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Tales of the Alhambra

Relics and Genealogies
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Alhambra Tours

Relics and Genealogies.

IF I HAD been pleased and interested by the count and his family, as furnishing a picture of a Spanish domestic life, I was still more so when apprised of historical circumstances which linked them with the heroic times of Granada. In fact, in this worthy old cavalier, so totally unwarlike, or whose deeds in arms extended, at most, to a war on swallows and martlets, I discovered a lineal descendant and actual representative of Gonsalvo of Cordova, "the Grand Captain," who won some of his brightest laurels before the walls of Granada, and was one of the cavaliers commissioned by Ferdinand and Isabella to negotiate the terms of surrender; nay, more, the count was entitled, did he choose it, to claim remote affinity with some of the ancient Moorish princes, through a scion of his house, Don Pedro Venegas, surnamed the Tornadizo; and by the same token, his daughter, the fascinating little Carmen, might claim to be rightful representative of the princess Cetimerien or the beautiful Lindaraxa.

* Lest this should be deemed a mere stretch of fancy, the reader is referred to the following genealogy, derived by the historian Alcantara, from an Arabian manuscript, on parchment, in the archives of the marquis of Corvera. It is a specimen of the curious affinities between Christians and Moslems, produced by capture and intermarriages, during the Moorish wars. From Aben Hud, the Moorish king, the conqueror of the Almohades, was descended in right line Cid Yahia Abraham Alnagar, prince of Almeria, who married a daughter of King Bermejo. They had three children, commonly called the Cetimerian Princes. 1st. Yusef ben Alhamar, who for a time usurped the throne of Granada. 2d. The Prince Nasar, who married the celebrated Lindaraxa. 3d. The Princess Cetimerien, who married Don Pedro Venegas, captured by the Moors in his boyhood, a younger son of the House of Luque, of which house the old count was the present head.

Understanding from the count that he had some curious relics of the Conquest, preserved in his family archives, I accompanied him early one morning down to his palace in Granada to examine them. The most important of these relics was the sword of the Grand Captain; a weapon destitute of all ostentatious ornament, as the weapons of great generals are apt to be, with a plain hilt of ivory and a broad thin blade. It might furnish a comment on hereditary honors, to see the sword of the grand captain legitimately declined into such feeble hands.

The other relics of the Conquest were a number of espingardas or muskets of unwieldy size and ponderous weight, worthy to rank with those enormous two-edged swords preserved in old armories, which look like relics from the days of the giants.

Besides other hereditary honors, I found the old count was Alferez mayor, or grand standard-bearer, in which capacity he was entitled to bear the ancient standard of Ferdinand and Isabella, on certain high and solemn occasions, and to wave it over their tombs. I was shown also the caparisons of velvet, sumptuously embroidered with gold and silver, for six horses, with which he appeared in state when a new sovereign was to be proclaimed in Granada and Seville; the count mounting one of the horses, and the other five being led by lackeys in rich liveries.

I had hoped to find among the relics and antiquities of the count's palace, some specimens of the armor and weapons of the Moors of Granada, such as I had heard were preserved as trophies by the descendants of the Conquerors; but in this I was disappointed. I was the more curious in this particular, because an erroneous idea has been entertained by many, as to the costumes of the Moors of Spain; supposing them to be of the usual oriental type. On the contrary, we have it on the authority of their own writers, that they adopted in many respects the fashions of the Christians. The turban, especially, so identified in idea with the Moslem, was generally abandoned, except in the western provinces, where it continued in use among people of rank and wealth, and those holding places under government. A woollen cap, red or green, was commonly worn as a substitute; probably the same kind originating in Barbary, and known by the name of Tunis or Fez, which at the present day is worn throughout the east; though generally under the turban. The Jews were obliged to wear them of a yellow color.

In Murcia, Valencia, and other eastern provinces, men of the highest rank might be seen in public bareheaded. The warrior king, Aben Hud, never wore a turban, neither did his rival and competitor Al Hamar, the founder of the Alhambra. A short cloak called Taylasan similar to that seen in Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, was worn by all ranks. It had a hood or cape which people of condition sometimes drew over the head; but the lower class never.

A Moslem cavalier in the thirteenth century, as described by Ibnu Said, was equipped for war very much in the Christian style. Over a complete suit of mail he wore a short scarlet tunic. His helmet was of polished steel; a shield was slung at his back; he wielded a huge spear with a broad point, sometimes a double point. His saddle was cumbrous, projecting very much in front and in rear, and he rode with a banner fluttering behind him.

In the time of Al Khattib of Granada, who wrote in the fourteenth century, the Moslems of Andalus had resumed the Oriental costumes, and were again clad and armed in Arabic fashion: with light helmet, thin but well tempered cuirass, long slender lance, commonly of reed, Arabian saddle and leathern buckler, made of double folds of the skin of the antelope. A wonderful luxury prevailed at that time in the arms and equipments of the Granadian cavaliers. Their armor was inlaid with gold and silver. Their cimeters were of the keenest Damascus blades, with sheaths richly wrought and enamelled, and belts of golden filagree studded with gems. Their daggers of Fez had jewelled hilts, and their lances were set off with gay banderoles. Their horses were caparisoned in correspondent style, with velvet and embroidery.

All this minute description, given by a contemporary, and an author of distinction, verifies those gallant pictures in the old Morisco Spanish ballads which have sometimes been deemed apocryphal, and gives a vivid idea of the brilliant appearance of the chivalry of Granada, when marshalled forth in warlike array, or when celebrating the chivalrous fetes of the Vivarrambla.