Excerpt of The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
(Page 9 of 13)
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The Moor was down, plucking at his breast, his great sword dropped to
one side. In de la Vega's left hand was a short stabbing dagger, stained
with blood, a hidden weapon used in a desperate riposte. With a
superhuman effort, the Moor got to his feet, turned his back on the
Christian, and staggered towards his own ranks. "I am lost," he said to
the men who ran forwards to catch him. "We have lost."
At a hidden signal, the great gates of the red fort opened and the
soldiers started to pour out. Juana leapt to her feet. "Madre, we must
run!" she screamed. "They are coming! They are coming in their
Isabella did not rise from her knees, even when her daughter dashed
across the roof and ran down the stairs. "Juana, come back," she ordered
in a voice like a whip crack. "Girls, you will pray."
She rose and went to the parapet. First she looked to the marshaling
of her army, saw that the officers were setting the men into formation
ready for a charge as the Moorish army, terrifying in their forward
rush, came pouring on. Then she glanced down to see Juana, in a frenzy
of fear, peeping around the garden wall, unsure whether to run for her
horse or back to her mother.
Isabella, who loved her daughter, said not another word. She returned
to the other girls and kneeled with them. "Let us pray," she said and
closed her eyes.
"She didn't even look!" Juana repeated incredulously that night when
they were in their room, washing their hands and changing their dirty
clothes, Juana's tear-streaked face finally clean. "There we are, in the
middle of a battle, and she closes her eyes!"
"She knew that she would do more good appealing for the intercession
of God than running around crying," Isabel said pointedly. "And it gave
the army better heart than anything else to see her, on her knees, in
full sight of everyone."
"What if she had been hit by an arrow or a spear?"
"She was not. We were not. And we won the battle. And you, Juana,
behaved like a half-mad peasant. I was ashamed of you. I don't know what
gets into you. Are you mad or just wicked?"
"Oh, who cares what you think, you stupid widow?"
6th January 1492
Day by day the heart went out of the Moors. The Queen's Skirmish
turned out to be their last battle. Their champion was dead, their city
encircled, they were starving in the land that their fathers had made
fertile. Worse, the promised support from Africa had failed them -- the
Turks had sworn friendship, but the janissaries did not come, their king
had lost his nerve, his son was a hostage with the Christians, and
before them were the princes of Spain, Isabella and Ferdinand, with all
the power of Christendom behind them, with a holy war declared and a
Christian crusade gathering pace with the scent of success. Within a few
days of the meeting of the champions, Boabdil, the King of Granada, had
agreed upon terms of peace, and a few days after, in the ceremony
planned with all the grace that was typical of the Moors of Spain, he
came down on foot to the iron gates of the city with the keys to the
Alhambra Palace on a silken pillow and handed them over to the King and
Queen of Spain in a complete surrender.
Granada, the red fort that stood above the city to guard it, and the
gorgeous palace which was hidden inside the walls -- the Alhambra --
were given to Ferdinand and to Isabella.
Copyright © 2005 by Philippa Gregory Limited. Reproduced by permission of Simon & Schuster Publishing.