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 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 10: Adventures of Bernardo



Subsection 1: Chronicles

PCG Chapter 651: Year 7 of Alfonso III’s reign [872]. Don Bueso of France invades Spain. King Alfonso meets him in battle by Ordeion in Castile, near castle Amaya. Some say in their cantares segund cuenta la estoria that Buseo was Bernaldo’s cousin. Bernaldo killed Bueso in the fray. After the battle, Bernaldo kissed Alfonso’s hand and asked for the liberty of his father, and called to mind all the times he had helped him against the Moors. But Alfonso refused, and Bernaldo renounced his service for a year.

Ocampo places the story in the 35th year of Alfonso the Chaste’s reign, the fourth of Louis the Pious, AD 814 [really 817].

Subsection 2: Ballads

Burgillos Durán 630, Class IV; Pidal Eruditos 6. “Estando en paz y sosiego”

Don Bueso of France invades Alfonso the Chaste’s lands. Bernardo leads the Spanish army to fight the French near Osejo in Castile. Bernardo kills Bueso in the battle, and the French flee. Alfonso, in gratitude, promises to free Bernardo’s father, but when he is back in safety, changes his mind. Bernardo, sorrowful, refuses to serve at court any longer.

Those scholars who believe that Bernardo was formed from two or three legends disagree as to which included the story of Don Bueso. Horrent ascribes it to the Carpian story; most others to the Carolingian.



Bernardo and Urgel “En la cortes de León.” Wolf 14, Class II. Pidal Romances Viejos 3. First printed in a broadside c. 1560-1565.

King Alfonso holds court in Leon, and the knights are making merry with various games, when a stranger rides into the hall, and issues a challenge. Let anyone ride with him to the forest, and he will prove that he is a better knight and serves a better king. By his discourteous words, they know him to be Don Urgel el Esforzado [literally: The Striving], one of the Twelve Peers. None dare to challenge him, and their cowardice makes Alfonso fume and the ladies weep. At last Alfonso goes to look for Bernardo, and finds him in the great church, praying to Saint James. King Alfonso explains the situation. Bernardo asks for his father’s liberty, which Alfonso promises. Bernardo dons his armor and jousts against Urgel. Their combat continues for three hours. Bernardo invites the Frank to surrender, but Urgel answers that while he can die in battle, he cannot live with dishonor, and expires from loss of blood. Bernardo thus humiliated France, as he would later do at Roncesvalles.

This romance was doubtless written to be printed as a broadside. Pidal thinks it inspired by Bernardo’s combat with Don Bueso and the legend of El Reto de Zamora [The vows of Zamora].1 This Urgel may be supposed to be Ogier the Dane, though that knight is usually known as Urgel de las Marchas in Spanish, and, of course, Ogier did not die but was taken by Morgan le Fay to Avalon.

1 Pidal. Romancero Tradicional vol. I. p. 194.

Perhaps this ballad was the inspiration for Durán 422, wherein a Moor named Urgel is slain by Bradamante.2

2 Milá y Fontanals, Manuel. De La Poesia Heroico-Popular Castellana. Barcelona, 1959. “Obras de Manuel Milá y Fontanals I. [orig. pub. 1874]. p. 585.

Lucas Rodriguez: Bernardo and Estela Durán 632, Class VIII; Pidal Artificiosos 1. “Con ansia extrema y lloroso” Printed 1584.

The Moors lay siege to Bernardo’s castle of El Carpio, where his beloved Estela is. He arrives, and learns the current situation from his friend Ascanio. He proceeds to save the day.

This is an invention of Rodriguez’ from beginning to end. Estela and Ascanio are completely unknown outside of this ballad.

Bernardo and His Nurse Pidal Artificiosos 27. “¡Altas y soberbias torres” From a Chilean manuscript dated 1605.

Bernardo curses the high and proud towers on the borders of France, with the cypress trees under their walls, where his lady Doña Blanca is imprisoned, she who raised him at her breast to make him a son of Spain. The towers and walls guard her unjustly, for she is without guilt. He swears that he will never forgive them, and they only way they can prevent him from avenging and freeing her is for them to kill him and her both.

Lucas Rodriguez: Bernardo and Lepolemo Durán 644, Class VIII; Pidal Artificiosos 1. “Cuando el padre Faeton” or “La mañana de San Juan”. First printed in a broadside c. 1570.

On Saint John’s Day [June 24] in the morning, three damsels ride, weeping, through the forest, with four squires before them. They meet Bernardo, and tell him their woe: Lepolemo has killed their brother and occupied their castle. Bernardo kills him and restores their castle.

There is no traditional basis for this ballad. It is merely the sort of adventure that happens to Amadis or Lancelot every day.



This insipid play by Miguel de Cervantes is generally regarded as one of his worst works, and I see no reason to challenge that opinion. Full title, Comedia Famosa de la Casa de los Celos y Selvas de Ardenia [“Famous Comedy of the House of Jealousy and the Forest of Arden”]

ACT I: Reinaldos complains to Malgesi that Roldan and Galalon were making fun of his poverty. Roldan and Galalon enter, and Reinaldos confronts them. Galalon slips away, leaving Roldan to deny the accusations. Galalon returns with Charlemagne, but explanations are interrupted by a page announcing the arrival of Angelia. Charlemagne bids Malgesi scry her motivations, and Malgesi summons a demon who presents, in phantasm, Angelica, two savages in grass skirts who guard her, and her duenna. Malgesi admits he does not know who they are, and the phantasms vanish. Then the visitors enter in the flesh, and Angelica tells her sad story, how she, King Galafrone’s daughter and heir, has been exiled, and how her brother Argalía will be waiting by Merlin’s Postilion for challengers, and any he can conquer must help them reclaim their kingdom. The train leaves, and Roldan and Reinaldos immediately begin quarreling over Angelica. Malgesi informs the court that Angelica intends to kidnap the Peers with help of her brother’s magic lance, but the love-besotted court ignore him.

Bernardo del Carpio and his Biscayan squire rest in the Forest of Arden where they are seeking the tomb of the demon-born wizard Merlin. As the squire departs in search of Ferraguto, Bernardo’s friend from whom they have been separated, Bernardo unwittingly falls asleep beside Merlin’s Postilion, which is also his tomb. Argalía enters, monologues, and exits. Angelica and her train arrive, Argalía reenters, and all retire to their pavilion. Merlin’s ghost arises, predicts Bernardo’s future glory, and bids him enter his tomb under the postilion. Bernardo does so. Reinaldos arrives and lays down to sleep. Roldan arrives and falls asleep, too. Reinaldos awakes, listens to Roldan sleeptalk about Angelica, awakens him and challenges him to a duel. As they draw their swords, fire erupts between them. Roldan accuses Reinaldos of relying on Malgesi’s magic, but Reinaldos denies it. Merlin speaks, bidding Bernardo make peace between the cousins. Bernardo tries but fails, and Roldan calls him a marrano [crypto-Jew]. Bernardo now wants to fight them both, but at this juncture Marfisa enters on the hilltop at the back of the stage, sees the fight, and wishes to join. She exits to make her way down the mountain, and Angelica and the Biscayan enter on the ground, Angelica lamenting that Ferraguto has slain her brother. Roldan now wishes to fight Bernardo for being Ferraguto’s friend. Marfisa’s arrival distracts the men and lets Angelica run away. The cousins pursue her, leaving Marfisa to introduce herself to Bernardo.

ACT II: Shepherds exposit their romantic problems and extol country life, until Angelica arrives among them seeking shelter, which they grant.

Elsewhere, Reinaldos comes to a horrible cave, out of which Malgesi comes, disguised as Horror. He shows Reinaldos a pageant of Fear, Suspicion, Curiosity, Despair, and Jealousy. This fails to cure Reinaldos’ love, at which Malgesi professes bafflement, but Merlin’s voice tells him that he needs the grass which grows by the banks of his spring, the one which cures love. Malgesi dismisses the spirits and heads to Merlin’s tomb to get the grass. However, Venus arrives at this juncture, riding in a fiery chariot drawn by two lions. She has heard of Reinaldos’ condition and summons Cupid, who tells her about the nearby spring that cures love. Reinaldos (it is unclear if he can see the deities) leaves, and the shepherds (whom Angelica has now joined) arrive. They can definitely see them, and do them homage. Venus resolves their romantic problems, and all exeunt content.

Bernardo and his squire find Roldan. Bernardo challenges him, but Roldan has gone mad and doesn’t remember him. A vision of Angelica appears, which Roldan pursues, only for her to turn into Ill Fame, who threatens him in a long monologue which cures his madness. Roldan now recognizes Bernardo, but Marfisa’s entrance at this point somehow causes Roldan to relapse. He chases another vision of Angelica, which turns into Good Fame, whose long monologue effects a longer-lasting cure. All depart, heading for Paris.

ACT III: The shepherds prate of country things until Reinaldos stumbles upon them, causing Angelica to flee. However, Reinaldos soon hears her cries for help, as she has been captured by two satyrs. He is too late to save her, and they kill her. Luckily, Malgesi reveals it was all one of his illusions, and Reinaldos is cured. At Paris, Galalon and Charles receive Marfisa and Bernardo, who announce that Marfisa will be challenging all comers at Merlin’s Postilion.

Meanwhile, in Arden, Roldan and Ferraguto enter, quarreling over Ferraguto’s killing of Argalía. Ferraguto leaves, swearing to settle the issue later. Roldan sees a vision of Angelica and throws himself at her feet. But it is Malgesi’s illusion, and Malgesi now cures Roldan’s love, and they depart for Paris. Bernardo and Marfisa arrive at Merlin’s Postilion and set up camp, and Galalon arrives to challenge the woman. However, Malgesi sends the satyrs to carry him off. Marfisa and Bernardo marvel at this turn of events, then Bernardo goes to sleep. The Spirit of Castile arrives to prophecy Bernardo’s glory and to carry him away, leaving Marfisa more baffled than ever. She resolves to get out of this enchanted forest and seek Agramonte’s camp.

Elsewhere, Angelica proposes to Corinte, one of the shepherds, and they make their plans to return to Cathay and reign thereover. Unfortunately, Roldan and Reinaldos find them, and immediately begin fighting over her, which causes Corinte to flee in a panic. Malgesi sends a magic cloud to envelop the three remaining figures, and the scene changes.

Galalon, with his arm in a sling, tells Charles that he has conquered Marfisa. Malgesi arrives with Galalon’s battered shield, and Galalon slinks away before Malgesi can reveal the truth. Roldan, Reinaldos, and Angelica arrive in the cloud. Angelica is furious about being separated from her lover, but Malgesi summons the spirit of Paris, who proclaims the imminent war, which finally convinces the cousins to forget Angelica and get ready for battle. The play ends here.

The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 7: Bernardo at Roncesvalles

Section 1: Chronicles

Lucas While Bernardo was making ready for war, Charles was besieging Tudela, which he would have captured if not for Galalon’s treason. Charles did, however, take Nájera and Monte Jardín, and then prepared to return to France.

The barbarian King Marsil of Saragossa rallied an army of Saracens and allied with Bernardo and his Navarrese, and fell on the Frankish rear as they passed through Rocidevallis, killing Prefect Rodlandus of Brittany, Count Anselm, Egiardus the Steward, and many more. King Charles later had his revenge on the Saracens, killing a great number of them, [it is not clear if this is the second battle in the Song of Roland or an entirely new expedition]. After his revenge Charles went on pilgrimage to Saint James, made peace with King Alfonso, rebuilt the city of Iria, and obtained from Pope Leo III for Compostela to be elevated to a metropolitan [archbishopric]. He then returned to Germany with Bernaldus and died soon after, at Aix, where he was buried. Bernaldus served in the imperial household even after Charlemagne’s death, under Louis the Pious (814-840) and Lothair I (840-855).

Emperor Charles III (the Fat, not the Simple, r. 881-888) invaded Spain, attacking Christians and Muslims alike [this never happened], but Bernaldus raised an army of Christians and allied with King Muza of Saragossa, and turned back Charles’ army before they had even crossed the Pyrenees. Charles made alliance with Alfonso, who restored the Mozarabic rite in the churches of Spain. Charles went on pilgrimage to Santiago and San Salvador, and obtained from Pope John Metropolitan [archepiscopal] privileges for those two sites. Bernaldus returned to his fatherland, laden with spoils. Lucas explains that there were three Emperors named Charles: Charles the Great, who lived in the days of Pope Leo and Alfonso the Chaste; another Charles who lived in the days of Pope John, and Charles the Hammer, who succeeded him. Continue reading

The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 6: Prelude to Roncesvalles

The Spanish version of how the Battle of Roncesvalles came about is to be found in chronicles, in a traditional ballad called By the River of Arlanza, in various literary ballads, and in plays.

Section 1: Chronicles

Lucas In those days Charles the Great, King of France and Emperor of Rome, expelled the Saracens from Burgundy, Poitou, and all Gaul, and then crossed the Pyrenees via Roscidevallis to continue the war. He brought under his yoke the Goths and Spaniards who lived in Catalonia, in the Basque mountains, and in Navarre, and ordered Alfonso to become his vassal. Bernaldus was indignant at the suggestion, and formed an alliance with the Saracens.

Later, in the days of Alfonso III, Emperor Charles III [the Fat, not the Simple, r. 881-888] invaded Spain, attacking Christians and Muslims alike [this never happened], but Bernaldus raised an army of Christians and allied with King Muza of Saragossa, and turned back Charles’ army before they had even crossed the Pyrenees. Charles made alliance with Alfonso, went on pilgrimage to Santiago and San Salvador, and obtained from Pope John many privileges for those two sites. Bernaldus returned to his fatherland, laden with spoils.

Rodrigo Alfonso, old and tired of reigning, secretly sends word to Charles, Emperor of Italy, Germany, and Gaul, to offer him the throne. Charles drives the Arabs out of France and then sends some men over the Pyrenees, subduing Catalonia. At this juncture, Alfonso’s men, led by Berinaldus, learn of his offer and force him to rescind it or they will depose him. They say they would rather die as free men than live as vassals of the Franks.

PCG In the 27th year of Alfonso’s reign [809], the 12th of Charlemagne’s [811], AD 806, Alfonso, being old and childless, sent to Charles offering him his throne, if he would help him fight the Moors. Charles expelled the Moors from Provence, Bordeaux, Piteos, and Aquitaine, and then crossed the Pyrenees to Spain, conquering Catalonia. Lucas of Tuy says he also conquered Gascony and Navarre. The men of Spain, however, led by Bernaldo, learned of Alfonso’s offer and forced him to rescind it, or else they would depose him. Bernaldo formed an alliance with the Saracen King Marsil of Saragossa.

Origins and Influence

Lucas seems to deserve the blame for the inane duplication of the Battle of Roncesvalles, for reasons unknown. Rodrigo and Alfonso’s men are obliged to mention his error, but are not deceived by it. Charles the Fat never invaded Spain. Muza of Saragossa, however, was a real figure: Musa ibn Musa ibn Qasi, descended from a Visigothic renegade, born around 790, half-brother to Íñigo Arista, first king of Pamplona, believed to have taken part in the Second Battle of Roncesvalles in 824, became ruler of Tudela and much territory round about. Musa, with the aid of his brother, repeatedly rebelled against the Umayyads from 840 to 850, and at last set up an independent kingdom, which he continued to expand until a crushing defeat by the Christians in 859, after which Muza’s influence waned rapidly until his death in 862.

The poem of Fernan Gonzalez will have it that King Charles sent Alfonso the Chaste a message that he was coming to Spain to receive homage and tribute. King Alfonso replied that he would not pay him anything, and that though the French fought five years, they could not conquer Spain. Charles’ men gave him bad advice, telling him to invade. Charles, with an immeasurable army, headed for Castile.

Ocampo dates the battle to Alfonso’s 30th year [812]: Charles 12 [812], AD 809, but leaves this portion unchanged.

Section 2: Traditional Ballad: By the River of Arlanza

Pidal Romances Viejos de Bernardo 2a-2h. Continue reading

The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 5: The Birth of Bernardo del Carpio

The legend of the birth of Bernardo del Carpio is to be found in all three chronicles, in Siglo d’Oro plays, and in ballads both ancient and modern.

Section 1: The Three Chronicles

Lucas of Tuy Book IV, Section 14: The king’s sister Xemena is impregnated by Count Sanctius and brings forth Bernaldus. King Alfonso, furious, imprisons the Count in the Castle of Luna, swearing that he will never come out alive. He confines his sister to a nunnery and raises the boy as his own. The lad grows up to be a strong and daring knight.

Rodrigo of Toledo Book IV, Chapter 9: Alfonso II’s sister Semena secretly marries Count Sancius and bears him a son, Berinaldus. The king, learning of this, imprisons the Count in the Castle of Luna and his sister in a nunnery. As he is childless, he raises Berinaldus as his own son, and the boy grows up to be a fine knight.

PCG Chapter 617: In the 21st year of Alfonso’s reign [803], the 5th of Charlemagne’s [804], AD 800, his sister Ximena secretly married Count San Diaz of Saldaña, and bore him a son named Bernaldo. The king, on hearing the news, held a court, and sent Orios Godos and Count Tiobalte to bring the count to him. The count came, suspecting no ill, but Alfonso had him arrested. His men bound the count so tightly he bled, and Alfonso approved thereof. He imprisoned San Diaz in the Castle of Luna, and his sister in a nunnery. The only thing San Diaz asked was that Alfonso would treat Bernaldo well. Alfonso agreed, and raised the boy as his own, and he became a good knight. Some say in their cantares et fablas, however, that Bernaldo was son of Charlemagne’s sister Timbor, who was raped by San Diaz as she returned from a pilgrimage to Saint James. Alfonso adopted their son, since he had no heir of his own [The implication, though this is not stated until later, is that Alfonso was married to Charlemagne’s other sister Berta, as in Pelagius of Oviedo].

Origins and Influence of the Chronicles

No one knows the origins of either version of this story. It would seem that in the version where Timbor was raped by San Diaz, her sister Berta was married to King Alfonso, which would account for his desire to avenge her and the fact that he was willing (and permitted) to raise her son.

Rodrigo may have added the secret marriage not to justify the Count and Princess’ actions, but Alfonso’s; he took part at Lateran IV, when clandestine marriages were condemned. Alfonso’s oath is lacking in Rodrigo and the PCG, but later the PCG explains (in an attempt at rationalizing his conduct) that Alfonso the Great will not free Count Sancho because of the oath his Chaste predecessor had sworn. Later chronicles have no significant variations on the stories, except that the Tercera and Cuarta state outright that the second version is untrue. The Cuarta also claims that Crulor [Timbor] lay with Count Sandias willingly.

Section 2: Traditional Ballad: “En los Reinos de Leon.”

A from the Cancionero de 1550¸ “En los reinos de Leon” is Durán 619, Class I. Wolf 9, Class I. Pidal Romances Viejos de Bernardo 1a. 1500-1550.

B Tomás Perrenot de Chantonnay, in a coded letter of 1562 (he was the Spanish ambassador in France, and wrote this ballad out in secret code to troll the French king’s spies.) Pidal Romances Viejos de Bernardo 1b.

C A few verses sung by characters in Luis Vélez de Guevara’s play, “El conde don Pero Vélez.” 1615. Armistead IV, pp. 276-277.

In Leon (Castile and Leon C), Alfonso the Chaste reigned. His beautiful sister, Doña Jimena, and the Count of Saldaña (who was the most gallant knight in Castile C) fell in love. They came together often, unsuspected A, until the princess brought forth Bernardo del Carpio, upon which she entered a nunnery and the irritated King threw the count in jail A, Bernardo grew up to be a gentle knight, one of the best in Spain B. (C ends with a lyrical description of love that Vélez probably invented).

Section 3: Literary Ballads

Burguillos Pidal Eruditos 1a. “Reinando el rey Don Alfonso.”A mere versification of Ocampo.

Seventeen years into the reign of Alfonso the Chaste [800], Ximena weds Count Sancho Diaz of Saldaña in secrecy, producing Bernardo del Carpio. Alfonso holds court in Leon, and sends Arias Godo and Don Tibalto to summon Sancho to court, “bringing few companions.” When Sancho arrives, the king orders him seized. Sancho asks what he has done. The king tells him. Sancho asks only that the king be kind to Bernardo. Alfonso imprisons the Count in the castle of Luna. Jimena is sent to a nunnery. Alfonso then sends to Asturias for Bernardo, whom he raises as his own son, for he is childless. The lad has every knightly virtue.

Timoneda, copying Burguillos, divides his ballad into three: Durán 621, “Reinando el rey Don Alfonso”; Durán 622, “Sabiendo el Rey cómo el Conde”; and Durán 623, “A cabo de mucho tiempo.” (Pidal Eruditos 1b:I, II, III).

Timoneda trims his original slightly, omits the names of Arias and Tibalto, and says that Alfonso did not summon Bernardo to court and adopt him until “much time” had passed. (Bernardo is still ignorant of his parents’ fate, however. Timoneda simply needed to alter the lines that began and closed his newly-divided ballads).

Sepúlveda Durán 620, Pidal Eruditos 11, “El conde Don Sancho Diaz.” A slightly less slavish adaptation of Ocampo.

Count Don Sancho Diaz of Saldaña secretly marries King Alfonso the Chaste’s sister Doña Jimena, and begets Bernardo del Carpio, which irks the King to no end. He sends men (unnamed) to summon him to court, whereupon he arrests him. Sancho asks what he has done. The king tells him, and informs him that he will never leave the Castle of Luna alive. Sancho asks only that the king be kind to Bernardo.

Section 4: Siglo d’Oro Plays

Juan de la Cueva’s La libertad de España por Bernardo del Carpio, 1579. Acts I and II tell the story of Sancho and Jimena. In Cueva’s version, Alfonso first lures his sister to court, then Count Sancho. Tibalto, sent on both occasions, is a friend of the Count’s, but is too afraid of Alfonso to warn the lovers of their impending fate. It is not Count Sancho, but Jimena, who entreats the king to care for Bernardo. Sancho never mentions his wife or his child during his trial. The king has the count blinded onstage before imprisoning him.

Lope de Vega’s Las Mocedades de Bernardo del Carpio (unknown date). ACT I: Jimena and Sancho are secretly married, and the Princess is nine months pregnant (concealed, of course). The Count of Barcelona, Alfonso’s cousin, writes to Alfonso asking for her hand in marriage. Alfonso discusses the matter with his most trusted men, Count Sancho and Don Rubio. After they agree to the marriage, Don Rubio privately informs the king of Jimena’s condition, and takes the king to hide in the bushes that night as Alfonso climbs up a ladder to the Princess’ balcony to help her deliver her child, and down again with the baby boy in his arms. Alfonso steps out and confronts him, and Count Sancho confesses all. Alfonso pretends to forgive him, on condition that he entrust the child to his care temporarily, while he (Sancho) takes a reply letter to the Count of Barcelona informing him of the situation, and one to the Castellan of Luna, bidding him prepare the castle for Sancho and Jimena’s wedding. Count Sancho entrusts Alfonso with the boy and departs at once. Don Rubio comes out of the bushes and offers to drown the child, but Alfonso bids him raise him as his own, instead. They baptize the boy Bernardo, it being Saint Bernard’s feast day [August 20, though of course St. Bernard lived four centuries after Alfonso]. Count Sancho delivers the letter to Luna, but of course it actually says for him to be blinded and chained in the deepest dungeon, which is done. Bernardo, meanwhile, is raised by Don Rubio and grows up to be a proud, arrogant, impulsive brat, a far cry from his usual depiction as the flower of courtesy.

Alvaro Cubillo, El Conde de Saldaña, 1660. A reworking of Lope’s Mocedades, tightens the play up slightly, and omits such indelicate scenes as the lying-in of the Princess.

Section 5: Modern Literary Adaptations

Alfonso el Casto, 1841, is a play by Juan Eugenio Hartzenbusch, wherein King Alfonso, who is in love with his sister, among other moral failings, redeems himself by secretly arranging (when he is unable to persuade his tribunal to pardon the Count of Saldaña, or to overrule their verdict) for Sancho and Jimena to be married and sent away to a foreign country to live, incognito but happy, for the rest of their lives. He tells the court that Sancho has been imprisoned and Jimena cloistered.

Joaquín Francisco Pacheco’s play, Bernardo, 1848, is based on Cubillo, with arbitrary 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.

Section 6: Modern Ballads – Spanish

In modern tradition, the ballad died out recently in the hinterlands around Madrid. By the time of its decease, the song claimed that when Alfonso the Chaste reigned in Aragon, his beautiful sister Jimena had a child by Don Rodrigo de Vivarra [The Cid]. This child was Juan Prin [Juan Prim y Prats, 1814-1870, a Spanish general and politician who helped depose Queen Isabella II and replace her with Duke Amadeo of Aosta]. The father was sent to prison, the mother to a convent. When Juan was 20, he challenged his uncle to a duel if he would not free his parents. Juan fetches his father from the prison. His father says (in lines taken from Bañando están las prisiones, Durán 625) that when he entered prison he had no beard, but now it is long and grey. Juan says his mother will continue to live a holy life in the nunnery.

Section 7: Modern Ballad – Mañanita Era, Mañana

Is the title usually given to modern ballads about Bernardo’s birth, sung until recently by the Sephardic Jews of Morocco. Pidal Viejos 1c-1n. Armistead IV, Chapter 11, pp 280-293.

On Saint John’s Day, the Moors are holding a tournament in Granada, where knights and ladies look for lovers. The king has a beautiful sister, Ximena, who loves the Count of Saldaña, (because of his prowess in the tourney E) who impregnates her. The king, learning this, locks Ximena in a chamber and the Count of Saldaña in prison. Ximena gives birth in confinement, and weeps over her son. The Queen hears this, and asks Ximena why she weeps. Ximena answers it is because the father of her son is in prison. The Queen swears not to eat until he is free, and goes to the king. The king grants her request, and Ximena and the count are wed. (The queen goes straight to the prison and frees the count herself, without asking the king’s permission F).

Pidal 1k goes off on its own. Ximena gives her son to be nursed by a lioness, since lions respect royal blood. When the boy grows up, he takes arms and a horse and kills his father. He then goes to his mother, who offers him half the kingdom if he will spare her life.

The introductory verses about the tournament are known as the Sanjuanada. Originally from La Pérdida de Antequera, they have migrated to many ballads.

The ending of F is taken from Sancho and Urraca, (one of the ballads of the Cid cycle, having nothing to do with Charlemagne). That of K is from El Infante Parricida.