THE STORY OF QUEEN EXILONA
 WHEN Roderic overthrew the ancient dynasty of Spain and made himself king, he had the defences of the cities thrown down that
they might not give shelter to his enemies. Only the walls of the frontier cities were left, and among these was the
ancient city of Denia, on the Mediterranean shores. Dread of the Moorish pirates was felt in this stronghold, and a
strong castle was built on a high rock that overlooked the sea. To the old alcaide who served as governor of Denia word
was brought, at the end of a day of fierce tempest, that a Moorish ship was approaching the shore. Instantly the bells
were rung to rouse the people, and signal fires were kindled on the tower that they might flash from peak to peak the
news of an invasion by the Moors.
But as the ship came closer it was seen that alarm had been taken too soon. The vessel was alone and had evidently been
in the grip of the tempest. It was seen to be a bark rich in carving and gilding, adorned with silken banderoles, and
driven through the water by banks of crimson oars; a vessel of state and ceremony, not a ship of war. As it came nearer
it was perceived to have suffered severely in the ruthless grasp of the storm. Broken were its masts and shattered its
oars, while there fluttered in the wind the torn remnants of its banners and sails.
 When at length it grounded on the sands below the castle the proud bark was little better than a shattered wreck.
It was with deep curiosity that the Spaniards saw on the deck of the stranded bark a group of high-born Moors, men and
maidens dressed in robes of silk rich with jewels, and their features bearing the stamp of lofty rank. In their midst
stood a young lady of striking beauty, sumptuously attired, and evidently of the highest station, for all paid her
reverence, and a guard of armed Moors stood around her, scimitar in hand.
On landing, a venerable Moor approached the alcaide, who had descended to meet the strangers, and said, in such words of
the Gothic language as he could command,—
"Worthy sir, we beg your protection and compassion. The princess under our care is the only daughter of the king of
Algiers, on her way to the court of the king of Tunis, to whom she is betrothed. The tempest has driven us to your
shores. Be not, we implore you, more cruel than the storm, which has spared us and our precious charge."
The alcaide returned a courteous answer, offering the princess and her train the shelter of the castle, but saying that
he had not the power to release them. They must hold themselves the captives of Roderic, the king of the Goths, to whom
his duty required him to send them. The fate of a royal captive, he said, could be decided only by the royal voice.
Some days afterwards Elyata, the Moorish princess, entered Toledo in a procession more like that of
 a triumphant heroine than of a captive. A band of Christian horsemen preceded the train. The Moorish guard, richly
attired, followed. In the midst rode the princess, surrounded by her maidens and dressed in her bridal robes, which were
resplendent with pearls, diamonds, and other gems. Roderic advanced in state from his palace to receive her, and was so
struck with her beauty and dignity of aspect that at first sight warm emotions filled his heart.
TOLEDO, WITH THE ALCAZAR.
Elyata was sadly downcast at her captivity, but Roderic, though not releasing her, did all he could to make her lot a
pleasant one. A royal palace was set aside for her residence, in whose spacious apartments and charming groves and
gardens the grief of the princess gradually softened and passed away. Roderic, moved by a growing passion, frequently
visited her, and in time soft sentiments woke in her heart for the handsome and courteous king. When, in the end, he
begged her to become his bride her blushes and soft looks spoke consent.
On thing was wanting. Roderic's bride should be a Christian. Taught the doctrines of the new faith by learned bishops,
Elyata's consent to the change of faith was easily won, and the princess was baptized as a Christian maiden under the
new name of Exilona. The marriage was celebrated with the greatest magnificence, and was followed by tourneys and
banquets and all the gayeties of the time. Some of the companions of the princess accepted the new faith and remained
with her. Those who clung to their old belief were sent back to Africa with rich presents from the king, an embassy
going with them
 to inform the monarch of Algiers of his daughter's marriage, and to offer him the alliance and friendship of Roderic the
Queen Exilona passed a happy life as the bride of the Gothic monarch, but many were the vicissitudes which lay before
her, for the Arab conquest was near at hand and its effects could not but bear heavily upon her destiny. After the
defeat and death of Roderic a considerable number of noble Goths sought shelter in the city of Merida, among them the
widowed queen. Thither came Musa with a large army and besieged the city. It was strongly and bravely defended, and the
gallant garrison only yielded when famine came to the aid of their foes.
A deputation from the city sought the Arab camp and was conducted to the splendid pavilion of Musa, whom the deputies
found to be an old man with long white beard and streaming white hair. He received them kindly, praised them for their
valor, and offered them favorable terms. They returned the next day to complete the conditions. On this day the
Mohammedan fast of Ramadhan ended, and the Arabs, who had worn their meanest garb, were now in their richest attire, and
joy had everywhere succeeded penitent gloom. As for Musa, he seemed transformed. The meanly dressed and hoary ancient of
the previous visit now appeared a man in the prime of life, his beard dark-red in hue, and his robes rich with gold and
jewels. The Goths, to whom the art of dyeing the hair was unknown, looked on the transformation as a miracle.
"We have seen," they said on their return, "their
 king, who was an old man, become a young one. We have to do with a nation of prophets who can change their appearance at
will and transform themselves into any shape they like. Our advice is that we should grant Musa his demands, for men
like these we cannot resist."
The stratagem of the Arab was successful, the gates were opened, and Merida became a captive city. The people were left
their private wealth and were free to come and go as they would, with the exception of some of their noblest, who were
to be held as hostages. Among these was the widowed Queen Exilona.
She was still young and beautiful. By paying tribute she was allowed to live unmolested, and in this way she passed to
the second phase of her romantic career. Arab fancy has surrounded her history with many surprising incidents, and Lope
de Vega, the Spanish dramatist, has made her the heroine of a romantic play, but her actual history is so full of
interest that we need not draw contributions from fable or invention.
When Musa went to Syria at the command of the caliph he left his son Abdul-Aziz as emir or governor of Spain. The new
emir was a young, handsome, and gallant man. He had won fame in Africa, and gained new repute for wisdom and courage in
Spain. The Moorish princess who had become a Gothic queen was now a hostage in his hands, and her charms moved his
susceptible heart. His persuasive tongue and attractive person were not without their effect upon the fair captive, who
a second time lost her
 heart to her captor, and agreed once more to become a bride. Her first husband had been the king of Gothic Spain. Her
second was the ruler of Moorish Spain. She declined to yield her Christian creed, but she became his wife and the queen
of his heart, called by him Ummi-Assam, a name of endearment common in Arab households.
Exilona was ambitious, and sought to induce her new husband to assume the style of a king. She made him a crown of gold
and precious stones which her soft persuasion induced him to wear. She bowed in his presence as if to a royal potentate,
and to oblige the nobles to do the same she induced him to have the door-way of his audience chamber made so low that no
one could enter it without making an involuntary bow. She even tried to convert him to Christianity, and built a low
door to her oratory, so that any one entering would seem to bow to the cross.
These arts of the queen proved fatal to the prince whom she desired to exalt, for this and other stories were told to
the caliph, who was seeking some excuse to proceed against the sons of Musa, whose ruin he had sworn. It was told him
that Abdul-Aziz was seeking to make Spain independent and was bowing before strange gods. Soliman asked no more, but
sent the order for his death.
It was to friends of the emir that the fatal mandate was sent. They loved the mild Abdul, but they were true sons of
Islam, and did not dare to question the order of the Commander of the Faithful. The emir was then at a villa near
Seville, whither he was
 accustomed to withdraw from the cares of state to the society of his beloved wife. Near by he had built a mosque, and
here, on the morning of his death, he entered and began to read the Koran.
A noise at the door disturbed him, and in a moment a throng burst into the building. At their head was Habib, his
trusted friend, who rushed upon him and struck him with a dagger. The emir was unhurt, and sought to escape, but the
others were quickly upon him, and in a moment his body was rent with dagger strokes and he had fallen dead. His head was
at once cut off, embalmed, and sent to the caliph. The cruel use made of it we have told.
A wild commotion followed when the people learned of this murder, but it was soon quelled. The power of the caliph was
yet too strong to be questioned, even in far-off Spain. What became of Exilona we do not know. Some say that she was
slain with her husband; some that she survived him and died in privacy. However it be, her life was one of singular
As for the kindly and unfortunate emir, his memory was long fondly cherished in Spain, and his name still exists in the
title of a valley in the suburbs of Antequera, which was named Abdelaxis in his honor.
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