History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic (10th ed.)/Volume 1/Introduction 1

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Early History and Constitution of Castile. — Invasion of the Arabs. — Slow Reconquest of the Country. — Religious Enthusiasm of the Spaniards. — Influence of their Minstrelsy. — Their Chivalry. — Castilian Towns. — Cortes. — Its Powers. — Its Boldness. — Wealth of the Cities. — The Nobility. — Their Privileges and Wealth. — Knights. — Clergy. — Poverty of the Crown. — Limited extent of the Prerogative.

For several hundred years after the great Saracen invasion in the beginning of the eighth century, Spain was broken up into a number of small, but independent states, divided in their interests, and often in deadly hostility with one another. It was inhabited by races, the most dissimilar in their origin, religion, and government, the least important of which has exerted a sensible influence on the character and institutions of its present inhabitants. At the close of the fifteenth century, these various races were blended into one great nation, under one common rule. Its territorial limits were widely extended by discovery and conquest. Its domestic institutions, and even its literature, were moulded into the form, which, to a considerable extent, they have maintained to the present day. It is the object of the present narrative to exhibit the period, in which these momentous results were effected;—the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella.

State of Spain at the middle of the fifteenth century. By the middle of the fifteenth century, the number of states, into which the country had been divided, was reduced to four; Castile, Aragon, Navarre, and the Moorish kingdom of Granada. The last, comprised within nearly the same limits as the modern province of that name, was all that remained to the Moslems of their once vast possessions in the Peninsula. Its concentrated population gave it a degree of strength altogether disproportioned to the extent of its territory; and the profuse magnificence of its court, which rivalled that of the ancient caliphs, was supported by the labors of a sober, industrious people, under whom agriculture and several of the mechanic arts had reached a degree of excellence, probably unequalled in any other part of Europe during the Middle Ages.

The little kingdom of Navarre, embosomed within the Pyrenees, had often attracted the avarice of neighbouring and more powerful states. But, since their selfish schemes operated as a mutual check upon each other, Navarre still continued to maintain her independence, when all the smaller states in the Peninsula had been absorbed in the gradually increasing dominion of Castile and Aragon.

This latter kingdom comprehended the province of that name, together with Catalonia and Valencia. Under its auspicious climate and free political institutions, its inhabitants displayed an uncommon share of intellectual and moral energy. Its long line of coast opened the way to an extensive and flourishing commerce; and its enterprising navy indemnified the nation for the scantiness of its territory at home, by the important foreign conquests of Sardinia, Sicily, Naples, and the Balearic Isles.

The remaining provinces of Leon, Biscay, the Asturias, Galicia, Old and New Castile, Estremadura, Murcia, and Andalusia, fell to the crown of Castile, which, thus extending its sway over an unbroken line of country from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean, seemed by the magnitude of its territory, as well as by its antiquity, (for it was there that the old Gothic monarchy may be said to have first revived after the great Saracen invasion,) to be entitled to a preëminence over the other states of the Peninsula. This claim, indeed, appears to have been recognised at an early period of her history. Aragon did homage to Castile for her territory on the western bank of the Ebro, until the twelfth century, as did Navarre, Portugal, and, at a later period, the Moorish kingdom of Granada.[1] And, when at length the various states of Spain were consolidated into one monarchy, the capital of Castile became the capital of the new empire, and her language the language of the court and of literature.

Early history and constitution of Castile. It will facilitate our inquiry into the circumstances which immediately led to these results, if we briefly glance at the prominent features in the early history and constitution of the two principal Christian states, Castile and Aragon, previous to the fifteenth century.[2]

The Visigoths. The Visigoths who overran the Peninsula, in the fifth century, brought with them the same liberal principles of government which distinguished their Teutonic brethren. Their crown was declared elective by a formal legislative act.[3] Laws were enacted in the great national councils, composed of prelates and nobility, and not unfrequently ratified in an assembly of the people. Their code of jurisprudence, although abounding in frivolous detail, contained many admirable provisions for the security of justice; and, in the degree of civil liberty which it accorded to the Roman inhabitants of the country, far transcended those of most of the other barbarians of the north.[4] In short, their simple polity exhibited the germ of some of those institutions, which, with other nations, and under happier auspices, have formed the basis of a well-regulated constitutional liberty.[5]

Invasion of the Arabs But, while in other countries the principles of a free government were slowly and gradually unfolded, their developement was much accelerated in Spain by an event, which, at the time, seemed to threaten their total extinction,—the great Saracen invasion at the beginning of the eighth century. The religious, as well as the political institutions of the Arabs, were too dissimilar to those of the conquered nation, to allow the former to exercise any very sensible influence over the latter in these particulars. In the spirit of toleration, which distinguished the early followers of Mahomet, they conceded to such of the Goths, as were willing to continue among them after the conquest, the free enjoyment of their religious, as well as of many of the civil privileges which they possessed under the ancient monarchy.[6] Under this liberal dispensation it cannot be doubted, that many preferred remaining in the pleasant regions of their ancestors, to quitting them for a life of poverty and toil. These, however, appear to have been chiefly of the lower order;[7] and the men of higher rank, or of more generous sentiments, who refused to accept a nominal and precarious independence at the hands of their oppressors, escaped from the overwhelming inundation into the neighbouring countries of France, Italy, and Britain, or retreated behind those natural fortresses of the north, the Asturian hills and the Pyrenees, whither the victorious Saracen disdained to pursue them.[8]

Here the broken remnant of the nation endeavoured to revive the forms, at least, of the ancient government. But it may well be conceived, how imperfect these must have been under a calamity, which, breaking up all the artificial distinctions of society, seemed to resolve it at once into its primitive equality. The monarch, once master of the whole Peninsula, now beheld his empire contracted to a few barren, inhospitable rocks. The noble, instead of the broad lands and thronged halls of his ancestors, saw himself at best but the chief of some wandering horde, seeking a doubtful subsistence, like himself, by rapine. The peasantry, indeed, may be said to have gained by the exchange; and, in a situation, in which all factitious distinctions were of less worth than individual prowess and efficiency, they rose in political consequence. Even slavery, a sore evil among the Visigoths, as indeed among all the barbarians of German origin, though not effaced, lost many of its most revolting features, under the more generous legislation of later times.[9]

Its influence on the condition of the Spaniards. A sensible and salutary influence, at the same time, was exerted on the moral energies of the nation, which had been corrupted in the long enjoyment of uninterrupted prosperity. Indeed, so relaxed were the morals of the court, as well as of the clergy, and so enervated had all classes become, in the general diffusion of luxury, that some authors have not scrupled to refer to these causes principally the perdition of the Gothic monarchy. An entire reformation in these habits was necessarily effected in a situation, where a scanty subsistence could only be earned by a life of extreme temperance and toil, and where it was often to be sought, sword in hand, from an enemy far superior in numbers. Whatever may have been the vices of the Spaniards, they cannot have been those of effeminate sloth. Thus a sober, hardy, and independent race was gradually formed, prepared to assert their ancient inheritance, and to lay the foundations of far more liberal and equitable forms of government, than were known to their ancestors.

Causes of their slow re-conquest of the country. At first, their progress was slow and almost imperceptible. The Saracens, indeed, reposing under the sunny skies of Andalusia, so congenial with their own, seemed willing to relinquish the sterile regions of the north, to an enemy whom they despised. But, when the Spaniards, quitting the shelter of their mountains, descended into the open plains of Leon and Castile, they found themselves exposed to the predatory incursions of the Arab cavalry, who, sweeping over the face of the country, carried off in a single foray the hard-earned produce of a summer's toil. It was not until they had reached some natural boundary, as the river Douro, or the chain of the Guadarrama, that they were enabled, by constructing a line of fortifications along these primitive bulwarks, to secure their conquests, and oppose an effectual resistance to the destructive inroads of their enemies.

Their own dissensions were another cause of their tardy progress. The numerous petty states, which rose from the ruins of the ancient monarchy, seemed to regard each other with even a fiercer hatred than that with which they viewed the enemies of their faith; a circumstance that more than once brought the nation to the verge of ruin. More Christian blood was wasted in these national feuds, than in all their encounters with the infidel. The soldiers of Fernan Gonçalez, a chieftain of the tenth century, complained, that their master made them lead the life of very devils, keeping them in the harness day and night, in wars, not against the Saracens, but one another.[10]

Their ultimate success certain. These circumstances so far palsied the arm of the Christians, that a century and a half elapsed after the invasion, before they had penetrated to the Douro,[11] and nearly thrice that period before they had advanced the line of conquest to the Tagus,[12] notwithstanding this portion of the country had been comparatively deserted by the Mahometans. But it was easy to foresee that a people, living, as they did, under circumstances so well adapted to the developement of both physical and moral energy, must ultimately prevail over a nation oppressed by despotism, and the effeminate indulgence, to which it was naturally disposed by a sensual religion and a voluptuous climate. In truth, the early Spaniard was urged by every motive, that can give efficacy to human purpose.Their religious enthusiasm. Pent up in his barren mountains, he beheld the pleasant valleys and fruitful vineyards of his ancestors delivered over to the spoiler, the holy places polluted by his abominable rites, and the crescent glittering on the domes, which were once consecrated by the venerated symbol of his faith. His cause became the cause of Heaven. The church published her bulls of crusade, offering liberal indulgences to those who served, and Paradise to those who fell in battle, against the infidel. The ancient Castilian was remarkable for his independent resistance of papal encroachment; but the peculiarity of his situation subjected him in an uncommon degree to ecclesiastical influence at home. Priests mingled in the council and the camp, and, arrayed in their sacerdotal robes, not unfrequently led the armies to battle.[13] They interpreted the will of Heaven as mysteriously revealed in dreams and visions. Miracles were a familiar occurrence. The violated tombs of the saints sent forth thunders and lightnings to consume the invaders; and, when the Christians fainted in the fight, the apparition of their patron, St. James, mounted on a milk-white steed, and bearing aloft the banner of the cross, was seen hovering in the air, to rally their broken squadrons, and lead them on to victory.[14] Thus the Spaniard looked upon himself, as in a peculiar manner the care of Providence. For him the laws of nature were suspended. He was a soldier of the Cross, fighting not only for his country, but for Christendom. Indeed, volunteers from the remotest parts of Christendom eagerly thronged to serve under his banner; and the cause of religion was debated with the same ardor in Spain, as on the plains of Palestine.[15] Hence the national character became exalted by a religious fervor, which in later days, alas! settled into a fierce fanaticism. Hence that solicitude for the purity of the faith, the peculiar boast of the Spaniards, and that deep tinge of superstition, for which they have ever been distinguished above the other nations of Europe.

Influence of their minstrelsy. The long wars with the Mahometans served to keep alive in their bosoms the ardent glow of patriotism; and this was still further heightened by the body of traditional minstrelsy, which commemorated in these wars the heroic deeds of their ancestors. The influence of such popular compositions on a simple people is undeniable. A sagacious critic ventures to pronounce the poems of Homer the principal bond which united the Grecian states.[16] Such an opinion may be deemed somewhat extravagant. It cannot be doubted, however, that a poem like that of the "Cid," which appeared as early as the twelfth century,[17] by calling up the most inspiring national recollections in connexion with their favorite hero, must have operated powerfully on the moral sensibilities of the people.

Their charity to the infidel. It is pleasing to observe, in the cordial spirit of these early effusions, little of the ferocious bigotry which sullied the character of the nation, in after ages.[18] The Mahometans of this period far excelled their enemies in general refinement, and had carried some branches of intellectual culture to a height scarcely surpassed by Europeans in later times. The Christians, therefore, notwithstanding their political aversion to the Saracens, conceded to them a degree of respect, which subsided into feelings of a very different complexion, as they themselves rose in the scale of civilization.Their chivalry. This sentiment of respect tempered the ferocity of a warfare, which, although sufficiently disastrous in its details, affords examples of a generous courtesy, that would do honor to the politest ages of Europe.[19] The Spanish Arabs were accomplished in all knightly exercises, and their natural fondness for magnificence, which shed a lustre over the rugged features of chivalry, easily communicated itself to the Christian cavaliers. In the intervals of peace, these latter frequented the courts of the Moorish princes, and mingled with their adversaries in the comparatively peaceful pleasures of the tourney, as in war they vied with them in feats of Quixotic gallantry.[20]

The nature of this warfare between two nations, inhabitants of the same country, yet so dissimilar in their religious and social institutions, as to be almost the natural enemies of each other, was extremely favorable to the exhibition of the characteristic virtues of chivalry. The contiguity of the hostile parties afforded abundant opportunities for personal rencounter and bold romantic enterprise. Each nation had its regular military associations, who swore to devote their lives to the service of God and their country, in perpetual war against the infidel.[21] The Spanish knight became the true hero of romance, wandering over his own land, and even into the remotest climes, in quest of adventures; and, as late as the fifteenth century, we find him in the courts of England and Burgundy, doing battle in honor of his mistress, and challenging general admiration by his uncommon personal intrepidity.[22] This romantic spirit lingered in Castile, long after the age of chivalry had become extinct in other parts of Europe, continuing to nourish itself on those illusions of fancy, which were at length dispelled by the caustic satire of Cervantes.

Thus patriotism, religious loyalty, and a proud sense of independence, founded on the consciousness of owing their possessions to their personal valor, became characteristic traits of the Castilians previously to the sixteenth century, when the oppressive policy and fanaticism of the Austrian dynasty contrived to throw into the shade these generous virtues. Glimpses of them, however, might long be discerned in the haughty bearing of the Castilian noble, and in that erect, high-minded peasantry, whom oppression has not yet been able wholly to subdue.[23]

Early importance of the Castilian towns. To the extraordinary position, in which the nation was placed, may also be referred the liberal forms of its political institutions, as well as a more early developement of them than took place in other countries of Europe. From the exposure of the Castilian towns to the predatory incursions of the Arabs, it became necessary, not only that they should be strongly fortified, but that every citizen should be trained to bear arms in their defence. An immense increase of consequence was given to the burgesses, who thus constituted the most effective part of the national militia. To this circumstance, as well as to the policy of inviting the settlement of frontier places by the grant of extraordinary privilegesTheir privileges. to the inhabitants, is to be imputed the early date, as well as liberal character, of the charters of community in Castile and Leon.[24] These, although varying a good deal in their details, generally conceded to the citizens the right of electing their own magistrates for the regulation of municipal affairs. Judges were appointed by this body for the administration of civil and criminal law, subject to an appeal to the royal tribunal. No person could be affected in life or property, except by a decision of this municipal court; and no cause, while pending before it, could be evoked thence into the superior tribunal. In order to secure the barriers of justice more effectually against the violence of power, so often superior to law in an imperfect state of society, it was provided in many of the charters, that no nobles should be permitted to acquire real property within the limits of the community; that no fortress or palace should be erected by them there; that such as might reside within its territory, should be subject to its jurisdiction; and that any violence, offered by them to its inhabitants, might be forcibly resisted with impunity. Ample and inalienable funds were provided for the maintenance of the municipal functionaries, and for other public expenses. A large

  1. Aragon was formally released from this homage in 1177, and Portugal in 1264. (Mariana, Historia General de España, (Madrid, 1780,) lib. 11, cap. 14; lib. 13, cap. 20.) The king of Granada, Aben Alahmar, swore fealty to St. Ferdinand, in 1245, binding himself to the payment of an annual rent, to serve under him with a stipulated number of his knights in war, and personally attend cortes when summoned;—a whimsical stipulation this for a Mahometan prince. Conde, Historía de la Dominacion de los Arabes en España, (Madrid, 1820, 1821,) tom. iii. cap. 30.
  2. Navarre was too inconsiderable, and bore too near a resemblance in its government to the other Peninsular kingdoms, to require a separate notice; for which, indeed, the national writers afford but very scanty materials. The Moorish empire of Granada, so interesting in itself, and so dissimilar, in all respects, to Christian Spain, merits particular attention. I have deferred the consideration of it, however, to that period of the history, which is occupied with its subversion. See Part I., Chapter 8.
  3. See the Canons of the fifth Council of Toledo. Florez, España Sagrada, (Madrid, 1747–1776,) tom. vi. p. 168.
  4. Recesvinto, in order more effectually to bring about the consolidation of his Gothic and Roman subjects into one nation, abrogated the law prohibiting their intermarriage. The terms in which his enactment is conceived, disclose a far more enlightened policy than that pursued either by the Franks or Lombards. (See the Fuero Juzgo, (ed. de la Acad., Madrid, 1815,) lib. 3, tit. 1, ley 1.)—The Visigothic code, Fuero Juzgo, (Forum Judicum,) originally compiled in Latin, was translated into Spanish under St. Ferdinand; a copy of which version was first printed in 1600, at Madrid. (Los Doctores Asso y Manuel, Instituciones del Derecho Civil de Castilla, (Madrid, 1792,) pp. 6, 7.) A second edition, under the supervision of the Royal Spanish Academy, was published in 1815. This compilation, notwithstanding the apparent rudeness and even ferocity of some of its features, may be said to have formed the basis of all the subsequent legislation of Castile. It was, doubtless, the exclusive contemplation of these features, which brought upon these laws the sweeping condemnation of Montesquieu, as "puériles, gauches, idiotes,—frivoles dans le fond et gigantesques dans le style." Esprit des Loix, liv. 28, chap. 1.
  5. Some of the local usages, afterwards incorporated in the fueros, or charters, of the Castilian communities, may probably be derived from the time of the Visigoths. The English reader may form a good idea of the tenor of the legal institutions of this people and their immediate descendants, from an article in the sixty-first Number of the Edinburgh Review, written with equal learning and vivacity.
  6. The Christians, in all matters exclusively relating to themselves, were governed by their own laws, (See the Fuero Juzgo, Introd. p. 40,) administered by their own judges, subject only in capital cases to an appeal to the Moorish tribunals. Their churches and monasteries (rosæ inter spinas, says the historian) were scattered over the principal towns, Cordova retaining seven, Toledo six, &c.; and their clergy were allowed to display the costume, and celebrate the pompous ceremonial, of the Romish communion. Florez, España Sagrada, tom. x. trat. 33, cap. 7.—Morales, Corónica General de España, (Obras, Madrid, 1791–1793,) lib. 12, cap. 78.—Conde, Dominacion de los Arabes, part. 1, cap. 15, 22.
  7. Morales, Corónica, lib. 12, cap. 77.—Yet the names of several nobles resident among the Moors appear in the record of those times. (See Salazar de Mendoza, Monarquía de España, (Madrid, 1770,) tom. i. p. 34, note.) If we could rely on a singular fact, quoted by Zurita, we might infer that a large proportion of the Goths were content to reside among their Saracen conquerors. The intermarriages among the two nations had been so frequent, that, in 1311, the ambassador of James II., of Aragon, stated to his Holiness, Pope Clement V., that of 200,000 persons composing the population of Granada, not more than 500 were of pure Moorish descent! (Anales de la Corona de Aragon, (Zaragoza, 1610,) lib. 5, cap. 93.) As the object of the statement was to obtain certain ecclesiastical aids from the pontiff, in the prosecution of the Moorish war, it appears very suspicious, notwithstanding the emphasis laid on it by the historian.
  8. Bleda, Corónica de los Moros de España, (Valencia, 1618,) p. 171.—This author states, that in his time there were several families in Ireland, whose patronymics bore testimony to their descent from these Spanish exiles. That careful antiquarian, Morales, considers the regions of the Pyrenees lying betwixt Aragon and Navarre, together with the Asturias, Biscay, Guipuscoa, the northern portion of Galicia and the Alpuxarras, (the last retreat, too, of the Moors, under the Christian domination,) to have been untouched by the Saracen invaders. See lib. 12, cap. 76.
  9. The lot of the Visigothic slave was sufficiently hard. The oppressions, which this unhappy race endured, were such as to lead Mr.Southey, in his excellent Introduction to the "Chronicle of the Cid," to impute to their coöperation, in part, the easy conquest of the country by the Arabs. But, although the laws, in relation to them, seem to be taken up with determining their incapacities rather than their privileges, it is probable that they secured to them, on the whole, quite as great a degree of civil consequence, as was enjoyed by similar classes in the rest of Europe. By the Fuero Juzgo, the slave was allowed to acquire property for himself, and with it to purchase his own redemption. (Lib. 5, tit. 4, ley 16.) A certain proportion of every man's slaves were also required to bear arms, and to accompany their master to the field. (Lib. 9, tit 2, ley 8.) But their relative rank is better ascertained by the amount of composition (that accurate measurement of civil rights with all the barbarians of the north) prescribed for any personal violence inflicted on them. Thus, by the Salic law, the life of a free Roman was estimated at only one fifth of that of a Frank, (Lex Salica, tit. 43, sec. 1, 8;) while, by the law of the Visigoths, the life of a slave was valued at half of that of a freeman, (lib. 6, tit. 4, ley 1.) In the latter code, moreover, the master was prohibited, under the severe penalties of banishment and sequestration of property, from either maiming or murdering his own slave, (lib. 6, tit. 5, leyes 12, 13 ;) while, in other codes of the barbarians, the penalty was confined to similar trespasses on the slaves of another; and, by the Salic law, no higher mulct was imposed for killing, than for kidnapping a slave. (Lex Salica, tit. 11, sec. 1, 3.) The legislation of the Visigoths, in those particulars, seems to have regarded this unhappy race as not merely a distinct species of property. It provided for their personal security, instead of limiting itself to the indemnification of their masters.
  10. Corónica General, part. 3, fol. 54.
  11. According to Morales, (Corónica, lib. 13, cap. 57,) this took place about 850.
  12. Toledo was not reconquered until 1085; Lisbon, in 1147.
  13. The archbishops of Toledo, whose revenues and retinues far exceeded those of the other ecclesiastics, were particularly conspicuous in these holy wars. Mariana, speaking of one of these belligerent prelates, considers it worthy of encomium, that "it is not easy to decide whether he was most conspicuous for his good government in peace, or his conduct and valor in war." Hist, de España, tom. ii. p. 14.
  14. The first occasion, on which the military apostle condescended to reveal himself to the Leonese, was the memorable day of Clavijo, A. D. 844, when 70,000 infidels fell on the field. From that time, the name of St. Jago, became the battle-cry of the Spaniards. The truth of the story is attested by a contemporary charter of Ramiro I. to the church of the saint, granting it an annual tribute of corn and wine from the towns in his dominions, and a knight's portion of the spoils of every victory over the Mussulmans. The privilegio del voto, as it is called, is given at length by Florez in his Collection, (España Sagrada, tom. xix. p. 329,) and is unhesitatingly cited by most of the Spanish historians, as Garibay, Mariana, Morales, and others.—More sharp-sighted critics discover, in its anachronisms, and other palpable blunders, ample evidence of its forgery. (Mondejar, Advertencias á la Historia de Mariana (Valencia, 1746,) no. 157,—Masdeu, Historia Crítica de España, y de la Cultura Española, (Madrid, 1783–1805,) tom. xvi. supl. 18.) The canons of Compostella, however, seem to have found their account in it, as the tribute of good cheer, which it imposed, continued to be paid by some of the Castilian towns, according to Mariana, in his day. Hist. de España, tom. i, p. 416.
  15. French, Flemish, Italian, and English volunteers, led by men of distinguished rank, are recorded by the Spanish writers to have been present at the sieges of Toledo, Lisbon, Algeziras, and various others. More than sixty, or, as some accounts state, a hundred thousand, joined the army before the battle of Navas de Tolosa; a round exaggeration, which, however, implies the great number of such auxiliaries. (Garibay, Compendio Historial de las Chronicas de España, (Barcelona, 1628,) lib. 12, cap. 33.) The crusades in Spain were as rational enterprises, as those in the East were vain and chimerical. Pope Pascal II. acted like a man of sense, when he sent back certain Spanish adventurers, who had embarked in the wars of Palestine, telling them, that "the cause of religion could be much better served by them at home."
  16. See Heeren, Politics of Ancient Greece, translated by Bancroft, chap. 7.
  17. The oldest manuscript extant of this poem, (still preserved at Bivar, the hero's birth-place,) bears the date of 1207, or at latest 1307, for there is some obscurity in the writing. Its learned editor, Sanchez, has been led by the peculiarities of its orthography, metre, and idiom, to refer its composition to as early a date as 1153. (Coleccion de Poesías Castellanas anteriores al Siglo XV. (Madrid, 1779–90,) tom. i. p. 223.) Some of the late Spanish antiquaries have manifested a skepticism in relation to the "Cid," truly alarming. A volume was published at Madrid, in 1792, by Risco, under the title of "Castilla, o Historia de Rodrigo Diaz," &c., which he worthy father ushered into the world with much solemnity, as a transcript of an original manuscript coeval with the time of the "Cid," and fortunately discovered by him in an obscure corner of some Leonese monastery. (Prologo.) Masdeu, in an analysis of this precious document, has been led to scrutinize the grounds, on which the reputed achievements of the "Cid" have rested from time immemorial, and concludes with the startling assertion, that "of Rodrigo Diaz, el Campeador, we absolutely know nothing, with any degree of probability, not even his existence!" (Hist. Crítica, tom. xx. p. 370.) There are probably few of his countrymen, that will thus coolly acquiesce in the annihilation of their favorite hero, whose exploits have been the burden of chronicle, as well as romance, from the twelfth century down to the present day. They may find a warrant for their fond credulity, in the dispassionate judgment of one of the greatest of modern historians, John Muller, who, so far from doubting the existence of the Campeador, has succeeded, in his own opinion at least, in clearing from his history the "mists of fable and extravagance," in which it has been shrouded. See his Life of the Cid, appended to Escobar's "Romancero," edited by the learned and estimable Dr. Julius, of Berlin. Frankfort, 1828.
  18. A modern minstrel inveighs loudly against this charity of his ancestors, who devoted their "cantos de cigarra," to the glorification of this "Moorish rabble," instead of celebrating the prowess of the Cid, Bernardo, and other worthies of their own nation. His discourtesy, however, is well rebuked by a more generous brother of the craft.

    "No es culpa si de los Moros
    los valientes hechos cantan.
    pues tanto mas resplandecen
    nuestras celebres hazañas;
    que el encarecer los hechos
    del vencido en la batalla,
    engrandece al vencedor,
    aunque no hablen de el palabra."
    Duran, Romancero de Romances
    Moriscos, (Madrid, 1828,) p. 227.

  19. When the empress queen of Alfonso VII. was besieged in the castle of Azeca, in 1139, she reproached the Moslem cavaliers for their want of courtesy and courage in attacking a fortress defended by a female. They acknowledged the justice of the rebuke, and only requested that she would condescend to show herself to them from her palace; when the Moorish chivalry, after paying their obeisance to her in the most respectful manner, instantly raised the siege, and departed. (Ferreras, Histoire Générale d'Espagne, traduite par d'Hermilly, (Paris, 1742–51,) tom. iii. p. 410.) It was a frequent occurrence to restore a noble captive to liberty without ransom, and even with costly presents. Thus Alfonso XI. sent back to their father two daughters of a Moorish prince, who formed part of the spoils of the battle of Tarifa. (Mariana, Hist, de España, tom. ii. p. 32.) When this same Castilian sovereign, after a career of almost uninterrupted victory over the Moslems, died of the plague before Gibraltar, in 1350, the knights of Granada put on mourning for him, saying, that "he was a noble prince, and one that knew how to honor his enemies as well as his friends." Conde, Dominacion de los Arabes, tom. iii. p. 149.
  20. One of the most extraordinary achievements, in this way, was that of the grand master of Alcantara, in 1394, who, after ineffectually challenging the king of Granada to meet him in single combat, or with a force double that of his own, marched boldly up to the gates of his capital, where he was assailed by such an overwhelming host, that he with all his little band perished on the field. (Mariana, Hist. de España, lib. 19, cap. 3.) It was over this worthy compeer of Don Quixote, that the epitaph was inscribed, "Here lies one who never knew fear," which led Charles V. to remark to one of his courtiers, that "the good knight could never have tried to snuff a candle with his fingers."
  21. This singular fact, of the existence of an Arabic military order, is recorded by Conde. (Dominacion de los Arabes, tom. i. p. 619, note.) The brethren were distinguished for the simplicity of their attire, and their austere and frugal habits. They were stationed on the Moorish marches, and were bound by a vow of perpetual war against the Christian infidel. As their existence is traced as far back as 1030, they may possibly have suggested the organization of similar institutions in Christendom, which they preceded by a century at least. The loyal historians of the Spanish military orders, it is true, would carry that of St. Jago as far back as the time of Ramiro I., in the ninth century; (Caro de Torres, Historia de las Ordenes Militares de Santiago, Calatrava, y Alcantara, (Madrid, 1629,) fol. 2.—Rades y Andrada, Chrónica de las Tres Ordenes y Cavallerías, (Toledo, 1572,) fol. 4.) but less prejudiced critics, as Zurita and Mariana, are content with dating it from the papal bull of Alexander III., 1175.
  22. In one of the Paston letters, we find the notice of a Spanish knight appearing at the court of Henry VI., "wyth a Kercheff of Plesaunce iwrapped aboute hys arme, the gwych Knight," says the writer, "wyl renne a cours wyth a sharpe spere for his sou'eyn lady sake." (Fenn, Original Letters, (1787,) vol. i. p. 6.) The practice of using sharp spears, instead of the guarded and blunted weapons usual in the tournament, seems to have been affected by the chivalrous nobles of Castile; many of whom, says the Chronicle of Juan II., lost their lives from this circumstance, in the splendid tourney given in honor of the nuptials of Blanche of Navarre and Henry, son of John II. (Crónica de D. Juan II., (Valencia, 1779,) p. 411.) Monstrelet records the adventures of a Spanish cavalier, who "travelled all the way to the court of Burgundy to seek honor and reverence" by his feats of arms. His antagonist was the Lord of Chargny; on the second day they fought with battle-axes, and "the Castilian attracted general admiration, by his uncommon daring in fighting with his visor up." Chroniques, (Paris, 1595,) tom. ii. p. 109.
  23. The Venetian ambassador, Navagiero, speaking of the manners of the Castilian nobles, in Charles V.'s time, remarks somewhat bluntly, that, "if their power were equal to their pride, the whole world would not be able to withstand them." Viaggio fatto in Spagna et in Francia, (Vinegia, 1563,) fol. 10.
  24. The most ancient of these regular charters of incorporation, now extant, was granted by Alfonso V., in 1020, to the city of Leon and its territory. (Marina rejects those of an earlier date, adduced by Asso and Manuel and other writers. Ensayo Histórico-Crítico, sobre la Antigua Legislacion de Castilla, (Madrid, 1808,) pp. 80–82.) It preceded, by a Iong interval, those granted to the burgesses in other parts of Europe, with the exception, perhaps, of Italy; where several of the cities, as Milan, Pavia, and Pisa, seem early in the eleventh century to have exercised some of the functions of independent states. But the extent of municipal immunities conceded to, or rather assumed by, the Italian cities at this early period, is very equivocal; for their indefatigable antiquarian confesses that all, or nearly all their archives, previous to the time of Frederic I., (the latter part of the twelfth century,) had perished amid their frequent civil convulsions. (See the subject in detail, in Muratori, Dissertazioni sopra le Antichità Italiane, (Napoli, 1752,) dissert. 45.) Acts of enfranchisement became frequent in Spain during the eleventh century; several of which are preserved, and exhibit, Avith sufficient precision, the nature of the privileges accorded to the inhabitants.—Robertson, who wrote when the constitutional antiquities of Castile had been but sliglitly investigated, would seem to have little authority, therefore, for deriving the establishment of communities from Italy, and still less for tracing their progress through France and Germany to Spain. See his History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V., (London, 1796,) vol. i. pp. 29, 30