History of Spain

In this terrible situation, Cortez resolved to cut his way to the territory of his Tlascalan allies; and on a July night, after hearing mass, he led his followers from their quarters in the centre of the city. After a bloody fight on the causeway he effected an escape, and reached the open country; but there his little army was suddenly attacked by an overwhelming force. The position of the Spaniards seemed desperate, when Cortez, ever cool and courageous, suddenly penetrated to where the enemy's banner was displayed, killed with his own hand the Mexican general, and instantly changed the fortune of the day. Resting from his fatigues till the autumn, he returned to the capital, where Gautemozin now reigned as Emperor, and commenced warlike operations. But in May, 1521, Cortez, hopeless of otherwise accomplishing his object, took the terrible resolution of destroying every house as he advanced. Burning palaces and temples, he gradually made his way into the market-place, and then reluctantly gave orders for a general assault. The battle, which lasted for two days, was decisive: the youthful Emperor, being taken in a canoe, was executed: and the independence of Mexico was extinguished.

Soon after the conquest of Mexico, Francis Pizarro, landing in Peru with a formidable force, subdued that large, powerful, and flourishing empire, compelled the Peruvians to work the mines for their advantage, and added the conquered territory to the possessions of the Spanish crown.

While his gallant subjects, stimulated by the desire of wealth, were winning for Charles an empire on which the sun never set, war was carried on in Europe; and his great rival, Francis, taken at Pavia, was lying at his mercy in Madrid. But though the might of the Emperor overshadowed the princes of Europe, the Spaniards, regarding him as a stranger and foreigner, revolted in defense of their political rights; the civil wars of the Communeros were the consequence; and Charles, having excluded the grandees from the representation, succeeded in withering by his despotism the free spirit that had long animated the ancient institutions of Castile and Arragon.

While the religious reformation was agitating the other states of Europe, the Spanish nation remained unmoved by the shock, and out of it came Ignatius Loyola, destined not only to rescue the imperiled Papacy, but to breathe new life into the expiring system by which. Rome had for centuries held the human intellect in sacerdotal bondage.

Eight years after his rival Francis had gone to the grave, Charles, in 1556, abdicated the Spanish throne in favor of his son Philip, and a few months later, weary of war and disgusted with grandeur, he resigned the imperial crown to his brother Ferdinand, and retired to indulge his melancholy mood in the monastery of St. Just, on the frontiers of Castile. While there he is reported to have enacted no less extraordinary a scene than the celebration of his own funeral obsequies. After causing a tomb to be erected in the chapel, and making his attendants walk thither in procession, the ex-Emperor followed in his shroud, and was laid in his coffin. The monks then chanted the service for the dead, prayed for the repose of his soul, and shed tears for his departure. This singular ceremony is said to have thrown Charles into a fever, of which he expired in his fifty-ninth year.

Philip II, inherited one of the wealthiest and most magnificent empires on which the sun ever shone, and he sought to increase his hereditary influence by espousing Mary, queen of England, who loved him with the utmost tenderness. But, notwithstanding her displays of affection, Philip, tiring of the society of a spouse so destitute of attractions, and indignant that her subjects would not allow England to be made a fief of Spain, escaped to his Continental dominions. However, when the Pope, jealous of the King's enormous power, formed an alliance with Henry II of France, to detach Milan and the Sicilies from the crown of Spain, Philip considered it expedient to feign some esteem for his Queen, and paying her a visit at Greenwich, obtained the aid of England in his struggle. His army was victorious over the French, led by the Constable Montmorency, at St Quentin; and at Gravelines the Count Egmont vanquished the old Marshal Thermos; after which the King of France, by the Treaty of Cambresis, surrendered to Spain eighty-nine fortified towns in Italy and the Low Countries.

Philip was destined to deal with a sovereign infinitely less accommodating: for, ere the treaty of peace was signed, Queen Mary had breathed her last, and been succeeded on the English throne by a princess whose policy baffled his schemes, and whose courage defied his vengeance. After in vain soliciting the coveted hand of Elizabeth, Philip wedded a daughter of Catherine de Medici; and becoming disquieted on the score of religion, he resolved to gratify his natural bigotry by extirpating from his dominions every species of heresy. He began with the Netherlands, where the Reformed doctrines had made considerable progress, and established the Inquisition with plenary power; but this alienated the hearts of the inhabitants, who, choosing as their leader William of Orange, a Count of the Empire, bravely resisted the power of Spain. Philip proscribed, and set a price on the head of, the Prince of Orange, who was soon assassinated; but his son, Maurice, appeared as his successor, and, with the aid of Queen Elizabeth, ere long secured the independence of the United Provinces.