The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol. 8 - The Later Renaissance: From Gutenberg To The Reformation
by Editor-in-Chief: Rossiter Johnson
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The situation in which the Jews were placed is sufficient to show that they might have attempted to act in concert to resist the Christians; what they did after the death of St. Peter Arbues shows what they were capable of doing on other occasions. The funds necessary for the accomplishment of the murder—the pay of the assassins, and the other expenses required for the plot—were collected by means of voluntary contributions imposed on themselves by all the Jews of Aragon. Does not this show an advanced state of organization, which might have become fatal if it had not been watched?

In alluding to the death of St. Peter Arbues, I wish to make an observation on what has been said on this subject as proving the unpopularity of the establishment of the Inquisition in Spain. What more evident proof, we shall be told, can you have than the assassination of the inquisitor? Is it not a sure sign that the indignation of the people was at its height and that they were quite opposed to the Inquisition? Would they otherwise have been hurried into such excesses? If by "the people" you mean the Jews and their descendants, I will not deny that the establishment of the Inquisition was indeed very odious to them, but it was not so with the rest of the nation. The event we are speaking of gave rise to a circumstance which proves just the reverse. When the report of the death of the inquisitor was spread through the town, they went in crowds in pursuit of the New Christians, so that a bloody catastrophe would have ensued had not the young Archbishop of Saragossa, Alphonsus of Aragon, presented himself to the people on horseback, and calmed them by the assurance that all the rigor of the laws should fall on the heads of the guilty. Was the Inquisition as unpopular as it has been represented? and will it be said that its adversaries were the majority of the people? Why, then, could not the tumult of Saragossa have been avoided in spite of all the precautions which were no doubt taken by the conspirators, at that time very powerful by their riches and influence?

At the time of the greatest rigor against the Judaizing Christians, there is a fact worthy of attention. Persons accused, or threatened with the pursuit of the Inquisition, took every means to escape the action of that tribunal: they left the soil of Spain and went to Rome. Would those who imagine that Rome has always been the hot-bed of intolerance, the firebrand of persecution, have imagined this? The number of causes commenced by the Inquisition, and summoned from Spain to Rome, is countless, during the first fifty years of the existence of that tribunal; and it must be added that Rome always inclined to the side of indulgence. I do not know that it would be possible to cite one accused person who, by appealing to Rome, did not ameliorate his condition. The history of the Inquisition at that time is full of contests between the kings and popes; and we constantly find, on the part of the holy see, a desire to restrain the Inquisition within the bounds of justice and humanity. The line of conduct prescribed by the court of Rome was not always followed as it ought to have been. Thus we see the popes compelled to receive a multitude of appeals, and mitigate the lot that would have befallen the appellants if their cause had been definitely decided in Spain. We also see the Pope name the judge of appeal, at the solicitation of the Catholic sovereigns, who desired that causes should be finally decided in Spain: the first of these judges was Inigo Manrique, Archbishop of Seville. Nevertheless, at the end of a short time, the same Pope, in a bull of August 2, 1483, said that he had received new appeals, made by a great number of the Spaniards of Seville, who had not dared to address themselves to the judge of appeal for fear of being arrested. Such was then the excitement of the public mind; such was at that time the necessity of preventing injustice or measures of undue severity. The Pope added that some of those who had had recourse to his justice had already received the absolution of the apostolical penitentiary, and that others were about to receive it; he afterward complained that indulgences granted to divers accused persons had not been sufficiently respected at Seville; in fine, after several other admonitions, he observed to Ferdinand and Isabella that mercy toward the guilty was more pleasing to God than the severity which it was desired to use; and he gave the example of the good shepherd following the wandering sheep. He ended by exhorting the sovereigns to treat with mildness those who voluntarily confessed their faults, desiring them to allow them to reside at Seville or in some other place they might choose; and to allow them the enjoyment of their property, as if they had not been guilty of the crime of heresy.

Moreover, it is not to be supposed that the appeals admitted at Rome, and by virtue of which the lot of the accused was improved, were founded on errors of form and injustice committed in the application of the law. If the accused had recourse to Rome, it was not always to demand reparation for an injustice, but because they were sure of finding indulgence. We have a proof of this in the considerable number of Spanish refugees convicted at Rome of having fallen into Judaism. Two hundred fifty of them were found at one time, yet there was not one capital execution. Some penances were imposed on them, and, when they were absolved, they were free to return home without the least mark of ignominy. This took place at Rome in 1498.

It is a remarkable thing that the Roman Inquisition was never known to pronounce the execution of capital punishment, although the apostolic see was occupied during that time by popes of extreme rigor and severity in all that relates to the civil administration. We find in all parts of Europe scaffolds prepared to punish crimes against religion; scenes which sadden the soul were everywhere witnessed. Rome is an exception to the rule—Rome, which it has been attempted to represent as a monster of intolerance and cruelty. It is true that the popes have not preached, like Protestants, universal toleration; but facts show the difference between popes and Protestants. The popes, armed with a tribunal of intolerance, have not spilled a drop of blood; Protestants and philosophers have shed torrents. What advantage is it to the victim to hear his executioners proclaim toleration? It is adding the bitterness of sarcasm to his punishment.

The conduct of Rome in the use which she made of the Inquisition is the best apology of Catholicity against those who attempt to stigmatize her as barbarous and sanguinary. In truth, what is there in common between Catholicity and the excessive severity employed in this place or that, in the extraordinary situation in which many rival races were placed, in the presence of danger which menaced one of them, or in the interest which the kings had in maintaining the tranquillity of their states and securing their conquests from all danger?

I will not enter into a detailed examination of the conduct of the Spanish Inquisition with respect to Judaizing Christians; and I am far from thinking that the rigor which it employed against them was preferable to the mildness recommended and displayed by the popes. What I wish to show here is that rigor was the result of extraordinary circumstances—the effect of the national spirit and of the severity of customs in Europe at that time. Catholicity cannot be reproached with excesses committed for these different reasons. Still more, if we pay attention to the spirit which prevails in all the instructions of the popes relating to the Inquisition, if we observe their manifest inclination to range themselves on the side of mildness, and to suppress the marks of ignominy with which the guilty, as well as their families, were stigmatized, we have a right to suppose that, if the popes had not feared to displease the kings too much, and to excite divisions which might have been fatal, their measures would have been carried still further. If we recollect the negotiations which took place with respect to the noisy affair of the claims of the Cortes of Aragon, we shall see to which side the court of Rome leaned.

As we are speaking of intolerance with regard to the Judaizers, let us say a few words as to the disposition of Luther toward the Jews. Does it not seem that the pretended reformer, the founder of independence of thought, the furious declaimer against the oppression and tyranny of the popes, should have been animated with the most humane sentiments toward that people? No doubt the eulogists of this chieftain of Protestantism ought to think thus also. I am sorry for them; but history will not allow us to partake of this delusion. According to all appearances, if the apostate monk had found himself in the place of Torquemada, the Judaizers would not have been in a better position. What, then, was the system advised by Luther, according to Seckendorff, one of his apologists? "Their synagogues ought to be destroyed, their houses pulled down, their prayer-books, the Talmud, and even the books of the Old Testament to be taken from them; their rabbis ought to be forbidden to teach, and be compelled to gain their livelihood by hard labor." The Inquisition, at least, did not proceed against the Jews, but against the Judaizers; that is, against those who, after being converted to Christianity, relapsed into their errors, and added sacrilege to their apostasy by the external profession of a creed which they detested in secret, and which they profaned by the exercise of their old religion. But Luther extended his severity to the Jews themselves; so that, according to his doctrines, no reproach can be made against the sovereigns who expelled the Jews from their dominions.

The Moors and the Moriscoes no less occupied the attention of the Inquisition at that time; and all that has been said on the subject of the Jews may be applied to them with some modifications. They were also an abhorred race—a race which had been contended with for eight centuries. When they retained their religion, the Moors inspired hatred; when they abjured it, mistrust; the popes interested themselves in their favor also in a peculiar manner. We ought to remark a bull issued in 1530, which is expressed in language quite evangelical: it is there said that the ignorance of these nations is one of the principal causes of their faults and errors; the first thing to be done to render their conversion solid and sincere was, according to the recommendation contained in this bull, to endeavor to enlighten their minds with sound doctrine.

It will be said that the Pope granted to Charles V the bull which released him from the oath taken in the Cortes of Saragossa in the year 1519, an oath by which he had engaged not to make any change with respect to the Moors; whereby, it is said, the Emperor was enabled to complete their expulsion. But we must observe that the Pope for a long time resisted that concession; and that if he at length complied with the wishes of the Emperor, it was only because he thought that the expulsion of the Moors was indispensable to secure the tranquillity of the kingdom. Whether this was true or not, the Emperor, and not the Pope, was the better judge; the latter, placed at a great distance, could not know the real state of things in detail. Moreover, it was not the Spanish monarch alone who thought so; it is related that Francis I, when a prisoner at Madrid, one day conversing with Charles V, told him that tranquillity would never be established in Spain if the Moors and Moriscoes were not expelled.


A.D. 1483


The brief reign of Richard III, 1483-1485, left for historians one subject of dispute which even to our own day has not been finally determined—his alleged murder of his nephews, King Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, sons of Edward IV. These princes at the supposed time of their death were about thirteen and nine years of age respectively.

Before his usurpation Richard III, last of the Plantagenet line, was known as the Duke of Gloucester. He served in the Wars of the Roses, and on the death of Edward IV, April, 1483, he seized the young Edward V and caused himself to be proclaimed protector. He then caused his parliament to set the two princes aside as illegitimate, and they were imprisoned in the Tower of London. On June 26, 1483, Richard assumed the crown, and soon after the death of the princes was publicly announced.

In Gairdner's discussion we have the results of the best historical inquiries concerning this most important question of Richard's career.

A great amount of public anxiety prevailed touching the two young princes in the Tower. They were virtually prisoners, and their confinement created great dissatisfaction. A movement in their behalf was gotten up in the South of England while Richard was away. In Kent, Sussex, and Essex, in Hampshire, Wiltshire, and Dorset, even as far west as Devonshire, cabals were formed for their liberation, which all appear to have been parts of one great conspiracy organized in secret by the Duke of Buckingham. By the beginning of October some disturbances had actually taken place, and the following letter was written in consequence by the Duke of Norfolk to one of his dependents in Norfolk:

"To my right well-beloved friend, John Paston, be this delivered in haste.

"Right well-beloved friend, I commend me to you. It is so that the Kentish men be up in the Weald and say that they will come and rob the city, which I shall let [i. e., prevent] if I may.

"Therefore I pray you, that with all diligence you make you ready and come hither, and bring with you six tall fellows in harness; and ye shall not lose your labor, that knoweth God; who have you in his keeping.

"Written at London the 10th day of October.

"Your friend,


The rumor of the projected movement in behalf of the princes was speedily followed by the report that they were no more. Of course they had been removed by violence. Regarding the time and manner of the deed no news could then be obtained, but the news that the deposed King and his brother had been assassinated was spread with horror and amazement through the land. Among all the inhumanities of the late civil war there had been nothing so unnatural as this. To many the tale seemed too cruel to be true. They believed that the princes must have been sent abroad to defeat the intrigues of their friends. But time passed away and they never appeared again. After many years, indeed, an impostor counterfeited the younger; but even he, to give credit to his pretensions, expressly admitted the murder of his elder brother.

Nevertheless, there have been writers in modern days who have shown plausible grounds for doubting that the murder really took place. Two contemporary writers, they say, mention the fact only as a report; a third certainly states it, incorrectly, at least, in point of time; and Sir Thomas More, who is the only one remaining, relates it with certain details which it does seem difficult to accept as credible. More's account, however, must bear some resemblance to the truth. It is mainly founded upon the confession of two of the murderers, and is given by the writer as the most trustworthy report he had met with. If, therefore, the murder be not itself a fiction, and the confession, as has been surmised, a forgery, we should expect the account given by Sir Thomas More to be in the main true, clear, and consistent, though Horace Walpole and others have maintained that it is not so. The substance of the story is as follows: Richard, some time after he had set out on his progress, sent a special messenger and confidant, by name John Green, to Sir Robert Brackenbury, the constable of the Tower, commanding him to put the two princes to death. Brackenbury refused to obey the order, and Green returned to his master at Warwick. The King was bitterly disappointed. "Whom shall a man trust," he said, "when those who I thought would most surely serve me, at my command will do nothing for me?" The words were spoken to a private attendant or page, who told him, in reply, that there was one man lying on a pallet in the outer chamber who would hardly scruple to undertake anything whatever to please him. This was Sir James Tyrell, who is described by More as an ambitious, aspiring man, jealous of the ascendency of Sir Richard Ratcliffe and Sir William Catesby. Richard at once acted upon the hint, and calling Tyrell before him communicated his mind to him and gave him a commission for the execution of his murderous purpose. Tyrell went to London with a warrant authorizing Brackenbury to deliver up to him for one night all the keys of the Tower. Armed with this document he took possession of the place, and proceeded to the work of death by the instrumentality of Miles Forest, one of the four jailers in whose custody the princes were, and John Dighton, his own groom. When the young princes were asleep, these men entered their chamber, and, taking up the pillows, pressed them hard down upon their mouths till they died by suffocation. Then, having caused Sir James to see the bodies, they buried them at the foot of a staircase. But "it was rumored," says More, "that the King disapproved of their being buried in so vile a corner; whereupon they say that a priest of Sir Robert Brackenbury's took up the bodies again, and secretly interred them in such place as, by the occasion of his death, could never come to light." Sir James, having fulfilled his mission, returned to the King, from whom he received great thanks, and who, Sir Thomas informs us, "as some say, there made him a knight."

It has been maintained that this story will not bear criticism. What could have induced Richard to time his cruel policy so ill and to arrange it so badly? The order for the destruction of the children could have been much more easily, safely, and secretly executed when he was in London than when he was at Gloucester or Warwick. Fewer messages would have sufficed, and neither warrants nor letters would have been necessary. Was it a sudden idea which occurred to him upon his progress? If so, he might surely have waited for a better opportunity. If not, he might at least have taken care to sift Brackenbury before leaving London, so as to be sure of the two he intended to employ. Is it likely that Richard would have given orders for the commission of a crime, without having good reason to rely upon his intended agent's boldness and depravity?

But, having tried Sir Robert's scruples, and found them somewhat stronger than he anticipated, what follows? It might have been expected that Sir Robert's respect for his master, if he had any, would have been diminished; that the favor of his sovereign would have been withdrawn from him; and perhaps that the tyrant, having seen an instance of the untrustworthiness of men in matters criminal and dangerous, would have learned to become a little more circumspect. But the facts are quite otherwise. Sir Robert continued long after in the good graces of his sovereign, always remained faithful to him, even when many others deserted him, and finally fell in battle bravely fighting in his cause. Richard did not become more cautious, but, on the contrary, more imprudent than ever. He complained loudly of his disappointment, even in the presence of a page. This page is nameless in the story, but he serves to introduce to the King not less a person than Sir James Tyrell, who is represented as willing to do anything to obtain favor, and envious of the influence possessed by others. He undertakes and executes the task which Brackenbury had refused, and for this service we are told he was knighted. All this greatly misrepresents Sir James' position and influence, if not his character. He not only was a knight long before this, but had been in the preceding year created by Richard himself a knight banneret for his distinguished services during the Scotch campaign. He had been, during Edward IV's reign, a commissioner for executing the office of lord high constable. He was then master of the King's henchmen, or pages. He was also master of the horse. If his mere position in the world did not make him disdain to be a hired assassin, he at least did not require to be recommended through the medium of that nameless page.

Moreover, it appears that the fact of the princes having been murdered was held in great doubt for a long time afterward. Even More himself, writing about thirty years later, is obliged to acknowledge that the thing had "so far come in question that some remained long in doubt whether they were in Richard's days destroyed or no." This is certainly remarkable, when it is considered that it was of the utmost importance for Henry VII to terminate all controversy upon the question. Yet Sir Thomas tells us that these doubts arose not only from the uncertainty men were in whether Perkin Warbeck was the true duke of York, "but for that also that all things were so covertly demeaned, one thing pretended and another meant, that there was nothing so plain and openly proved but that yet, for the common custom of close and covert dealing, men had it ever inwardly suspect." All this, it is urged, may very well suggest that the doubts were reasonable, and that the princes in reality were not destroyed in the days of Richard III. And, indeed, when we consider how many persons, according to More's account, took part in the murder or had some knowledge of it, it does appear not a little strange that there should have been any difficulty in establishing it on the clearest evidence. For besides Tyrell, Dighton, and Forest, the chief actors, there were Brackenbury, Green the page, one Black Will, or Will Slaughter, who guarded the princes, and the priest who buried them, all fully aware of the circumstances of the crime.

In Henry VII's time Brackenbury was dead, and so it is said was the priest; Forest, too, had ended his days miserably in a sanctuary. But it does not appear what had become of either Green or the page. Tyrell and Dighton were the only persons said to have been examined; and though we are told that they both confessed, yet there is a circumstance that makes the confession look exceedingly suspicious. Tyrell was detained in prison, and afterward executed, for a totally different offence; while, as Bacon tells us, "John Dighton, who it seemeth spake best for the King, was forthwith set at liberty." Taking Bacon's view of the circumstances of the disclosure as if it were infallible, the sceptics here find matter of very grave suspicion. "In truth," says Walpole, "every step of this pretended discovery, as it stands in Lord Bacon, warns us to give no heed to it. Dighton and Tyrell agreed both in a tale, as the King gave out. Their confession, therefore, was not publicly made; and as Sir James Tyrell, too, was suffered to live, but was shut up in the Tower and put to death afterward for we know not what treason, what can we believe but that Dighton was some low mercenary wretch, hired to assume the guilt of a crime he had not committed, and that Sir James Tyrell never did, never would, confess what he had not done, and was therefore put out of the way on a fictitious imputation? It must be observed, too, that no inquiry was made into the murder on the accession of Henry VII—the natural time for it, when the passions of men were heated, and when the Duke of Norfolk, Lord Lovel, Catesby, Ratcliffe, and the real abettors or accomplices of Richard were attainted and executed. No mention of such a murder was made in the very act of parliament that attainted Richard himself and which would have been the most heinous aggravation of his crimes. And no prosecution of the supposed assassins was ever thought of till eleven years afterward, on the appearance of Perkin Warbeck." Such are the striking arguments by which it has been sought to cast a doubt upon the murder, and particularly More's account of it.

To all which it may be replied, in the first place, that it is by no means necessary to suppose More's narrative, though it appeared to him the most credible account he had heard, absolutely correct in all its details, especially in those which he mentions as mere reports. His authority was evidently the alleged confession of Tyrell and Dighton, obtained second-hand. This, though true in the main, may not have been absolutely correct, even as it was first delivered, and may have been somewhat less accurate as it was reported to Sir Thomas, who perhaps added from hearsay a few errors of his own, like that about Sir James Tyrell's knighthood.

Secondly, the argument with regard to Richard's imprudence, in pursuing the course ascribed to him, goes but little way to discredit the facts, unless it can be shown that caution and foresight were part of his ordinary character. The prevailing notion of Richard III, indeed, is of a cold, deeply politic, scheming, and calculating villain. But I confess I am not satisfied of the justice of such a view. Not only Richard, but all his family, appear to me to have been headstrong and reckless as to consequences. His father lost his life by a chivalrous and quixotic impetuosity; his brother Edward lost his kingdom once by pure carelessness; his brother Clarence fell, no less by lack of wisdom than by lack of honesty; and he himself, at Bosworth, threw away his life by his eagerness to terminate the contest in a personal engagement. Had Richard fully intended to murder his nephews at the time he determined upon dethroning the elder, I have very little doubt that he would have kept his northern forces in London to preserve order in the city till after the deed was done. I for my part do not believe that such was his intention from the first. How much more probable, indeed, that after he had left London the contemplated rising in favor of the princes suggested to him an action which cost him his peace of mind during the whole of his after-life!

Thirdly, the doubts of contemporaries do not appear to have been very general. The expression of Sir Thomas More is only "that some remained in doubt"; and More is not a writer who would have glossed over a fact to please the court. As to Perkin Warbeck, who pretended to be the younger of the princes, Henry VII's neglect to confute his pretensions may have arisen from other causes than a suspicion that he was the true duke of York. There is no reason to suppose that his followers in England were numerous. The belief in the murder appears to have been general. It was mentioned as a fact by the Chancellor of France, in addressing the estates-general which met at Tours in the following January. It was acknowledged to be true in part by Warbeck himself, who, it has been shown since Walpole's time, in personating the Duke of York, admitted that his brother Edward had been murdered, though he asserted that he himself had providentially escaped. It is evident that no one dreamed in those days that the story of the murder was altogether a fiction. The utmost that any well-informed person could doubt was whether it had been successfully accomplished as to both the victims.

With regard to the confessions of Tyrell and Dighton, Bacon has certainly spoken without warrant in stating that they were examined at the time of Warbeck's appearance. The time when they were examined is stated by Sir Thomas More to have been when Tyrell was confined in the Tower for treason against Henry VII, which was in 1502, three years after Warbeck's execution. Before that date there is no ground for believing that Tyrell's guilt in regard to the murder was generally known. Before that date, indeed, the world seems to have had no conception in what manner the crime was committed, and the common story seems to have been that Richard had put his nephews to the sword; but the confession of Tyrell at once put an end to this surmise, and we hear of it no longer. Henry VII assuredly did not for a long time treat him as a criminal; for not only did he hold under Henry the office of captain of Guisnes, but he was employed by the King in an expedition against Flanders. Nay, even after Warbeck had been taken and confessed his imposture, Tyrell was employed on an important embassy to Maximilian, King of the Romans. It is quite clear, therefore, that he was never questioned about the murder in consequence of Warbeck's pretensions. But being afterward condemned to death on a charge of treason—not an unknown charge, as Walpole imagines, but a charge of having treasonably aided the escape of the Earl of Suffolk—he was then, as More says, examined about it in the Tower, having probably made a voluntary confession of guilt to ease his conscience before his execution.

No doubt, after all, the murder rests upon the testimony of only a very few original authorities, but this is simply owing to the scantiness of contemporary historians. It is true, also, that of these there are two who only mention it as a report; but it must be observed that neither of them expresses the smallest doubt of its truth, and one of them more than hints that he believes it as a fact. How, indeed, could there possibly be two opinions about a rumor of this kind, seeing that it was never contradicted by the King himself? Assuredly from this time the conduct both of Richard and his enemies was distinctly governed by the belief that his nephews were no longer alive.

Moreover, the truth of the story seems to be corroborated by a discovery which took place in the reign of Charles II. In the process of altering the staircase leading to the chapel in the White Tower, the skeletons of two young lads, whose apparent ages agreed with those of the unfortunate princes, were found buried under a heap of stones. Their place of sepulture corresponded with the situation mentioned in the confession of the murderers, so that the report alluded to by More of the removal of the bodies seems to have been a mistake. The antiquaries of the day had no doubt they were the remains of young Edward V and his brother, and King Charles caused them to be fittingly interred in Henry VII's chapel at Westminster. A Latin inscription marks the spot and tells of the discovery.

We have no doubt, therefore, that the dreadful deed was done. It was done, indeed, in profound secrecy; the fact, I suspect, remained some little time unknown; and for years after there was no certainty as to the way it was performed. Years elapsed even before the world suspected the foul blot upon Tyrell's knighthood, and he enjoyed the favor both of Richard and of his successor; but at last the truth came out.

As to the other agents in the business, various entries in the Patent Rolls, and in the Docket Book of King Richard's grants, show that they did not pass unrewarded. Before the murder Green had been appointed comptroller of the customs at Boston, and had also been employed to provide horse meat and litter for the King's stables; afterward, if we may trust a note by Strype—but I own I cannot find his authority—he was advanced to be receiver of the Isle of Wight and of the castle and lordship of Portchester. To Dighton was granted the office of bailiff of Ayton in Staffordshire. Forest died soon after, and it appears he was keeper of the wardrobe at Barnard castle, but whether appointed before or after the murder there is no evidence to show. Brackenbury received several important grants, some of which were of lands of the late Lord Rivers.

And yet hitherto Richard's life, though not unmarked by violence, had been free from violence to his own flesh and blood. Even his most unjustifiable measures were somewhat in the nature of self-defence; or if in any case he had stained his hands with the blood of persons absolutely innocent, it was not in his own interest, but in that of his brother, Edward IV. The rough and illegal retribution which he dealt out to Rivers, Vaughan, Hawte, Lord Richard Grey, and Lord Hastings was not more severe than perhaps law itself might have authorized. The disorders of civil war had accustomed the nation to see justice sometimes executed without the due formalities; and his neglect of those formalities had not hitherto made him unpopular. But the license of unchecked power is dangerous, no less to those who wield than to those who suffer it; and it was peculiarly so to one of Richard's violent and impatient temper. He had been allowed so far to act upon his own arbitrary judgment or will that expediency was fast becoming his only motive and extinguishing within him both humanity and natural affection.

Nevertheless, he was not yet sunk so low as to regard his own unnatural conduct with indifference. Deep and bitter remorse deprived him of all that tranquillity in the possession of power for the attainment of which he had imbrued his hands in blood. "I have heard by credible report," says Sir Thomas More, "of such as were secret with his chamberers, that after this abominable deed done he never had quiet in his mind, he never thought himself sure. Where he went abroad, his eyes whirled about, his body privily fenced, his hand ever on his dagger, his countenance and manner like one always ready to strike again. He took ill rest at nights, lay long waking and musing; sore wearied with care and watch, he rather slumbered than slept. Troubled with fearful dreams, suddenly sometimes started he up, leapt out of his bed and ran about the chamber. So was his restless heart continually tossed and tumbled with the tedious impression and stormy remembrance of his most abominable deed."

Such was the awful retribution that overtook this inhuman King during the two short years that he survived his greatest crime, till the battle of Bosworth completed the measure of his punishment. His repentance came too late.


A.D. 1490


Although the Moors held Spain for over seven hundred and fifty years, they never had possession of the entire country. In the North, fragments of the Visigothic Christian kingdoms survived, and at length these grew into a strong power destined to drive out the Arabs, who had so long made the Spanish peninsula a seat of Mahometan civilization.

The Moorish power reached its height in the tenth century, and gradually declined in the eleventh, when it broke up into petty and short-lived kingdoms. The Almoravides from Africa began their rule in Spain about 1090. This dynasty was overthrown by the Almohades in 1145, and the latter became extinct in Spain in 1257.

After the disruption of the realm of the Almohades, the Moorish kingdom of Granada was established, and was held in vassalage to Castile, of which Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1474, became joint sovereigns. The Moors made Granada, their capital, a large and powerful city, and there in the thirteenth century they built their magnificent palace and citadel, the Alhambra, the finest example of Moorish architecture and decorative art.

In 1482, having prepared themselves for what proved a final struggle with the Moors, Ferdinand and Isabella began the war against Boabdil, the King of Granada, who the year before had seized the throne from his father, Muley Hasan. After some early reverses and later interruptions—during which the wavering Ferdinand was held to his purpose by the rebukes and encouragement of his stout-hearted Queen—the Christian sovereigns reduced the strongholds of the Moors, until by 1490 the more important half of the kingdom of Granada had been conquered. The city and its small surrounding district alone remained to Boabdil. On April 23, 1491, Ferdinand and Isabella encamped before Granada with fifty thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand horse, and the last contest began.

Though Granada was shorn of its glories, and nearly cut off from all external aid, still its mighty castles and massive bulwarks seemed to set all attacks at defiance. Being the last retreat of Moorish power, it had assembled within its walls the remnants of the armies that had contended, step by step, with the invaders, in their gradual conquest of the land. All that remained of high-born and high-bred chivalry was here; all that was loyal and patriotic was roused to activity by the common danger; and Granada, that had so long been lulled into inaction by vain hopes of security, now assumed a formidable aspect in the hour of its despair.

Ferdinand saw that any attempt to subdue the city by main force would be perilous and bloody. Cautious in his policy, and fond of conquests gained by art rather than valor, he determined to reduce the place by famine. For this purpose, his armies penetrated into the very heart of the Alpujarras, and ravaged the valleys and sacked and burned the towns upon which the city depended for its supplies. Scouting parties, also, ranged the mountains behind Granada and captured every casual convoy of provisions. The Moors became more daring as their situation became more hopeless. Never had Ferdinand experienced such vigorous sallies and assaults. Musa[1], at the head of his cavalry, harassed the borders of the camp, and even penetrated into the interior, making sudden spoil and ravage, and leaving his course to be traced by the slain and wounded.

To protect his camp from these assaults, Ferdinand fortified it with deep trenches and strong bulwarks. It was of a quadrangular form, divided into streets like a city, the troops being quartered in tents, and in booths constructed of bushes and branches of trees. When it was completed, Queen Isabella came in state, with all her court, and the Prince and Princess, to be present at the siege. This was intended to reduce the besieged to despair by showing the determination of the sovereigns to reside in the camp until the city should surrender. Immediately after her arrival, the Queen rode forth to survey the camp and its environs: wherever she went she was attended by a splendid retinue; and all the commanders vied with each other in the pomp and ceremony with which they received her. Nothing was heard, from morning until night, but shouts and acclamations and bursts of martial music; so that it appeared to the Moors as if a continual festival and triumph reigned in the Christian camp.

The arrival of the Queen, however, and the menaced obstinacy of the siege had no effect in damping the fire of the Moorish chivalry. Musa inspired the youthful warriors with the most devoted heroism. "We have nothing left to fight for," said he, "but the ground we stand on; when this is lost, we cease to have a country and a name."

Finding the Christian King forbore to make an attack, Musa incited his cavaliers to challenge the youthful chivalry of the Christian army to single combat or partial skirmishes. Scarce a day passed without gallant conflicts of the kind, in sight of the city and the camp. The combatants rivalled each other in the splendor of their armor and array, as well as in the prowess of their deeds. Their contests were more like the stately ceremonials of tilts and tournaments than the rude conflicts of the field. Ferdinand soon perceived that they animated the fiery Moors with fresh zeal and courage, while they cost the lives of many of his bravest cavaliers; he again, therefore, forbade the acceptance of any individual challenges, and ordered that all partial encounters should be avoided. The cool and stern policy of the Catholic sovereign bore hard upon the generous spirits of either army, but roused the indignation of the Moors when they found that they were to be subdued in this inglorious manner. "Of what avail," said they, "are chivalry and heroic valor? The crafty monarch of the Christians has no magnanimity in warfare; he seeks to subdue us through the weakness of our bodies, but shuns to encounter the courage of our souls."

When the Moorish knights beheld that all courteous challenges were unavailing, they sought various means to provoke the Christian warriors to the field. Sometimes a body of them, fleetly mounted, would gallop up to the skirts of the camp, and try who should hurl his lance farthest within the barriers, having his name inscribed upon it, or a label affixed to it containing some taunting defiance. These bravadoes caused great irritation, but still the Spanish warriors were restrained by the prohibition of the King.

Among the Moorish cavaliers was one named Yarfe, renowned for his great strength and daring spirit; but whose courage partook of fierce audacity rather than chivalric heroism. In one of these sallies, when they were skirting the Christian camp, this arrogant Moor outstripped his companions, overleaped the barriers, and, galloping close to the royal quarters, launched his lance so far within that it remained quivering in the earth close by the pavilions of the sovereigns. The royal guards rushed forth in pursuit, but the Moorish horsemen were already beyond the camp, and scouring in a cloud of dust for the city. Upon wresting the lance from the earth, a label was found upon it importing that it was intended for the Queen.

Nothing could equal the indignation of the Christian warriors at the insolence of the bravado and the discourteous insult offered to the Queen. Hernando Perez del Pulgar, surnamed "he of the exploits," was present, and resolved not to be outbraved by this daring infidel. "Who will stand by me," said he, "in an enterprise of desperate peril?" The Christian cavaliers well knew the harebrained valor of Hernando del Pulgar, yet not one hesitated to step forward. He chose fifteen companions, all men of powerful arm and dauntless heart. In the dead of the night he led them forth from the camp, and approached the city cautiously, until he arrived at a postern-gate, which opened upon the Darro and was guarded by foot-soldiers. The guards, little thinking of such an unwonted and partial attack, were for the most part asleep. The gate was forced, and a confused and chance-medley skirmish ensued; Hernando del Pulgar stopped not to take part in the affray; putting spurs to his horse, he galloped furiously through the streets, striking fire out of the stones at every bound. Arrived at the principal mosque, he sprang from his horse, and, kneeling at the portal, took possession of the edifice as a Christian chapel, dedicating it to the blessed Virgin. In testimony of the ceremony, he took a tablet which he had brought with him, on which was inscribed in large characters "Ave Marie," and nailed it to the door of the mosque with his dagger. This done, he remounted his steed and galloped back to the gate. The alarm had been given—the city was in an uproar—soldiers were gathering from every direction. They were astonished at seeing a Christian warrior galloping from the interior of the city. Hernando del Pulgar overturned some, cut down others, rejoined his companions, who still maintained possession of the gate by dint of hard fighting, and all made good their retreat to the camp. The Moors were at a loss to imagine the meaning of this wild and apparently fruitless assault; but great was their exasperation, on the following day, when the trophy of hardihood and prowess, the "Ave Maria" was discovered thus elevated in bravado in the very centre of the city. The mosque thus boldly sanctified by Hernando del Pulgar was actually consecrated into a cathedral after the capture of Granada.

The royal encampment lay at such a distance from Granada that the general aspect of the city only could be seen as it rose gracefully from the vega, covering the sides of the hills with palaces and towers. Queen Isabella had expressed an earnest desire to behold, nearer at hand, a city whose beauty was so renowned throughout the world; and the Marquis of Cadiz, with the accustomed courtesy, prepared a great military escort and guard to protect the Queen and the ladies of the court while they enjoyed this perilous gratification.

A magnificent and powerful train issued forth from the Christian camp. The advance guard was composed of legions of cavalry, heavily armed, that looked like moving masses of polished steel. Then came the King and Queen, with the Prince and Princess and the ladies of the court, surrounded by the royal bodyguard, sumptuously arrayed, composed of the sons of the most illustrious houses of Spain; after these was the rearguard, composed of a powerful force of horse and foot; for the flower of the army sallied forth that day. The Moors gazed with fearful admiration at this glorious pageant, wherein the pomp of the court was mingled with the terrors of the camp. It moved along in a radiant line, across the vega, to the melodious thunders of martial music; while banner and plume and silken scarf and rich brocade gave a gay and gorgeous relief to the grim visage of iron war that lurked beneath.

The army moved toward the hamlet of Zubia, built on the skirts of the mountain to the left of Granada, and commanding a view of the Alhambra and the most beautiful quarter of the city. As they approached the hamlet the Marquis of Villena, the count Urena, and Don Alonzo de Aguilar filed off with their battalions, and were soon seen glittering along the side of the mountain above the village. In the mean time the Marquis of Cadiz, the Count de Tendilla, the Count de Cabra, and Don Alonzo Fernandez, Senior of Alcandrete and Montemayor, drew up their forces in battle array on the plain below the hamlet, presenting a living barrier of loyal chivalry between the sovereigns and the city. Thus securely guarded, the royal party alighted, and, entering one of the houses of the hamlet, which had been prepared for their reception, enjoyed a full view of the city from its terraced roof.

While grim tranquillity prevailed along the Christian line, there rose a mingled shout and sound of laughter near the gate of the city. A Moorish horseman, armed at all points, issued forth, followed by a rabble, who drew back as he approached the scene of danger. The Moor was more robust and brawny than was common with his countrymen. His visor was closed; he bore a huge buckler and a ponderous lance; his cimeter was of a Damascus blade, and his richly ornamented dagger was wrought by an artificer of Fez. He was Yarfe, the most insolent, yet valiant, of the Moslem warriors. As he rode slowly along in front of the army, his very steed, prancing with fiery eye and distended nostril, seemed to breathe defiance to the Christians.

But what were the feelings of the Spanish cavaliers when they beheld, tied to the tail of his steed, and dragged in the dust, the inscription "Ave Maria," which Hernando Perez del Pulgar had affixed to the door of the mosque! A burst of horror and indignation broke forth from the army. Hernando del Pulgar was not at hand, but one of his young companions-in-arms, Garcilasso de la Vega by name, putting spurs to his horse, galloped to the hamlet of Zubia, threw himself on his knees before the King, and besought permission to accept the defiance of this insolent infidel and to revenge the insult offered to our blessed Lady. The request was too pious to be refused; Garcilasso remounted his steed; he closed his helmet, graced by four sable plumes, grasped his buckler of Flemish workmanship and his lance of matchless temper, and defied the haughty Moor in the midst of his career.

A combat took place in view of the two armies and of the Castilian court. The Moor was powerful in wielding his weapons and dexterous in managing his steed. He was of larger frame than Garcilasso and more completely armed; and the Christians trembled for their champion. The shock of their encounter was dreadful; their lances were shivered and sent up splinters in the air. Garcilasso was thrown back in the saddle—his horse made a wild career before he could recover, gather up the reins, and return to the conflict. They now encountered each other with swords. The Moor circled round his opponent as hawk circles whereabout to make a swoop; his Arabian steed obeyed his rider with matchless quickness; at every attack of the infidel it seemed as if the Christian knight must sink beneath his flashing cimeter. But if Garcilasso were inferior to him in power, he was superior in agility; many of his blows he parried; others he received upon his Flemish shield, which was proof against the Damascus blade. The blood streamed from numerous wounds received by either warrior.

The Moor, seeing his antagonist exhausted, availed himself of his superior force, and, grappling, endeavored to wrest him from his saddle. They both fell to earth; the Moor placed his knee upon the breast of his victim, and, brandishing his dagger, aimed a blow at his throat. A cry of despair was uttered by the Christian warriors, when suddenly they beheld the Moor rolling lifeless in the dust. Garcilasso had shortened his sword, and, as his adversary raised his arm to strike, had pierced him to the heart.

The laws of chivalry were observed throughout the combat—no one interfered on either side. Garcilasso now despoiled his adversary; then, rescuing the holy inscription of "Ave Maria" from its degrading situation, he elevated it on the point of his sword, and bore it off as a signal of triumph amid the rapturous shouts of the Christian army.

The sun had now reached the meridian, and the hot blood of the Moors was inflamed by its rays and by the sight of the defeat of their champion. Musa ordered two pieces of ordnance to open a fire upon the Christians. A confusion was produced in one part of their ranks. Musa called to the chiefs of the army: "Let us waste no more time in empty challenges; let us charge upon the enemy; he who assaults has always an advantage in the combat." So saying, he rushed forward, followed by a large body of horse and foot, and charged so furiously upon the advance guard of the Christians that he drove it in upon the battalion of the Marquis of Cadiz.

The gallant Marquis now gave the signal to attack. "Santiago!" was shouted along the line; and he pressed forward to the encounter, with his battalion of twelve hundred lances. The other cavaliers followed his example, and the battle instantly became general.

When the King and Queen beheld the armies thus rushing to the combat, they threw themselves on their knees and implored the holy Virgin to protect her faithful warriors. The Prince and Princess, the ladies of the court, and the prelates and friars who were present did the same; and the effect of the prayers of these illustrious and saintly persons was immediately apparent. The fierceness with which the Moors had rushed to the attack had suddenly cooled; they were bold and adroit for a skirmish, but unequal to the veteran Spaniards in the open field. A panic seized upon the foot-soldiers—they turned and took to flight. Musa and his cavaliers in vain endeavored to rally them. Some took refuge in the mountains; but the greater part fled to the city in such confusion that they overturned and trampled upon each other. The Christians pursued them to the very gates. Upward of two thousand were either killed, wounded, or taken prisoners, and the two pieces of ordnance brought off as trophies of the victory. Not a Christian lance but was bathed that day in the blood of an infidel. Such was the brief but bloody action, which was known among the Christian warriors by the name of the "Queen's skirmish"; for when the Marquis of Cadiz waited upon her majesty he attributed the victory entirely to her presence. The Queen, however, insisted that it was all owing to her troops being led on by so valiant a commander. Her majesty had not yet recovered from her agitation at beholding so terrible a scene of bloodshed; though certain veterans present pronounced it as gay and gentle a skirmish as they had ever witnessed.

The ravages of war had as yet spared a little portion of the vega of Granada. A green belt of gardens and orchards still flourished around the city, extending along the banks of the Xenel and the Darro. They had been the solace and delight of the inhabitants in their happier days, and contributed to their sustenance in this time of scarcity. Ferdinand determined to make a final and exterminating ravage to the very walls of the city, so that there should not remain a single green thing for the sustenance of man or beast.

As the evening advanced the bustle in the camp subsided. Everyone sought repose, preparatory to the next day's trial. The King retired early, that he might be up with the crowing of the cock to head the destroying army in person. The Queen had retired to the innermost part of her pavilion, where she was performing her orisons before a private altar. While thus at her prayers she was suddenly aroused by a glare of light and wreaths of suffocating smoke. In an instant the whole tent was in a blaze; there was a high gusty wind, which whirled the light flames from tent to tent, and wrapped the whole in one conflagration.

Isabella had barely time to save herself by instant flight. Her first thought, on being extricated from her tent, was for the safety of the King. She rushed to his tent, but the vigilant Ferdinand was already at the entrance of it. Starting from bed at the first alarm, and fancying it an assault of the enemy, he had seized his sword and buckler, and sallied forth undressed, with his cuirass upon his arm. The late gorgeous camp was now a scene of wild confusion. The flames kept spreading from one pavilion to another, glaring upon the rich armor and golden and silver vessels, which seemed melting in the fervent heat. The ladies of the court fled, shrieking and half dressed, from their tents. There was an alarm of drum and trumpet, and a distracted hurry about the camp of men half armed.

The idea that this was a stratagem of the Moors soon subsided; but it was feared they might take advantage of it to assault the camp. The Marquis of Cadiz, therefore, sallied forth with three thousand horse to check any advance from the city. When they emerged from the camp they found the whole firmament illuminated. The flames whirled up in long light spires, and the air was filled with sparks and cinders. A bright glare was thrown upon the city, revealing every battlement and tower. Turbaned heads were seen gazing from every roof, and armor gleamed along the walls; yet not a single warrior sallied from the gates. The Moors suspected some stratagem on the part of the Christians, and kept quietly within their walls. By degrees the flames expired; the city faded from sight; all again became dark and quiet, and the Marquis of Cadiz returned with his cavalry to the camp. When the day dawned on the Christian camp nothing remained of that beautiful assemblage of stately pavilions but heaps of smouldering rubbish. The fire at first had been attributed to treachery, but on investigation it proved to be entirely accidental.

The wary Ferdinand knew the sanguine temperament of the Moors, and hastened to prevent their deriving confidence from the night's disaster. At break of day the drums and trumpets sounded to arms, and the Christian army issued from among the smoking ruins of their camp, in shining squadrons, with flaunting banners and bursts of martial melody, as though the preceding night had been a time of high festivity instead of terror.

The Moors had beheld the conflagration with wonder and perplexity. When the day broke and they looked toward the Christian camp, they saw nothing but a dark smoking mass. Their scouts came in with the joyful intelligence that the whole camp was a scene of ruin. Scarce had the tidings spread throughout the city when they beheld the Christian army advancing toward their walls. They considered it a feint to cover their desperate situation and prepare for a retreat. Boabdil had one of his impulses of valor—he determined to take the field in person, and to follow up this signal blow which Allah had inflicted on the enemy. The Christian army approached close to the city, and were laying waste the gardens and orchards, when Boabdil sallied forth, surrounded by all that was left of the flower and chivalry of Granada. There was not so much one battle as a variety of battles; every garden and orchard became a scene of deadly contest; every inch of ground was disputed, with an agony of grief and valor, by the Moors; every inch of ground that the Christians advanced they valiantly maintained; but never did they advance with severer fighting or greater loss of blood.

The cavalry of Musa was in every part of the field; wherever it came it gave fresh ardor to the fight. The Moorish soldier, fainting with heat, fatigue, and wounds, was roused to new life at the approach of Musa; and even he who lay gasping in the agonies of death, turned his face toward him, and faintly uttered cheers and blessings as he passed. The Christians had by this time gained possession of various towers near the city, from whence they had been annoyed by cross-bows and arquebuses. The Moors, scattered in various actions, were severely pressed. Boabdil, at the head of the cavaliers of his guard, displayed the utmost valor, mingling in the fight in various parts of the field, and endeavoring to inspirit the foot soldiers in the combat. But the Moorish infantry was never to be depended upon. In the heat of the action a panic seized upon them; they fled, leaving their sovereign exposed with his handful of cavaliers to an overwhelming force. Boabdil was on the point of falling into the hands of the Christians, when, wheeling round, with his followers, they threw the reins on the necks of their fleet steeds and took refuge by dint of hoof within the walls of the city.

Musa endeavored to retrieve the fortune of the field. He threw himself before the retreating infantry, calling upon them to turn and fight for their homes, their families, for everything that was sacred and dear to them. It was all in vain—they were totally broken and dismayed, and fled tumultuously for the gates. Slowly and reluctantly Musa retreated to the city, and he vowed nevermore to sally forth with foot soldiers to the field. In the mean time the artillery thundered from the walls and checked all further advances of the Christians. King Ferdinand, therefore, called off his troops, and returned in triumph to the ruins of his camp, leaving the beautiful city of Granada wrapped in the smoke of her fields and gardens and surrounded by the bodies of her slaughtered children. Such was the last sally made by the Moors in defence of their favorite city.

They now shut themselves up gloomily within their walls; there were no longer any daring sallies from their gates. For a time they flattered themselves with hopes that the late conflagration of the camp would discourage the besiegers; that, as in former years, their invasion would end with the summer, and that they would again withdraw before the autumnal rains. The measures of Ferdinand and Isabella soon crushed these hopes. They gave orders to build a regular city upon the site of their camp, to convince the Moors that the siege was to endure until the surrender of Granada. Nine of the principal cities of Spain were charged with the stupendous undertaking; and they emulated each other with a zeal worthy of the cause. To this city it was proposed to give the name of Isabella, so dear to the army and the nation; but that pious Princess, calling to mind the holy cause in which it was erected, gave it the name of Santa Fe, or the "City of the Holy Faith," and it remains to this day a monument of the piety and glory of the Catholic sovereigns.

In the mean time the besieged city began to suffer the distress of famine. Its supplies were all cut off; a cavalcade of flocks and herds, and mules laden with money, coming to the relief of the city from the mountains of the Alpujarras[2], was taken by the Marquis of Cadiz and led in triumph to the camp, in sight of the suffering Moors. Autumn arrived, but the harvests had been swept from the face of the country; a rigorous winter was approaching, and the city was almost destitute of provisions. The people sank into deep despondency. They called to mind all that had been predicted by astrologers at the birth of their ill-starred sovereign, and all that had been foretold of the fate of Granada at the time of the capture of Zahara.

Boabdil was alarmed by the gathering dangers from without and by the clamors of his starving people. He summoned a council, composed of the principal officers of the army, the alcaids of the fortresses, the xequis or sages of the city, and the alfaquis or doctors of the faith. They assembled in the great hall of audience of the Alhambra, and despair was painted in their countenances. Boabdil demanded of them what was to be done in their present extremity; and their answer was, "Surrender." The venerable Abul Kazim Abdalmalek, governor of the city, represented its unhappy state: "Our granaries are nearly exhausted, and no further supplies are to be expected. The provender for the war-horses is required as sustenance for the soldiery; the very horses themselves are killed for food; of seven thousand steeds which once could be sent into the field, three hundred only remain. Our city contains two hundred thousand inhabitants, old and young, with each a mouth that calls piteously for bread."

The xequis and principal citizens declared that the people could no longer sustain the labors and sufferings of a defence. "And of what avail is our defence," said they, "when the enemy is determined to persist in the siege?—what alternative remains but to surrender or to die?"

The heart of Boabdil was touched by this appeal, and he maintained a gloomy silence. He had cherished some faint hope of relief from the Sultan of Egypt or the Barbary powers, but it was now at an end; even if such assistance were to be sent, he had no longer a seaport where it might debark. The counsellors saw that the resolution of the King was shaken, and they united their voices in urging him to capitulate.

The valiant Musa alone arose in opposition: "It is yet too early," said he, "to talk of a surrender. Our means are not exhausted; we have yet one source of strength remaining, terrible in its effects, and which often has achieved the most signal victories—it is our despair. Let us rouse the mass of the people; let us put weapons in their hands; let us fight the enemy to the very utmost, until we rush upon the points of their lances. I am ready to lead the way into the thickest of their squadrons; and much rather would I be numbered among those who fell in the defence of Granada than of those who survived to capitulate for her surrender!" The words of Musa were without effect. Boabdil yielded to the general voice; it was determined to capitulate with the Christian sovereigns; and the venerable Abul Kazim was sent forth to the camp empowered to treat for terms.

The old Governor was received with great distinction by Ferdinand and Isabella, who appointed Gonsalvo of Cordova and Fernando de Zafra, secretary to the King, to confer with him. All Granada awaited, in trembling anxiety, the result of his negotiations. After repeated conferences he at length returned with the ultimate terms of the Catholic sovereigns. They agreed to suspend all attack for seventy days, at the end of which time, if no succor should arrive to the Moorish King, the city of Granada was to be surrendered.

All Christian captives should be liberated without ransom. Boabdil and his principal cavaliers should take an oath of fealty to the Castilian crown, and certain valuable territories in the Alpujarra mountains should be assigned to the Moorish monarch for his maintenance. The Moors of Granada should become subjects of the Spanish sovereigns, retaining their possessions, their arms and horses, and yielding up nothing but their artillery. They should be protected in the exercise of their religion, and governed by their own laws, administered by cadis of their own faith, under governors appointed by the sovereigns. They should be exempted from tribute for three years, after which term they should pay the same that they had been accustomed to render to their native monarchs. Those who chose to depart for Africa within three years should be provided with a passage for themselves and their effects, free of charge, from whatever port they should prefer.

For the fulfilment of these articles four hundred hostages from the principal families were required, previous to the surrender, to be subsequently restored. The son of the King of Granada, and all other hostages in possession of the Castilian sovereigns, were to be restored at the same time. Such were the conditions that the vizier Abul Kazim laid before the council of Granada as the best that could be obtained from the besieging foe. When the members of the council found that the awful moment had arrived when they were to sign and seal the perdition of their empire and blot themselves out as a nation, all firmness deserted them and many gave way to tears. Musa alone retained an unaltered mien. "Leave, seniors," cried he, "this idle lamentation to helpless women and children: we are men—we have hearts, not to shed tender tears, but drops of blood. I see the spirit of the people so cast down that it is impossible to save the kingdom. Yet there still remains an alternative for noble minds—a glorious death! Let us die defending our liberty and avenging the woes of Granada. Our mother Earth will receive her children into her bosom, safe from the chains and oppressions of the conqueror; or, should any fail a sepulchre to hide his remains, he will not want a sky to cover him. Allah forbid it should be said the nobles of Granada feared to die in her defence!"

Musa ceased to speak, and a dead silence reigned in the assembly. Boabdil looked anxiously around and scanned every face; but he read in them all the anxiety of careworn men, in whose hearts enthusiasm was dead, and who had grown callous to every chivalrous appeal. "Allah Akbar! God is great!" exclaimed he; "there is no god but God, and Mahomet is his prophet! It is in vain to struggle against the will of heaven. Too surely was it written in the book of fate that I should be unfortunate and the kingdom expire under my rule."

"Allah Akbar! God is great!" echoed the viziers and alfaquis; "the will of God be done!" So they all accorded with the King that these evils were preordained; that it was hopeless to contend with them; and that the terms offered by the Castilian monarchs were as favorable as could be expected.

When Musa saw that they were about to sign the treaty of surrender, he rose in violent indignation: "Do not deceive yourselves," cried he, "nor think the Christians will be faithful to their promises, or their King as magnanimous in conquest as he has been victorious in war. Death is the least we have to fear. It is the plundering and sacking of our city, the profanation of our mosques, the ruin of our homes, the violation of our wives and daughters—cruel oppression, bigoted intolerance, whips and chains, the dungeon, the fagot, and the stake—such are the miseries and indignities we shall see and suffer; at least, those grovelling souls will see them who now shrink from an honorable death. For my part, by Allah, I will never witness them!"

With these words he left the council chamber and strode gloomily through the Court of Lions and the outer halls of the Alhambra, without deigning to speak to the obsequious courtiers who attended in them. He repaired to his dwelling, armed himself at all points, mounted his favorite war-horse, and, issuing forth from the city by the gate of Elvira, was never seen or heard of more.[3]

The capitulation for the surrender of Granada was signed on November 25, 1491, and produced a sudden cessation of those hostilities which had raged for so many years. Christian and Moor might now be seen mingling courteously on the banks of the Xenel and the Darro, where to have met a few days previous would have produced a scene of sanguinary contest. Still, as the Moors might be suddenly aroused to defence, if, within the allotted term of seventy days, succors should arrive from abroad, and as they were at all times a rash, inflammable people, the wary Ferdinand maintained a vigilant watch upon the city, and permitted no supplies of any kind to enter. His garrisons in the seaports, and his cruisers in the Straits of Gibraltar, were ordered likewise to guard against any relief from the Grand Sultan of Egypt or the princes of Barbary. There was no need of such precautions. Those powers were either too much engrossed by their own wars or too much daunted by the success of the Spanish arms, to interfere in a desperate cause; and the unfortunate Moors of Granada were abandoned to their fate.

The month of December had nearly passed away; the famine became extreme, and there was no hope of any favorable event within the terms specified in the capitulation. Boabdil saw that to hold out to the end of the allotted time would but be to protract the miseries of his people. With the consent of his council, he determined to surrender the city on January 6th. On December 30th he sent his grand vizier Yusef Aben Comixa, with the four hundred hostages, to King Ferdinand, to make known his intention; bearing him, at the same time, a present of a magnificent cimeter, and two Arabian steeds superbly caparisoned.

The unfortunate Boabdil was doomed to meet with trouble to the end of his career. The very next day, the santon or dervis Hamet Aben Zarrax, who had uttered prophecies and excited commotions on former occasions, suddenly made his appearance. Whence he came no one knew; it was rumored that he had been in the mountains of the Alpujarras and on the coast of Barbary, endeavoring to rouse the Moslems to the relief of Granada. He was reduced to a skeleton; his eyes glowed like coals in their sockets, and his speech was little better than frantic raving. He harangued the populace in the streets and squares, inveighed against the capitulation, denounced the King and nobles as Moslems only in name, and called upon the people to sally forth against the unbelievers, for that Allah had decreed them a signal victory.

Upward of twenty thousand of the populace seized their arms and paraded the streets with shouts and outcries. The shops and houses were shut up; the King himself did not dare to venture forth, but remained a kind of prisoner in the Alhambra. The turbulent multitude continued roaming and shouting and howling about the city during the day and a part of the night. Hunger and a wintry tempest tamed their frenzy; and when morning came the enthusiast who had led them on had disappeared. Whether he had been disposed of by the emissaries of the King or by the leading men of the city is not known; his disappearance remains a mystery.

The Moorish King now issued from the Alhambra, attended by his principal nobles, and harangued the populace. He set forth the necessity of complying with the capitulation, from the famine that reigned in the city, the futility of defence, and from the hostages having already been delivered into the hands of the besiegers. The volatile population agreed to adhere to the capitulation, and there was even a faint shout of "Long live Boabdil the unfortunate!" and they all returned to their homes in perfect tranquillity.

Boabdil immediately sent missives to King Ferdinand, apprising him of these events, and of his fears lest further delay should produce new tumults. He proposed, therefore, to surrender the city on the following day. The Castilian sovereigns assented, with great satisfaction; and preparations were made in city and camp for this great event, that was to seal the fate of Granada.

It was a night of doleful lamentings within the walls of the Alhambra; for the household of Boabdil were preparing to take a last farewell of that delightful abode. All the royal treasures and the most precious effects of the Alhambra were hastily packed upon mules; the beautiful apartments were despoiled, with tears and wailings, by their own inhabitants. Before the dawn of day a mournful cavalcade moved obscurely out of a postern gate of the Alhambra and departed through one of the most retired quarters of the city. It was composed of the family of the unfortunate Boabdil, which he sent off thus privately that they might not be exposed to the eyes of scoffers or the exultation of the enemy. The city was yet buried in sleep as they passed through its silent streets. The guards at the gate shed tears as they opened it for their departure. They paused not, but proceeded along the banks of the Xenel on the road that leads to the Alpujarras, until they arrived at a hamlet at some distance from the city, where they halted and waited until they should be joined by King Boabdil.

The sun had scarcely begun to shed his beams upon the summits of the snowy mountains which rise above Granada when the Christian camp was in motion. A detachment of horse and foot, led by distinguished cavaliers, and accompanied by Hernando de Talavera, Bishop of Avila, proceeded to take possession of the Alhambra and the towers. It had been stipulated in the capitulation that the detachment sent for this purpose should not enter by the streets of the city; a road had therefore been opened, outside of the walls, leading by the Puerta de los Milinos (or "Gate of the Mills"), to the summit of the Hill of Martyrs, and across the hill to a postern gate of the Alhambra.

When the detachment arrived at the summit of the hill the Moorish King came forth from the gate, attended by a handful of cavaliers, leaving his vizier Yusef Aben Comixa to deliver up the palace. "Go, senior," said he to the commander of the detachment, "go and take possession of those fortresses, which Allah has bestowed upon your powerful sovereigns, in punishment of the sins of the Moors." He said no more, but passed mournfully on along the same road by which the Spanish cavaliers had come, descending to the vega to meet the Catholic sovereigns. The troops entered the Alhambra, the gates of which were wide open, and all its splendid courts and halls silent and deserted.

In the mean time the Christian court and army poured out of the city of Santa Fe and advanced across the vega. The King and Queen, with the Prince and Princess, and the dignitaries and ladies of the court, took the lead, accompanied by the different orders of monks and friars, and surrounded by the royal guards splendidly arrayed. The procession moved slowly forward and paused at the village of Armilla, at the distance of half a league from the city.

The sovereigns waited here with impatience, their eyes fixed on the lofty tower of the Alhambra, watching for the appointed signal of possession. The time that had elapsed since the departure of the detachment seemed to them more than necessary for the purpose, and the anxious mind of Ferdinand began to entertain doubts of some commotion in the city. At length they saw the silver cross, the great standard of this crusade, elevated on the Torre de la Vala (or "Great Watch-tower") and sparkling in the sunbeams. This was done by Hernando de Talavera, Bishop of Avila. Beside it was planted the pennon of the glorious apostle St. James, and a great shout of "Santiago! Santiago!" rose throughout the army. Lastly was reared the royal standard by the king of arms, with the shout of "Castile! Castile! For King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella!" The words were echoed by the whole army, with acclamations that resounded across the vega. At sight of these signals of possession the sovereigns sank upon their knees, giving thanks to God for this great triumph; the whole assembled host followed their example, and the choristers of the royal chapel broke forth into the solemn anthem of Te Deum laudamus.

The procession now resumed its march with joyful alacrity, to the sound of triumphant music, until they came to a small mosque, near the banks of the Xenel, and not far from the foot of the Hill of Martyrs, which edifice remains to the present day, consecrated as the hermitage of St. Sebastian. Here the sovereigns were met by the unfortunate Boabdil, accompanied by about fifty cavaliers and domestics. As he drew near he would have dismounted in token of homage, but Ferdinand prevented him. He then proffered to kiss the King's hand, but this sign of vassalage was likewise declined; whereupon, not to be outdone in magnanimity, he leaned forward and kissed the right arm of Ferdinand. Queen Isabella also refused to receive this ceremonial of homage, and, to console him under his adversity, delivered to him his son, who had remained as hostage ever since Boabdil's liberation from captivity. The Moorish monarch pressed his child to his bosom with tender emotion, and they seemed mutually endeared to each other by their misfortunes.

He then delivered the keys of the city to King Ferdinand, with an air of mingled melancholy and resignation. "These keys," said he, "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."

King Ferdinand restrained his exultation with an air of serene magnanimity. "Doubt not our promises," replied he, "nor that thou shalt regain from our friendship the prosperity of which the fortune of war has deprived thee."

On receiving the keys, King Ferdinand handed them to the Queen; she in her turn presented them to her son Prince Juan, who delivered them to the Count de Tendilla, that brave and loyal cavalier being appointed alcaid of the city and captain-general of the kingdom of Granada.

Having surrendered the last symbol of power, the unfortunate Boabdil continued on toward the Alpujarras, that he might not behold the entrance of the Christians into his capital. His devoted band of cavaliers followed him in gloomy silence; but heavy sighs burst from their bosoms as shouts of joy and strains of triumphant music were borne on the breeze from the victorious army.

Having rejoined his family, Boabdil set forward with a heavy heart for his allotted residence in the valley of Purchena. At two leagues' distance, the cavalcade, winding into the skirts of the Alpujarras, ascended an eminence commanding the last view of Granada. As they arrived at this spot the Moors paused involuntarily to take a farewell gaze at their beloved city, which a few steps more would shut from their sight forever. The Moorish cavaliers gazed with a silent agony of tenderness and grief upon that delicious abode, the scene of their loves and pleasures. While they yet looked, a light cloud of smoke burst forth from the citadel, and presently a peal of artillery, faintly heard, told that the city was taken possession of, and the throne of the Moslem kings was lost forever.

The unhappy Boabdil was not to be consoled; his tears continued to flow. "Allah Akbar!" exclaimed he; "when did misfortunes ever equal mine?" From this circumstance the hill, which is not far from the Padul, took the name of Feg Allah Akbar; but the point of view commanding the last prospect of Granada is known among Spaniards by the name of El ultimo suspiro del Moro("The last sigh of the Moor").

The sovereigns did not enter the city on this day of its surrender, but waited until it should be fully occupied by their troops and public tranquillity insured. In a little while every battlement glistened with Christian helms and lances, the standard of the faith and of the realm floated from every tower, and the thundering salvoes of the ordnance told that the subjugation of the city was complete. The grandees and cavaliers now knelt and kissed the hands of the King and Queen and the prince Juan, and congratulated them on the acquisition of so great a kingdom, after which the royal procession returned in state to Santa Fe.

It was on January 6th, the day of kings and festival of the Epiphany, that the sovereigns made their triumphal entry. The King and Queen looked on this occasion as more than mortal; the venerable ecclesiastics, to whose advice and zeal this glorious conquest ought in a great measure to be attributed, moved along with hearts swelling with holy exultation, but with chastened and downcast looks of edifying humility; while the hardy warriors, in tossing plumes and shining steel, seemed elevated with a stern joy at finding themselves in possession of this object of so many toils and perils. As the streets resounded with the tramp of steed and swelling peals of music, the Moors buried themselves in the deepest recesses of their dwellings. There they bewailed in secret the fallen glory of their race, but suppressed their groans, lest they should be heard by their enemies and increase their triumph.

The royal procession advanced to the principal mosque, which had been consecrated as a cathedral. Here the sovereigns offered up prayers and thanksgivings, and the choir of the royal chapel chanted a triumphant anthem, in which they were joined by all the courtiers and cavaliers. Nothing could exceed the thankfulness to God of the pious King Ferdinand for having enabled him to eradicate from Spain the empire and name of that accursed heathen race, and for the elevation of the cross in that city wherein the impious doctrines of Mahomet had so long been cherished. In the fervor of his spirit he supplicated from heaven a continuance of its grace, and that this glorious triumph might be perpetuated. The prayer of the pious monarch was responded by the people, and even his enemies were for once convinced of his sincerity.

It had been a last request of the unfortunate Boabdil, and one which showed how deeply he felt the transition of his fate, that no person might be permitted to enter or depart by the gate of the Alhambra, through which he had sallied forth to surrender his capital. His request was granted; the portal was closed up, and remains so to the present day—a mute memorial of that event.

The Spanish sovereigns fixed their throne in the presence chamber of the palace, so long the seat of Moorish royalty. Hither the principal inhabitants of Granada repaired, to pay them homage and kiss their hands in token of vassalage; and their example was followed by deputies from all the towns and fortresses of the Alpujarras which had not hitherto submitted.

Thus terminated the war of Granada, after ten years of incessant fighting; equalling the far-famed siege of Troy in duration, and ending, like that, in the capture of the city. Thus ended also the dominion of the Moors in Spain, having endured seven hundred seventy-eight years, from the memorable defeat of Roderick, the last of the Goths, on the banks of the Guadalete. This great triumph of our holy Catholic faith took place in the beginning of January, 1492, being three thousand six hundred fifty-five years from the population of Spain by the patriarch Tubal; three thousand seven hundred ninety-seven from the general deluge; five thousand four hundred fifty-three from the creation of the world, according to Hebrew calculation; and in the month Rabic, in the eight hundred ninety-seventh year of the Hegira, or flight of Mahomet.

[Footnote 1: Musa ben Abil Gazan, Boabdil's best cavalier—a fiery soldier, of royal lineage.]

[Footnote 2: A mountainous region in the provinces of Granada and Almeria.]

[Footnote 3: So say Arabian historians. According to another account, Musa, meeting a party of Andalusian cavaliers, killed several of them, but, being disabled by wounds, threw himself into the Xenel and was drowned.]


A.D. 1492


The year 1492, in which Columbus discovered America, is adopted by some writers as separating the modern from the mediaeval period in history. It marks the culmination of the wonderful achievements in discovery for which the fifteenth century is so memorable. By 1492 the world had advanced far beyond the ignorance of the period when Marco Polo made and described his famous travels from Europe to the East, 1324, and when Sir John Mandeville's extravagant account of Eastern journeys, 1357-1371, was published. European knowledge of the Orient had been greatly increased by the crusades, and this, together with the spread of commerce, had quickened the desire of Western peoples for still further explorations of the world.

During the first half of the fifteenth century the Portuguese were most enterprising in the work of discovery, and before 1500 they had searched the western coast of Africa, passed the equator, and seen the Cape of Good Hope, which Vasco da Gama doubled in 1497, on his way to India.

Meanwhile Christopher Columbus, a native of Genoa, a famous maritime city, was planning a route of his own for a voyage to the East Indies—the great object, at that period, of all ambitious navigators. As the Portuguese sought, and at last found, an ocean route by the east around Africa, so Columbus meditated a westward voyage, and was the first to seek India in that direction. After vainly submitting his plan to John II of Portugal, to the Genoese Government, and to Henry VII of England, he appealed—at first without success—to Ferdinand and Isabella of Castile. But at the end of their war with Granada, 1492, he obtained a better hearing, and gained the favor of Isabella, who joined the Pinzons, merchants of Palos, in fitting out for him three small vessels, the Nina, the Santa Maria, and the Pinta. With the concurrence of Ferdinand, she made Columbus, for himself and his heirs, admiral in all the regions that he should discover, and viceroy in any lands acquired by him for Spain.

When the bold mariner sailed from Saltes, an island near Palos, a small town in the province of Huelva, Spain, he had complete confidence in his theory of finding new lands to the west. And his unshakable faith in his idea and in his purpose constitutes the most heroic aspect of his first voyage.

Of recent years great interest and much historical discussion have been aroused in connection with real or imagined pre-Columbian discoveries of America, especially with the discovery by the Northmen. But all attempts to diminish the glory of Columbus' achievement, by proving that the results of previous discoveries were known to him, have, as Hubert Howe Bancroft declares, signally failed. Columbus was not the first to conceive the possibility of reaching the East by sailing west. Toscanelli, the Italian astronomer, who made the map which Columbus used, and others among his contemporaries entertained the theory; but the Genoese sailor was the first to act upon this belief.

Supposing, as he did to his latest day, that he had found the eastern coast of India, and not another continent, Columbus gave the name of Indies to the islands he discovered, whose inhabitants he also called Indians; yet he did not have the honor of giving his own name to the New World which he made known to mankind.

In the following pages his own unstudied account of the first voyage and discovery, and the narrative from the biography of Columbus by his son, furnish a very complete history of the enterprise from which so large a part of the world's later development has followed. It should be noted, however, that both of the accounts manifest the not unnatural desire to give full prominence to the part taken by Columbus himself. His able coadjutors, the Pinzons, scarce receive such adequate mention as they are given by more modern narrators.

The letter to Gabriel Sanchez appears here in a careful edition, one of the treasured possessions of the New York Public Library—Lenox Library—through the courtesy of whose officers it is presented in this work. It is the first letter of Columbus, giving the earliest information of his discovery, and is here rendered in a new translation, as contained in the little volume published in 1892 by the trustees of the Lenox Library, as a "tribute to the memory of the great discoverer."


[Letter of Christopher Columbus, to whom our age owes much, concerning the islands recently discovered in the Indian sea[1], for the search of which, eight months before, he was sent under the auspices and at the cost of the most invincible Ferdinand, King of Spain[2]; addressed to the magnificent lord Raphael Sanxis[3], treasurer of the same most illustrious King, and which the noble and learned man Leander de Cosco has translated from the Spanish language into Latin, on the third of the calends of May[4], 1493, the first year of the pontificate of Alexander VI.]

Because my undertakings have attained success, I know that it will be pleasing to you; these I have determined to relate, so that you may be made acquainted with everything done and discovered in this our voyage. On the thirty-third day after I departed from Cadiz,[5] I came to the Indian sea, where I found many islands inhabited by men without number, of all which I took possession for our most fortunate King, with proclaiming heralds and flying standards, no one objecting. To the first of these I gave the name of the blessed Saviour,[6] on whose aid relying I had reached this as well as the other islands. But the Indians call it Guanahani. I also called each one of the others by a new name. For I ordered one island to be called Santa Maria of the Conception,[7] another Fernandina,[8] another Isabella,[9] another Juana,[10] and so on with the rest.

As soon as we had arrived at that island which I have just now said was called Juana, I proceeded along its coast toward the west for some distance. I found it so large and without perceptible end, that I believed it to be not an island, but the continental country of Cathay;[11] seeing, however, no towns or cities situated on the sea-coast, but only some villages and rude farms, with whose inhabitants I was unable to converse, because as soon as they saw us they took flight, I proceeded farther, thinking that I would discover some city or large residences.

At length, perceiving that we had gone far enough, that nothing new appeared, and that this way was leading us to the north, which I wished to avoid, because it was winter on the land, and it was my intention to go to the south, moreover the winds were becoming violent, I therefore determined that no other plans were practicable, and so, going back, I returned to a certain bay that I had noticed, from which I sent two of our men to the land, that they might find out whether there was a king in this country, or any cities. These men travelled for three days, and they found people and houses without number, but they were small and without any government, therefore they returned.

Now in the mean time I had learned from certain Indians, whom I had seized there, that this country was indeed an island, and therefore I proceeded toward the east, keeping all the time near the coast, for three hundred twenty-two miles, to the extreme ends of this island. From this place I saw another island to the east, distant from this Juana fifty-four miles, which I called forthwith Hispana,[12] and I sailed to it; and I steered along the northern coast, as at Juana, toward the east, five hundred sixty-four miles. And the said Juana and the other islands there appear very fertile. This island is surrounded by many very safe and wide harbors, not excelled by any others that I have ever seen. Many great and salubrious rivers flow through it. There are also many very high mountains there.

All these islands are very beautiful, and distinguished by various qualities; they are accessible, and full of a great variety of trees stretching up to the stars; the leaves of which I believe are never shed, for I saw them as green and flourishing as they are usually in Spain in the month of May; some of them were blossoming, some were bearing fruit, some were in other conditions; each one was thriving in its own way. The nightingale and various other birds without number were singing in the month of November, when I was exploring them. There are besides in the said island Juana seven or eight kinds of palm-trees, which far excel ours in height and beauty, just as all the other trees, herbs, and fruits do. There are also excellent pine-trees, vast plains and meadows, a variety of birds, a variety of honey, and a variety of metals, excepting iron. In the one which was called Hispana, as we said above, there are great and beautiful mountains, vast fields, groves, fertile plains, very suitable for planting and cultivating, and for the building of houses.

The convenience of the harbors in this island, and the remarkable number of rivers contributing to the healthfulness of man, exceed belief, unless one has seen them. The trees, pasturage, and fruits of this island differ greatly from those of Juana. This Hispana, moreover, abounds in different kinds of spices, in gold, and in metals. On this island, indeed, and on all the others which I have seen, and of which I have knowledge, the inhabitants of both sexes go always naked, just as they came into the world, except some of the women, who use a covering of a leaf or some foliage, or a cotton cloth, which they make themselves for that purpose.

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