22/10/09

Exilona and Abdelaziz, a forbidden love story



Exilona (or Egilona) was the wife of the last Visigoth king of Spain, Roderick, who was dead after the Muslim invasion of the peninsula at the battle of river Guadalete.

Among the muslims even stayed the proud widowed Queen Exilona.

She was still young and beautiful. By paying tribute she was allowed to live unmolested, and in this way she passed to the second phase of her romantic career. Arab fancy has surrounded her history with many surprising incidents, and Lope de Vega, the Spaniard dramatist, has made her the heroine of a romantic play, but her actual history is so full of interest that we need not draw contributions from fable or invention.

When Muza went to Syria at the command of the caliph he left his son Abdulaziz as emir or governor of Spain. The new emir was a young, handsome, and gallant man. He had won fame in Africa, and gained new repute for wisdom and courage in Spain. The beautiful princess who had become a Gothic queen was now a hostage in his hands, and her charms moved his susceptible heart. His persuasive tongue and attractive person were not without their effect upon the fair captive, who a second time lost her heart to her captor, and agreed once more to become a bride. Her first husband had been the king of Gothic Spain. Her second was the ruler of Muslim Spain. She declined to yield her Christian creed, the true Faith, but she became his wife and the queen of his heart, called by him Ummi-Assam, a name of endearment common in Arab households.

Exilona was ambitious, and sought to induce her new husband to assume the style of a king. She made him a crown of gold and precious stones which her soft persuasion induced him to wear. She bowed in his presence as if to a royal potentate, and to oblige the nobles to do the same she induced him to have the door-way of his audience chamber made so low that no one could enter it without making an involuntary bow. She even tried to convert him to Christianity, and built a low door to her oratory, so that any one entering would seem to bow to the cross.

These arts of the queen proved fatal to the prince whom she desired to exalt, for this and other stories were told to the caliph, who was seeking some excuse to proceed against the sons of Musa, whose ruin he had sworn. It was told him that Abdul-Aziz was seeking to make Spain independent and was bowing before strange gods. Soliman asked no more, but sent the order for his death.

It was to friends of the emir that the fatal mandate was sent. They loved the mild Abdul, but they were true sons of Islam, and did not dare to question the order of the Commander of the Faithful. The emir was then at a villa near Seville, whither he was accustomed to withdraw from the cares of state to the society of his beloved wife. Near by he had built a mosque, and here, on the morning of his death, he entered and began to read the Koran.

A noise at the door disturbed him, and in a moment a throng burst into the building. At their head was Habib, his trusted friend, who rushed upon him and struck him with a dagger. The emir was unhurt, and sought to escape, but the others were quickly upon him, and in a moment his body was rent with dagger strokes and he had fallen dead. His head was at once cut off, embalmed, and sent to the caliph. The cruel use made of it we have told.

A wild commotion followed when the people learned of this murder, but it was soon quelled. The power of the caliph was yet too strong to be questioned, even in far-off Spain. What became of Exilona we do not know. Some say that she was slain with her husband; some that she survived him and died in privacy. However it be, her life was one of singular romance.

As for the kindly and unfortunate emir, his memory was long fondly cherished in Spain, and his name still exists in the title of a valley in the suburbs of Antequera, which was named Abdelaziz in his honor.

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