At length came the principal group; the pressure of the crowds increased, and human hearts so throbbed, that it seemed as if they could not breathe, save in the stunning shouts, bidding the very welkin ring. Surrounded by a guard of honor, composed indiscriminately of Castilians and Arragonese, mounted on a jet black steed, which pawed the ground, and shook his graceful head, as conscious of his princely burden, magnificently attired, but in the robes of peace, with a circlet of gold and gems enwreathing his black velvet cap, his countenance breathing this day but the kindly emotions of his more youthful nature, unshadowed by the wile and intrigue of after-years, King Ferdinand looked the mighty monarch, whose talents raised his country from obscurity, and bade her stand forth among the first of European nations. But tumultuary as were the shouts with which he was recognized, they were faint in comparison to those which burst forth at sight of the Princess at his side. Isabella had quitted her litter on re-entering her own dominions, and now rode a cream-colored charger, which she managed with the grace and dignity of one well accustomed to the exercise, alike in processions of peace and scenes of war.
The difference of age between the sovereigns was not perceivable,[A] for the grave and thoughtful character of Ferdinand gave him rather the appearance of seniority; while the unusual fairness of Isabella’s complexion, her slight and somewhat small stature, produced on her the contrary effect. The dark gray eye, the rich brown hair and delicate skin of the Queen of Castile deprived her, somewhat remarkably, of all the characteristics of a Spaniard, but, from their very novelty attracted the admiration of her subjects. Beautiful she was not; but her charm lay in the variable expression of her features. Peculiarly and sweetly feminine, infused, as Washington Irving observes, with “a soft, tender melancholy,” as was their general expression, they could yet so kindle into indignant majesty, so flash with reproach or scorn, that the very color of the eye became indistinguishable, and the boldest and the strongest quailed beneath the mighty and the holy spirit, which they could not but feel, that frail woman form enshrined.
[Footnote A: Isabella was eight or ten years Ferdinand’s senior.]