Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada/Chapter XX

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Chapter XX[edit]

OF THE TREATMENT OF BOABDIL BY THE CASTILIAN SOVEREIGNS.

A stately convention was held by King Ferdinand in the ancient city of Cordova, composed of several of the most reverend prelates and renowned cavaliers of the kingdom, to determine upon the fate of the unfortunate Boabdil.

Don Alonso de Cardenas, the worthy master of Santiago, was one of the first who gave his counsel. He was a pious and zealous knight, rigid in his devotion to the faith, and his holy zeal had been inflamed to peculiar vehemence since his disastrous crusade among the mountains of Malaga. He inveighed with ardor against any compromise or compact with the infidels: the object of this war, he observed, was not the subjection of the Moors, but their utter expulsion from the land, so that there might no longer remain a single stain of Mahometanism throughout Christian Spain. He gave it as his opinion, therefore, that the captive king ought not to be set at liberty.

Roderigo Ponce de Leon, marques of Cadiz, on the contrary, spoke warmly for the release of Boabdil. He pronounced it a measure of sound policy, even if done without conditions. It would tend to keep up the civil war in Granada, which was as a fire consuming the entrails of the enemy, and effecting more for the interests of Spain, without expense, than all the conquests of its arms.

The grand cardinal of Spain, Don Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza, coincided in opinion with the marques of Cadiz. Nay (added that pious prelate and politic statesman), it would be sound wisdom to furnish the Moor with men and money and all other necessaries to promote the civil war in Granada: by this means would be produced great benefit to the service of God, since we are assured by his infallible word that "a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand."*

 *Salazar, Cronica del Gran Cardinal, p. 188.

Ferdinand weighed these counsels in his mind, but was slow in coming to a decision: he was religiously attentive to his own interests (observes Fray Antonio Agapida), knowing himself to be but an instrument of Providence in this holy war, and that, therefore, in consulting his own advantage he was promoting the interests of the faith. The opinion of Queen Isabella relieved him from his perplexity. That high-minded princess was zealous for the promotion of the faith, but not for the extermination of the infidels. The Moorish kings had held their thrones as vassals to her progenitors: she was content at present to accord the same privilege, and that the royal prisoner should be liberated on condition of becoming a vassal to the Crown. By this means might be effected the deliverance of many Christian captives who were languishing in Moorish chains.

King Ferdinand adopted the magnanimous measure recommended by the queen, but he accompanied it with several shrewd conditions, exacting tribute, military services, and safe passages and maintenance for Christian troops throughout the places which should adhere to Boabdil. The captive king readily submitted to these stipulations, and swore, after the manner of his faith, to observe them with exactitude. A truce was arranged for two years, during which the Castilian sovereigns engaged to maintain him on his throne and to assist him in recovering all places which he had lost during his captivity.

When Boabdil el Chico had solemnly agreed to this arrangement in the castle of Porcuna, preparations were made to receive him in Cordova in regal style. Superb steeds richly caparisoned and raiments of brocade and silk and the most costly cloths, with all other articles of sumptuous array, were furnished to him and to fifty Moorish cavaliers who had come to treat for his ransom, that he might appear in state befitting the monarch of Granada and the most distinguished vassal of the Castilian sovereigns. Money also was advanced to maintain him in suitable grandeur during his residence at the Castilian court and his return to his dominions. Finally, it was ordered by the sovereigns that when he came to Cordova all the nobles and dignitaries of the court should go forth to receive him.

A question now arose among certain of those ancient and experienced men who grow gray about a court in the profound study of forms and ceremonials, with whom a point of punctilio is as a vast political right, and who contract a sublime and awful idea of the external dignity of the throne. Certain of these court sages propounded the momentous question whether the Moorish monarch, coming to do homage as a vassal, ought not to kneel and kiss the hand of the king. This was immediately decided in the affirmative by a large number of ancient cavaliers, accustomed (says Antonio Agapida) to the lofty punctilio of our most dignified court and transcendent sovereigns. The king, therefore, was informed by those who arranged the ceremonials that when the Moorish monarch appeared in his presence he was expected to extend his royal hand to receive the kiss of homage.

"I should certainly do so," replied King Ferdinand, "were he at liberty and in his own kingdom, but I certainly shall not do so, seeing that he is a prisoner and in mine."

The courtiers loudly applauded the magnanimity of this reply, though many condemned it in secret as savoring of too much generosity toward an infidel; and the worthy Jesuit, Fray Antonio Agapida, fully concurs in their opinion.

The Moorish king entered Cordova with his little train of faithful knights and escorted by all the nobility and chivalry of the Castilian court. He was conducted with great state and ceremony to the royal palace. When he came in presence of Ferdinand he knelt and offered to kiss his hand, not merely in homage as his subject, but in gratitude for his liberty. Ferdinand declined the token of vassalage, and raised him graciously from the earth. An interpreter began, in the name of Boabdil, to laud the magnanimity of the Castilian monarch and to promise the most implicit submision. "Enough!" said King Ferdinand, interrupting the interpreter in the midst of his harangue: "there is no need of these compliments. I trust in his integrity that he will do everything becoming a good man and a good king." With these words he received Boabdil el Chico into his royal friendship and protection.