King Ferdinand followed up his victory at Loxa by laying siege to the strong town of Illora. This redoubtable fortress was perched upon a high rock in the midst of a spacious valley. It was within four leagues of the Moorish capital, and its lofty castle, keeping vigilant watch over a wide circuit of country, was termed the right eye of Granada.
The alcayde of Illora was one of the bravest of the Moorish commanders, and made every preparation to defend his fortress to the last extremity. He sent the women and children, the aged and infirm, to the metropolis. He placed barricades in the suburbs, opened doors of communication from house to house, and pierced their walls with loopholes for the discharge of crossbows, arquebuses, and other missiles.
King Ferdinand arrived before the place with all his forces; he stationed himself upon the hill of Encinilla, and distributed the other encampments in various situations so as to invest the fortress. Knowing the valiant character of the alcayde and the desperate courage of the Moors, he ordered the encampments to be fortified with trenches and palisadoes, the guards to be doubled, and sentinels to be placed in all the watch-towers of the adjacent heights.
When all was ready the duke del Infantado demanded the attack: it was his first campaign, and he was anxious to disprove the royal insinuation made against the hardihood of his embroidered chivalry. King Ferdinand granted his demand, with a becoming compliment to his spirit; he ordered the count de Cabra to make a simultaneous attack upon a different quarter. Both chiefs led forth their troops-- those of the duke in fresh and brilliant armor, richly ornamented, and as yet uninjured by the service of the field; those of the count were weatherbeaten veterans, whose armor was dented and hacked in many a hard-fought battle. The youthful duke blushed at the contrast. "Cavaliers," cried he, "we have been reproached with the finery of our array: let us prove that a trenchant blade may rest in a gilded sheath. Forward! to the foe! and I trust in God that as we enter this affray knights well accoutred, so we shall leave it cavaliers well proved." His men responded by eager acclamations, and the duke led them forward to the assault. He advanced under a tremendous shower of stones, darts, balls, and arrows, but nothing could check his career; he entered the suburb sword in hand; his men fought furiously, though with great loss, for every dwelling had been turned into a fortress. After a severe conflict they succeeded in driving the Moors into the town about the same time that the other suburb was carried by the count de Cabra and his veterans. The troops of the duke del Infantado came out of the contest thinned in number and covered with blood and dust and wounds; they received the highest encomiums of the king, and there was never afterward any sneer at their embroidery.
The suburbs being taken, three batteries, each furnished with eight huge lombards, were opened upon the fortress. The damage and havoc were tremendous, for the fortifications had not been constructed to withstand such engines. The towers were overthrown, the walls battered to pieces; the interior of the place was all exposed, houses were demolished, and many people slain. The Moors were terrified by the tumbling ruins and the tremendous din. The alcayde had resolved to defend the place until the last extremity: he beheld it a heap of rubbish; there was no prospect of aid from Granada; his people had lost all spirit to fight and were vociferous for a surrender; with a reluctant heart he capitulated. The inhabitants were permitted to depart with all their effects, excepting their arms, and were escorted in safety by the duke del Infantado and the count de Cabra to the bridge of Pinos, within two leagues of Granada.
King Ferdinand gave directions to repair the fortifications of Illora and to place it in a strong state of defence. He left as alcayde of the town and fortress Gonsalvo de Cordova, younger brother of Don Alonso de Aguilar. This gallant cavalier was captain of the royal guards of Ferdinand and Isabella, and gave already proofs of that prowess which afterward rendered him so renowned.
OF THE ARRIVAL OF QUEEN ISABELLA AT THE CAMP BEFORE MOCLIN, AND OF THE PLEASANT SAYINGS OF THE ENGLISH EARL.
The war of Granada, however poets may embroider it with the flowers of their fancy, was certainly one of the sternest of those iron conflicts which have been celebrated under the name of "holy wars." The worthy Fray Antonio Agapida dwells with unsated delight upon the succession of rugged mountain-enterprises, bloody battles, and merciless sackings and ravages which characterized it; yet we find him on one occasion pausing in the full career of victory over the infidels to detail a stately pageant of the Catholic sovereigns.