History of Spain

His daughter Joanna not being considered worthy of occupying the throne, his sister Isabella was recognized as heir to the deceased sovereign. The young queen, one of the most interesting characters in history, was highly endowed both in mind and person. Intelligence beamed in her mild blue eye, and was displayed in a manner which, though modest, was particularly gracious and dignified. In her nineteenth year she had been united to Ferdinand, the hereditary sovereign of Arragon, in conjunction with whom she now began to reign over the united kingdoms. They were not, however, undisturbed; for Alphonso, king of Portugal, whose victories over the Barbary Moors had gained for him the cognomen of the African,' having been affianced to the princess Joanna, invaded Castile to vindicate her claim to the crown. Ferdinand, by a herald, challenged the invader to fight with his whole army or by single combat, and the hostile ranks en countered. Castilian valor prevailed; the standard of Portugal was torn to shreds; the king escaped to a fortified castle, and soon after he withdrew with his youthful bride into Portugal; but the Pope having forbid den their marriage, the hapless princess sought consolation in a con vent.

Ferdinand and Isabella, being now secure, introduced several important reforms for the observance of law, the administration of justice, and the regulation of trade. The Moorish kingdom of Granada was so tempting a prize, that they determined on annexing it to their dominions. Hitherto the two nations, in spite of their natural enmity, had enjoyed much, and not unimportant, friendly intercourse. The Spaniards had acquired something of Arabian gravity of demeanor, magnificence of air, and reserve in conversation, from communicating with their Saracenic neighbors. As late as 1463, Henry had held a personal interview with the king of Granada, under a splendid pavilion erected in the vega, at the foot of the Alhambra, and after an exchange of presents, the Spanish sovereign had been escorted to the frontiers by Moorish cavaliers; but in 1476, when the annual tribute was demanded, the Moorish king proudly replied, that the mints of Granada coined gold no longer, but steel; and he soon after at tacked and carried off the population of the town of Zahara. At this crisis the high-spirited Moor died, and was succeeded by his nephew, the weak and unfortunate Boabdil. Thereupon Ferdinand, entering Granada with the whole force of Arragon and Castile, besieged the city for eight months. The Moorish king then came to the gates, and presenting the keys on a cushion to Ferdinand and Isabella, implored their protection. The valley of Piorchena was assigned him as a residence; but being discontented with his lot, he after a little delay went over to Barbary. On Friday, the 6th of January, 1492, Ferdinand and his queen made their entrance into Granada; the Moslem crescents were plucked from the minarets of the Alhambra, and the arms of Castile and Arragon were displayed in their stead.

The conquest of Granada made Ferdinand master of the fairest province in the Peninsula; and, assuming the title of King of Spain, he recovered from France the districts of which Louis the Crafty had taken possession. He then established the Court of Inquisition, which consigned thousands of his subjects to the flames for heresy, and was put in force against the Jews, who fled by thousands, with their industry and intelligence, to the other states of Europe. For these services, Ferdinand and Isabella were rewarded by the Pope with the title of Catholic Majesties.

About this time Christopher Columbus received from the court of Spain the encouragement which led to discoveries so important. A native of Genoa, he had unsuccessfully applied to the Government of that state for aid in his daring project of sailing to the East Indies by the west, and then made proposals to the Kings of England and Portugal, which were rejected. In 1486 he came to urge his schemes upon the sovereigns of Spain; but after six years of fruitless entreaty, was on the point of leaving the country, when Isabella, at the instance of her confessor, summoned the suitor to her presence. At this interview, the solemn aspect, grave air, and dignified appearance of Columbus, made so favorable an impression on the Queen that she ordered a fleet of three vessels to be fitted out at Palos. At that port, with a hundred and twenty companions, Columbus embarked on the 3d of August, 1492; and on the 12th of October, after thirty days' sail from Canary, came in sight of land, which proved to be one of the Bahama Islands. When the sun rose, the adventurers, manning their boats, rowed ashore, playing martial music, and displaying the royal standard. Columbus, in a scarlet dress, and bearing a naked sword, set his foot on the soil of the new world, and after taking possession of the island on behalf of the Castilian sovereigns, gave it the name of San Salvador. The natives gazed on in silent surprise, and in the simplicity of their hearts be-believed the Spaniards to be preternatural beings.