late. Before he could deliver his despatches Elizabeth Farnese was the legal wife of Philip of Spain.

The new queen had been fully advised of the state of affairs by Alberoni. The Princess Orsini, to whom she owed her elevation, was to be got rid of, at once and permanently. On crossing the frontiers she was met by all her household except the princess, who was with the king, then on his way to meet and espouse his bride. At Alcala the princess left him and hastened to meet the queen, reaching the village of Xadraca in time to receive her as she alighted from her carriage, kiss her hand, and in virtue of her office at court to conduct her to her apartment.

Elizabeth met the princess with a show of graciousness, but on entering her chamber suddenly turned and accused her visitor of insulting her by lack of respect, and by appearing before her in improper attire. The amazed princess, overwhelmed by this accusation, apologized and remonstrated, but the queen refused to listen to her, ordered her from the room, and bade the officer of the guard to arrest and convey her beyond the frontier.

Here was a change in the situation! The officer hesitated to arrest one who for years had been supreme in Spain.

"Were you not instructed to obey me implicitly?" demanded Elizabeth.

"Yes, your majesty."

"Then do as I have ordered. I assume all responsibility."

"Will your majesty give me a written sanction?"

"Yes," said Elizabeth, in a tone very different from that of the bread-and-butter miss whom Alberoni had represented her.

Calling for pen, ink, and paper, she wrote upon her knee an order for the princess's arrest, and bade the hesitating officer to execute it at once.

He dared no longer object. The princess, in court dress, was hurried into a carriage, with a single female attendant and two officers, being allowed neither a change of clothing, protection against the cold, nor money to procure needed conveniences on the road. In this way a woman of over sixty years of age, whose will a few hours before had been absolute in Spain, was forced to travel throughout an inclement winter night, and continue her journey until she was thrust beyond the limits of Spain, within which she was never again permitted to set foot.

Such was the first act of the docile girl whom the ambitious princess had fully expected to use as a tool for her designs. Schooled by her skilled adviser, and perhaps sanctioned by Philip, who may have wished to get rid of his old favorite, Elizabeth at the start showed a grasp of the situation which she was destined to keep until the end. The feeble-minded monarch at once fell under her influence, and soon all the affairs of the kingdom became subject to her control.

Elizabeth was a woman of restless ambition and impetuous temper, and she managed throughout Philip's reign to keep the kingdom in constant hot water. The objects she kept in view were two: first, to secure to Philip the reversion of the French crown in case of the death of the then Duke of Anjou, despite the fact that he had taken frequent oaths of renunciation; second, to secure for her own children sovereign rule in Italy.

We cannot detail the long story of the intrigues by which the ambitious woman sought to bring about these purposes, but in all of them she found an able ally in Alberoni. Elizabeth did not forget that she owed her high position to this man. They were, besides, congenial in disposition, and she persuaded Philip to trust and consult him, and finally to appoint him prime minister. Not satisfied with this reward to her favorite, she, after a few years, induced the Pope to grant him a cardinal's hat and Philip to make him a grandee of Spain. The gardener's son had, by ability and shrewdness, reached the highest summit to which his ambition could aspire.

From the greatest height one may make the most rapid fall. The power of Alberoni was destined quickly to reach its end. Yet it was less his own fault than the ambition of the queen that led to the termination of his career. As a prime minister he proved a marked success, giving Spain an administration far superior to any she had enjoyed for many years. Alberoni was a man of great ability, which he employed in zealous efforts to improve the internal condition of the country, having the wisdom to avail himself of the talents and knowledge of other able men in handling those departments of government with which he was unfamiliar. He seemed inclined to keep Spain at peace, at least until she had regained some of her old power and energy; but the demands of the queen overcame his reluctance, and in the end he entered upon the accomplishment of her purposes with a daring and recklessness in full accordance with the demands of her restless spirit of intrigue.

Louis XIV. died in 1715. Louis XV., his heir, was a sickly child, not yet five years old. Philip would have been regent during his youth, and his heir in case of his death, had he not renounced all claim to the French throne. He was too weak and irresolute in himself to take any steps to gain this position, but his wife spurred him on to ambitious designs, and Alberoni entered eagerly into her projects, beginning a series of intrigues in France with all who were opposed to the Duke of Orleans, the existing regent.

These intrigues led to war. The duke concluded an alliance with England and Germany, the former enemies of France. Philip, exasperated at seeing himself thus thwarted, declared war against the German emperor, despite all that Alberoni could do to prevent, and sent an expedition against Sardinia, which captured that island. Sicily was also invaded. Alberoni now entered into intrigues for the restoration of the banished Stuarts to the English throne, and took part in a conspiracy in France to seize the Duke of Orleans and appoint Philip to the regency.

Both these plots failed, the war became general, Philip found his armies beaten, and Alberoni was forced to treat for peace. The Spanish minister had made bitter enemies of George I. of England and the Duke of Orleans, who, claiming that he was responsible for disturbing the peace of Europe, demanded his dismissal as a preliminary to peace. His failure had lost him influence with the king, but the queen, the real power behind the throne, supported him, and it was only by promises of the enemies of Alberoni to aid her views for the establishment of her children that she was induced to yield consent to his overthrow.

On the 4th of December, 1719, Alberoni spent the evening transacting affairs of state with the king and queen. Up to that time he remained in full favor and authority, however he may have suspected the intrigues for his overthrow. Their majesties that night left Madrid for their country palace at Pardo, and from there was sent a decree by the hands of a secretary of state, to the all-powerful minister, depriving him of all his offices, and bidding him to quit Madrid within eight days and Spain within three weeks.

Alberoni had long been hated by the people of Spain, and detested by the grandees, who could not be reconciled to the supremacy of a foreigner and his appointment to equality with them in rank. But this sudden dismissal seemed to change their sentiments, and rouse them to realization of the fact that Spain was losing its ablest man. Nobles and clergy flocked to his house in such numbers that the king became alarmed at this sudden popularity, and ordered him to shorten the time of his departure.

Alberoni sought refuge in Rome, but here the enmity of France and England pursued him, and Philip accused him of misdemeanors in office, for which he demanded a trial by the Pope and cardinals. Before these judges the disgraced minister defended himself so ably that the court brought the investigation to a sudden end by ordering him to retire to a monastery for three years.

This period the favor of the Pope reduced to one year, and his chief enemy, the regent of France, soon after dying, he was permitted to leave the monastery and pass the remainder of his life free from persecution. His career was a singular one, considering the lowness of his origin, and showed what ability and shrewdness may accomplish even against the greatest obstacles of fortune.


The great Mediterranean Sea has its gate-way, nine miles wide, opening into the Atlantic, the gate-posts being the headland of Ceuta, on the African coast, and the famous rock of Gibraltar, in southwestern Spain, two natural fortresses facing each other across the sea. It is a singular fact that the African headland is held by Spain, and the Spanish headland by Great Britain,—this being a result of the wars of the eighteenth century. Gibraltar, in fact, has had a striking history, one worth the telling.

This towering mass of rock rises in solitary grandeur at the extremity of a sandy level, reaching upward to a height of fourteen hundred and eight feet, while it is three miles long and three-fourths of a mile in average width. It forms a stronghold of nature which attracted attention at an early date. To the Greeks it was one of the Pillars of Hercules,—Abyla (now Ceuta) being the other,—and formed the supposed western boundary of the world. Tarik, the Arab, landed here in 711, fortified the rock, and made it his base of operations against Gothic Spain. From him it received its name, Gebel el Tarik (Hill of Tarik), now corrupted into Gibraltar. For seven centuries it remained in Moorish hands, except for a short interval after 1302, when it was taken by Ferdinand II. of Castile. The king of Granada soon recaptured it; from him it was taken by treachery by the king of Fez in 1333; Alfonso XI. of Castile vigorously besieged it, but in vain; the king of Granada mastered it again in 1410; and it finally fell into the hands of Spain in 1462.

A formidable attempt was made by the Moors for its recovery in 1540, it being vigorously attacked by the pirates of Algiers, who fought fiercely to win the rock, but were finally repulsed.

For the next event in the history of this much-coveted rock we must go on to the year 1704, when the celebrated war of the Succession was in full play. Louis XIV. of France supported his grandson Philip V. as the successor to the throne of Spain. The Archduke Charles of Austria was supported by England, Portugal, and Holland, and was conveyed to the Peninsula and landed at Lisbon by an English fleet under Admiral Rorke. The admiral, having disposed of the would-be king, sailed for Barcelona, which he was told was a ripe plum, ready to fall into his mouth. He was disappointed; Barcelona was by no means ripe for his purposes, and he sailed back, ready for any enterprise that might offer itself.

Soon before him towered the rock of Gibraltar, a handsome prize if it could be captured, and poorly defended, as he knew. The Spaniards, trusting, as it seems, in the natural strength of the place, which they deemed impregnable, had left it with a very small supply of artillery and ammunition, and with almost no garrison. Here was a promising opportunity for the disappointed admiral and his associate, the prince of Hesse Darmstadt, who headed the foreign troops. A landing was made, siege lines were opened, batteries were erected, and a hot bombardment began, to which the feeble garrison could make but a weak reply. But the most effective work was done by a body of soldiers, who scrambled up a part of the rock that no one dreamed could be ascended, and appeared above the works, filling with terror the hearts of the garrison.

Two days answered for the enterprise. At the end of that time the governor, Don Diego de Salmas, capitulated, and Gibraltar was taken possession of in the name of Queen Anne of England, the prince being left there with a garrison of two thousand men. From that time to this Gibraltar has remained an outpost of Great Britain, with whose outlying strongholds the whole world bristles.

The loss of this strong place proved a bitter draught to the pride of Spain, and strenuous efforts to recapture it were made. In the succeeding year (1705) it was besieged by a strong force of French and Spanish troops, but their efforts were wasted, for the feeble court of Madrid left the army destitute of necessary supplies. By the peace of Utrecht, 1713, Gibraltar was formally made over to Great Britain, a country famous for clinging with a death-grip to any place of which she has once taken hold.

Later efforts were made to win the Rock of Tarik for Spain, one in 1756, but the last and greatest in 1779-82. It is this vigorous effort with which we are here concerned, the siege being one of the most famous of recent times.

The Revolutionary War in the United States stirred up all Europe, and finally brought Great Britain two new foes, the allied kingdoms of France and Spain. The latter country had never lost its irritation at seeing a foreign power in possession of a part of its home territory. Efforts were made to obtain Gibraltar by negotiation, Spain offering her friendly aid to Great Britain in her wars if she would give up Gibraltar. This the British government positively refused to do, and war was declared. A siege of Gibraltar began which lasted for more than three years.

Spain began the work in 1779 with a blockade by sea and an investment by land. Supplies were cut off from the garrison, which was soon in a state of serious distress for food, and strong hopes were entertained that it would be forced to yield. But the British government was alert. Admiral Rodney was sent with a strong fleet to the Mediterranean, the Spanish blockading fleet was defeated, the garrison relieved, provisioned, and reinforced, and Rodney sailed in triumph for the West Indies.

For three years the blockade was continued with varying fortunes, the garrison being now on the verge of starvation, now relieved by British fleets. At the close of the third year it was far stronger than at the beginning. The effort to subdue it by famine was abandoned, and preparations for a vigorous siege were made. France had joined her forces with those of Spain. The island of Minorca, held by the British, had been taken by the allied fleet, and it was thought impossible for Gibraltar to resist the projected assault.

The land force that had so long besieged the rock was greatly strengthened, new batteries were raised, new trenches opened, and a severe fire was begun upon the works. Yet so commanding was the situation and so strong were the defences of the garrison that success from the land side seemed impossible, and it was determined to make the main attack from the sea.

A promising method of attack was devised by a French engineer of the highest reputation for skill in his profession, the Chevalier D'Arcon. The plan offered by him was so original and ingenious as to fill the besiegers with hopes of sure success, and the necessary preparations were diligently made. Ten powerful floating batteries were constructed, which were thought fully adapted to resist fire, throw off shells, and quench red-hot balls. Every effort was made to render them incombustible and incapable of being sunk. These formidable batteries were towed to the bay of Gibraltar and anchored at a suitable distance from the works, D'Arcon himself being in command. Ten ships of the line were sent to co-operate with them, the arrival of reinforcements from France increased the land army to forty thousand men, and Crillon, the conqueror of Minorca, was placed in supreme command. The allied fleets were ordered to cruise in the straits, so as to prevent interference by a British fleet.

These great and scientific preparations filled all hearts with hope. No doubt was entertained that Gibraltar now must fall and Great Britain receive the chastisement she deserved. The nobility of Spain sought in numbers the scene of action, eager to be present at the triumph of her arms. From Versailles came the French princes, full of expectation of witnessing the humbling of British pride. So confident of success was Charles III., king of Spain, that his first question every morning on waking was, "Is Gibraltar taken?" All Spain and all France were instinct with hope of seeing the pride of the islanders go down.

Gibraltar was garrisoned by seven thousand troops under General Elliot. These lay behind fortifications on which had been exhausted all the resources of the engineering skill of that day, and in their hearts was the fixed resolve never to surrender. The question had become one of national pride rather than of utility. Gibraltar was not likely to prove of any very important advantage to Great Britain, but the instinct to hold on has always been with that country a national trait, and, however she might have been induced to yield Gibraltar as an act of policy, she was determined not to do so as an act of war.

Early on the 13th of September, 1782, the long-threatened bombardment began from so powerful a park of artillery that its roar is said to have exceeded anything ever before heard. There were defects in the plan. The trenches on land proved to be too far away. The water was rough and the gunboats could not assist. But the work of the batteries came up to the highest expectations. The fire poured by them upon the works was tremendous, while for many hours the shells and red-hot balls of the garrison, fired with the greatest precision, proved of no avail. The batteries seemed invulnerable to fire and shell, and the hopes of the besiegers rose to the highest point, while those of the besieged correspondingly fell.

In the end this powerful assault was defeated by one of those events to which armed bodies of men are always liable,—a sudden and uncalled-for spasm of fear that flew like wildfire through fleet and camp. The day had nearly passed, evening was approaching, the hopes of the allies were at their height, when a red-hot ball from the works lodged in the nearest battery and started a fire, which the crew sought in vain to quench.

In a sudden panic, for which there seems to have been no sufficient cause, the terrified crew wet their powder and ceased to fire on the British works. The panic spread to the other batteries, and from them to the forces on shore, even the commander-in-chief being affected by the causeless fear. At one moment the assailants were enthusiastic with expectation of success. Not many minutes afterwards they were so overcome with unreasoning terror that an insane order was given to burn the batteries, and these were fired with such precipitate haste that the crews were allowed no time to escape. More of the men were saved by their enemies, who came with generous intrepidity to their aid, than by their own terror-stricken friends.

This unfortunate event put a sudden end to the costly and promising effort. The nobles of Spain and the princes of France left the camp in disgust. Charles III. received word that Gibraltar was not captured, and not likely to be, and the idea of taking the stronghold by force was abandoned, the blockade being resumed.

To keep away British aid the allied fleet was increased until it numbered forty-seven ships of the line, with a considerable number of smaller vessels. Furnaces were prepared to heat shot for the destruction of any transports and store-ships that might enter the harbor. Against this great fleet Lord Howe appeared in October with only thirty sail, and encumbered with a large convoy. The allied leaders seeing this small force, felt sure of victory, and of Gibraltar as their prize.

But again they were doomed to disappointment. The elements came to the British aid. A violent storm drove the allied fleet from its anchorage, dispersed the vessels, injured many of the large ships, and drove the small craft ashore. Lord Howe, whose ships were far better handled, sailed in good order through the straits, and for five days of rough weather offered battle to the disabled enemy, keeping them at a distance while his transports and store-ships entered the harbor and supplied the garrison abundantly with provisions, ammunition, and men. The effort to take Gibraltar was hopelessly defeated. The blockade was still kept up, but merely as a satisfaction to Spanish pride. All hope of taking the fortress was at an end. Gibraltar remains to-day in British hands, and no later attempt to take it has been made.


The course of our work now brings us down to recent times. After the death of Philip II., in 1598, Spain had little history worth considering. Ruled by a succession of painfully weak kings, who were devoid of anything approaching political wisdom, the fortunes of the realm ran steadily downward. From being the strongest, it became in time one of the weakest and least considered of European kingdoms; and from taking the lead in the politics and wars of Europe, it came to be a plaything of the neighboring nations,—a catspaw which they used for the advancement of their own ends.

It was in this way that Napoleon treated Spain. He played with it as a cat plays with a mouse, and when the proper time came pounced upon it and gathered it in. Charles IV., the Spanish king of Napoleon's time, was one of the feeblest of his weak line,—an imbecile whom the emperor of France counted no more than a feather in his path. He sought to deal with him as he had done with the equally effeminate king of Portugal. When a French army invaded Portugal in 1807, its weak monarch cut the knot of the difficulty by taking ship and crossing the ocean to Brazil, abandoning his old kingdom and setting up a new one in the New World. When Spain was in its turn invaded, its king proposed to do the same thing,—to carry the royal court of Spain to America, and leave a kingdom without a head to Napoleon. Such an act would have exactly suited the purposes of the astute conqueror, but the people rose in riot, and Charles IV. remained at home.

The real ruler of Spain at that time was a licentious and insolent favorite of the king and queen, Emanuel Godoy by name, who began life as a soldier, was made Duke of Alcudia by his royal patrons, and was appointed prime minister in 1792. In 1795, having made peace with France after a disastrous war, he received the title of "Prince of the Peace." His administration was very corrupt, and he won the hatred of the nobles, the people, and the heir to the throne. But his influence over the imbecile king and the licentious queen was unbounded, and he could afford to laugh in the face of his foes. But favorites are apt to have a short period of power, and, though Godoy remained long in office, his downfall at length came.

Napoleon had marched his armies through Spain to the conquest of Portugal, no one in Spain having the courage to object. It was stipulated that a second French army should not cross the Pyrenees, but in defiance of this Napoleon filled the north of Spain with his troops in 1808, and sent a third army across the mountains without pretence of their being needed in Portugal. No protest was made against this invasion of a neutral nation. The court of Madrid was helpless with terror, and, with the hope of propitiating Napoleon, admitted his legions into all the cities of Catalonia, Biscay, and Navarre.

Only one thing more was needed to make the French masters of the whole country. They held the towns, but the citadels were in possession of Spanish troops. These could not be expelled by violence while a show of peace was kept up. But Napoleon wanted them, and employed stratagem to get them into his hands.

In two of the towns, St. Sebastian and Figueras, a simple lie sufficed. The officers in command of the French garrisons asked permission to quarter their unruly conscripts in the citadels. As the court had ordered that all the wishes of the emperor's officers should be gratified, this seemingly innocent request was granted. But in place of conscripts the best men of the regiments were sent, and these were gradually increased in numbers until in the end they overpowered the Spanish garrisons and admitted the French.

At Pamplona a similar request was refused by the governor of the citadel, but he permitted sixty unarmed men daily to enter the fortress to receive rations for their respective divisions. Here was the fatal entering wedge. One night the officer in charge, whose quarters were near the citadel gate, secretly filled his house with armed grenadiers. The next morning sixty picked men, with arms hidden under their cloaks, were sent in for rations. The hour was too early, and the French soldiers loitered about under pretence of waiting for the quartermaster. Some sauntered into the Spanish guard-house. Others, by a sportive scuffle on the drawbridge, prevented its being raised, and occupied the attention of the garrison. Suddenly a signal was given. The men drew their weapons and seized the arms of the Spaniards. The grenadiers rushed from their concealment. The bridge and gate were secured, French troops hastened to the aid of their comrades, and the citadel was won.

At Barcelona a different stratagem was employed. A review of the French forces was held under the walls of the citadel, whose garrison assembled to look on. During the progress of the review the French general, on pretence that he had been ordered from the city, rode with his staff on to the drawbridge with the ostensible purpose of bidding farewell to the Spanish commander. While the Spaniards curiously watched the manoeuvres of the troops others of the French quietly gathered on the drawbridge. At a signal this was seized, a rush took place, and the citadel of Barcelona was added to the conquests of France.

The surprise of these fortresses produced an immense sensation in Spain. That country had sunk into a condition of pitiable weakness. Its navy, once powerful, was now reduced to a small number of ships, few of them in condition for service. Its army, once the strongest in Europe, was now but a handful of poorly equipped and half-drilled men. Its finances were in a state of frightful disorganization. The government of a brainless king, a dissolute queen, and an incapable favorite had brought Spain into a condition in which she dared not raise a hand to resist the ambitious French emperor.

In this dilemma Godoy, the so-called "Prince of the Peace," persuaded the king and queen of Spain that nothing was left them but flight. The royal house of Portugal had found a great imperial realm awaiting it in America. Spain possessed there a dominion of continental extent. What better could they do than remove to the New World the seat of their throne and cut loose from their threatened and distracted realm?

The project was concealed under the form of a journey to Andalusia, for the purpose, as announced by Godoy, of inspecting the ports. But the extensive preparations of the court for this journey aroused a suspicion of its true purpose among the people, whose indignation became extreme on finding that they were to be deserted by the royal house, as Portugal had been. The exasperation of all classes—the nobility, the middle class, and the people—against the court grew intense. It was particularly developed in the army, a body which Godoy had badly treated. The army leaders argued that they had better welcome the French than permit this disgrace, and that it was their duty to prevent by force the flight of the king.

But all this did not deter the Prince of the Peace. He had several frigates made ready in the port of Cadiz, the royal carriages were ordered to be in readiness, and relays of horses were provided on the road. The date of departure was fixed for the 15th or 16th of March, 1808.

On the 13th Godoy made his way from Madrid to Aranjuez, a magnificent royal residence on the banks of the Tagus, then occupied by the royal family. This residence, in the Italian style and surrounded by superb grounds and gardens, was fronted by a wide highway, expanding opposite the palace into a spacious place, on which were several fine mansions belonging to courtiers and ministers, one of the finest being occupied by the prime minister. In the vicinity a multitude of small houses, inhabited by tradesmen and shop-keepers, made up the town of Aranjuez.

Godoy, on arriving at Aranjuez, summoned a council of the ministers, the time having arrived to apprise them of what was proposed. One of them, the Marquis of Caballero, kept him waiting, and on his arrival refused to consent, either by word or signature, to the flight of the king.

"I order you to sign," the prime minister angrily exclaimed.

"I take no orders except from the king," haughtily replied the marquis.

A sharp altercation followed, in which the other ministers took part, and the meeting broke up in disorder, nothing being done. On retiring, the irate counsellors, full of agitation, dropped words which were caught up by the public and aroused a commotion that quickly spread throughout the town. Thence it extended into the surrounding country, everywhere arousing the disaffected, and soon strange and sinister faces appeared in the quiet town. The elements of a popular outbreak were gathering.

During the succeeding two days the altercation between the Prince of the Peace and the ministers continued, and the public excitement was added to by words attributed to Ferdinand, the king's son and heir to the throne, who was said to have sought aid against those who proposed to carry him off against his will. On the morning of the 16th, the final day fixed for the journey, the public agitation was so great that the king issued a proclamation, which was posted in the streets, saying that he had no thought of leaving his people. It ended: "Spaniards, be easy; your king will not leave you."

This for the time calmed the people. Yet on the 17th the excitement reappeared. The carriages remained loaded in the palace court-yard; the relays of horses were kept up; all the indications were suspicious. During the day the troops of the garrison of Madrid not on duty, with a large number of the populace, appeared in Aranjuez, having marched a distance of seven or eight leagues. They shouted maledictions on their way against the queen and the Prince of the Peace.

The streets of Aranjuez that night were filled with an excited mob, many of them life-guards from Madrid, who divided into bands and patrolled the vicinity of the palace, determined that no one should leave. About midnight an incident changed the excitement into a riot. A lady left Godoy's residence under escort of a few soldiers. She appeared to be about to enter a carriage. The crowd pressed closely around, and the hussars of the minister, who attended the lady, attempted to force a passage through them. At this moment a gun was fired,—by whom was not known. A frightful tumult at once arose. The life-guards and other soldiers rushed upon the hussars, and a furious mob gathered around the palace, shouting, "Long live the king!" "Death to the Prince of the Peace!"

Soon a rush was made towards the residence of the prince, which the throng surrounded, gazing at it with eyes of anger, yet hesitating to make an attack. As they paused in doubt, a messenger from the palace approached the mansion and sought admission. It was refused from those within. He insisted upon entrance, and a shot came from the guards within. In an instant all hesitation was at an end. The crowd rushed in fury against the doors, broke them in, and swarmed into the building, driving the guards back in dismay.

It was magnificently furnished, but their passion to destroy soon made havoc of its furniture and decorations. Pictures, hangings, costly articles of use and ornament were torn down, dashed to pieces, flung from the windows. The mob ran from room to room, destroying everything of value they met, and eagerly seeking the object of their hatred, with a passionate thirst for his life. The whole night was spent in the search, and, the prince not being found, his house was reduced to a wreck.

Word of what was taking place filled the weak soul of Charles IV. with mortal terror. The prince failed to appear, and, by the advice of the ministers, a decree was issued by the king on the following morning depriving Emanuel Godoy of the offices of grand admiral and generalissimo, and exiling him from the court.

Thus fell this detestable favorite, the people, who blamed him for the degradation of Spain, breaking into a passionate joy, singing, dancing, building bonfires, and giving every manifestation of delight. In Madrid, when the news reached there, the enthusiasm approached delirium.

Meanwhile, where was the fallen favorite? Despite the close search made by the mob, he remained concealed in his residence. Alarmed by the crash of the breaking doors, he had seized a pistol and a handful of gold, rushed up-stairs, and hid himself in a loft under the roof, rolling himself up in a sort of rush carpet used in Spain. Here he remained during the whole of the 18th and the succeeding night, but on the morning of the 19th, after thirty-six hours' suffering, thirst and hunger forced him to leave his retreat. He presented himself suddenly before a sentry on duty in the palace, offering him his gold. But the man refused the bribe and instantly called the guard. Fortunately the mass of the people were not near by. Some life-guards who just then came up placed the miserable captive between their horses, and conveyed him as rapidly as they could towards their barracks. But these were at some distance, the news of the capture spread like wild-fire, and they had not gone far before the mob began to gather around them, their hearts full of murderous rage.

The prince was on foot between two of the mounted guardsmen, leaning for shelter against the pommels of their saddles. Others of the horsemen closed up in front and rear, and did their best to protect him from the fury of the rabble, who struck wildly at him with every weapon they had been able to snatch up. Despite the efforts of the guardsmen some of the blows reached him, and he was finally brought to the barracks with his feet trodden by the horses, a large wound in his thigh, and one eye nearly out of his head. Here he was thrown, covered with blood, upon the straw in the stables, a sad example of what comes of the favor of kings when exercised in defiance of the will of the people. Godoy had begun life as a life-guardsman, and now, after almost sharing the throne, he had thus returned to the barracks and the straw bed of his youth.

We may give in outline the remainder of the story of this fallen favorite. Promise being given that he should have an impartial trial, the mob ceased its efforts to kill him. Napoleon, who had use for him, now came to his rescue, and induced him to sign a deed under which Charles IV. abdicated the throne in favor of his son. His possessions in Spain were confiscated, but Charles, who removed to Rome, was his friend during life. After the death of his protector he went to Paris, where he received a pension from Louis Philippe; and in 1847, when eighty years of age, he received permission to return to Spain, his titles and most of his property being restored. But he preferred to live in Paris, where he died in 1851.



On the banks of the Ebro, in northwestern Spain, stands the ancient city of Saragossa, formerly the capital of Aragon, and a place of fame since early Roman days. A noble bridge of seven arches, built nearly five centuries ago, crosses the stream, and a wealth of towers and spires gives the city an imposing appearance. This city is famous for its sieges, of which a celebrated one took place in the twelfth century, when the Christians held it in siege for five years, ending in 1118. In the end the Moors were forced to surrender, or such of them as survived, for a great part of them had died of hunger. In modern times it gained new and high honor from its celebrated resistance to the French in 1808. It is this siege with which we are concerned, one almost without parallel in history.

We have told in the preceding tale how Charles IV. of Spain was forced to yield the throne to his son Ferdinand, who was proclaimed king March 20, 1808. This act by no means agreed with the views of Napoleon, who had plans of his own for Spain, and who sought to end the difficulty by deposing the Bourbon royal family and placing his own brother, Joseph Bonaparte, on the throne.

The imperious emperor of the French had, however, the people as well as the rulers of Spain to deal with. The news of his arbitrary action was received throughout the Peninsula with intense indignation, and suddenly the land blazed into insurrection, and the French garrisons, which had been treacherously introduced into Spain, found themselves besieged. Everywhere the peasants seized arms and took to the field, and a fierce guerilla warfare began which the French found it no easy matter to overcome. At Baylen, a town of Andalusia, which was besieged by the insurgents, the French suffered a serious defeat, an army of eighteen thousand men being forced to surrender as prisoners of war. This was the only important success of the Spanish, but they courageously resisted their foes, and at Saragossa gained an honor unsurpassed in the history of Spain. Never had there been known such a siege and such a defence.

Saragossa was attacked by General Lefebre on June 15, 1808. Thinking that a city protected only by a low brick wall, with peasants and townsmen for its defenders, and few guns in condition for service, could be carried at first assault, the French general made a vigorous attack, but found himself driven back. He had but four or five thousand men, while the town had fifty thousand inhabitants, the commander of the garrison being Joseph Palafox, a man of indomitable spirit.

Lefebre, perceiving that he had been over-confident, now encamped and awaited reinforcements, which arrived on the 29th, increasing his force to twelve thousand men. He was recalled for service elsewhere, General Verdier being left in command, and during the succeeding two months the siege was vigorously prosecuted, the French being supplied with a large siege train, with which they hotly bombarded the city.

Weak as were the walls of Saragossa, interiorly it was remarkably well adapted for defence. The houses were strongly built, of incombustible material, they being usually of two stories, each story vaulted and practically fireproof. Every house had its garrison, and the massive convents which rose like castles within the circuit of the wall were filled with armed men. Usually when the walls of a city are taken the city falls; but this was by no means the case with Saragossa. The loss of its walls was but the beginning, not the end, of its defence. Each convent, each house, formed a separate fortress. The walls were loop-holed for musketry, ramparts were constructed of sand-bags, and beams were raised endwise against the houses to afford shelter from shells.

It was not until August that the French, now fifteen thousand strong, were able to force their way into the city. But to enter the city was not to capture it. They had to fight their way from street to street and from house to house. At length the assailants penetrated to the Cosso, a public walk formed on the line of the old Moorish ramparts, but here their advance was checked, the citizens defending themselves with the most desperate and unyielding energy.

The singular feature of this defence was that the women of Saragossa took as active a part in it as the men. The Countess Burita, a beautiful young woman of intrepid spirit, took the lead in forming her fellow-women into companies, at whose head were ladies of the highest rank. These, undeterred by the hottest fire and freely braving wounds and death, carried provisions to the combatants, removed the wounded to the hospitals, and were everywhere active in deeds of mercy and daring. One of them, a young woman of low rank but intrepid soul, gained world-wide celebrity by an act of unusual courage and presence of mind.

While engaged one day in her regular duty, that of carrying meat and wine to the defenders of a battery, she found it deserted and the guns abandoned. The French fire had proved so murderous that the men had shrunk back in mortal dread. Snatching a match from the hand of a dead artillery-man, the brave girl fired his gun, and vowed that she would never leave it while a Frenchman remained in Saragossa. Her daring shamed the men, who returned to their guns, but, as the story goes, the brave girl kept her vow, working the gun she had chosen until she had the joy to see the French in full retreat. This took place on the 14th of August, when the populace, expecting nothing but to die amid the ruins of their houses, beheld with delight the enemy in full retreat. The obstinate resistance of the people and reverses to the arms of France elsewhere had forced them to raise the siege.

The deeds of the "Maid of Saragossa" have been celebrated in poetry by Byron and Southey and in art by Wilkie, and she stands high on the roll of heroic women, being given, as some declare, a more elevated position than her exploit deserved.

Saragossa, however, was only reprieved, not abandoned. The French found themselves too busily occupied elsewhere to attend to this centre of Spanish valor until months had passed. At length, after the defeat and retreat of Sir John Moore and the English allies of Spain, a powerful army, thirty-five thousand strong, returned to the city on the Ebro, with a battering train of sixty guns.

Palafox remained in command in the city, which was now much more strongly fortified and better prepared for defence. The garrison was super-abundant. From the field of battle at Tudela, where the Spaniards had suffered a severe defeat, a stream of soldiers fled to Saragossa, bringing with them wagons and military stores in abundance. As the fugitives passed, the villagers along the road, moved by terror, joined them, and into the gates of the city poured a flood of soldiers, camp-followers, and peasants, until it was thronged with human beings. Last of all came the French, reaching the city on the 20th of December, and resuming their interrupted siege. And now Saragossa, though destined to fall, was to cover itself with undying glory.

The townsmen, giving up every thought of personal property, devoted all their goods, their houses, and their persons to the war, mingling with the soldiers and the peasants to form one great garrison for the fortress into which the whole city was transformed. In all quarters of the city massive churches and convents rose like citadels, the various large streets running into the broad avenue called the Cosso, and dividing the city into a number of districts, each with its large and massive structures, well capable of defence.

Not only these thick-walled buildings, but all the houses, were converted into forts, the doors and windows being built up, the fronts loop-holed, and openings for communication broken through the party-walls; while the streets were defended by trenches and earthen ramparts mounted with cannon. Never before was there such an instance of a whole city converted into a fortress, the thickness of the ramparts being here practically measured by the whole width of the city.

Saragossa had been a royal depot for saltpetre, and powder-mills near by had taught many of its people the process of manufacture, so no magazines of powder subject to explosion were provided, this indispensable substance being made as it was needed. Outside the walls the trees were cut down and the houses demolished, so that they might not shield the enemy; the public magazines contained six months' provisions, the convents and houses were well stocked, and every preparation was made for a long siege and a vigorous defence.

Again, as before, companies of women were enrolled to attend the wounded in the hospitals and carry food and ammunition to the men, the Countess Burita being once more their commander, and performing her important duty with a heroism and high intelligence worthy of the utmost praise. Not less than fifty thousand combatants within the walls faced the thirty-five thousand French soldiers without, who had before them the gigantic task of overcoming a city in which every dwelling was a fort and every family a garrison.

A month and more passed before the walls were taken. Steadily the French guns played on these defences, breach after breach was made, a number of the encircling convents were entered and held, and by the 1st of February the walls and outer strongholds of the city were lost. Ordinarily, under such circumstances, the city would have fallen, but here the work of the assailants had but fairly begun. The inner defences—the houses with their unyielding garrisons—stood intact, and a terrible task still faced the French.

The war was now in the city streets, the houses nearest the posts held by the enemy were crowded with defenders, in every quarter the alarm-bells called the citizens to their duty, new barricades rose in the streets, mines were sunk in the open spaces, and the internal passages from house to house were increased until the whole city formed a vast labyrinth, throughout which the defenders could move under cover.

Marshall Lannes, the French commander, viewed with dread and doubt the scene before him. Untrained in the art of war as were the bulk of the defenders, courage and passionate patriotism made up for all deficiencies. Men like these, heedless of death in their determined defence, were dangerous to meet in open battle, and the prudent Frenchman resolved to employ the slow but surer process of excavating a passage and fighting his way through house after house until the city should be taken piecemeal.

Mining through the houses was not sufficient. The greater streets divided the city into a number of small districts, the group of dwellings in each of which forming a separate stronghold. To cross these streets it was necessary to construct underground galleries, or build traverses, since a Spanish battery raked each street, and each house had to be fought for and taken separately.

While the Spaniards held the convents and churches the capture of the houses by the French was of little service to them, the defenders making sudden and successful sallies from these strong buildings, and countermining their enemies, their numbers and perseverance often frustrating the superior skill of the French. The latter, therefore, directed their attacks upon these buildings, mining and destroying many of them. On the other hand, the defenders saturated with rosin and pitch the timbers of the buildings they could no longer hold, and interposed a barrier of fire between themselves and their assailants which often delayed them for several days.

Step by step, inch by inch, the French made their way forward, complete destruction alone enabling them to advance. The fighting was incessant. The explosion of mines, the crash of falling buildings, the roar of cannon and musketry, the shouts of the combatants continually filled the air, while a cloud of smoke and dust hung constantly over the city as the terrible scene of warfare continued day after day.

By the 17th of February the Cosso was reached and passed. But the French soldiers had become deeply discouraged by their fifty days of unremitting labor and battle, fighting above and beneath the earth, facing an enemy as bold as themselves and much more numerous, and with half the city still to be conquered. Only the obstinate determination of Marshal Lannes kept them to their work.

By his orders a general assault was made on the 18th. Under the university, a large building in the Cosso, mines containing three thousand pounds of powder were exploded, the walls falling with a terrific crash. Meanwhile, fifty pieces of artillery were playing on the side of the Ebro, where the great convent of St. Lazar was breached and taken, two thousand men being here cut off from the city. On the 19th other mines were exploded, and on the 20th six great mines under the Cosso, loaded with thousands of pounds of powder, whose explosion would have caused immense destruction, were ready for the match, when an offer to surrender brought the terrible struggle to an end.

The case had become one of surrender or death. The bombardment, incessant since the 10th of January, had forced the women and children into the vaults, which were abundant in Saragossa. There the closeness of the air, the constant burning of oil, and the general unsanitary conditions had given rise to a pestilence which threatened to carry off all the inhabitants of the city. Such was the state of the atmosphere that slight wounds became fatal, and many of the defenders of the barricades were fit only for the hospitals. By the 1st of February the death-rate had become enormous. The daily deaths numbered nearly five hundred, and thousands of corpses, which it was impossible to bury, lay in the streets and houses, and in heaps at the doors of the churches, infecting the air with their decay. The French held the suburbs, most of the wall, and one-fourth of the houses, while the bursting of thousands of shells and the explosion of nearly fifty thousand pounds of gunpowder in mines had shaken the city to its foundations. Of the hundred thousand people who had gathered within its walls, more than fifty thousand were dead; thousands of others would soon follow them to the grave; Palafox, their indomitable chief, was sick unto death. Yet despite this there was a strong and energetic party who wished to protract the siege, and the deputies appointed to arrange terms of surrender were in peril of their lives.

The terms granted were that the garrison should march out with the honors of war, to be taken as prisoners to France; the peasants should be sent to their homes; the rights of property and exercise of religion should be guaranteed.

Thus ended one of the most remarkable sieges on record,—remarkable alike for the energy and persistence of the attack and the courage and obstinacy of the defence. Never in all history has any other city stood out so long after its walls had fallen. Rarely has any city been so adapted to a protracted defence. Had not its houses been nearly incombustible it would have been reduced to ashes by the bombardment. Had not its churches and convents possessed the strength of forts it must have quickly yielded. Had not the people been animated by an extraordinary enthusiasm, in which women did the work of men, a host of peasants and citizens could not so long have endured the terrors of assault on the one hand and of pestilence on the other. In the words of General Napier, the historian of the Peninsular War, "When the other events of the Spanish war shall be lost in the obscurity of time, or only traced by disconnected fragments, the story of Zaragoza, like some ancient triumphal pillar standing amidst ruins, will tell a tale of past glory."


Spain for years past has had its double king,—a king in possession and a king in exile, a holder of the throne and an aspirant to the throne. For the greater part of a century one has rarely heard of Spain without hearing of the Carlists, for continually since 1830 there has been a princely claimant named Charles, or Don Carlos, struggling for the crown.

Ferdinand VII., who succeeded to the throne on the abdication of Charles IV. in 1808, made every effort to obtain an heir. Three wives he had without a child, and his brother, Don Carlos, naturally hoped to succeed him. But the persistent king married a fourth time, and this time a daughter was born to him. There was a law excluding females from the throne, but this law had been abrogated by Ferdinand to please his wife, and thus the birth of his daughter robbed Don Carlos of his hopes of becoming king.

Ferdinand died in 1833, and the infant Isabella was proclaimed queen, with her mother as regent. The liberals supported her, the absolutists gathered around Don Carlos, and for years there was a bitter struggle in Spain, the strength of the Carlists being in the Basque provinces and Spanish Navarre,—a land of mountaineers, loyal in nature and conservative by habit.

The dynasty of the pretender has had three successive claimants to the throne. The first Don Carlos abdicated in 1844, and was succeeded by Don Carlos the Second, his son. He died in 1861, and his cousin, Don Carlos the Third, succeeded to the claim, and renewed the struggle for the crown. It was this third of the name that threatened to renew the insurrection during the Spanish-American war of 1898.

This explanation is necessary to make clear what is known by Carlism in Spain. Many as have been the Carlist insurrections, they have had but one leader of ability, one man capable of bringing them success. This was the famous Basque chieftain Zumalacarregui, the renowned "Uncle Tomas" of the Carlists, whose brilliant career alone breaks the dull monotony of Spanish history in the nineteenth century, and who would in all probability have placed Don Carlos on the throne but for his death from a mortal wound in 1835. Since then Carlism has struggled on with little hope of success.

Navarre, the chief seat of the insurrection, borders on the chain of the Pyrenees, and is a wild confusion of mountains and hills, where the traveller is confused in a labyrinth of long and narrow valleys, deep glens, and rugged rocks and cliffs. The mountains are highest in the north, but nowhere can horsemen proceed the day through without dismounting, and in many localities even foot travel is very difficult. In passing from village to village long and winding roads must be traversed, the short cuts across the mountains being such as only a goat or a Navarrese can tread.

Regular troops, in traversing this rugged country, are exhausted by the shortest marches, while the people of the region go straight through wood and ravine, plunging into the thick forests and following narrow paths, through which pursuit is impossible, and where an invading force does not dare to send out detachments for fear of having them cut off by a sudden guerilla attack. It was here and in the Basque provinces to the west, with their population of hardy and daring mountaineers, that the troops of Napoleon found themselves most annoyed by the bold guerilla chiefs, and here the Carlist forces long defied the armies of the crown.

Tomas Zumalacarregui, the "modern Cid," as his chief historian entitles him, was a man of high military genius, rigid in discipline, skilful in administration, and daring in leadership; a stern, grave soldier, to whose face a smile rarely came except when shots were falling thick around him and when his staff appeared as if they would have preferred music of a different kind. To this intrepid chief fear seemed unknown, prudence in battle unthought of, and so many were his acts of rashness that when a bullet at length reached him it seemed a miracle that he had escaped so long. The white charger which he rode became such a mark for the enemy, from its frequent appearance at the head of a charging troop or in rallying a body of skirmishers, that all those of a similar color ridden by members of his staff were successively shot, though his always escaped. On more than one occasion he brought victory out of doubt, or saved his little army in retreat, by an act of hare-brained bravery. Such was the "Uncle Tomas" of the Navarrese, the darling of the mountaineers, the man who would very likely have brought final victory to their cause had not death cut him off in the midst of his career.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse