"Many the chapters dark with fear and failing,
Or bright with hope of conquests yet to be;
There wrote we how the land was rent with wailing,
Blent with exultant sounds of jubilee.
"Round the red chronicles on every border,
Illuminations done by Mercy's hand
Show fair, amid fierce battling and disorder,
Her white tents gleaming up and down the land."
—HARRIET MCEWEN KIMBALL.
The Calm of Isabella's Nature—The Second Birth —Clearness of Mind — Without
Smallness—Habits of Endurance—Sovereign's Responsibility—Her Courage and
Moderation—Her Purity—The Sombre Side—She Favored "Holy Office"—She
Contemned a Heretic—She Expelled The Jews—The Clouds of Bigotry and Superstition
Environed the Queen—Her Genuine Nobility as a Woman Shone through the Clouds.
 IN almost every particular Isabella reaches our ideal of a queen. The calm of her nature,
that quality which the ancients considered as characteristic of their gods, endued her
with a majesty greater than that which royalty can confer. From mere extraneous splendor
such a quality cannot come. The solitude of her youth, when the new heart,
 "the second birth," doubtless came, had been a soil from which abundant virtues had
sprung; beginning early, she went through many tribulations, and in one case only it is
recorded that her equanimity failed her. The clearness of her mental vision astonished her
counsellors; no question arose that she could not seize upon and weigh in all its
bearings. Her good sense, or natural wisdom, never was duped by the most brilliant gifts
offered. Once she declined even the crown of Castile—and posterity is convinced that
she did well then to do so. Anything mean was repugnant to this great soul. When she was
advised to obtain money—most necessary money, by means often employed by her
predecessors, yet contrary to her sense of justice, though Ferdinand would have gladly
followed the advice, she frowned the expedient out of sight in a moment. Her constancy and
endurance were wonderful. It is undoubtedly true that during the Moorish wars she did more
work than her energetic husband, and that but for her the siege of Baza, and later that of
Granada, would have been abandoned. Her understanding of the responsibilities of a
sovereign was such as only the greatest of rulers have possessed. Her courage was under
all conditions unflinching. History, as we have seen, records the illustrative
cir-  cumstance that, when thinking her presence necessary, she appeared suddenly and almost
alone among infuriated crowds, and settled the pending quarrel without fear or favor. Her
moderation was that of a noble masculine nature; she desired victory and not vengeance.
The purity of the court, which followed after the opportune death of King Henry, as soon
as she controlled it, was the pride and perpetual delight of every Spanish heart. Never
was there a time when a counsellor could smile censoriously at her opinion, never an
occasion when a Spaniard doubted her word, and never an instance when a breath of scandal
touched her fair fame.
But after this deserved tribute there is, unfortunately, to her history a sombre side; it
is that of the undoubted bigotry which, apologists confess and say, she imbibed from the
lessons of her mother and of her Church. There is probably in every man something that
belongs to him, and something that belongs to his age or to the circumstances in which he
was born. She allowed the Inquisition to be introduced into her kingdom, and favored it.
And she, like the Russian Czar to-day, countenanced, if she did not actively engage in,
the expulsion of the Jews. The black pall of these two wrongs yet darkens all Spain. How
could. that large mind,
ordi-  narily so clear, have been thus clouded? Here was the fallacious bias. She had been taught
from childhood that whosoever did not believe in that branch of Christ's Church which men
name the great hierarchy of Rome was a heretic. She believed that a heretic was given over
to the Evil One; and it appeared a bounden duty to hate the Evil One. A heretic to her was
hardly a human being; and such feelings as love, friendship, and pity could not apply to
him; or rather, that if applied to him, unless he recanted, they were unnatural
feelings—they were crimes. When Jerome of Prague was burned by the council of
Constance he saw a poor old woman approach the stake with an armful of wood to add to the
heap. "Sancta simplicitas" (holy simplicity), said the martyr with his dying smile.
And we also may say, in speaking of Isabella's abnormal bigotry concerning heresy, as we
would say of the slayers of the Salem witches, "Sancta simplicitas." In their times,
strange as it may now seem, Washington and Taylor could hold slaves; but, thanks be to
God! in our times Lincoln and Grant could free them. In the fifteenth century Isabella,
for the sake of an external Church unity, could allow and favor the holy office, the
terrible Inquisition; but again, thanks be to God!
 an advanced understanding of the teachings of Jesus gives to the kindred soul of a
Castelar a more appropriate idea of what is best for the spread of true religion and what
is needful for the advancement of the Spanish people.
May a complete deliverance from the thraldom of such bigotry and superstition, whose roots
still have some life, soon be consummated in beautiful Spain.
As Abraham Lincoln once said concerning the criticisms upon one of his generals after
Gettysburg: "While we are deeply grateful for what was done, let us not be hypercritical
as to the rest!"
No woman with Isabella's great soul would to-day hate any man whom God loves and for whom
There was that in her last days, as we have been able to record them, which lifts Isabella
to the higher plane of the Christian living and teaching. Her behavior toward her husband,
overlooking his faults, forgiving him for the wrongs which so often he had done her,
meanwhile always guarding his reputation, so as to preserve for him the esteem of the
court and of his children, is certainly remarkable. Her patience with poor Juana, and all
her dealings with that erratic child, when herself ill and suffering, indicated a
 well trained by affliction and adversity. Her steady resistance to the forces of nature,
under sorrow after sorrow, when gloom came over her like a heavy pall, continued
marvellously to the very end. Her will and testament show her ideas of royalty, which were
at variance with the theories of a government by the people; but there was in the document
respect for the rights of the people, patriotic devotion, and a strong sense of justice to
the lowliest of her subjects. Certainly Isabella in those last solemn hours gave evidences
of purity of heart, modesty of deportment, and love toward God and man.
History has justly ranked her among its heroes and heroines as a fearless ruler and a true
May the great souls of to-day, through whom our Lord is to rule, enlighten, and bless the
world, study the life and character of Isabella of Castile, and avoid her errors of theory
and judgment, which are now so evident, and which in the main belonged to her age and
environment; and may they imitate the abounding virtues which greatly prevailed in all her
We conclude with a wish—a hope—that this phenomenal Columbian period, four
hundred years after America's discovery, may bring a renewal of grateful recognition to
 generous and glorious woman who gave success to the Genoese prophet, and thus brought a
New World to mankind.
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