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By Cecil Roth

The famous historian Cecil Roth offers the 1st full-length biography of Dona Gracia within the English language.

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It is to be noted that at this time surnames were very fluid in Spain and Portugal, so that members of the same family often had different appellations; this may perhaps have been that of her mother’s family). In the privacy of her home she was, however, called Gracia — the equivalent of the Hebrew, Hannah — Nasi. She too belonged to an an­ cient and memorable Jewish clan, perhaps allied long before to that of Beneveniste. Since the early Middle Ages, there had come into prominence, here and there in the Diaspora, Jewish lead­ ers or families who had attained a dominating position among their coreligionists and were considered, in this or that city or province, to be their official representa­ tives vis-à-vis the government, which in its turn some­ times recognized their position officially.

Here, there was, at this time, a little colony of Portuguese Marranos, not­ withstanding the fact that the Jews were nominally ex­ cluded from the country. ”11 Prob­ ably it lasted only while enquiries were made in the Low Countries, through the medium of the local agents of the House of Mendes, as to whether it would be safe for them to continue their journey. (This was the usual procedure at the time, owing to Diogo’s tireless interest, as will be told). In any case, before long they were settled in Ant­ werp, the commercial capital of northern Europe.

As a result of the marriage between Philip, heir to both Charles the Bold of Burgundy and the Emperor Maximilian, with Juana the Mad, heiress to Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, the Low Countries were now under the same rule as the bulk of the Iberian Penin­ sula (as well as south Italy and the Habsburg dominions This Library PDF version is for the use on an institutional computer only. com << Chapter >> 26 Home | TOC DOÑA GRACIA in Central Europe), both owing allegiance to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.

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