The Legend of Bertha Broadfoot 3: The Italian Family

Section 1:

MS V13: Berta de la Pie Grant

Venice, Biblioteca marciana fondo francese manuscript XIII (=256), usually abbreviated V13, is a collection of chansons de geste in Franco-Italian assonanced decasyllables, containing: Bovo d’Antona (Part 1, unknown number of pages lost at the beginning), Bertha Broad-Foot, Bovo Part 2, Karleto, Berta e Milone, Enfances Ogier, Orlandino, Chevalerie Ogier, and Macario, of all of which it is the only copy. Franco-Italian was never a spoken dialect, but rather a literary creation. The MS and poems date from the early 1300s.

Pepin holds court in Paris on Pentecost, at which Aquilon of Bavaria (father of Naimon), Bernard of Clairmont, Salomon and others attend. They urge him to take a wife, and a çubler announces that the most beautiful woman he has ever seen is named Berta da li pe grandi, daughter of King Alfaris of Hungary and his wife Belisant. The barons all agree that this is a good plan, and Pepin sends as ambassador to Hungary Aquilon, Bernard, Morando de Rivere, and Grifon of Altafoglia [Hauteville]. The King receives them warmly, then consults with his family. He tells Berta that Pepin is short and ugly, but very rich and very brave. She agrees to marry him, and they depart. On their way home, they stop at the castle of Belençer of Magance, whose daughter happens to look exactly like Berta. The two become friends at once, and Berta takes the damsel with her to Paris. As they near that city, Berta asks the girl to take her place in King Pepin’s bed, because she is exhausted from the long ride. King Pepin is surprised to see his bride’s tiny feet, but decides the çubler must have been lying. In the morning, the girl bids her henchman take Berta into the forest and kill her. The man is touched by pity, however, and spares Berta’s life after making her swear never to return to France. Berta wanders into the forest. Continue reading

The Legend of Bertha Broadfoot 2: Unique Early Versions

Section 1:

Chronique Saintongeaise

Also called Tote Listoire de France and Gesta Francorum. Survives in only two MSS. Appears to be a French translation of a dull Latin compilation (with much butchering) of older histories.1

1: To be specific:

I. Liber Historiae Francorum,

welded, (without Fredegar Contin.) into

II. Annales Laurissenses,

followed by condensed and adapted portions of

III. Einhart’s Vita Caroli,

interspersed wih fragments of

IV. Vita Ludovici Pii.

Insertions were also made from

V. Miracula S. Benedicti,

and the whole completed from some

VI. Unknown Chronicle,

which was also followed by Ademar of Chabannes.

The work is notable for exactly four things: 1) It is one of the first histories of France in French. 2) It preserves the oldest surviving account of Bertha Broadfoot. 3) It is the only work to tell how Charlemagne miraculously restored Pope Hadrian’s vision, by finding his eyes in a fish. 4) It is the only surviving account of the legend of Taillefer of Leon, which is obviously based on a chanson de geste, but no other traces thereof remain.

There are also a few other interpolations, mainly regarding fictitious donations of kings to the Church.

Pepin, in the year 249 [749], sent to Pope Zacharias and obtained permission to depose Chilperic and have himself elected and anointed king, in 250 [750]. He then sent to marry Berta, the daughter of King Flore of Hungary. However, when they were in bed, Berta’s nurse substituted her own daughter via the knife-trick. Berta was taken to the forest, where she found refuge in a church and was taken in by Pepin’s cowherd and his wife Constance. She serves as their maid for four years. Meanwhile, Pepin thought he was living with Berta, and had two sons: Remfre and Audri. Then Berta’s mother came to Paris, and the impostor pretended to be ill. The old Queen forced her way into the sickroom and turned down the covers, exposing the tiny feet. She summons all the barons and says this is not her daughter. The old nurse is burnt, and the Queen goes weeping home. Pepin tries to raise his spirits by going hunting, and stops by the home of his cowherd, where he sees Berta and asks to sleep with her. The cowherd consents, and as they make love on a cart, they reveal their true identities to each other. Pepin makes the cowherd a rich man, and takes his wife home to Paris. After these things, he goes to Saint Seurin to pray, and makes peace between the Lorrainers and the Bordelais. He and Berta had two sons and two daughters, and the eldest boy was Magniez, who was guarded by thirty barons. He was later protected by Rollant, “de Loubare” [Lombardy?], Duke of Brittany.


Bourdillon, Francis William, ed. Tote listoire de France (Chronique Saintongeaise). London: David Nutt, 1897. To whom the notes on the Chronicle and its origins are owing. 

Section 2:

Philippe Mousket’s Chronique Rimée

Charles Martel dies and is damned, leaving behind two legitimate sons, Pepin and Carlon [Carloman], and one bastard, Grifon. Carlon becomes a monk at Saint Silvester, and Pepin becomes steward of all France. He marries Bierte as grans-piés, the daughter of King Florie and Blanceflor, but she is afraid of King Pepin’s enormous member, and so sends her maid to take her place in bed. The servant has the princess sent to the forest to be killed, but the man who is supposed to kill her has mercy and lets her live. She is taken in by a forester and his wife, whom she serves whilst concealing her identity. Meanwhile, Pepin begets Raienfroit and Heldri on the maid, until he happens to visit the forest, see his wife, and recover her.

After this, Theoderic dies, having reigned fifteen years, and his son Childeric becomes King, until Pepin and Pope Zachary depose him. Grifon rebels against him, but Pepin defeats him. The story of the Lorrainers follows, and Bertha is said to be kin to them. In the course of this war, Pope Zachary dies and is succeeded by Stephen [II], who comes to France to crown Pepin and Bertha, and their sons Charles and Carloman. After the coronation, Begon Garin’s brother, is killed by the Bordelais, and the Lorrainers’ wars resume.


Reiffenberg, Baron de, ed. Chronique rimée de Philippe Mouskes. Brussels: M. Hayez,1836-1838.

Section 3:

La Gran Conquista de Ultramar

La Gran Conquista de Ultramar is a Spanish history of the First Crusade, sometimes said to have been written for King Alfonso X the Wise (r. 1252-1284), but others say it was written a generation or so later. Chapter 43 of Book II contains the story of Bertha Broadfoot and Mainet.

Folguer Ubert de Chartes, who fought in the Crusade, and killed Sultan Aliadan, nephew of the Sultan of Persia, in the battle of Nublis, [not the Fulcher of Chartres who wrote a chronicle about them] was a descendant of Mayugot of Paris, who protected Charlemagne from his wicked brothers.

Berta was daughter of Flores and Blancaflor, rulers of Almeria, in Spain, who conquered much land in Spain and Africa, and saved the King of Babylon [Cairo] from his enemies. Berta was wed to King Pepin of France, but her nurse’s daughter looked exactly like her, so the nurse put her in the place of the princess, and got Bertha condemned to death for trying to murder the “queen.” Two henchmen take her into the forest to kill here, but they have pity and settle for tying her to a tree in her shirt, in January, and take a dog’s heart back to the servant. The impostor and Pepin have two sons: Manfre and Carlon, one of whom is given Germany and the other France. By God’s mercy, Bertha was found by Pepin’s forester, who at first thinks she is a ghost, but rescues her when he hears her calling on Our Lord and Saint Mary. He takes her to his home, where she lives with his wife and three daughters. Three years later, Pepin is out hunting, when he stops at this vassal’s house. He sees Bertha and demands to lay with her, which request is granted at once, and they conceive Carlos Mainetes. She does not reveal herself, and Pepin returns home.

King Flores dies, and Blancaflor decides to visit her daughter to seek some comfort for her grief. The nurse’s daughter feigns illness, but Blancaflor forces her way into the sick room, and turns down the covers. Berta had her toes joined together; the servant girl does not. Blancaflor drags the girl by her hair before King Pepin, threatening to kill him [Her laments throughout the ensuing scenes are very long and dramatic]. The servant and her mother confess everything, and Pepin sends for the forester. He tells everything he knows, and Bertha and her son Carlos, now six years old, are brought to court. The old nurse is burnt, but her daughter is spared until she gives birth to her third child, after which she is sent to a nunnery to fast on bread and water. Blancaflor bequeaths little Carlos her lands in Spain, and Pepin appoints as his guardians Mayugot and Morante de Rivera. Some time later, Blancaflor falls ill. She returns home, wishing to die and be buried with Flores, and so it befalls. Her lands are left without a leader, and the Moors overrun them, while King Pepin also dies before Carlos is of age to rule. Some say he was killed by a horse, others that he died of illness.

The chronicle now transitions to Mainet, p. 179.


Gayangos, Don Pascual de, ed. La Gran Conquista de Ultramar. Biblioteca de Autores Españoles XLIV. Madrid, 1858.

The Legend of Bertha Broadfoot 1: The German Family

The legend of Bertha Broadfoot, daughter of Floris and Blanchefleur, wife of Pepin the Short, and mother of Charlemagne, is to be found in the following versions.

T: Chronique Saintongeaise. French prose, 1200-1250.

M1: Mousket’s Chronique Rimée. French couplets, pre-1240.

C: La Gran Conquista de Ultramar, Book II, Ch. 43. Spanish prose, c. 1300.

S: Der Stricker’s Karl der Grosse. German couplets, 1230-1250.

H: Heinrich of Munich’s Chronik. German prose, c. 1320. Unprinted.

u: A hypothetical, now-lost version.

W2: Heinrich Wolter’s Chronik. Latin prose, 1460-1475. Ed. Henry Meibom, Jr., Rerum Germanicarum, 1688. Volume 2, p. 18 sq.

W1: The Weihenstephaner Chronik. German prose, 1435. Ed. Johann Christopher Aretin Aelteste Sage über die Geburt und Jugend Karls des Grossen: Zum erstenmale bekannt gemacht und erläutert. Munich: J. Schererschen Kunst, 1803. pp. 15-53.

F: Ulrich Fuetrer’s Bayerische Chronik. German prose, 1477-1481. Ed. R. Spiller, in “Quellen und Erörterungen zur bayerischen Geschichte” New series, volume 2, part 2.

D: Gregory Hohenmut’s MS. Zurich, German prose, c. 1475 (with influence from R). Ed. A. Bachmann and S. Singer. Deutsche volksbücher aus einer Zürcher handschrift des fünfzehnten jahrhunderts. Bibliotek des Litterarischer verein in Stuttgart CLXXXV. Tübingen, 1889.

V: Venice 13. Franco-Italian assonanced decasyllables, 1300-1350

M2: Rafael Marmora’s Aquilon de Bavière, Book IV. Italian prose, 1407.

R: Andrea da Barberino’s I Reali di Francia (with influence from A). Italian prose, c. 1400.

N2: Antonio de Eslava, Noches de Invierno. Spanish prose, 1610.

A: Adenet le Rois. French rhyming alexandrines, 1272-1274.

B: Berlin prose, Histoire de la Reine Berte et du Roy Pepin. French prose, c. 1400. Ed. P. Tylus, Histoire de la Reine Berthe et du roy Pepin: Mise en Prose d’une chanson de geste. 2001.

M3: Miracle de Berte. French play, c. 1373. Ed. in Miracles de Notre Dame par personnages, volume 5, 1880.

N1: Berte metten breeden voeten. Dutch couplets, only one fragment, c. 1400. Edition and translation by B. Besamusca, in Oliphant 23.1 (2004): 14-25.

P: Chroniques de France (BnF fr. 5003) Book 6. French prose, c. 1400. Not printed, summary in G. Paris’ Histoire Poetique, Appendix V.

O: Valentine and Orson. c. 1475-1489, of which more in its place.

G: Girard d’Amiens, Charlemagne. French rhyming alexandrines, c. 1285-1314.

Section 1:

Der Stricker’s Karl der Grosse

Der Stricker (“The Knitter”) was the pen name of an otherwise unknown German poet in the 1200s. His most important works include the Arthurian Daniel von dem blühenden Tal (Daniel of the Flowery Valley) and Karl der Grosse, a history of Charlemagne.

King Pepin’s wife, Berhte, was lost, “but the story is too long to tell.” At last she was found again, and bore him two children: Gertrude and Charlemagne.

For Saint Gertrude as the sister of Charlemagne, see King Rother.


Karl der Grosse, von dem Stricker. Ed. by Karl Bartsch. Quedlinburg, 1857.

Section 2:

Henry of Munich’s Chronik

This work (early 1300s) has not been edited, but scholars assure us that its account of Bertha Broadfoot is copied nearly word-for-word from Der Stricker.

Section 3:

Henry Wolter’s Archiepiscopus Bremensis Chronicon

Henry Wolter was born in Oldenburg, studied in Rostock, and became a canon in Bremen. His Chronicle of the Archbishops of Bremen ends with the death of Archbishop Gerdhardt, in 1463. The work is mostly based on Herbord Schene’s Chronica Bremensis and Gerhard Rinesberg’s Historia Archiepiscopurum Bremensium,1 but the part which concerns us, the story of Bertha Broadfoot, is found in neither. Henry’s chronicle begins with Saint Charlemagne’s establishment of churches in Bremen in 788, and the installment of Willehad as bishop, and hence our Henry decides to tell of the birth and life of the holy Emperor.

1: Gramsch, Robert and Hodapp, Julia, “Wolters, Heinrich”, in: Encyclopedia of the Medieval Chronicle, Edited by: Graeme Dunphy, Cristian Bratu. Consulted online on 13 October 2018 <;

King Pepin seeks a wife, and sends messengers to the daughter of King Theoderic of Swabia, Bavaria, and Austria. The messengers return with a “yes,” so he sends three noblemen to escort her to his court. They decide, however, to kill the princess and present the daughter of one of them to Pepin. They cunningly dissuade Theoderic from sending any of his household along with his daughter. When they pass a forest where Karlstadt now stands, they lead her far from the road to kill her. The third has cold feet and persuades the other two to let the princess live. They ride away and leave her. She, scarcely twelve years old, is found by a miller who raises her alongside his own daughter. Meanwhile, the false bride has sons and daughters by Pepin.

One day Pepin rides out in the forest, gets lost, and spends the night at the miller’s house. He asks to spend the night with one of the girls, and the princess volunteers. That night they beget a king. In the morning the king tells the miller to come to court with a distaff if the child is a girl, and a bow and arrow if a boy. The miller duly comes to court with a bow, but the false queen calls for the “Karl” [churl] to be removed. So Pepin calls the boy Karl. He gives the miller money to raise the boy well, and brings him to court once he is old enough. The queen is jealous, so Pepin sends Karl to Theoderic to foster. The boy grows up courteous and strong, and visits his mother often. Theoderic wishes to dub him a knight, but Karl will not let anyone except his father do so. His mother at last tells the boy who she really is, and so Karl tells Theoderic’s queen that her daughter is deathly ill in Paris. The Queen hurries thither, and at once detects the imposture [the false bride does not fake an illness, as she does in most versions]. Karl has also brought his mother to Paris, and the Queen knows her at once. The impostor and the two conspirators are burnt. Pepin weds the true princess and dubs his son a knight. Karl grows up to fight many wars against the Danes, Saxons, Hungarians, and Spaniards.

The chronicle now turns to Bremenish affairs, which need not concern us here.


The only edition is from 1688, in Henry Meibom, Jr.’s Rerum Germanicarum, volume 2, p. 18 sq. The story of Bertha Broadfoot is under the heading De S. Karolo & S. Willehado, pp. 18-23.

Section 4:

Weihenstephan Weltchronik

German prose, written in Bavaria in the 1430s. Begins by following Jans der Enikel with interpolations from the Gesta Romanorum and the Golden Legend. After Our Lord’s life, it follows the Flores Temporum.2 It survives in four MSS, two of which include a unique account of Charlemagne’s life.

2: Viehhauser, Gabriel, “Weihenstephaner Chronik”, in: Encyclopedia of the Medieval Chronicle, Edited by: Graeme Dunphy, Cristian Bratu. Consulted online on 13 October 2018 <>

In the year 740, when Zacharias I was Pope and Constantine VI was Emperor, King Childeric reigned in France, until the Pope, Prince Pepin, and Pepin’s brother Carloman deposed him. Pepin founded churches in Weihen Stephan. He had no wife, however, so the King of Brittaia, or Kaerling, offers him his daughter Perchta in marriage. Pepin consents, and sends his Hofmaister to fetch the girl. The Hofmaister, however, (who lives in Swabia), has three sons and two daughters, and the younger greatly resembles the Breton princess, so they decide to substitute her, instead. On their way home from Brittaia, the train stops at the Hofmaister’s castle, where they put the princess’ clothes on his daughter, and has two henchmen take her into the woods to kill her. She pleads for mercy, and they settle for abandoning her. They kill her dog instead, and take its tongue as proof. The Hofmaister and his family proceed to King Pepin, who weds the false bride. Their children are Leo, afterwards Pope, Wemrmann, Rapoth, and Agnes. Pepin in those days made war on Bohemia, Saxony, and Hungary.

Perchta, meanwhile, stumbles across a coalburner, whom she thinks is a devil because of his black face. The coalburner takes her to a miller, who takes her in alongside his wife and two daughters. She earns her keep by sewing and embroidery. Seven years later, King Pipin gets lost hunting, with only two attendants and his astrologer. They meet the coalburner, who guides them to the mill. The astrologer sees in the stars that Pepin will lie with his wife tonight and beget a mighty king. Pepin knows he can’t get back to court, so he settles for asking to sleep with someone. The millers’ daughters refuse, but Perchta goes willingly to his bed, and gives him the ring he sent her when they first were courting. He is astonished, and she tells him all the truth. He swears to make things right, but in the meantime she must stay with the miller. This was in the days of Pope Stephen II (r. 752-757), and the 12th year of Constantine VI’s reign (792, but Constantine V’s 12th year was 753. Charlemagne was really born in 742).

When Karl is born, the miller brings a bow and arrow to Pepin, who sends him home with money. King Marsilies of Spain invades France, but Pepin chases him back into Spain, which he then ravages for three years until Marsilies surrenders. Meanwhile, the Hofmaister has been fighting the heathen Saxons. Pepin returns, and summons Karl to court, but his mother will not let him go yet. Pepin then makes war against the Hungarians for two years. One night, an angel appears to him and gives him a golden cross, with which the Christians are victorious. That cross was later given to St. Stephen of Hungary.

When Karl is eight years old, he still does not know who his father is. When he is playing with the other boys, one of them has stolen a bridle, and Karl recommends that they hang the thief. The boy actually dies, and his father, furious, comes to the mill and drags Karl before a judge.

Karl maintains his innocence, and so impresses the judge and presiding nobility with his wisdom, that the King has him brought to court. Karl tells his mother’s story as a hypothetical scenario, and asks the Hofmaister and his sons what ought to be done to such people. The Hofmaister’s eldest son says they deserve to be dragged behind a horse through the streets and then be burned. The other sons concur, but the Hofmaister says, “I will pass no sentence on myself” and pleads for mercy. It is denied, the Hofmaister and his sons are burned, and the false queen is sent to a nunnery. Her children, however, are kept at court. Wenemar, the eldest, is sixteen.

Karl now brings Perchta to his court (at Weihenstephan, in Bavaria). Wenemar and Rapoth hate him, but Leo loves him. Perchta has another son, Carloman, and six years later Pepin and Perchta die, when Karl is 17, in the 29th year of Constantine VI [who only reigned 19, until 797, but Constantine V’s 29th year was 770], the tenth of Desiderius of Italy [766]. [really he died 768].

The chronicle moves into the story of Mainet, p. 53.


The portion dealing with Charlemagne was printed by Johann Christopher Aretin. Aelteste Sage über die Geburt und Jugend Karls des Grossen: Zum erstenmale bekannt gemacht und erläutert. Munich: J. Schererschen Kunst, 1803. Bertha’s story can be found pp. 15-53.

Section 5:

Ulrich Fuetrer’s Bayersische Cronik

Ulrich Fuetrer (d. c. 1500) was a German painter, sculptor, and author. Besides his chronicle, he translated the prose Lancelot into German, and wrote a Buch der abenteuer [Book of Adventures], a collection of Arthurian romances.

The story of Bertha begins after Pepin’s wars against the Hungarians wherein he received the miraculous cross. He is established at Weihenstephan and seeks a wife, and learns of the daughter of the King of Kerlingen. He sends his treacherous steward to negotiate. This steward has a daughter who has been raised away from court. Unfortunately, she looks nothing like Perchta. Undaunted by this, the steward brings home to Pepin a picture of his own daughter, which Pepin agrees to marry. The steward returns to Kerlingen to fetch the poor princess, and between Augsburg and Weihenstephan he has his two henchmen take her into the wood to kill her. They are touched with pity, however, and turn her loose in the woods. The steward rides on to Pepin with his daughter.

Perchta finds her way to a mill, and is taken in by the miller, where she earns her keep by sewing. [Ulrich’s learning shines through here, as Perchta makes an elaborate lament full of classical allusions.] The steward’s daughter and Pepin have children: Rapot, Wineman, Marchona (who marries the prince of Kurnibal [Cornwall, apparently from a confusion of England with Anglant] and becomes the mother of Roland), and Leo, who became Pope.

Perchta lives with the miller for years, until one day Pepin rides out hunting in that forest, and gets lost with only his astrologer for company. They stumble across the mill, where Pepin first admires Perchta’s handiwork, then admires Perchta. He asks for her story, but she says she has sworn never to reveal it. At this juncture, the astrologer bursts in with important news: Pepin must lie with his true bride that very night. Perchta reveals her identity when she hears this. Pepin [though she presents no sort of proof] believes her, and begets on her Charlemagne that very night. In the morning he returns to court, and confirms the story with he two henchmen, whom he then sends to the miller’s. He then summons his court and puts to them the story as a hypothetical, and asks the steward what punishment such a person deserves. The steward says he will pass no judgment against himself, so Pepin has him burnt and his wife immured [in a nunnery]. Pepin writes to Pope Zachary for advice on dealing with the false queen, but before a reply comes, she dies of grief, and so Pepin is free to wed Perchta, who has by now given birth to Karl.

The chronicle now moves on to Mainet.


The Cronik has been printed by R. Spiller, in “Quellen und Erörterungen zur bayerischen Geschichte” New series, volume 2, part 2. Link here. The tale of Bertha runs from p. 83-98, (¶119-140).

Section 6:

Georg Hohenmut

The Zuricher Volksbuch, despite its name, is not a printed chapbook, but rather a manuscript collection made by three hands, now in the Zurich canton library, Codex C. 28. The first story in the collection is known as Das Buch von Heiligen Karl, and was copied by Georg Hohenmut of Werd. It can be divided into four parts.

I: Floris and Blanchefleur, based on Konrad Fleck.

II: Charles’ youth, containing Bertha Broad-Foot, Mainet, Charles’ wars, The revelation of the Way of Saint James, Charles’ coronation, the founding of Aix Cathedral, the Pilgrimage, the founding of 24 churches, building a bridge at Mainz, and Charles’ Sin.

III: Charles’ Wars in Spain, from Der Stricker

IV: Episodes from the Pseudo-Turpin: Furra, Ferracutus, Aigolant, Granopolis, Roncesvalles, among others.

The life of William of Orange follows, but the rest of the MS has nothing to do with Charlemagne.

Berchta is born when her parents, King Florus and Queen Pantschiflur of Spain, are thirty years old, and when she if fifteen, she is betrothed to King Pepin. Pepin is tall and fat [!], and his wife has died, leaving two sons: Wineman and Rappote. Berchta and her lady-in-waiting ride to France, but when Pepin sees how big and tall and ugly Pepin is, she is horrified, and has her maid take her place in bed. The maid has a son by the king, who will grow up to be Pope Leo. Berchta, meanwhile, has been living with a miller, who has many daughters.

Pepin and his astrologer get lost by the mill, and the astrologer tells him he must sleep with his wife that night, to beget a son who will do great service to Christendom. They take refuge with the miller, who has his daughters bring them bread. The miller’s daughters are curt with their guests, but Berchta kneels before him. He is impressed with her grace and beauty, and soon they tell each other all their stories. They lie together on a cart, and the son they conceive that night is thus named Karl. Pepin returns home and bids the maid tell him the truth, promising that no harm will befall her. He sends her away with her son, and takes Berchta as his wife. After Karl, they have a daughter, Gertrude. Pepin dies soon after, and the Buch moves to the story of Mainet.


Deutsche volksbücher aus einer Zürcher handschrift des fünfzehnten jahrhunderts. Edited by A. Bachmann and S. Singer. Bibliotek des Litterarischer verein in Stuttgart CLXXXV. Tübingen, 1889. Bertha’s story is on pages 15-17.

Bertha Broadfoot – General Reference:

Morgan, Leslie Zarker. La Geste Francor. ACMRS: Tempe, AZ, 2009.

Reinhold, Joachim. “Über die verschiedenen Fassungen der Bertassage.” Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie 35 (1911): 1-30, 129-152. The source of the stemma.

The Legend of Taillefer of Leon

The Saintongeaise translation of Turpin interpolates a certain Taillefer de Leon among Charlemagne’s warriors who fought in Spain. In the Chronique Saintongeaise which is prefaced to two MSS of this Turpin, we are told of this Taillefer’s namesake nephew, who allegedly lived in the days of Charles the Simple. The CS is a third-rate butchering of various older chronicles, of interest only for the bits of folklore it includes. The only English translations, to my knowledge, is a few paragraphs about Taillefer by Francis Bourdillon in Folklore 7, 1896, p. 254 sq. Although Taillafer seems to have at one time been a popular local hero in Saintonge, what follows is all that is now known of him.

During the troubles after the deposition of Charles the Simple, King Raoul of Burgundy defeated the invading Normans alongside his son Taillefer de Leon. Taillefer was given Aquitaine and Angoulême, and the daughter of Walter Frapan of Rome, who brought with her a dowry of silver, gold, and twenty thousand knights, with whom he drove the Normans from Paris. His sons were William, Count of Auvergne and Duke of Aquitaine; and Ramnulf, Count of Poitou; and Theobald. Taillefer then conquered all Germany, and drove the Hungarians and Normans out, and became emperor, and then went over-sea [to Jerusalem] and left the realm to his son Odon, who had four sons. He gave Bougogne to one of them, Geoffrey, who built the abbeys of Vendôme, with Countess Agnes his wife. He [unclear antecedent] gave his son Emonon Angoulême, Gascony, Saintonge, and Peiregorc. And he gave Walter Toulouse, Limousine, Auvergne, and all the land to the Rhine. There were three gestes in France: one of Pepin and “langre,” one of Odon of Maence, and one of Guarin of Maence, and these conquered Christendom.

Origins and Influence

This most minor of minor heroes has been discussed in depth by William Bourdillon, in an appendix to his edition of the CS, which is what we follow here. Bourdillon identifies uncle and nephew as doublets of William Taillefer I, Count of Angouleme (r. 916-962). In Ademar’s chronicle, only sixty years after his death, Taillefer is given the sword Durissimus, forged by Walander the Smith [Wayland, Volunt], and cleaves the Norse king Storim in half with it.

William Taillefer III (r. c. 1088-c.1119) was also a valiant knight, and visited the Holy Sepulchre near the end of his life.

King Rodolph the First of Burgundy (r. 888-912) did defeat the Normans, and Duke William the Pious of Aquitaine (r. 994-1019) and Count Ranulph of Poitou (r. 877-890) were also real, but they were not related to each other.

William Taillefer I was, however, the son of Raimund, Count of Toulouse and Duke of Aquitaine, who had repelled a Hungarian invasion in 924. As for the later genealogy, Odon appears to be meant for Otto the Great (r. 936-973). The founder of Vendôme was Count Geoffrey II Martel of Anjou (r. 1040-1060), no relation to the Great Otto, though his wife, Agnes, was the daughter of Otto-William (958-1026), stepson of Duke Henry of Burgundy.

The Legend of the Vengeance for Bevis

The Legend of the Vengeance for Bevis is found only in Andrea da Barberino’s I Reali di Francia, of which it forms the Fifth Book. The original Italian can be found here. There is no English translation.

Two years after Buovo’s death, King Sinibaldo of Armenia meets his brothers Guido, Sinibaldo, and King Guglielmo of England in London, with many knights, including Sinibaldo’s son Guerrino and Guido’s son Bernardo of Clairmont. They swear vengeance. Since Galione, who killed Buovo, is living in Babylon, richly honored by the Sultan, they decide to kill his six sons instead. Galione’s wife learns of their wicked plan, however, and flees with her children to King Pepin. Pepin throws them all in jail and confiscates their lands. He will not let Buovo’s sons kill them, but gives them 15,000 knights and the Oriflamme to fight against Galione and the Sultan. Also joining the Christians is King Sicurans of Hungary. They lay siege to Damietta, Galione comes to relieve it, but they capture him and cut him to pieces. Sinibaldo leaves Armenia in the hands of a viceroy, since Pepin gives him Burgundy, Mayence, Savoy, and Provence. Pepin pardons the sons of Galione and gives them Flanders, and persuades Sinibaldo to restore to them Maganza, Losanne, and Poitiers. Sinibaldo founds the city of Mongrana in Champagne, and from that castle the House of Mongrane took their name.

In the version of Bovo d’Antona in octaves, printed in 1480, as has been said, Bovo is killed by Richier of Maganza’s vassal Gualtier. The citizens seize him and imprison him, and Bovo’s sons Sinibaldo, Guidone, and Tedrise besiege and sack Maganza.

Let thus much suffice for the Legend of the Vengeance for Bevis of Hampton.

The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 16: Modern Adaptations

Section 1

Sobrabre y Aragon

According to the history of Sobrarbe (an utterly fictitious history of Aragon fabricated in the early Renaissance), after Charlemagne destroyed Pamplona, the Navarrese rebelled. King Fortunio of Sobarbe (r. 803-815), married the daughter of Galindo Aznar, allied with Alfonso against Charlemagne and Marsil, and fought in the Battle of Roncesvalles in 809, when Roland and the Peers were slain.1

1Franklin, Albert B. “A Study of the Origins of the Legend of Bernardo Del Carpio.” Hispanic Review 5, no. 4 (1937): 286-303. doi:10.2307/469961. p. 294-295.

Section 2:


1500’s historians took Bernardo as factual, except Ambrosio de Morales. Even he, however, though denying the bulk of the legends around him, admitted he was probably a real person. Pedro Mantuano, in 1611, was the first to deny all reality to the hero, though a few Spanish patriots held out for him until the end of the eighteenth century.

Section 3:


Historia fiel y verdadera del valienta Bernardo del Carpio was the name of a chapbook circulating through the 1800s, by Manuel José Martín

The Portuguese Alejandro Caetano Gomes Flaviense wrote the Verdadeira Terciera Parte da Historia de Carlos-Magno em que se esvreven as gloriosas açoes e victorias de Bernardo del Carpio. É de como venceo em batallha os Doze Pares de França, con algunas particularidades dos Principes de Hispanha, seus povoadores è Reis preimeiros, in 1745, “for diversion during winter nights.” The book begins with the Creation of the World, the Deluge, the Tower of Babel, and the kings of Spain from the oldest legends down to Don Ramiro of Leon and his children Alfonso and Jimena. Bernardo is dubbed a knight by Sultan Orimandro of Persia, and has many extravagant adventures of Gomes’ own invention. After defeating Roldan in a duel, he returns to Spain, but is summoned therefrom to save the Pope from the invading Lombards. After his victory at Roncesvalles, he conquers the Moors of Catalonia and Aragon and kills Don Bueso (who in this book is Duke of Guyana, for some reason). Bernardo is buried at Aguilar de Camóo, and Gomes identifies him with Bernard of Septimania.2

Pelayo Ch. XXXI. He explains that Part One was the Portuguese translation of Nicolas de Piamonte’s Fierabras, by Jerónimo Moreira de Carvalho, who added Part Two out of his own head.

Section 4

Miscellaneous Adaptations, Literary

Lope de Vega’s Mocedades de Roldan includes a scene at the end when the Spanish ambassador to Charles’ court, admiring the young Roland, says that he will be a worthy rival to Alfonso’s nephew Bernardo del Carpio someday.

Alvaro Cubillo, El Conde de Saldaña, 1660. A reworking of Lope’s Mocedades, tightens the play up slightly, and omits such scenes as the lying-in of the Princess. Cubillo also wrote a sequel, Hechos de Bernardo, about Roncesvalles, which is devoid of merit.

Joaquín Francisco Pacheco, Bernardo, 1848. Spanish play. Based on Cubillo, with random changes of his own, and makes Bernardo the hero of the entirely unrelated legend that the Christians were obliged to pay a hundred damsels a year in tribute to the Moors until a hero put a stop to it.

Ventura Ruiz Aguilera and Francisco Zea, Bernardo de Saldaña, also 1848. “A historical drama.”

Henry F. Harrington: Bernardo del Carpio. An Historical Tragedy in Five Acts. English.

John Finnamore, Carpio: A Tragedy in Five Acts, 1875, English play.

George Washington Montgomery: Bernardo del Carpio: Novela Histórica, Caballeresca Original. Spanish novel.

Javier González Zaldumbide: El Señor del Carpio. 2008. Spanish historical fiction novel.

Section 5

Miscellaneous Adaptations, Popular

In San Lucas de Colán, Piura, Peru, the festivities of Our Lady of Mercy in early October feature a pageant in which Bernardo del Carpio fights the Moors. See here.

In the Philippines, Bernardo Carpio (who is either the same as the Spanish hero or else simply named after him) ends his career of extraordinary feats by being trapped between two mountains. His story has been retold in countless ballads, songs, and comic books, in innumerable versions. He is a giant, or simply an ordinary man with extraordinary strength. He is the son of Sancho and Jimena, or simply named after him. At any rate, he is the hero and protector of the Filipinos, until the Spanish hire a wizard to trap him in the mountains of Montalban (in the Philippines, now called Rodriguez, Rizal), where his attempts to escape cause earthquakes.

Let thus much suffice for the legend of Bernardo del Carpio.

The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 15: Siglo d’Oro Plays


There are four Siglo d’Oro plays about Bernardo del Carpio, full summaries of which follow.

Juan de la Cueva: Comedia de la Libertad de España por Bernardo del Carpio (1579-1581, printed 1583).

First edition: Comedias y tragedias 1583.

Reprinted 1917 by Icaza for the Sociedad de Bibliófilos Españoles.

Printed alone 1974, edited by Anthony Watson, Exeter Hispanic Texts, No. 8.

ACT I: King Alfonso broods on his wrongs and sends Count Tibalte to summon Doña Ximena. He has misgivings, but goes. Ximena is lamenting to her confidante, Doña Oliva, when Tibalte arrives. King Alfonso, meanwhile, is brooding on the weight of the crown when Ximena arrives. He accuses her of disgracing herself and her family, and tells her she will be sent to a nunnery. She asks him to take care of Bernardo, who is just a babe in Asturias. He agrees, and sends her away. The king next sends Count Tibalte to summon the Count of Saldaña.

ACT II: Count Tibalte is a friend of Saldaña’s, and wavers between the king and his friend, before deciding to follow the king’s orders. He and Doña Oliva love each other, and he does not tell her where he is going. Count Tibalte is greeted warmly by Saldaña, and they go to Alfonso’s court. Saldaña denies the king’s accusations of treason, but he never mentions Ximena or Bernardo during this entire scene. The king has him blinded and sent to the Castle of Luna. He then sends Count Tibalte to Asturias to fetch Bernardo, who will be reared at the king’s court as his bastard son. Continue reading

The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 14: Wanderings and Death of Bernardo


PCG Chapter 655: Year 11 of Alfonso III’s reign (876). They say in cantares that Bernaldo went to France, where King Charles [presumably the Bald] welcomed him, but Timbor’s son rejected him. Despairing, Bernaldo left the court. Charles gave him horses and arms, but Bernaldo still ravaged the land as he returned to Spain, where he founds Canal de Jaca, marries Doña Galiana, daughter of Count Alardos de Latre, and begets on her Galín Galíndez, who grew up to be a fine knight in his own right. Bernardo fought three great battles against the Moors before his death. Some say that it was Alfonso III who fought at Ronçasvalles, but this is an error.

Chapter 656. Year 21 (887). Bernardo del Carpio died in France, as Don Lucas says [he says no such thing]. Perhaps he returned there after his time in Spain which we have already recorded.

The legend of the Carolingian Bernardo has been awkwardly made into a tacked-on sequel to the Carpian story. This account makes no sense where it is placed in the PCG. In the original Carolingian legend, these adventures likely took place immediately after Roncesvalles, as in Lucas; the king was likely Charlemagne; and the story of Count Sancho did not feature.

Estevan de Garibay (1628) in his Compendio historial de España claims that Bernardo wandered errant throughout France and Navarre until his death, after which his body was taken to Spain and buried in Aguilar de Campo.

The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 13: Bernardo Frees His Father


Section 1: Chronicles

Lucas never tells us what became of Count Sancho.

Rodrigo. Bernardo rebels against King Alfonso III after the battle of Toledo. To make peace, Alfonso releases the Count, alive and well, and Bernardo is reconciled with the king.

PCG: Year 11 of Alfonso the Great’s reign [876]. Alfonso’s men at last prevail upon him to release San Diaz. Bernaldo agrees to this, and hands over Orios Godos, Count Tiobalte, and his castle of El Carpio. Alfonso sends Orios and Tiobalte to fetch Count San Diaz, but they arrive three days after his death. They say in their songs that Alfonso ordered the corpse to be cleaned, mounted on a horse, and paraded before Saldaña. Bernardo surrendered the city and went forth to meet his father. When he realized he had been deceived, he rounded on the king with fury, and the king banished him again.

The Cuarta follows Rodrigo in sparing the Count’s life.

Section 2: Ballads

Burguillos Pidal Eruditos 10. “Los altos hombres del reino.”

Alfonso the Great’s men, seeing the damage done to their country, prevail upon him to make peace with Bernardo. Alfonso agrees, if Bernardo will render up El Carpio. He agrees, and Alfonso sends Don Tibalte and Arias Godos to Luna, where they find that the Count is dead. They wash his body, dress it up, and return to El Carpio with the body mounted on horseback. Bernardo kisses his father’s hand, discovers the trick, and laments. Alfonso banishes Bernardo from Spain, but gives him rich gifts and recommends that he go to his [Bernardo’s] kinsman King Charles of France, which he does.

The absurdity of Alfonso banishing Bernardo in one breath and showering him with good advice and gifts in the next is considered to be evidence that two stories have been combined here, one about Bernardo del Carpio, and one about Bernardo the Carolingian.

Lorenzo de Sepúlveda Durán 658, Class IV; Pidal Eruditos 15. “En Leon y las Asturias”

Alfonso III the Great reigns in Leon and Asturias. Bernardo asks for his father’s liberty. Alfonso refuses, and Bernardo revolts. The barons persuade Alfonso to release Count Sancho Diaz. Alfonso agrees, if Bernardo will render up El Carpio. He agrees, and Alfonso sends Don Tibalte and Don Arias to Luna, where they find that the Count is dead. They wash his body, dress it up, and invite Bernardo to the palace to see him. Bernardo kisses his father’s hand, discovers the trick, and laments.

Durán 656, Class VIII; Pidal Artificiosos 28a-b. “Antes que barbas tuviese”

28a=Durán 656, printed in the Romancero General de 1600.

28b is from Colombia, 1907. A fragment that only contains part of Bernardo’s rebuke.

Bernardo rebukes Alfonso for not releasing his father. Alfonso swears to release him before Mass is sung tomorrow in the Lateran. He does so, but first he blinds him.

Count Sancho is also blinded in the theater of Cueva, Lope, and Cubillo. Durán changes the ending to make Alfonso blind and kill the Count.1

1 Pidal, Rom. Trad. I, 258-259.

Durán 625, Class VIII; Pidal Artificiosos 20a-c. “Bañando están las prisiones”

Count Sancho Diaz, in prison, laments. “When I entered this castle, I had no beard; now it is long and white. My son, why do you not come save me? Are you a bad son, or am I a bad father? Have I done something to offend you? Oh, forgive me!”

Lockhart has translated Durán 625.

Pidal 20b and c are from oral tradition, where this ballad is combined with Con cartas y mensajeros (Pidal Primitivos 1i, 1j).

B, from Seville, 1916 [=Cartas I].

After Bernardo tells the king that he knew he was only joking, he departs for the castle of Luna. Inside the castle, the prisoner sings a version of Mes de mayo, mes de mayo. “In May, all are happy and joyful, save for myself, who lie here in prison, and know not whether it is night or day save by a bird that sings outside my window. But for three days I have not heard him. Tell me, what happened to him? The guards tell me I have a son called Bernardo, who has done mighty feats. My son, why do you not come free me?”

The singer had forgotten the rest of the verses, but Bernardo arrived at the castle, heard his father’s laments, and set him free.

C, from Seville, 1916 [=Cartas J].

When I came into this castle, I had no beard, but now it is long and white. I have a son, Bernardo, who has done great deeds, and conquered Alto Silverio, but why does he not come save me?” [The story then transitions to Con Cartas, in a version which ends ambiguously].

Lope de Vega adapts the ballad for his Mocedades de Bernardo. Alvaro Cubillo de Aragon, whose Conde de Saldaña is a reworking of Lope, transforms it almost beyond recognition. Lope returns to the theme, though this time without quoting the ballad, in his Casamiento en la Muerte.

Lope’s Mocedades has passed into Spanish folklore, with the tragic ending restored. In an oral prose version from Seville, 1920, Bernardo enters the Count of Saldaña’s prison cell to free him. The Count embraces his son, but dies of the emotion.

Gabriel Lasso de la Vega Durán 657, Class VIII; Pidal Artificiosos 29a-b. “Hincado está de rodillas”

Bernardo kneels before his father to kiss his hand, since Alfonso has mercifully freed him, but the hand is icy cold A, B. He laments A; he calls himself a bad son, and swears to avenge his father’s death, and leaves, trembling with anger, to seek Alfonso B.

Durán prints only B, which seems to be an expanded version of Gabriel Lasso’s original A.

Durán 659, Class VIII; Pidal Artifciosos 30. “Mal mis servicios pagaste” Printed in a broadsheet from 1595, and in the Romancero de 1600.

Bernardo laments, and storms out of the palace to raise a revolt, calling to his aid all his friends, both Christians and Moors.

Durán again alters the text, which is not quite clear in the original whether the Count is dead, or merely blinded.3

3 Pidal, Rom. Trad. I, 261.

Gabriel Lobo Laso de la Vega Durán 662, Class VIII; Pidal Artificiosos 32. “Aspero llanto hacia” The version in Gabriel’s MS of 1578 is longer than that which was published. We italicize the omitted parts.

Bernardo, safe at Carpio, plots vengeance on King Alfonso the Chaste. He wanders into a room where he finds an old and dusty harness that once was his father’s, and laments, in quatrains. This finished, he sallies forth with a fine helmet and sword, upon a light-brown steed with black caparison and all dressed in black armor. His lance is black, and his shield is black with a red heart on it. Three hundred noblemen follow him from El Carpio.

Durán 660, Class VIII; Pidal Artificiosos 33a-c. “Retraido en su aposento” Manuscripts only, earliest 1578.

Bernardo, in his own castle, arms himself, sighs, weeps, and laments. He begs his father’s pardon, says that if he had been a good son the Count would be avenged already, and swears vengeance on the king. He then puts mourning garb over his white armor. (He leaps to the saddle without need of stirrup C)

Durán 661, Class VIII; Pidal Artificiosos 36. “¡Inhumano rey Alfonso!” First printed in the Romancero General de 1605.

Bernardo rebukes his uncle King Alfonso of Leon and announces his intent to go to France and seek to serve King Charles, though they have been enemies before. He says that killing his father was an ill reward for all the times he had saved Alfonso, including giving him his horse at the Romeral, and killing the Paladins at Roncesvalles.

This ballad is interesting both for an allusion to Con cartas y mensajeros, and for being one of the few [only?] Siglo d’Oro retellings to acknowledge the Bernardo in France episodes in the PCG.

Combined with Durán 655 by Lockhart.

Durán 663, Class VIII; Pidal Artificiosos 35. “Las obsequias funerales” First printed in the Romancero General de 1600.

Bernardo, at the funeral, weeps by his father’s side, and laments, cursing King Alfonso.

This romance is very artificial and full of playing with conceits.

Durán 664, Class VIII; Pidal Artificiosos 34. “Al pie de un túmulo negro.” First printed in the Romancero General de 1600.

Bernardo, his kin and friends kneel by a black tomb in a church. It is that of Count Sancho. Bernardo laments. At last he rises, turns around, and, heedless of the holy place, rebukes King Alfonso the Chaste, in ottava rima. He says that he is the same Bernardo who single-handedly broke the power of Charlemagne (by killing the Peers) and he will avenge his father.

This seems to be the ballad translated by Lockhart, but he takes even more liberties than usual.

Section 3: Siglo d’Oro Plays

Vega Mocedades: After Bernardo returns in triumph from capturing El Carpio from the Moors, Alfonso tells him that his father is still alive, and that he will be freed if Bernardo does him one last favor: investigate the haunted castle of Luna. Bernardo is unable to persuade his superstitious squire to accompany him, and sets off alone. He hears Count Sancho lamenting and at first thinks he is a ghost. The prisoner explains that he is no ghost, however, but the Count of Saldaña, and tells his story. Bernardo realizes this must be his father, and offers to break him out, but the Count insists on obedience to the king, so Bernardo promises to get the king’s permission.

The king and his court are celebrating Saint John’s Day when Bernardo arrives with an army to demand his father’s freedom. Alfonso grants it, and Bernardo announces that this is a fitting end to THE YOUTH OF BERNARDO.

Vega Casamiento: At the castle, the jailer draws back a curtain to reveal the Count seated on a chair. Bernardo kneels and kisses his hand, only to find that he is dead. Bernardo, after he has lamented and somewhat recovered, asks where his mother is. She is immured in a nunnery that is attached to the castle. Bernardo forces the nuns to open the door and let him in, and he brings his mother, still unprofessed, out. He brings her to where the count is seated and joins their hands together. He asks his mother if she weds this man, and she says yes. He then asks his father if he weds this woman, and moves the corpse’s head up and down, “yes.” He announces that he is no longer a bastard, now that there has been A MARRIAGE IN DEATH.

According to Menéndez y Pelayo, this scene is as great as anything in Shakespeare, and deserves to be known to everyone by heart.

Section 4: Modern Adaptations

Felicia Hemans’ poem Bernardo Del Carpio is not a translation of any Spanish ballad.

The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 12: Bernardo’s War Against Alfonso



Section 1: Chronicles

Lucas: After the battle of Toledo, Bernaldus built the castle of Carpio near Salamanca, and rebelled against King Alfonso, on account of his father’s imprisonment in the Castle of Luna. The Saracens seized this opportunity to attack Asturias and Leon and lay them waste with fire and sword. King Alfonso promised Bernaldus his father’s liberty if he would make peace, which he did, and they fought the battle of Polvoroso together [we are not told if the Count was actually freed.]

Rodrigo After the battle of Toledo, Berinaldus built the castle of Carpio in the land of Salamanca, and allied with the Saracens to harry Alfonso’s borders. [Some other?] Saracens seized this opportunity to attack Asturias and Leon and lay them waste with fire and sword. King Alfonso promised Berinaldus his father’s liberty if he would make peace. So it was done, and the Count was freed. Alfonso and Berinaldus fought the battle of Polvoroso.

PCG For two years after the Pentecost Court, Bernardo strengthens his position, joined by men from Benavente, Toro, and Zamora. In the 10th year of Alfonso III’s reign [875], Bernaldo marches on Salamanca. He advances with a small division, and then retreats, luring Alfonso’s troops into an ambush, where Orios Godos and Count Tiobalte are captured. Bernaldo then founds El Carpio near Salamanca. He makes alliance with the Muslims and raids Asturias and Leon, prompting Alfonso to lay siege to El Carpio. Bernaldo proposes to trade Orios Godos and Count Tiobalte for his father, but Alfonso refuses. Bernaldo, in revenge, raids Salamanca, but cautions his men not to go overboard plundering it, lest there be nothing left to take in the future.

Section 2: Ballads

Burguillos Pidal Eruditos 9. “De Salamanca partía” Only the first four lines survive.

Bernardo del Carpio leaves Salamanca, cursing King Alfonso the Great.

Burguillos was the only Siglo d’Oro writer to think this part of the story worth adapting, unless Pidal’s theory that By the Rivers of Arlanza is a very free retelling thereof is correct.