Queen Isabella the Catholic resolves to hold Alhama whatever the cost

July 7, 2011

Statue of the Queen Isabelle the Catholic, in hallway inside the Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace) in Madrid.

King Ferdinand held a council of war at Cordoba, where it was deliberated what was to be done with Alhama. Most of the council advised that it should be demolished, inasmuch as being in the center of the Moorish kingdom, it would be at all times liable to attack, and could only be maintained by a powerful garrison and at a vast expense. Queen Isabella arrived at Cordoba in the midst of these deliberations, and listened to them with surprise and impatience. “What!” said she, “destroy the first fruits of our victories? Abandon the first place we have wrested from the Moors? Never let us suffer such an idea to occupy our minds. It would argue fear or feebleness, and give new courage to the enemy. You talk of the toil and expense of maintaining Alhama. Did we doubt, on undertaking this war, that it was to be one of infinite cost, labor, and bloodshed? And shall we shrink from the cost, the moment a victory is obtained, and the question is merely to guard or abandon its glorious trophy? Let us hear no more about the destruction of Alhama; let us maintain its walls sacred, as a stronghold granted us by Heaven, in the center of this hostile land; and let our only consideration be how to extend our conquest, and capture the surrounding cities.”

Castillo de Alhama de Granada. Photo by Huerta Cuberos

The language of the Queen infused a more lofty and chivalrous spirit in the royal council. Preparations were made to maintain Alhama at all risk and expense; and King Ferdinand appointed as alcayde, Luis Fernandez Puerto Carrero, Senior of the house of Palma, supported by Diego Lopez de Ayala, Pero Ruiz de Alarcon, and Alonzo Ortiz, captains of four hundred lances, and a body of one thousand foot, supplied with provisions for three months.

Wood carving depicting the entrance of King Ferdinand II (1452-1516) of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile

Washington Irving, Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1893), pp. 76-77.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 90

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