Boabdil, the last King of Granada
“You cry like a woman who couldn’t defend like a man” is what, according to legend, Boabdil’s mother said to him when he was sobbing from handing over his kingdom to the Catholic Kings. It’s funny that the only thing remembered of him is a phrase his mother said. So let’s give a bit of justice to the last king of Granada.
Let’s start with his image: if you’ve seen paintings like “La rendición de Granada” by Francisco Pradilla; or a series like “Isabel” or “Réquiem por Granada” you’ll already have an image of what this king looked like: brown skin, jet black hair… but it seems that Boabdil was blond, tall, and pale.
Another common thought of Boabdil is his weakness and lack of determination. Well he was none of that: he was valiance and brave, which he demonstrated at the battle of Loja, in which he arrived and fought body to body against Castillian troops. He also forged himself famous for his cunningness after managing to take the throne from his father, and defend the title against his uncle, known as “El Zagal”.
Few people know this, but Boabdil was captured by the Catholic Kings during the battle of Martín González. The crafty king of Granada took advantage of the situation by negotiating the ceding of the kingdom’s territories to the Castilians, only the ones that belonged to El Zagal. Boabdil was thus assured of his freedom and the capture of his main rival to the throne. But he did not expect the Catholic Kings to also take advantage of the maneuver to go further than agreed, and take the entire kingdom.
Another myth we must knock down is that of his exile: after the taking of Granada in 1492, the Catholic Kings did not thrown Boabdil out of Spain, but offered him the seigneur of the Alpujarras (territories between Granada and Almeria). But it’s said there was a reconsideration, probably encouraged by King Ferdinand, who always thought Boabdil’s presence on the peninsula would encourage Muslim revolts. So, it was decided to send him to Fez, where he’d spend the rest of his days. The already deposed monarch always benefitted from the situation by selling his privileges and lands to the Catholic Kings.
A much more interesting biography than the one that spews myths. Take note, because rarely is real history better than legend.