The laurel bushes in which Isabel the Catholic hid from the Moors
This is a curious story about Isabel the Catholic. When Granada had not yet been conquered (a battle that took place on 18th June 1491 that cost 600 Moors and as many Christians their lives), Queen Isabel with her consort Ferdinand, her children and her entourage hid in these very laurel bushes in La Zubia. These bushes, now known as the Queen’s Laurel, almost completely fill the gardens of the convent of the Mercedarias nuns, a building that was previously the archbishop’s palace. A short time before the conquest of Granada, which culminated in the battle that took place on 2nd January 1492, Miguel Lafuente Alcántara in his Historia de Granada described it as “a sunny place on a hill to the left side of town”.
However, this sunny place was transformed into a battlefield on 18th June. Queen Isabel wanted to see what was going on at the Alhambra from a closer range, and therefore the Marquis of Cadiz, with a large number of aristocrats and soldiers, escorted her to La Zubia. When the Queen saw the “wonderful view of the towers (of the Alhambra), the palaces and the gardens of Granada” she was at the same time disturbed by the “drums of the Arab army charging towards them brandishing their flags against the wind” according to Miguel Lafuente Alcántara.
The Christians fought to defend their queen and the result of the bloody battle was that “600 Arabs died and a further 1500 were captured or wounded”. The number of killed and wounded Christians is not known. However, it is widely believed, writes Miguel Lafuente Alcántara, “that the queen and her servants were in real danger during the battle” and the only reason that they survived was because they hid in these laurel bushes.
These trees, that usually are no taller than 10 metres, have a smooth trunk and thin bark. The spear-shaped leaves are hard and rubbery and are pleasantly scented. They are commonly used to season dishes. For the Romans laurel leaves were the symbol of victory and they used them to crown their emperors. In this instance, they helped the Catholic Kings in the battlefield as well.