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OLIVER W. HOLMES.
Be Thou a pillared flame to show
God of all nations ! Sovereign Lord !
CVI.-THE WILL OF ISABELLA THE CATHOLIC.
WILLIAM H. PRESCOTT. 1. On the 12th of October, 1504, Queen Isabella executed that celebrated testament which reflects so clearly the peculiar qualities of her mind and character. She begins with prescribing the arrangements for her burial. She orders her remains to be transported to Granada, to the Franciscan monastery of Santa Isabella in the Alhambra, and there deposited in a low and humble sepulchre, without other memorial than a plain inscription on it.
2. “But,” she continues, “should the king, my lord, prefer a sepulchre in some other place, then my will is that my body be there transported, and laid by his side ; that the union we have enjoyed in this world, and, through the mercy of God, may hope again for our souls in heaven, may be represented by our bodies in the earth.” Then, desirous of correcting by her example, in this last act of her life, the wasteful pomp of funeral obsequies to which the Castilians were addicted, she commands that her own should be performed in the plainest and most unostentatious manner, and that the sum saved by this economy should be distributed in alms among the poor.
3. She next provides for several charities, assigning, among others, marriage portions for poor maidens, and a considerable sum for the redemption of Christian captives in Barbary. She enjoins the punctual discharge of all her personal debts within a year ; she retrenches superfluous offices in the royal household, and revokes all such grants, whether in the forms of lands or annuities, as she conceives to have been made without sufficient warrant. She inculcates on her successors the importance of maintaining the integrity of the royal domains, and, above all, of never divesting themselves of their title to the important fortress of Gibraltar.
4. After this, she comes to the succession of the crown, which she settles on the infanta Joanna, as “queen proprietor," and the archduke Philip as her husband. She gives them much good counsel respecting their future administration ; enjoining them, as they would secure the love and obedience of their subjects, to conform in all respects to the laws and usages of the realm, to appoint no foreigner to office,-an error into which Philip's connections, she saw, would be very likely to betray them,-and to make no laws or ordinances, “which necessarily require the consent of cortes," during their absence from the kingdom.
5. She recommends to them the same conjugal harmony which had ever subsisted between her and her husband ; she beseeches them to show the latter all the deference and filial affection “ due to him, beyond every other parent, for his
eminent virtues ;” and finally inculcates on them the most tender regard for the liberties and welfare of their subjects.
6. She next comes to the great question proposed by the cortes of 1503, respecting the government of the realm in the absence or incapacity of Joanna. She declares that, after mature deliberation, and with the advice of many of the prelates and nobles of the kingdom, she appoints King Ferdinand, her husband, to be the sole regent of Castile, in that exigency, until the majority of her grandson Charles ; being led to this, she adds, “ by the consideration of the magnanimity and illustrious qualities of the king, my lord, as well as his large experience, and the great profit which will redound to the state from his wise and beneficent rule.” She expresses her sincere conviction, that his past conduct affords a sufficient guaranty for his faithful administration, but, in compliance with the established usage, requires the customary oath from him on entering on the duties of the office.
7. She then makes a specific provision for her husband's personal maintenance, which, " although less than she could wish, and far less than he deserves, considering the eminent services he had rendered the state," she settles at one half of all the net proceeds and profits accruing from the newly discovered countries in the west ; together with ten million maravedies annually, assigned on the alcavalas of the grandmasterships of the military orders.
8. And, lastly, concluding in the same beautiful strain of conjugal tenderness in which she began, she says, “I beseech the king, my lord, that he will accept all my jewels, or such as he shall select, so that, seeing them, he may be reminded of the singular love I always bore him while living, and that I am now waiting for him in a better world ; by which remembrance he may be encouraged to live the more justly and holily in this.”
9. Six executors were named to the will. The two principal were the king and the primate Ximenes, who had full powers to act in conjunction with any one of the others.
10. I have dwelt the more minutely on the details of Isabella's testament, from the evidence it affords of her constancy in her dying hour to the principles which had governed
her through life; of her expansive and sagacious policy; her prophetic insight into the evils to result from her death, evils, alas! which no forecast could avert; her scrupulous attention to all her personal obligations; and that warm attachment to her friends, which could never falter while a pulse beat in her bosom.
11. After performing this duty, she daily grew weaker; the powers of her mind seemed to brighten, as those of her body declined. The concerns of her government still occupied her thoughts; and several public measures, which she had postponed through urgency of other business, or growing infirmities, pressed so heavily on her heart, that she made them the subject of a codicil to her former will. It was executed November 23d, only three days before her death.
12. Such were the dying words of this admirable woman; displaying the same respect for the rights and liberties of the nation, which she had shown through life, and striving to secure the blessings of her benign administration to the most distant and barbarous regions under her sway. These two documents were a precious legacy bequeathed to her people, to guide them when the light of her personal example should be withdrawn forever.
QUESTIONS.—What is said of Mr. Prescott, in the Note? Of Queen Isabella and the other characters ?
First Paragraph. How long after the discovery of America did the event here mentioned occur? What is a “testament"? What is it to “execute" a testament? Why was this testament “celebrated”?
Second Paragraph. What "king" is meant here? Is it good to lay out a large expense on funerals? What is the meaning of “pomp"? Do you think Isabella's course in this matter commendable? Is it useful to distribute money “in alms among the poor"?
by “Christian captives in Barbary"? Have you ever read anything in the history of the United States about this kind of captives? What is meant by “retrenching superfluous offices”? What is meant by “maintaining the integrity of the royal domains"?
Seventh Paragraph. Why should the queen make “a specific provision for her husband's personal maintenance"? Was not Ferdinand able to take care of himself? [Ferdinand was the king of Aragon, a small state in the south-east part of Spain. Isabella was his wife, but she was queen of Castile, a large and powerful kingdom.]
What is meant by an “expansive and sagacious policy”? What is meant by a“ prophetic insight”? by a “scrupulous attention to personal “ obligations”?
What isat is meant by an in Paragraph.
CVII.—THE DEATH AND CHARACTER OF
ISABELLA THE CATHOLIC.
WILLIAM H. PRESCOTT.
1. The queen's signature to the codicil, which still exists among the manuscripts of the royal library at Madrid, shows, by its irregular and scarcely legible characters, the feeble state to which she was then reduced. She had now adjusted all her worldly concerns, and she prepared to devote herself, during the brief space which remained, to those of a higher nature. It was but the last act of a life of preparation.
2. She had the misfortune, common to persons of her rank, to be separated in her last moments from those whose filial tenderness might have done so much to soften the bitterness of death. But she had the good fortune, most rare, to have secured for this trying hour the solace of disinterested friendship ; for she beheld around her the friends of her childhood, formed and proved in the dark season of adversity.