History of Spain

About the opening of the fifth century, when Alaric, the terrible king of the Visigoths, had sacked and burned the City of the Seven Hills, his brother, Adolph, crossing the Pyrenees, penetrated into Spain, and founded, in that secluded province of the Roman Empire, a kingdom, of which the capital was Toledo - situated on a steep rock, which was washed on three sides by the waters of the Tagus.

The Gothic monarchy, thus established, lasted for three centuries, when Roderick, who wore the crown of Spain, ravished the daughter of a Count named Julian, and thus created an implacable foe. Boiling with resentment, and panting for vengeance, Count Julian crossed to Barbary, and invoked the aid of the adventurous Moors; and forthwith the sound of Moorish horns, and the neighing of war-steeds, and the waving of the Crescent, announced that a Saracenic host had invaded the sunny fields of Spain.

King Roderick encountered the Moors in several battles; and at length, in the summer of 711, a decisive conflict took place at Xeres. There the king king and the flower of his chivalry perished; and the cities quietly yielding to the turbaned victors, a splendid Moorish monarchy was instituted under princes of the line of Omeyades. They exercised a temporal as well as spiritual authority, selected Cordova as their seat of empire, and adorn ed that city with magnificent palaces, colleges, libraries, hospitals, mosques, bridges, and fountains.

The vanquished Spaniards, so far from being harshly treated, enjoyed so much civil and religious liberty, that many remained in their native regions; and the Spanish women freely availed themselves of the invitation to intermarry with the conquerors. Such of the proud barons, indeed, as disdained to submit, escaped to neighboring countries; while others, departing from Andalusia, with its sunny skies and fair landscapes, moved northward, and formed themselves into petty states, at such mortal enmity with each other, and so exposed to the predatory incursions of the Arab cavalry, that the chieftains were under the necessity of keeping their followers in harness night and day.

Notwithstanding their internal feuds, the eyes of the Spaniards were perpetually turned, with the longing of exiles, toward the land of corn and wine of which they had been dispossessed; and they contemplated, with fierce indignation, the Crescent glittering on mosques under which their sires had worshiped the Christian's God. Invoking as their patron St. James, on his white steed, bearing the banner of the Cross, they deemed themselves the champions at once of their country and Christendom; and the Spanish nobles, thus trained from infancy to serve against the Moors, were continually advancing southward, and in the stern school of adversity regained among the mountains of Gallicia so much of their ancestral valor as to render them formidable foes.

In the thirteenth century the Cordovan empire had been reduced to the little province of Granada, in the midst of which stood the beautiful city of that name, on one of whose hills rose the far-famed Alhambra; while the kingdom Of Castile was not only receiving the homage of other states, but even the homage of the Moorish king, who pledged himself to pay an annual rent, to serve in war with a certain number of knights, and to attend the Cortes, or legislative assembly, when summoned.

A hundred years later, Castile was the scene of fierce civil war. Pedro, surnamed the Cruel, had rendered himself unpopular by the severity with which he treated his enemies; and his illegitimate brother, Henry of Trastamare, conceived the idea of seizing the throne. With this view, he applied to Charles V of France, who sent to his aid several companies of Free Lances, commanded by Bertrand Du Guesclin, one of the most valiant warriors of the age. These terrible adventurers, after passing Avignon, and compelling the Pope to bestow upon them gold and his blessing, entered Spain. Pedro disbanded his troops and sought shelter in Gascony, at the court of Edward the Black Prince, by whom he was honorably received; while his rival was proclaimed king in his stead.

Henry of Trastamare transmitted the crown of Castile to his descendants, whose disputed title was decidedly favorable to public liberty, and rendered them deferential to public opinion, till the reign of Henry IV, who ascended the Castilian throne with the promise of a crusade against the Moors of Granada. The preparations made by him for that purpose were attended by results so inadequate, that he fell into contempt with friends and foes.

In the year 1465, on a plain outside the walls of Avila, a platform was erected; and thereon was placed, in royal robes, an effigy of Henry, with the crown on his head, the sceptre in his hand, and the sword of justice by his side. A sentence of deposition was pronounced: the archbishop of Toledo tore off the crown; one Count snatched away the sword; another re moved the sceptre; a third tumbled the figure headlong to the ground; and proclamation was made that Don Alphonso was king of Castile and Leon. But Alphonso died in 1468; and Henry, though reduced to the depths of despair, continued to reign till his decease in 1474.