Collection of Letters: Detail
- Berengaria/Berenguela, queen of Castile, Leon, sister to Blanche queen of France
To her beloved and worthy-of-love sister, B[lanche], wife of Louis, the firstborn son of the king of the Franks, B[erengaria], by the grace of God queen of Leon and Castile, with fraternal love as to herself, greetings and happy outcomes to her desires.
I have joyful news for you. Thanks to God, from whom all power [comes], the king our lord and father conquered in pitched battle Ammiramomelinus [emir Muhammad-el-Nasir], in which we believe the honor won was outstanding, since up to now it was unheard of for the king of Morocco to be overcome in pitched battle. And know that a servant from our father’s household announced this to me; but I did not believe him until I saw the letters from our father.
The manner of the war was the following. Our father, as I reported to you another time, obtained the castles which are between Toledo and the port, awaiting battle. Seeing the Ammmiramomelinus coming, he began to cross the port. But the exit from the port on the other side was a narrow place. Then Ammmiramomelinus ordered his men to make sure that ours could not cross. Our men, seeing they were not able to cross there, crossed elsewhere, and it was Friday, July 13, and there was a not small encounter before they crossed on Friday and Saturday.
On Sunday, the Sarracens fixed their tents in the morning, the Ammmiramomelinus very near our father’s tent, and the Sarracens were ready for battle that day; our father, however, did not wish [to fight] that day out of reverence for the holy day. Nonetheless, our archers and slingers showed not a little boldness and force on that day, so it was necessary for the tent of Ammmiramomelinus to be moved from the place it had been pitched to the distance of three arrowshots. On that day, our father ordered our men to be prepared first thing in the morning Monday and they were equipped with the best arms. Our father divided his men into three battle lines. Dialopes and three barons with their men and the pilgrims who remained in this part of the port and all religious orders in the first. In the second, was the king of Aragon with his men and and three companies our father gave him; on the other side was the king of Navarre with his men, similarly with three companies our father gave him. The king our father was with his men in the fourth [sic] line.
The first line rushed against the Sarracens and removed them from the place, but they, once they had absorbed the force, pushed us back for the most part, the first line into the second. Seeing this, our father anticipated attack from the side of the two lines, joining his line to the previous one and repulsed the Sarracens with force and pressed them back, so he restored the first line to its place and then returned to his own place with his whole line. Again the Sarracens, as they had done before, attacked our men and again our father, seeing it, joined his wing to the first wing and again pressed the Sarracens back to the line of Ammiramomelinus. The Sarracens, however, gathering their strength again, resisted strongly until midday. And our father saw that his help was needed and he ordered all his men whom he had sent back to come up. When the Sarracens saw our father’s standard, they were broken in spirit and took to flight. Our father followed them with his men until after sunset into the night for two leagues/miles. Then our father returned with the king of Aragon and the king of Navarre, safe and sound, to the tents of Ammiramomelinus, setting most of his men to flight until the next day.
The number of dead was estimated to be up to 70,000 men, 15,000 women. From ours, however, about 200 were found to have fallen. The booty found in the Sarracen tents in gold and silver, clothes, animals, could not be estimated because of the vast size; the darts and arrows alone could scarcely be carried by 20,000 pack animals; the tents of those who fled were estimated at 100,000. Our father did not retain anything of all that was taken in booty for his use or his men’s, but he divided it all among the kings of Navarre and Aragon, and those who were with them and the whole ... expedition. We believe that the king is still proceeding. Make it known therefore to the king of France from our lord H.1 and to all you think would be useful. Though all the French turned back, Thibaud of Blazon did not, but faithfully served our father and fought virilely in the conflict.
Dilectae et diligendae sorori suae B[lanchae] Ludovici Regis Francorum primogeniti uxori, B[erengaria] Dei gratia Regina Legionis et Galleciae, cum fraterna dilectione quam sibi salutem et felices ad vota successus.
Nota facio vobis jucunda. Gratia Deo, a quo omnis virtus, quod Rex et dominus et pater noster vicit in pugna campestri Ammiramomelinum, in qua re credimus honorem adeptum praecipuum, quia hactenus fuit inauditum Regem de Maroch in congressione campestri superatum. Et sciatis famulum domus patris nostri ista mihi nunciasse; sed credere illi nolui, donec proprias literas patris nostri vidi. Modus belli talis fuit. Pater noster, sicut vice alia mandavi vobis, obtinuit castella quae sunt inter Toletum et portum exspectando pugnam. Videns ergo venientem Ammiramomelinum, coepit transire portum. In exitu portus ex parte altera angustus erat locus. Tunc praecepit Ammiramomelinus suis providere ne nostri transire possent. Videntes nostri se illac transire non posse, alias transierunt, et erat sexta feria, XIII dies julii, factaque est congressio non modica antequam transirent et feria sexta et sabbato. Die dominica ipsos mane fixere Sarraceni tentoria, et Ammiramomelinus valde prope tentorium patris nostri, paratique erant Sarraceni ad pugnandum ipso die; pater noster vero noluit eo die propter reverentiam diei sancti. Veruntamen sagittarii nostri et fundibalarii nostri non parum eo die ostenderunt audaciae et virtutis, ita ut necesse esset amoveri tentorium Ammiramomelini a loco in quo fixum fuerat usque ad tres sagittae jactus. Ipso die, pater noster mandavit nostris in secunda feria summo mane paratos esse, et fuerunt optimis instructi armis. Partitus est ergo pater noster suos in tres acies. Dialopes et tres barones cum suis et peregrinis qui remanserant in hac parte portus, et omnes dordre* in prima acie. In secunda fuit Rex Aragoniae cum suis et cum tribus conreix, quos pater noster ei dedit: Rex autem pater noster cum suis in quarta acie. Prima acies Sarracenos impetiit et amovit a loco; illi, receptis viribus, nostros retrorsum compulerunt ex majori parte, primam aciem usque in secundam. Videns hoc pater noster, praevenit occurrere a latere duarum acierum, congregans suam aciem ad priorem, et virtute repulit Sarracenos et retorsum compulit, ita ut primam aciem restitueret loco suo, et sic rediit in locum suum cum tota sua acie. Rursum Sarraceni, sicut prius fecerant, nostris institerunt: vidensque iterum pater noster suum cornu primo cornui copulavit, et retrorsum compulit Sarracenos usque ad aciem Ammiramomelini. Sarraceni vero, iterum convalescentes, fortiter usque ad meridiem restiterunt. Vidit itaque pater noster suis adjutorio opus esse, et venire jussit omnes suos quos retro dimiserat. Viso autem Sarraceni vexillo patris nostri, fracti sunt animo et in fugam versi. Insecuti sunt eos pater noster cum suis usque post occasum solis ad duarum leucarum iter in noctem. Inde redierunt pater noster cum Rege Aragoniae et Rege Navarrae ad tentoria Ammiramomelini sani et incolumes, dimittentes suorum plurimos fugantes fugientes usque in crastinum.
Aestimati autem sunt numerus occisorum usque LXX millia virorum, feminarum vero XV millia. Ex nostris autem circiter CC reperti sunt occubuisse. Praeda quae reperta est in Sarracenorum tentoriis in auro et argento, vestibus, animalibus, aestimari non potuit prae multitudine; sola jacula et sagittas XX millia summariorum ferre vix possent; aestimata quoque tentoria fugatorum ad centum millia. Nihil horum omnium quae in praeda acquisita sunt, pater noster retinuit ad opus suum vel suorum; partitus est autem universa Regibus Navarrae et Aragoniae, et his qui cum ipsis erant, et toti ... expeditioni. Sicut vero credimus, Rex adhuc procedet. Nota ergo facite haec Regi Franciae de domino nostro H[enrico] et omnibus quibus putaveritis expedire. Licet omnes Francigenae reversi fuerint, Theobaldus tamen de Blazon non est reversus, sed fideliter servivit patri nostro, et viriliter militavit in conflictu.
* ed. posuit
Blanche’s sister was queen of Leon by marriage to Alfonso IX of Leon, though the marriage was annulled after four children for consanguinity. Their son, however, succeeded to both Leon and Castile, when Henry, the brother of Blanche and Berengaria, died in 1217. Berengaria sends her sister an account of a victory of Christians over Muslims in Spain in which their father, Alfonso VIII of Castile, figured prominently. The battle at Las Navas de Tolosa occurred in 1212. There are some differences between the queens’ accounts. Sivéry, 41, suggests that Berengaria’s letter exaggerates details.
The note in HGF says this is Henry, son of the king of Castile; Henry was the brother of Blanche and Berengaria and king of Castile from 1214-17.
HGF19.254-5 (from Martenium, Anecdot. v.I, c.826).