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Ferdinand soon after fell ill of a fever, and the queen was seized with the same disorder, accompanied with more alarming symptoms. Her illness was exasperated by anxiety for her husband, and she refused to credit the favorable reports of his physicians, while he was detained from her pres
His vigorous constitution, however, threw off the malady, while hers gradually failed under it. Her tender heart was more keenly sensible than his to the unhappy condition of their child, and to the gloomy prospects which awaited her beloved Castile.
Her faithful follower, Martyr, was with the court at this time in Medina del Campo. In a letter to
a the Count of Tendilla, dated October 7th, he states, that the most serious apprehensions were entertained by the physicians for the queen's fate. “Her whole system," he says, “is pervaded by a consuming fever. She loathes food of every kind, , and is tormented with incessant thirst, while the disorder has all the appearance of terminating in a dropsy."
In the meanwhile Isabella lost nothing of her solicitude for the welfare of her people, and the great concerns of government. While reclining, as she was obliged to do a great part of the day, on her couch, she listened to the recital or reading of whatever occurred of interest at home or abroad. She gave audience to distinguished foreigners, especially such Italians as could acquaint her with particulars of the late war, and above all in regard to Gonsalvo de Cordova, in whose fortunes she had always taken the liveliest concern. She received with pleasure, too, such intelligent travellers as her renown had attracted to the Castilian Court. She drew forth their stores of various information, and dismissed them, says a writer of the age, penetrated with the deepest admiration of that strength of mind which sustained her so nobly under the weight of a mortal malady.
This malady was now rapidly gaining ground. On the 15th of October we have another epistle of Martyr, of the following melancholy tenor: “You ask me respecting the state of the queen's health. We sit sorrowful in the palace all day long, tremblingly waiting the hour when religion and virtue shall quit the earth with her. Let us pray that we may be permitted to follow hereafter where she is soon to go.
She so far transcends all human excellence, that there is scarcely anything of mortality about her. She can hardly be said to die, but to pass into a nobler existence, which should rather excite our envy than our sorrow. She leaves the world filled with her renown, and she goes to
enjoy life eternal with her God in heaven. I write this,” he concludes, " between hope and fear, while the breath is still fluttering within her.'
The deepest gloom now overspread the nation. Even Isabella's long illness had failed to prepare the minds of her faithful people for the sad catastrophe. Isabella in the meantime was deluded with no false hopes. She felt too surely the decay of her bodily strength, and she resolved to perform what temporal duties yet remained for her, while her faculties were yet unclouded.
On the 12th of October she 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. “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 commanded 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
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 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 more justly and holily in this.”
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. 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.
As she saw them bathed in tears around her bed, she calmly said, “Do not weep for me, nor waste your time in fruitless prayers for my recovery, but pray rather for the salvation of my soul.” At length, having received the sacraments, and performed all the offices of a sincere and devout Christian, she gently expired a little before noon, on Wednesday, November 26, 1504, in the fiftyfourth year of her age, and thirtieth of her reign.
“My hand,” says Peter Martyr, in a letter written on the same day to the archbishop of Granada, “falls powerless by my side, for very sorrow. The world has lost its noblest ornament; a loss to be deplored not only by Spain, which she has so long carried forward in the career of glory, but by every nation in Christendom; for she was the mirror of every virtue, the shield of the innocent, and an avenging sword to the wicked. I know of none of her sex, in ancient or modern times, who in my judgment is at all worthy to be named with this incomparable woman."
Isabella was of the middle height, and well proportioned. She had a clear, fresh complexion, with light blue eyes and auburn hair—a style of beauty exceedingly rare in Spain. Her features