Doña Gracia of the House of Nasi

Doña Gracia of the House of Nasi

Doña Gracia of the House of Nasi

Doña Gracia of the House of Nasi

Excerpt

The genesis of this book must be explained. A short time ago, I was invited to write a biography of that extraordinarily romantic figure of Jewish history, Joseph Nasi, Duke of Naxos. Though the idea had never before entered my head, it fascinated me and the work proceeded with a rapidity which I found almost disconcerting. But, as the book began to take shape, it divided itself naturally into two sections. In the first, the predominant interest was not the Duke himself but his aunt, Doña Gracia, formerly Beatrice de Luna, mother of the Duchess -- his model, his first patroness and his constant inspiration. Gradually, her figure began to detach itself from the background and her features became clearer to me. I realized in the end that she was of importance in Jewish history, not as the harbinger of her nephew, but on her own account. Her adventurous career in her younger days, her heroic work to thwart the Inquisition and organize the flight of the Marranos from the Peninsula, the great part that she played in public and communal affairs, first in the Low Countries, then in Italy, then in Turkey, her masculine reactions whenever a report of persecution in any part of the world reached her ears, her single-minded leadership at the time of the holocaust at Ancona in 1556 mark her off as one of the outstanding figures of Jewish history, not of her own day alone, but of all time. What her nephew did during her life was almost entirely due . . .

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