From Peter the Cruel, The Life Of The Notorious Don Pedro of Castile Together With An Account Of His Relations With The Famous Maria de Padilla, by Edward Storer; London: John Lane, The Bodley Head; New York: John Land Company, 1911; pp. 188-215.
PETER THE CRUEL, whose epithet may now by employed without the least compunction, proceeded to seek a recompense with his military forces for the ill-fortune of his naval campaign.
A battle was fought at Avariana at the foot of some mountains. The affair ended in the total defeat of the Castilian forces, and Don Pedro lost in the person of Henestrosa one of his best and most faithful servants.
The loss of this engagement put him so much out of humour with himself and his courtiers, that he had to seek relief in further bloodshed and executions.
He now perpetrated an act parallel to that which our own Richard III. (to whom he has been compared) is generally supposed to have committed. It is almost the story of the princes in the Tower over again. These princes were a little older than the English ones are generally thought to have been; otherwise the murders are very similar.
The younger sons of Eleoñora de Guzman and the brothers of Enrique, Don Juan, and Don Pedro, had been imprisoned at Carmona for a long time. Juan was nineteen, Pedro not quite fourteen. The Pedro of this memoir has always up to this point had some 189 reason sufficient or insufficient for his fell deeds, but on this occasion there does not seem to be any excuse or purpose why he should have executed these innocent princes.1 They were latent pretenders, no doubt; but, in the absence of any evidence to show that their existence was imminently dangerous to him, it is only possible to attribute his act to something like a madness for murder which was beginning to obsess him. The victims were put to death in their prison by a ballestero of the guard.2
“All who loved the King’s service,” says Ayala, “grieved that they died thus, for they were innocent, and had never sinned against the King.”
Don Pedro now came again into violent encounter with the Church. Between him and Avignon there had been little love shown. Probably he resented Innocent’s well-meaning but rather dull Latin letters as much as the Holy Father himself was scandalized and angry at the rebellious attitude of his spiritual son.
Pedro countermanded papal edicts, forbade the observance of ordinances in papal bulls, and confiscated ecclesiastical property whenever it suited him. On more than one occasion he put priests to death.
To do justice to his family, it is right to observe that he was no more culpable in the matter of treachery and perjury than any of his brothers. Don Tello and Don Enrique deceived each other with the greatest 190 good-will whenever it suited them to do so. Their oaths of allegiance were as trumpery and inconsiderable as Pedro’s; indeed Pedro was always characterised by a certain sense of honour in his dealings, while his brothers were never remarkable for anything of the kind. Don Pedro was, at any rate, a strong man in his villainies.
He had now become an absolute master of deception and, considering the company he kept, he must have needed all his skill in this direction.
Now follows the tale of the assassination of Osorio.
There were two Ricos Hombres against whom Don Pedro was at this time directing his malevolent intentions. Pero Nuñez de Guzman and Alvarez Osorio had deserted him after the battle of Avariana, and he had not forgotten the fact. Don Pedro marched against Guzman, and suddenly made an appearance in Leon, before the noble had received any intimation of his coming. The knight, who was in the open country, was fortunate enough to receive a message from one of his squires that the King was in pursuit of him. Mounting his horse, he rode with great speed to his castle of Aviados, pursued by Pedro to the very edge of the moat. Guzman had just time to cross the drawbridge, and swing it up after him, before the revengeful monarch came along with a body of horse. The King’s own mount was very jaded, for he had that day ridden seventy miles; had it been fresh, Guzman would never have seen his castle again.
Pedro did not wish to waste time on a siege, so he withdrew to turn his attention to Osorio. Now 191 Guzman had been Adelantado of Leon, and the crafty King, approaching his second victim in a different manner, offered Osorio the post, in the place of Guzman cashiered and proscribed.
Osorio, who was a simple fellow, and had no talent for life in Spain in the fourteenth century, thought that his defection had been forgiven, and gladly accepted the proffered office at the expense of his friend and accomplice, Pero Guzman.
He came to King Peter, and kissed his hands. He was charmingly received. He was “our faithful Adelantado of Leon” now. Peter conversed with him pleasantly enough, and asked the pleasure of his company for the journey to Valladolid.
The courtiers of the royal party now imagined Osorio to be a new favourite, and paid him subsidiary homage on that account. And on the way, when the royal party made a halt a few leagues outside Valladolid, Diego de Padilla invited him to dinner.
At the table there were Don Pedro, Diego de Padilla, and Alvarez Osorio, the latter feeling very proud of the distinguished company in which he found himself.
Into this group of men there came suddenly, by previous orders, those two ruffians, Juan Diente and Garci Diaz, the King’s ballesteros, at whose hands so much noble Castilian blood had flown.
The King’s expression grew a little anxious and excited. Osorio had not yet seen the executioners. Padilla, the pacific and gentle, had, however, and trembled and wondered whose fate it was that lay in their 192 murderous hands. Was it he, or was it Osorio that must die? He recollected how flatteringly the King had turned his attention of late to the man sitting with him at their common table.
Perhaps in some way he had offended that dreadful majesty at the head of this rude wayside feast. But the crash of the maces on Osorio’s head at once relieved and horrified him. Diente and Diaz cut off Osorio’s head, and presumably the meal was resumed.
And now, to introduce a little lighter matter into this chronicle of savage deeds, I will narrate an incident which is taken from Zuñiga.3
The Archbishop of Seville had, by order of the Pope, commenced a process against the King, whereby he claimed for his Church and diocese certain tithes. In this suit, it was necessary to cite Don Pedro as a party, but the office of writ-server was one that nobody cared to undertake. The professional notaries and process-men begged to be excused from so dangerous a mission, but at last a man was found, a cleric, more daring than the rest. This person, who some say was an archdeacon, and would, therefore, perhaps, regard his task in the light of a possible opportunity of martyrdom, was cautious and crafty as well as brave.
He hired a boat and waited for a time until the wind and the current of the river, and the direction of the King’s rides on horseback should all be favourably coincident to him. When this moment at last arrived, and the ecclsiastical writ-server saw Don 193 Pedro coming for a ride along the banks of the Guadalquivir, he steered his craft into the bank, jumped ashore, proffered the writ, and re-embarked as quickly as he could.
What followed must have been rather amusing for the courtiers, who accompanied the King on this occasion.
Pedro did not know but what he had to deal with a lunatic, yet, when he perceived the true nature of the document thrust into his hands, he was so irritated by this new method of writ-serving, that he plunged into the river after the daring clerk, and pursued him with drawn sword and dreadful threats.
The archdeacon managed to steer into water that was too deep for Pedro’s horse, and by a lucky chance made good his escape to Avignon.
After remedying in his own manner the defection of Osorio and other unfortunates, Pedro took the field with an army of over 15,000 men. This force was to be employed against Enrique and his brother Don Sancho, who were entrenched near Najera. At Miranda, there had been, just previous to the King’s arrival, an insurrection against the Jews. Don Pedro had the leaders of this revolt arrested and either burnt alive or boiled to death in huge cauldrons. Of this form of punishment, Zurita, the editor of Ayala, says, that it was a usual one, sanctioned by law and custom, and is not to be particularly adduced as evidence of Don Pedro’s savage cruelty. He instances a case where it was employed by King Fernando the Saint.194
The vessels used for this boiling of human beings were probably enormous jars, in which it was usual for the people to store wine, oil, and wheat.4
And now may be included an incident which shows Don Pedro in another light. He is reflected here as a true mediæval, superstitious and childishly in awe of the supernatural.
The story bears a remarkable similarity to others in history and legend — to those narratives of ghostly warnings on the eves of battles, and the coming of spirits with mournful prophecies.
While encamped en route for Najera, there appeared to the King — according to one version, a monk, according to another, a ghost of one of his murdered brothers. The narrative which accepts the visitant as having been of a ghostly character makes him speak in the affected and extremely literary style which so many ghosts seem to employ.
“Thou shalt be a stone at Madrid,” moaned the spirit, and made its exit from the King’s tent with the traditional chain-rattlings and other theatrical effects of legendary ghosts.
Variously, in the other story, the monk was more explicit if less picturesque. He demanded a private audience of Don Pedro, and told him that St. Dominic had appeared to him in a dream. In this dream the saint had commanded him to warn the King, that if he did not amend his ways, his brother, Don Enrique, would slay him with his own hands.
Don Pedro was sorely troubled at first by the words 195 of the visionary, and the remarkable manner in which he uttered them.
Before long, however, he became cooler, and sought for another and natural explanation of the monk’s manner and address. He came to the conclusion, that he was an emissary of the enemy, perhaps a spy, or one who hoped to trouble the superstitious minds of the soldiery with an air of pretended inspiration. The man was tortured to confess his real mission and business, and to avow his masters, but he held to his statement that he was but the messenger of St. Dominic. Pedro, who had for the moment banished his doubts, was annoyed by the monk’s obstinacy, and had him burnt alive in the camp. In the midst of the flames which were consuming him, the priest still continued to call on St. Dominic. Although, in the battle which followed, the royalist troops gained a victory and drove the Conde’s forces in confusion from the field, the obstinate faith of the prophet of evil whom he had murdered continued to trouble Don Pedro. He neglected to follow up his success, and sounded a retreat at a moment when fortune was all on his side. His knights gathered about him, and urged him in the morning to make an attack on the town of Najera, where the Conde and his broken army were weakly sheltering. But Peter took no notice of their counsel nor of the dictates of common sense on this occasion. He was troubled in a new way. Here was the opportunity he had spent years looking for, for which blood beyond count had flowed, and when it came to him, it found him nerveless and 196 weak, like a hysterical school-girl. He was undecided. He would attack, and then he would not, and at last, he abruptly ordered his army to San Domingo, no doubt with the idea of making a personal reparation to the saintly inspirer of the dead monk. Don Enrique and his men lay in Najera anxiously listening for the sound of the King’s men, for their position was desperate, and a strong assault must have placed the city in Don Pedro’s hands. When they saw the royal forces dissolving away in the distance, they were dumbfounded, and could only attribute to Divine intervention so unlooked for a happening.
During this strange mood and temper of the King, so suitable for the birth of schemes of peace, the Cardinal Legate, Guy de Boulogne, sought audience. We have seen Avignon watch for a long time with manifest distress (distress that manifested itself in long letters in Church Latin) the conditions devastating Spain.
The Cardinal was successful in his work, insomuch as Don Pedro relinquished all active part in hostilities, and betook himself to Seville to seek consolation from Maria.
Meanwhile the enemy, that is Enrique and the Infante Fernando and Pedro IV., had an opportunity of readjusting their positions towards each other. We have the evidence of a curious treaty, solemnly entered into by the two young princes, in which they engage to reveal to each other all overtures made to them by the King of Castile, “to work that Prince all possible injury and dishonour willingly and loyally.” Such 197 brutal language strikes one as marking the naïve diplomacy of the times.
DON ENRIQUE DE TRASTAMARA AFTERWARDS DON ENRIQUE II OF CASTILE
The deception of the written word is perhaps a stage in mental evolution beyond the deception of the spoken. We have seen how accustomed all these kings and princes were to the former; perhaps, as for all primitive men, the written word had in their eyes an awe and sanctity, a certain character with which they hesitated to tamper. At any rate, it is a very blunt document.
Almost against what were his own wishes at the moment, Pedro’s arms trimphed on sea as well as on land. He had not long enjoyed the rest and peace of his Alcazar, when there came sailing up the Guadalquivir, his adventurer-captain, Zorso, with four Aragonese galleys in train, which he had captured. Don Pedro, so far aroused himself from his depression as to order the captains of these prizes to be treated as pirates and put to death. Sir J. Dillon remarks of these executions that they must not be ascribed to the peculiar cruelty of Don Pedro, as it was usual at the time so to treat the commanders of such predatory galleys as were these Aragonese vessels. It is a fact that the line between a properly-commissioned man-of-war strayed from its own fleet, and a pirate vessel, was perilously fine at this time, both with regard to the actions of such a ship and their consequences.
Portugal had lately come under the rule of a new sovereign, a Pedro too, first of his line, the memorable lover who cast so brave a taunt in the face of death. It was he who brought his dead mistress from her 198 tomb to ride in triumph through the land and sit beside him once again in the cathedral for their coronation. He did for Inez what Peter of Castile could never have done for Maria de Padilla. He has flung her memory like a perfume down the centuries and stolen a tribute from the days that are not yet.5 Maria de Padilla, who was a good mother, bringing up her three little daughters and her son in the Alcazar at Seville, was at this time as happy as the possession of a lord like Don Pedro allowed her to be. These incessant murders of her lover were, we know, utterly distasteful to her, and, on more than one occasion, her kind heart stood between some man and a horrible death. To her and her children, and the palace, and the palace gardens it was, that the stern young King always turned in his hour of distress or trouble, and in his unchronicled hours, Don Pedro was perhaps not less a good father for being an intolerable king.
The history of these children of King Peter and Maria de Padilla is interesting inasmuch as two of the daughters married into our own royal family. Constanza was wedded to John, Duke of Gaunt, and Isabella to Edmund Langley, Duke of York, by whom he had Richard, Earl of Cambridge, who, marrying his cousin, Anne Mortimer of the house of Clarence, had Richard, Duke of York, father of Edward IV. So that the blood of Peter the Cruel may be said to be in our present royal house.
Although the King was, in the main, faithful to 199 Maria de Padilla, there were times, as we have seen, when he took other mistresses.
At this period are mentioned the names of several women who interested the King, generally to their undoing. For Don Pedro was as callous and brutal in love as he was in war, and it is said, that the good mothers of the noble families of Castile took especial pains to keep their daughters away from the court, while those castles and palaces which the King honoured with his sudden visits hid, at these times, the distaff side of their house in privacy and seclusion. Pedro had a greedy eye for women and had no scruples about satisfying his desires.
About this time he had a certain Urraca Osorio, who must have been some relative — perhaps a sister — of the knight whose murder at the King’s table has been described, burnt alive, so the legends say. The stroy is that he so treated her because she scorned his advances. Ayala, however, shows that her death, which he does not say was by burning, was due to political causes
The Castilian King also about this time viewed the charms of Maria de Henestrosa with favour, and according to Ayala, found her not hard of heart.
Garci Laso Carillo, the husband of Maria, perceiving his presence to be something in the nature of an act of lèse-majesté, betook himself into Aragon, leaving his brother Gomez to report to him how things proceeded. Gomez was shortly afterwards executed by royal orders, either for resisting the King’s attentions to his sister, or for actual plotting with the Conde.200
Gutier Fernandez, the King’s chief minister, also suffered death on the charge of engaging in secret correspondence with the Infante of Aragon.
Fernandez wrote the King a letter just before his execution, in which he defends himself and warns the King of the probable consequences of his too numerous executions.
“Sire,” he says, “I, Gutier Fernandez de Toledo, salute you and take leave of you, being about to appear before another Lord, mightier than you are. Sire, your highness is not ignorant that my mother and brothers and myself have since the time of your birth been members of your household; and I need not call to your recollection the insults we endured, and the dangers we incurred in your service at the time when Doña Leonor de Guzman had sole power in this kingdom. Sire, I have ever served you loyally; I believe that it is because I have spoken too freely of things important to your interests that you now condemn me to death. Let your pleasure be accomplished, may God pardon you, for I have not deserved my fate. And now, Sire, I tell you in this solemn moment, and it will be my last word of counsel, that if you do not replace your sword in the scabbard, and cease to strike off heads like mine, you will lose your kingdom and peril your life. Bethink you well, for it is a loyal subject who thus adjures you in the hour when the truth alone ought to be spoken.”6
Gutier Fernandez de Toledo then sealed this letter of his, and bared his throat for the executioner.
1 Ferrer del Rio says, in his Examen del reinado de Don Pedro, that the Conde de la Roca, an apologist, excuses Peter for these murders on the ground that in those barbarous times it was sometimes necessary to make the punishment precede the crime.
2 Ayala, Ann. 1359, Cap. XXIII.
3 Annales de Sevilla, quoted in Mérimée.
5 Boccaccio has a Sonnet about Inez and Pedro.
“. . . . One evening at the close
Of Ramasán, ere the better moon arose.”
THE old King Juzef Ben Ismail died, and left his throne to his son Muhamad, who was then twenty years of age.
And in the moon of Xawal, this Prince was proclaimed King of Granada, in the afternoon of the day of Alfitra in the year 755.
Muhamad had a brother called Ismail, and both of these princes were handsome and well favoured; both of them were young, but, while Muhamad was virtuous and gentle, Ismail was corrupt and wicked.1
Muhamad, the new king, was good, kindly, compassionate, and of so tender a heart that the misfortunes of others readily brought tears to his eyes.
He gained the affection of every man who had the good chance to hold intercourse with him. He had a high notion of courtly dignity and the honour of his position, and all flatterers were banished from his presence. He was fond of books, learning and knightly tournaments.
His brother, Ismail, on the other hand, was given 202 up to every kind of luxury and pleasure. He had a countenance of great beauty, so much so that he might have been taken for one of the loveliest of women.
He was weak, charming, effeminate, and treacherous, and his earliest movements, after the enthronement of his brother, were designed towards setting himself in the place of Muhamad.
To this end he gathered round him courtiers and flatterers, who formed a cabal and conspiracy against the King.
And Ismail’s mother, a Sultana of the late King, and Abu Said, his Vizier, plotted to put the prince upon the throne of Granada.
One night, when all their plans were laid, a band of one hundred men escaladed the walls and windows of the Alcazar by stealth, and lay hidden behind curtains and in secret places, until the signal was given at midnight. Then, with flaming torched and drawn swords, they burst into the apartments of the palace, putting to death all who barred their way, and plundering the rich stores and ornaments which they found. But when the Prince Ismail came to join his creatures and friends, he was told that the King had escaped. Hearing the noise and confusion, and being warned of its meaning, Muhamad had retired to an apartment of his harem, and there a beautiful damsel, who was a favourite of his, had dressed him as a girl, and together they had fled.
With another son of the late King, they escaped 203 to Medina Guadix. Granada was thus divided into two factions, one of whom was for Muhamad; the other for Ismail. But Ismail was soon assassinated by his Vizier, Abu Said, who seized the throne for himself, and proclaimed Muhamad a traitor. Muhamad now appealed to the King of Castile, to which State Granada was at this time supposed to be tributary. Abu Said turned to Pedro IV. for support and protection.
In such a manner was the unfortunate Peninsula always kept in a state of war.
The King of Aragon imagined, that in such an alliance as was suggested by the Pretender of Granada, he would find the opportunity of crushing Castile that he had long been seeking.
He promptly made plans and arrangements with the Infantes, Don Fernando and Don Enrique, for a campaign and a division of the spoils of war. He imagined that the terrible rule of Don Pedro must have brought that monarch’s kingdom to the pass when it would be prepared to accept either of his princeling lieutenants in preference to the King who ruled it. The preparations for war, the making known of the negotiations between the King of Aragon and Abu Said, and the treaties between him, the King, and the two princes, caused Don Pedro to relinquish his attacks on the enemy’s territory with a view to protecting his own. He was greatly incensed at the conduct of the Pretender, Abu Said, and transferred his fury from Pedro IV. to him. All his pride and vanity were wounded by this rash act of a 204 presumptuous courtier. He forgot all about Aragon; nothing would satisfy him now but the punishment of Abu Said. He was always capable of sacrificing his material prospects in order to gratify his instinct of vanity. He had always a romantic devotion to that extraordinary ideal of his personality, whose realisation he seemed to demand from others but never from himself.
There is no doubt about it. Peter the Cruel had in him something of a great man, even if it is only something of an unpleasantly great man. His personality burns in the sombre setting of this time as a great lustrous ruby, fiercely scintillant, and of the colour of blood.
Rays of its wicked light found their way all over Europe into the pages of contemporary chroniclers. While the kings of other distant lands go unmentioned and neglected, Pedro’s character is marked in the books of Villani, Polydore Virgil, Chaucer, Froissart, Guillaume de Machault,2 and many another foreign author.
The indefatigable legate of Avignon now perceived an opportunity of bringing his labours to a satisfactory conclusion.
In the year 1361 about the middle of May, a treaty of peace between Aragon and Castile was concluded, principally through his efforts.
PETER THE CRUEL
As a corollary to this treaty, an amnesty was 205 proclaimed for the benefit of those who had, in the late war, borne arms against their lawful sovereign. To this there were some exceptions, including on Don Pedro’s part, naturally enough, the Conde, the Infante Don Fernando, and Gomez Carillo, cousin to him who had been executed the year before, and the redoubtable Pero Carillo, whose trick on Pedro the latter was not likely to forget. Among the others who were thus proscribed were Gonzalez Lucio, the Governor of Taragona, who had sold that place to Aragon, Lopez de Padilla, Diego Perez Sarmiento, Alvar Perez de Guzman, the husband of the King’s late mistress, Aldonza Coronel, and Garci Lasso Carillo, the spouse of Maria de Henestrosa, who was about this time living with the king.
It will be noticed that Don Tello and Don Sancho, the King’s brothers, were allowed to go unproscribed. This must, I imagine, be attributed to the influence of the Cardinal Guy de Boulogne, rather than to Don Pedro himself. The excommunication and interdict cast upon the King and Castile by the late legate Cardinal Guillen were removed.
An offensive and defensive alliance between Aragon and Castile followed, in which each sovereign pledged himself, in almost lyrical vein, to be to his ally the “friend of his friend and the foe of his foe.”
The Cardinal was so pleased with his handiwork that he was not content to abstain from a diplomacy in which he appeared to be so successful. He now turned his attentions to the domestic differences of Don Pedro. He wished to excuse from the ban 206 of proscription those princes and knights whose conduct had brought it upon themselves.
He established a kind of court in the new city of Pamplona, and there solemnly revised the interdict under which the Castilian refugees lay. This act of his, however, though it excited no especial comment from Don Pedro at the time, was assuredly one which, in his heart, he considered as distinctly impertinent.
Don Enrique and Don Sancho went to France once more to take up the commands of a few Companies, and Don Fernando retired to Catalonia.
Meanwhile, in Granada all was confusion.
Although Abu Said had proffered no act of overt hostility against Castile, the fact of his having approached the King of Aragon was sufficient to ensure the deep and lasting anger of Don Pedro. To his brother Muhamad, who was at Ronda, the King lent money and promised an army.
For this profession of charity Don Pedro won easily enough from the gentle king-in-exile agreements which tended in their fruition to be at least as favourable to Castile’s enlargement as to the future dignity and power of Muhamad. This latter, who was a philosopher, and something of a Moslem Marcus Aurelius, was bound to be worsted in any bargain with an astute and crafty man like Pedro. But he made little effort. Indeed, it is said that he concerned himself scarcely at all with the conduct of the war. He hoped that in due time his subjects would restore him to his dominion — no doubt when 207 the philosophic truth of his position occurred to them.
Contrary to their general good fortune in war, and much to the chagrin of Don Pedro, the Castilian forces sustained a defeat at almost the first encounter with the Moslems of Abu Said.
Diego de Padilla and Enrique Enriquez, who were in command of a considerable army of three or four thousand men, were badly beaten in an encounter with the Moors in the neighbourhood of Guadix. It appears that the Christian soldiery were rendered very limp and superstitious by the bad portents of the omens cast for the army by its Adalides or soothsayers. These men, who resembled the haruspices of pagan Rome under her Consuls and early Emperors, were persons of great importance in the military constitution of Spain at this time, and though their authority and influence were principally exerted on the militia and common soldiery, they were not things to be left out of account by those of more exalted rank and intelligence. These Adalides were nominally guides or scouts, but to these regular military duties they added certain rights and offices of their own, calculated to invest them with a superstitious power over the minds of the vulgar.
Ayala goes out of his way in his chronicle to condemn the mysterious practices of these folk. They were allowed to bear arms and a banner, to eat at the same board with knights, and over the common foot-soldiers they had immediate authority capable of peremptory exercise.208
In the Partidas of Alfonso X. their position is defined with great exactitude. Although these folk were privileged in many ways, their position was not entirely a happy one, for in the event of their prognostications or scouting, whether natural or supernatural, proving unfortunate, they had to suffer the usual and just fate of all false prophets.
If they or their sons, who were thus evidently presumed to be in the secret, were captured by the enemy, they were promptly ransomed and forthwith put to death. This, no doubt, helped to ensure correct sorcery from the Adalides; at any rate, it must have made them somewhat careful
In this battle with the forces of Abu Said, Diego de Padilla was wounded in the arm and taken prisoner. Enriquez returned home with the wreckage of his army — to meet the anger of Pedro.
Abu Said was not, however, entirely delighted with his rather unexpected victory. He knew that the arm of the King of Castile was long, and his anger slow to die. Moreover, the Moor was aware that the rest of military feudal Europe was ever ready to construe these local troubles into an attack on the Christian faith, and to defend it accordingly by the most astonishing and blood-thirty reprisals. Added to these significant facts, it was rumoured throughout the Peninsula that the late peace between England and France had had the effect of throwing a host of professional fighters out of occupation, and that the present situation, lit as it was with the promise of rich plunder, and certain of the blessing of Avignon, would 209 be to them a great opportunity. The Pretender thought awhile, and came to the conclusion that through the medium of Diego de Padilla, the King’s right-hand man, he had a chance of concluding an honourable and desirable peace.
When he heard that a redoubtable Captain of Free Companies, Sir Hugh de Calverley, was crossing the Pyrenees, he made haste to send Padilla to the Court of Seville to treat for him.
Indeed his victory had been followed by a series of defections which gave him little chance to do aught else.
Padilla, who probably did not at all relish the task set him by his captor, was received by his King with marked coldness. But for his relationship to Don Pedro, his ill-success would probably have cost him his life. Although Padilla was supposed to be a missionary of peace, the war between the two kingdoms continued in a desultory fashion.
At last, however, Abu Said made up his mind to visit in person Don Pedro in Seville. “Collecting all his treasure in hand, he left Granada privately,” and arrived in Castile with but a few hundred horsemen. It was these same treasures, displayed in all their Oriental magnificence, that tempted the greed of Don Pedro, and caused Abu Said’s death. We can hardly think it wisdom in a king coming to plead for peace to attire himself and his suite in a manner likely to excite the envy and wound the vanity of the supplicated monarch. Probably, though, the Oriental mind of Abu Said could not conceive the existence of his wonderful 210 jewels apart from himself. Jewels are indeed personal things to the true lover of them— and who is this more than an Eastern? They languish, they lose their lustre, they seem pitiful and forlorn away from the loving fingers and breast. All men have a toy in the nurseries of their brain, for which they are prepared to be unutterably foolish. Abu’s toy was a collection of jewels of incomparable richness and beauty, one of which, at least, now adorns the royal Crown of England.
Pedro’s toy, as we have seen, was a childish vanity and an infantile megalomania, for which he, too, paid dearly in his own hour of reckoning.
I like to think of Abu Said in his snowy gown and with slippers of some vivid North African hue, bearing on his breast these gems “worth a king’s ransom”; among them, of a certainty, that giant ruby, “great like a racket ball,” which was in time to come into the hands of our own Queen Elizabeth. Had he but known it, the vanity and glitter of these trinkets was his sentence. It was a necklace of death that he was wearing in these wonderful stones.
Don Pedro received him in great state and with a display of courtly magnificence. Seated upon his throne in the Alcazar of Seville, he listened to the following speech from the dragoman of Abu Said: —
“Sire,” said this person, “my master knows that the kings of Granada are vassals and tributaries of the kings of Castile. It is to his suzerain that my lord appeals on the subject of his quarrel with Muhamad, the so-called King of Granada. To your highness must the task of judging between them belong. Now 211 the origin of the dispute is that the Moors, ill-treated and trampled upon by this Muhamad, have elected as their lord Abu Said, by his birth a descendant of kings, and by his virtues worthy of his lineage. Were the controversy between him and Muhamad only, the issue could not be doubtful, but who can withstand your power? To offer resistance, moreover, would be to fail in the duty of a vassal. This is, therefore, the reason, Sire, why my lord appears before you, and submits himself to your justice, persuaded that your decision will redound to your character for magnanimity and to the honour of your Crown.”
Another part of the little theatrical entertainment which Abu had devised to secure a good reception of his cause with the King consisted in the introduction of a remarkable old Arab, by name Edriz, who was a famous counsellor of kings, and something of a prophet.
During the delivery of Abu’s speech by his dragoman, this Edriz kept a close scrutiny on Don Pedro’s face.
At the conclusion of the harangue, Edriz exclaimed: “The sentence of the King of Castile will assuredly display his equity and clemency; but if, contrary to all probability, it should be favourable to Muhamad — my master, Abu Said, hopes to obtain for himself and his retinue permission to cross the sea and lead a retired life in Africa.
It must be admitted that, as a prophecy, this is poor, and exhibits the evidence of a confederate. Even as a matter of policy, it did not give Don Pedro credit for much perception or knowledge of mankind.212
The whole scene apparently made little impression on him, for he merely replied with gravity that he would examine the claims of the rival Moors, and pronounce a judgment later in accordance with strict justice.
At this, the assembled Grenadines, who were much in awe of Don Pedro, bowed low before him, and cried out in Arabic: —
“Sire, may Allah preserve you! We lean on the greatness of your wisdom, and commend ourselves to your mercy.”
Then the Pretender and his suite were conducted with courtesy to the quarters prepared for them in the Jewry.
The court of Don Pedro fell to gossiping over the probable decision of the King, and the chances of the two Moorish contestants were freely discussed. In everyone’s mouth was talk of the precious stones that the Arabs were wearing. On Abu Said’s breast, besides the gigantic ruby, were huge pearls of great value and beauty; one of them nearly the size of a pigeon’s eggs. And among the train of this king, who seems like a character in the Thousand and One Nights, there was a little Moor who had in a leathern strap 730 rubies. Cornelians, turquoises, opals, and other gems were distributed among the Emirs and Captains of this band. Even some of the pages were begemmed with pearls, many of which were as large as a pea.
In a few days, Abu Said and some of his principal Emirs were invited to dine with the King at the Palace of the Grand Master of Santiago.213
Towards the end of the meal, a silence fell upon those present — a silence which served to herald the sudden entrance of Marin Lopez, the King’s chamberlain. Those who knew the ways of Don Pedro were in no doubt that some ill deed was to happen, and we may imagine that Abu Said, “the Red King,” as the Castilians called him, looked upon the grave and silent faces around him with much distrust.
No mention had been made at the dinner of any decision or judgment in the matter under Don Pedro’s consideration, and when Martin Lopez was followed by the royal ballesteros, Abu Said must have been able to read his fate in the faces of his fellow guests.
It is rather remarkable how often Don Pedro had the victims of his justice or anger arrested or executed at the table. The interruption of a meal by a murder does not seem to have affected his appetite at all.
On this occasion the actual execution of the prisoner was deferred. Martin Lopez and his ballesteros arrested the Moorish king, and lodged him in a dungeon with his Emirs. There, all their finery and jewels were taken from them. They were stripped of their clothes and searched, so that there could be no possibility of their concealing anything of their treasure. After a delay of a couple of days, in which Abu’s fate was doubtless being considered and planned, ballesteros went to his prison and told him he must appear before the King. They mounted him upon an ass, and clad him with mock dignity in a purple robe, and led him, followed by thirty-seven of his Emirs, 214 beyond the city’s walls, amid the derision of the populace.
This remarkable procession was directed to a field outside the city, called the plain of Tablada, a place set apart for the exectuion of criminals. Here all the Emirs, together with Abu Said himself, were fastened to stakes or piles placed in the earth, while a herald blew on his trumpet and cried out aloud that this was the King’s sentence upon those traitors who had put to death their Lord Ismail. Then some horsemen and even some knights caracoled and cantered round the prisoners as in a juego de cañas, which is a kind of Arabic prisoners’ base. Then suddenly this gloating over the vanquished, this knightly high-spiritedness, turned into reality, and a javelin, quickly to be followed by others, was hurled at Abu, it is said by Don Pedro himself.
“Take that in payment of the miserable treaty you caused me to make with the King of Aragon — and that for the Castle of Ariza which I lost through your fault.”
The wounded Moor replied from his stake, “Is this thy chivalry,” But his words were hushed in a swift rain of darts which pinned him in every portion of his body to his stake.
The Emirs, one after another, shared his fate, until all were killed. Then were the heads of Abu and his companions sent to Muhamad, that that philosopher might read the red and dripping tale of his Suzerain’s power, and perceive how dangerous was the art of kingship.215
Though Abu Said, in his death, appears here rather in the light of a martyr or badly-treated person, we find that his own conduct had been just as cruel and bloodthirsty as that of Don Pedro.
He had executed young Ismail and another brother of his, and had treated their dead bodies with every kind of indignity.
But from Ayala we learn that — “All who loved the King’s service were grieved at this deed, and the way in which it was done.”3
The Arabian historians seem to think that Abu deserved his fate, although they are disgusted at the treachery and unchivalric conduct of the Castilian King.
In the old chronicle of Muhamed Ben Abdalla, called the Specimen of the Full Moon, the author advises us: —
“That man should learn from his (Abu Said’s) end that there is no station or power which can exempt the evil-doer from the justice of the eternal decrees . . . nor can they prosper who seek a defence and a shield anywhere save in God.
“They are like the spider labouring at her web — oh how fragile are the labours of the spider!”
1 Conde, Hist. Arabes.
2 A fourteenth century poet and musician, in his youth valet de chambre to Philip le Bel. Author of la Prise d’Alexandrie and an interesting treatise on mediæval musical instruments.
3 1362, Cap. V.
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