“These keys,” said he, “are the last relics of the Arabian empire in Spain .”
Continuing Spain Conquers Grenada,
our selection from Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada by Washington Irving published in 1829. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in eight easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Spain Conquers Grenada.
Place: Grenada, Spain
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 defense, 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 tranquility.
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.”
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