The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 8: Bernardo Learns His True Identity

Section I: Chronicles

Lucas: Says nothing.

Rodrigo: Ditto

PCG: In the 28th year of Alfonso’s reign, the 13th of Charlemagne’s, AD 808, [813] two of Bernardo’s kinsmen, Blasco Meléndez and Suero Velásquez, having sworn an oath to Alfonso not to tell Bernardo about Count Sancho, make a plan with two of their kinswomen, Maria Meléndez and Urraca Sánchez. The women play at tablas [prob. backgammon] with Bernardo, let him win, and then inform him how his father languishes in durance vile. Benardo asked Alfonso for his father’s liberty, which was refused, but Bernardo swore he would nonetheless stay faithful to his king.

Ocampo: Omits the game of tables, and makes the women tell Bernardo directly.

Section II: Ballads

Burguillos “En corte del casto Alfonso” Durán 626, Class I; Wolf 9, Class I; Pidal Eruditos 3a-3b. Found in the Cancionero sin año, Cancionero de 1550, Silva I.
3a is the printed version.
3b is from a MS.

Bernardo, living at Alfonso’s court, does not know his father is imprisoned, though everyone else does. Two courtiers, Vasco Melendez and Suero Velazquez, tell two noblewomen, Urraca Sanchez and Maria Melendez, to tell Bernardo the truth. Bernardo storms to the throne room, so angrily that Alfonso thinks he has come to kill him. But Bernardo merely asks humbly for the release of his father. Alfonso swears it will never be done while he [Alfonso] lives. Bernardo swears to serve the king loyally until he earns his father’s pardon. But King Alfonso had always loved Bernardo, who thought he was his son.

Pidal’s 3b omits the last few lines of exposition about Alfonso and Bernardo’s relationship.

Lorenzo de Sepúlveda Durán 6, Class IV; Pidal Eruditos 13. “En Luna está preso el Conde.”

The Count has long been imprisoned in Luna. Bernardo knows nothing of this. Two damsels break King Alfonso’s orders and tell Bernardo the truth. He laments, then goes before the king. Alfonso thinks Bernardo has come to kill him, but he merely asks for his father’s liberty. Alfonso swears it will never be done while he [Alfonso] lives. Bernardo swears to serve the king loyally until he earns his father’s pardon.

Gabriel Lobo Lasso de la Vega (perhaps) Durán 624, Class VIII. Pidal Artificiosos 21. “Contándole estaba un dia.” Printed in the Romancero general de 1600, in broadsides from 1638, 1677.

Elvira Sanchez, Bernardo’s nurse, tells him that he is not really King Alfonso’s bastard son. He is the son of the lawfully married Count Sancho Diaz of Saldaña and the king’s sister Jimena. The Count is imprisoned in the castle of Luna, and the princess in a nunnery. Bernardo is the rightful heir to the throne, though Alfonso wishes to leave it to the French. Bernardo rebukes her for not telling him sooner, and swears to set them free. Elvira says she was afraid of the tyrant Alfonso. Bernardo looks to heaven and weeps, and swears mighty oaths to free his father.

This ballad has no author given in the old copies, but it was printed alongside four other works of Gabriel Lobo. Whoever the author was, he was likely responsible for the unique details of this version.

Section III: Plays

De la Cueva.

Before the battle of Roncesvalles, Suero Velazquez and Velasco Melendez tell Bernardo that Alfonso is planning to give the kingdom to Charlemagne, and then Maria Melendez and Urraca Sanchez, (who are both nuns in this play) tell him of his father’s true identity, without a backgammon game. Bernardo is shocked, but swears to foil Charlemagne’s plans and free his parents. He enters Alfonso’s presence with a great retinue, enough to unnerve Alfonso. Bernardo explains that he intends to stop Charles. Alfonso is at last persuaded to retract his offer to Charles and promised to free Count Sancho. The play ends, however, without us ever learning if he keeps his promise

Lope de Vega’s Mocedades de Bernardo goes completely off the rails of the traditional story. Bernardo, having been raised by Don Rubio, is a holy terror, and exasperates his foster father to the point that he calls him a bastard. Bernardo is taken in by King Alfonso, who reveals that he is his nephew, but no more, and dubs him a knight. At the festivities, Bernardo chases away a Moorish ambassador and insults his cousin Don Ramiro, who claimed a higher seat at the table than him. Bernardo flees the court to El Carpio, currently held by the Moors, and offers them his sword. They, remembering his conduct to their ambassador, welcome him with a smile while plotting to kill him. Bernardo foils their plans and drags them captive back to Alfonso, who reveals that his father is alive, and then asks Bernardo to do him a favor and investigate the haunted castle of Luna, which Bernardo sets off to do.

Lope’s Casamiento opens with Bernardo already aware (before Roncesvalles) of his heritage.

Origins and Influence

Galien li Restore learns his true parentage under similar circumstances to Bernardo; his uncle calls Galien a bastard after losing to him at chess. In the Crónica de 1344, Mudarra, half-brother to the Seven Sons of Lara, learns his true parentage after beating the King of Segura at backgammon.1

Katherine P. Oswald, “The Formation and Transmission of the Legend of Bernardo del Carpio” (PhD diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2015), p. 177.


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 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.

The Legend of Count Grifos Lombardo

The legend of Count Grifos Lombardo is preserved only in a single Spanish ballad, first printed 1562. It has been thought to have some connection to the legend of the birth of Bernardo del Carpio.

Durán 325, Class V; Wolf 137, Class I. “En aquellas peñas pardas.” First printed in the Cancionero llamado Flor de enamorados, 1562.
Charlemagne orders Count Grifos Lombardo, who lives in Moncaya, arrested, because he raped a girl on the Way of Saint James, who was daughter of a duke, and niece of the Pope. He is cast into prison strong, with seven counts to guard him, on penalty of death if he escapes. He is at last sentenced to marry his victim.

Where Moncaya may be I do not know, but Moncayo is a mountain in Aragon, close to the Way of Saint James, but not on it.

Some other Hispanic ballads also begin with the rape of a pilgrimess to Saint James, after which their plots diverge wildly. Collectively, they are known to scholars as El Conde Preso, or as Conde Grifos Lombardo, but one can actually distinguish four different plots that share this name and this opening:
1. The Kick at the Scaffold [El Puntapie a la Horca]
2. Dom Garfos
3. Bury Me Not in a Church [No Me Entierras en Sagrado]
4. The Judgment of God [Justiça de Deus]
This classification and these titles, like the letters referring to some of the ballads below are from my own system, an attempt to keep the forty-seven versions included in the PHBP straight. They are not used by anyone else.

1. The Kick at the Scaffold. The most common (Eighteen versions in the PHBP, and I know of at least two that they are missing1) and the closest to the legend of Bernardo. Known in Asturias, Leon, Lugo, Cantabria, and even Cuba.

1Menéndez y Pelayo, Antología De Poetas Líricos Castellanos, Volume X, p. 48. 10. Bernaldo del Carpio – I. “Íbase por un camino.” Also one in the Romancero judeo-español en el Archivo Menéndez Pidal.

Count Miguel del Prado is arrested, not for theft or murder, but for raping a noblewoman on the Way of Saint James. She was the king’s daughter, and the Pope’s niece. Since she is so highly-born, his penalty is harsh. He is guarded by a hundred during the day, and a hundred and four by night. He wishes for his cousin Don Bernardo to come.

Bernardo does indeed come, with one sword at his belt and one in his hand. He demands the count’s freedom from the king (sometimes Alfonso). The king assures him his cousin shall be pardoned, and invites him to eat, drink, and play cards. But as they play, a page comes and tells Bernardo that the count is about to be hanged anyway. Bernardo throws the cards in the king’s face. The king bids him respect the crown, but Bernardo refuses. He leaps down the palace stairs in a single bound, mounts his horse without stirrup, and rides to the scaffold. He arrives just in time. He destroys the scaffold with a kick, sends the hangman’s head flying with his sword, and gives a sword to his cousin, saying that no kinsman of his shall die on the scaffold.

In some versions, Bernardo is playing cards at his palace when a page tells him the news. Sometimes the king’s invitation to play comes before the falsely-promised pardon. Sometimes Bernardo meets the king in the street, sometimes in the palace. His mighty leaps either occur when leaving the palace, or when leaving his own house. Sometimes the hangman is spared. The princess’ family varies, as do other minor details.

In a unique version from Leon, 1916 (PHBP 0118:3), the cousins kill a hundred soldiers, and the king is obliged to give the infanta in marriage to the Count and a princesa to Bernardo.

2. Dom Garfos. A much less common version, ends tragically (three versions in PHBP, all from Portugal).

C: 1867, Covilhã, Castelo Branco, Beira-Baixa, Portugal. Braga, Romanceiro Geral, No. 25. (PHBP 0118:18)
R: 1919, Portugal. Thomas, Cantares do Povo, pp. 6-8. (PHBP 0118:11)
AA: 1958, Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, Portugal. Leite de Vasconcellos, Romanceiro Português, I:49-50. (PHBP 0118:17).

The count (Dom Golpes, AA) was taken, not for thefts or murder, but for outraging a noblewoman who went to Saint James. She complains to the king, who gives the count a choice between marrying her and dying. He chooses neither, and calls for his nephew Dom Garfos C, Gaiferos R, Dom Golpes (again) AA, who arrives, and to whom he explains the situation C, R, AA. Garfos obtains his pardon from the king, who bids him go home and sleep soundly, for his uncle will be freed at midnight C, before dawn R, AA.

At midnight, however, he awakens from a nightmare that his uncle has been hanged in the palace yard. In C, his wife, the king’s daughter, informs him that it was no dream: she heard the whole thing. He runs to the gallows, where seven counts C, seven noblemen R, came to see the hanging. [As he leaves the palace, he meets seven counts who are coming thither to gloat AA]. He kills six, and the seventh barely escapes. He threatens the king, who is at a balcony window, and swears revenge C, R. [The survivor is sent to the king, whom Golpes meets shortly afterward, and threatens AA]. He returns home and stabs his wife four times, for her father, her mother, his health, and her treason C.

The Sephardic versions, not in the PHBP, are even bloodier. See the Romancero judeo-español en el Archivo Menéndez Pidal [Madrid, 1978]. In this one, the rapist is sentenced to be hanged at midnight. As he is being led out, he calls for his nephew. His nephew’s wife, however, is the king’s daughter, and tells her husband that it is merely the howling of a dog he hears, and so the nephew arrives too late to save the count. He swears vengeance, and kills his wife, cuts off her breasts, shows them to the king, and proceeds to kill the king, the queen, the princess, and all the courtiers he can find. He then embalms his uncle and sits him on the throne.

1-2. At least two versions are known which combine Puntapie and Dom Garfos:
I: 1893, Castelo de Frades, Cereixedo, Cervantes, Luga, Becerreá, Lugo, Spain. (PHBH 0118:8)
V: 1948, Villaselán, Sahagún, Riberas del Cea, León, Spain. Romancero general de León I, pp 140-141. (PHBP 0118:6)

I (PHBP 0118:8) begins like Puntapie, but after Count Aguilar del Pardo calls for his nephew Gaifer, we cut to the latter awakening from a nightmare that his uncle has been hanged. His wife informs him that it was no dream; she heard his laments. He curses his wife, arms, and rides out. He sees his uncle dead, destroys the scaffold with a kick, knocks the hangman’s teeth out, kills the king’s three sons, but still is not satisfied.

V (PHBP 0118:6) has the plot of Dom Garfos, but many of the lines and phrases are from Puntapie. Count Leonardo calls for his nephew Don Golfo. Don Golfo awakens from a nightmare, and his wife Doña Sancha tells him it was no dream. He leaps down fifteen stairs, and kills some counts who were celebrating his uncle’s execution. The king bids him cease, but he threatens to kill the king, too. He cuts his uncle’s body down, washes it, and has it buried honorably in a church.

3. Bury Me Not. The most common Portuguese form of the ballad (18 versions in PHBP) has been combined with another ballad, No me entierran en sagrado. “Bury me not in a church.”

The Count not only rapes the maiden, but gives her to his henchman. He is given a choice between marrying her and death, and chooses death. He asks that he not be buried in a church, nor in holy ground, nor in an open field, but that his body be placed on his horse, that all who see him may know he died for love.

4. The Judgement of God. Dead in oral tradition. Only recordings known are from the 1800s.

Almeida Garrett’s Justiça de Deus in his Romanceiro, Volume II, p. 295, No. XVI. He confessedly cobbled two versions together and likely made changes of his own.

Braga, Romanceiro Geral, p. 65, No. 26. Justiça de Deus. “Préso vae o conde, préso.” From Beira-Alta, would appear to be an attempt to restore Almeida Garrett’s version as he heard it.

In this version (and only this version) we are actually told how the poor pilgrimess escaped. The count and his henchman abandoned her in the woods, but she was rescued by an old soldier who was going on pilgrimage himself. He takes her to the king’s court, where the count is arrested, tried, and given a choice between death and marriage. He chooses death, but the soldier says this is not right. He must make an honorable woman out of his victim. He casts off his pilgrim’s garb and reveals himself to be a holy bishop. He marries the count and the pilgrimess, after which the count dies. [Almeida’s version ends with two lines explicitly stating that the soldier was Saint James, which Braga rejects.]

The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 3B: Origins of the Legend

Scholars are agreed that the legend of Bernardo del Carpio, as we have it in the Three Earliest Chronicles, is a combination of three different stories.

I: Bernardo del Carpio proper, a Castilian-Leonese legend about a man who spent his life in a vain attempt to free his father from prison.

II: Bernardo the Carolingian, a Pyrenees legend about a nephew of Charlemagne’s who spent most of his life fighting against his kinsmen (Roncesvalles, Don Bueso) for his fatherland of Spain.

III: Bernardo the Catalonian, who founded Canal de Jaca, fought the Moors, and married into the local nobility.

Fusion of the Legends

OLD THEORY: The legend began with Bernardo the Catalonian. Later developments made the hero nephew of Charlemagne and created the legend of Bernardo son of Timbor, half-Spaniard, half-Frank, who had a very conflicted relationship with his mother’s country and family. Later still, probably after King Sancho united Navarre and Castile, Bernardo became nephew of Alfonso, and the story of Count Sancho was created. The new versions did not replace the old ones, however, but circulated simultaneously, and the PCG tried to reconcile them. This theory was held by such great scholars as Milá y Fontanals, Menéndez y Pelayo, and Menéndez Pidal.

NEW THEORY: The three legends arose independently. First the Catalonian and Carolingian Bernardos were fused, and later the legend of Bernardo del Carpio was combined with them, probably owing to the heroes having the same name. Jules Horrent was the first to propose this theory, which has won widespread acceptance. Scholars continue to dispute whether this final fusion was done by the people, or by one learned scholar, and whether the first fuser of all three Bernardos ascribed his deeds to the reign of one Alfonso, or whether the fuser was also the man who divided his exploits between the Chaste and the Great. The Alfonsine division, whether made by Lucas or by his source, was almost certainly made after the fusion of the Bernardo legends, in an attempt to explain how Bernardo could have both fought at Roncesvalles [778] and been the founder of Canal de Jaca [late 800s].

Direct Sources of the Chronicles

It is clear from Lucas, Rodrigo, and the PCG that they were drawing on pre-existing sources that are now lost, but it is unclear exactly what those were.

Cantar de Bernardo. Most scholars postulate an epic poem much like the Poema del Cid, whether written by minstrels or by the people. It may have given the story essentially as we know it from the PCG, or it may have only told the story of the Carolingian Bernardo as fused with the Catalonian.

Estoria de Bernardo. Some also postulate a prose work, either Latin or Spanish. They think it told the story of the Carpian Bernardo, though perhaps already with some contamination (Roncesvalles, Don Bueso) from the Carolingian and the Catalonian.

The origins of the Legends

Turning now to the origins of the three legends before they were combined, Bernardo the Catalonian’s history is easiest to trace. He is, all agree, Bernardo of Ribagorza, whose deeds were greatly expanded (the uncharitable would say “forged”) around the 1000s, when charters appear claiming he founded monasteries and repopulated cities after his victories over the Moors. Also from this time is the Memoria Alaonis (c. 1080-1090) which falsely claims that Bernardo was descended from Charlemagne. The real Bernardo of Ribagorza is shrouded in mystery, and the documents are contradictory. He was the son of Count Raymond I of Ribagorza, and probably married Teuda (Toda), daughter of Count Galindo Aznárez II of Aragon. According to unreliable legend, he expelled the Moors from Ribagorza and Sobrarbe in 835. Some sources say, however, that Toda Galíndez married Bernardo’s son, Bernardo II. Others say it was not Bernardo I, but his father, or even his great-grandfather, who repopulated Ribagorza.1

In Catalonia today (or at least, up until the 1950’s), local legend has it that Bernat, son of Charlemagne’s daughter Bellisent, was banished from France because of a family feud, and went to Spain to fight Saracens and giants with his magic instantly-killing sword. He won the hand of the Christian princess of Jaca, built the Castle of Sort, and lived happily ever after.1

1 Sholdod, Barton. Charlemagne in Spain. Geneva, Librarie Droz, 1966.

Bernardo the Carolingian may also be based on Bernardo of Ribagorza. Scholars debate whether the legend of the Ribagorzan grew to include such incidents as Roncesvalles and Don Bueso, or whether an independent Pyrenees legend eventually swallowed the legend of Ribagorza whole. Those who believe in an independent legend are uncertain whether it dates all the way back to the battle of Roncesvalles, or whether it grew up under the influence of French pilgrims to Compostela, as a Spanish rebuttal to the legend as told in the Song of Roland and the Pseudo-Turpin, which must have irked the Spaniards and excited their patriotism.

If Bernardo the Carolingian arose independently, he may be partly based on Bernardo of Septimania, son of William of Gellone [the inspiration for William of Orange]. He was given Barcelona by Charlemagne in 803, married one Dhuoda (a name very similar to Theuda or Toda, the Ribagorzan), and had a tendency to get involved in the wars of the Frankish kings and to plunder the countryside. He was, on one occasion, banished from the Frankish court for allegedly having an affair with Empress Judith, and fled to Spain. He was captured and executed by Charles the Bald in 844, for having sided with Pepin the Younger.

Bernardo del Carpio proper is a mystery. No trace of such a character, or anyone like him, is found in the history of Alfonso II or Alfonso III. His story most likely arose out of the same epic-legendary milieu as the Seven Sons of Lara, El Cid, Fernán González, and others, though it is very strange that, out of all the epics of old Spain, Bernardo alone should be devoid of historical foundation.

Scholars also disagree as to the kernel of the Carpian story. Mercedes Vaquero thinks the legend grew out of the dispute between Bernardo and Alfonso over the fief of El Carpio, and that the entire story of Count Sancho was a later addition.2 Most, however, hold that the story of Count Sancho is at the root of the legend.

Ms. Vaquero has suggested that the story was inspired by Pedro Fernández de Castro (c. 1160-1214). Pedro was the son of Fernando Rodríguez el Castellano (1125-1185) and Estafanía the Unfortunate (d. 1180), bastard daughter of Emperor Alfonso VII of Castile and Leon (r. 1126-1157). Fernando murdered his wife out of jealousy, and, according to (inaccurate) legend, fought alongside the Moors against the Christians on various occasions. Pedro fought both for and against Alfonso VIII of Castile (r. 1185-1214) and Alfonso IX of Leon (r. 1171-1230), always opposed peace between the two kingdoms, and fought on the side of the Moors at the Battle of Alarcos. He was, at various times, chief advisor to Caliph Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur (r. 1184-1199) and majordomo of Leon. He spent some time in exile in Catalonia with his kinsmen the Counts of Urgel, and at last died in Morocco. Furthermore, his father Fernando Rodríguez was (mistakenly) believed to have fought alongside the Moors as well. So Pedro, like Bernardo, was related to royalty, the rebel son of a (supposedly) rebel father, sometimes fighting for his king and sometime against him, fought on the side of the Moors, and after his final banishment spent some time in Catalonia.3

Other historical figures have been proposed as models for Bernardo, or at least as having some influence on his legend.

King Bernard of Italy (797-818), bastard son of King Pepin of Italy, son of Charlemagne. He married Cunigonde of Laon, and begot Pepin, Count of Vermandois. Bernard later got involved in a rebellion against Louis the Pious, who had him blinded, and the procedure killed him. This Bernard has nothing but his name in common and his bastardy in common with he of El Carpio. Some scholars point out that Lucas claims Bernardo del Carpio served in the imperial household under Louis the Pious (r. 814-840) and Lothair I (r. 840-855), but nowhere does Lucas even hint that the Carpian became a king.

King Fortunio of Sobrarbe (r. 802-815). This king, various chronicles tell us, married the daughter of Count Galindo Aznar, allied with Alfonso and Marsil to lead Asturians, Biscayans, Alaveses, Navarres, and the men of Sobrarbe against Charlemagne, and fought in the Battle of Roncesvalles in 809, when Roland and the Peers were slain. He had two daughters: Theuda, who married Bernardo of Ribagorza; and Galinda, who, some say, married Sancho Garces, who became king after Fortunio’s death. However, King Fortunio did not actually exist. The entire Kingdom of Sobrarbe is a fifteenth-century fabrication, made to glorify Aragon, and would not be worth mentioning here if serious scholars had not been deceived and attempted to link Fortunio to the Bernardo legend.

Sulayman b. Yaqzan al-Kalbi l-Arabi. The Moorish governor of Saragossa who invited Charlemagne into Spain in the first place. Late accounts tell us that Charles took him as hostage when he prepared to leave Spain, but that his sons attacked the camp and set him free. He may have been a participant at Roncesvalles, if the Moors were really part of that battle. The identification of him with Bernardo, however, seems to be first made by Pedro Chalemta, but as he presents neither evidence or explanation, one can hardly take him seriously.4

People and Places

Alfonso II is said in some sources to have married Bertinalda, a French princess, though the marriage was never consummated. This story is first found in Bishop Pelagius of Oviedo’s Chronicon (1132), and repeated in the PCG. Pelagius never mentions Bernardo, however. Lucas calls her Berta, Charlemagne’s sister. Perhaps she was invented to explain why Alfonso was willing (and permitted) to raise Timbor’s son as his own.5

Timbor herself is unknown outside of Spain, as is Don Bueso.

Sancho Diaz and Jimena first appear in Lucas. Sancho has been identified with Nepociano, who attempted to claim the throne after Alfonso II’s death and was defeated and blinded by Ramiro I, but this is extremely unlikely.

A tomb said to be Count Sancho’s is in S. Román de Entrepeñas. Unfortunately, that monastery was not founded until the 900’s.6 Also, Saldaña was not a County until that same century. Barrios del Luna, where the Count was imprisoned, is a real castle, now in ruins.

Doña Jimena’s alleged tomb is in the monastery of Saint Vincent and Saint Pelayo, in Oviedo, with “Castisima Scemena,” inscribed on it in ninth or tenth century letters. The only Jimenas known to have lived during this period are the queens of Alfonso III and Fruela II, who are buried elsewhere. Since few believe that Jimena the mother of Bernardo actually existed, most scholars attribute this tomb to the first abbess.7

There are many El Carpios in Spain, but the most likely candidate for our hero’s fief is a fortress in the debatable land between Castile and Leon, which changed hands frequently. Bernardo’s alleged tomb is not there, however, but in Aguilar de Campo. The tradition is at least as old as the 1500’s, when Charles V visited there.

In short, there is no evidence that Bernardo del Carpio or any of his family (Alfonso excepted) ever existed.

1 Katherine P. Oswald, “The Formation and Transmission of the Legend of Bernardo del Carpio” (PhD diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2015), pp. 12-13.

2 Vaquero, Mercedes. “Relaciones feudo-vasalláticas y problemas territoriales en el Cantar de Bernardo del Carpio”, Charlemagne in the North: Proceedings of the Twelfth International Conference of the Société Rencesvals, Edinburgh, 4th to 11th August 1991, eds. Philip E. Bennett, Anne Elizabeth Cobby and Graham A. Runnalls, Edinburgh, Société Rencesvals British Branch; London, Grant and Cutler, 1993, p. 475-484.

3 Oswald, pp. 17-19; and gen . ref. for dates.

4 Pedro Chalmeta, “Rozaballes & Bernardo,” Arabica 55, no. 1 (2008).

5 Jules Horrent, La chanson de Roland dans les littératures française et espagnole au Moyen Âge (Liège: Presses universitaires de Liège, Les Belles Lettres, 1951), , Book II, Part II, Chapter IV, Note 44.

6 Vicente José González García, Bernardo del Carpio y la Batalla de Roncesvalles (Oviedo, Spain: Fundación Gustavo Bueno, 2007) p. 59.

7 González García 2007, p. 50.

The Fall of Constantinople

My own work, inspired by Greek ballads on the Fall of Constantinople, May 29, 1453. Emperor Constantine XI died in communion with the Holy Roman Catholic Church, and is therefore venerated as a martyr by the Greek Catholics, though he has never been officially canonized.

In Holy Sofia the bells are all ringing,
The candles are lit and the censers are swinging,
The icons are carried, the folk tell their beads,
The Patriarch sings, and the Emperor reads,
The priests they are twelve and the deacons are seven,
But Our Lady Saint Mary is weeping in Heaven.
The cannonades pound on the Emperor’s wall,
And God has decreed that the city must fall.

The cannons are roaring, the walls have been shattered,
The Turks are inpouring, the Christians are battered.
Constantine casts off his mantle and crown,
Dressed as a soldier he cuts the Turks down.
In Holy Sofia is one priest remaining.
He lifts up the Host and the Chalice for saining.

His sword was in pieces, the Turks all around,
Constantine fell, all alone, to the ground.
The priest held Our Lord up and bowed to adore Him.
A niche in the wall he saw open before him.

Unknown is the cavern where Constantine sleeps,
Where John the Undying his lone vigil keeps.
Unseen by the Turks who pour in without number,
That priest in the walls of Sofia shall slumber.

Our Lady is weeping in Heaven so high,
“How long, O my Son, till my griefs be laid by?
When, O my Son, shall my joys have returning?
How long, O my Son, will Thine anger be burning?”
“It is but a while, O dear Mother Mine,
Until the great City again shall be thine.”

The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 2: Chronicles Which do not Mention Bernardo

Bernardo del Carpio goes unmentioned by any chronicler until 1236. However, the early chronicles do have some things to say about Alfonso the Chaste, his Great namesake, and Charlemagne and Roncesvalles. An incomplete summary of the historiography follows.

The real Alfonso II was born in 760, became king in 791, (probably) never married, and died in 842. Alfonso III was born 848, became king of Galicia, Leon, and Asturias in 866, married Princess Jimena of Pamplona, and died in 910.

Einhard: Einhard’s Life of Charles the Great was written sometime in the early 800s, after Charles’ death.

King Alfonso of Asturias and Galicia always called himself Charles’ man [vassal] in his letters.

Chronica Albeldense: Also called the Epitome Ovediense, written 881.

Alfonso the Chaste, also called the Great, founded Oviedo. He reigned for fifty-one years, though in his eleventh year he was deposed and locked in the monastery of Abelania. After escaping, he built many churches, adopted the Toledan [Mozarabic] Rite, and gave refuge in Asturias to a certain Muhammad who was fleeing the King of Cordova. Muhammad betrayed him, however, and Alfonso killed him in battle. He never married.

Alfonso son of Ordoño (the Great) conquered at Ebrellos. He took the throne at eighteen, fought civil and foreign wars, and built many churches. In 916, Almundar, son of King Mohamat, led an army from Cordova to Astorga and Leon. Part of his army was attacked at Polvorosa on the Órbigo by King Alfonso III, who killed almost 13,000 Moors. When the news reached Almundar, he retreated. Alfonso fought more wars and built many churches.

Roncesvalles and Charlemagne are nowhere mentioned.

Chronicle of Alfonso III: From the early 900s, written at the behest of Alfonso III. It exists in two major reactions, known as the Crónica Rotensis and the later and longer Crónica ad Sebastianum. There are also two minor redactions, simply called the Third and the Fourth. All versions printed 1918 by Zacarías García Villada.

Fourth Redaction only: In Era 815 [AD 777] Ibn al-Arabi, who held Saragossa under Abd-er-Rahman, rebelled and asked King Charles of the Franks for aid, who had been fighting the Saxons for thirty years. Charles was welcomed at Pamplona, and came to Saragossa, but did not take it, corrupted by gold. He destroyed “a certain city” on his way back, whose inhabitants ambushed him in Ruscidis Vallibus, where Egiardus, Anselmus, and Rotolanus died. The next year Charles became Emperor, AD 778. He reigned 47 years. (Copied, but not exactly, from Silense)

Chronicle of Alfonso III, MS Emilianse 39: [The Nota Emilianese, c. 1070] In Era 816 [AD 778] King Charles came to Saragossa. He had twelve nephews, each with three thousand  knights in armor: Rodlane, Bertlane, Oggero Spatacurta [Shortsword] Ghigelmo Alcorbanitas [Hooknose], Olibero, and the bishop Don Toripini. Each spent a month in the king’s service. Charles’ vassals advised him to return home, which he did, leaving Roldan in the rearguard, where, in the Puerto de Sicera, in Rozaballes, the Saracens killed him.

Sampiro (1098) A continuation of the Chronicle of Alfonso III, covering 866 to 982. Incorporated into the Historia Silense.

The Historia Silense (c. 1100-1130) does not mention Bernardo. However, this chronicle is only interested in the deeds of kings, and ignores the Counts of Castile entirely. It can be most conveniently found in the appendices  to volume XVII of España Sagrada.

After fighting the Saxons for 33 years, Charles entered Spain between the reigns of Roderick (d. 712) and Pelagius (r. 718-737), invited by a Moor named Hibinnaxalabi, king of Saragossa. He laid siege to Saragossa, but the Franks were corrupted by bribes and abandoned the war. They razed the walls of Pampelona, and their rearguard was attacked by the Navarrese, and Anselm, Egginhard, and Roland died.

The Chronicon of Bishop Pelagius of Oviedo (finished 1132), is the earliest (known) source to claim that Alfonso II the Chaste had a wife. According to Pelagius, her name was Bertinalda and she was related to the Royal House of France. Hence it has been suggested that Pelagius knew some version of the legend of Bernardo del Carpio, though makes no other allusions to that hero.

The Crónica Najerense, written by a Castilian around 1160 and championing Castilian independence, does not mention Bernardo del Carpio. However, it also ignores the Seven Sons of Lara and the Cid Campeador, whose stories are known to have been circulating at this date.

Roncesvalles was in the third year of King Silo [777], and is described in an account copied from the Silense. Charles was made Emperor the year after, and reigned for 47 years.

The Anales Toledanos Primeros (1219) (España Sagrada XXIII) assert that Alfonso the Chaste died in 850, Charlemagne entered Spain in 862 [most likely referring to Mainet, not to the beginning of the Spanish War], Roncesvalles “where the Twelve Peers died” was fought in 882, and Charlemagne died in 911.

The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 1: Introduction

Overview of the Legend of Bernardo del Carpio

Chronicles The legend of Bernardo del Carpio is first known in three chronicles: Bishop Lucas of Tuy’s Chronicon Mundi¸ 1236; Archbishop Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada of Toledo’s Historia Gothica, 1243; and the Primera Crónica General (PCG), compiled at the behest of King Alfonso X the Wise of Castile, the first version of which was completed 1274. These three chronicles are believed to have drawn on now-lost sources, but those remain a matter for speculation.

After the PCG, the legend of Bernardo is found in subsequent chronicles, but there are no essential reworkings until the Crónica General de Ocampo (1541), an adaptation of the Tercera Crónica General by Florián de Ocampo, who also extended the history down to his own day. He eliminates the most improbable epic details, and transfers some events from the reign of Alfonso III to that of Alfonso II.

Ocampo’s history had an impact on Siglo d’Oro writers comparable to that of Holinshed on the Elizabethans, and was the source, direct or indirect, for almost all the Siglo d’Oro ballads, plays, and epics about Bernardo.

Traditional Ballads A handful of ballads first printed in the Siglo d’Oro appear to be from oral tradition, independent of Ocampo’s Chronicle: Con Cartas y mensajeros, The Birth of Bernardo, By the Rivers of Arlanza, and Bernardo and Urgel.

Literary Ballads

There are many literary ballads about Bernardo, most of them anonymous, but a few with known authors, including:

Burguillos adapted much of Ocampo into verse, often word for word. His account of Bernardo del Carpio furnished him with material for ten ballads, (one of which is now mostly lost), some of which were reworked by Juan de Timoneda in his Rosa española (1573).

In 1551, Ocampo’s chronicle also furnished Lorenzo de Sepúlveda with material for five ballads about Bernardo in his Romances nuevamente sacados de historias antiguas de la Crónica de España.

Gabriel Lobo Lasso de la Vega wrote eight ballads about Bernardo, (c. 1578).

Lucas Rodriguez

Plays Plays about Bernardo were written by Juan de la Cueva, Lope de Vega, Cervantes, and others. Among the most significant are Juan de la Cueva: La Libertad de España por Bernardo del Carpio. Lope de Vega: Las Mocedades de Bernardo, and El Casamiento en la Muerte. Cervantes: La Casa del los Celos y Selvas de Ardenia.

Epics No fewer than five Siglo d’Oro epics about Bernardo exist, mostly about Roncesvalles.

1: Segunda parte de Orlando, con el verdadero suceso de la famose batalla de Roncesvalles, fin y muerte de los doce Pares de Francia, by Nicolás de Espinosa, 1555.

2: El verdadero suceso de la famosa batalla de Roncesvalles, con la muerte de los doze Pares de Francia, by Francisco Garrido de Villena, 1583.

3: Historia de las hazañas y hechos del invincible caballero Bernardo del Carpio, by Agustín Alonso, 1585.

4: España defendida, poema heroyco, by Cristóbal Suárez de Figueroa.

5: El Bernardo o la victoria de Roncesvalles, by Bernardo de Valbuena. 1624.

4 is modeled after Tasso, the rest after Ariosto. Only 5 is of any merit at all, but it has been called the best imitation of Ariosto in any language. 2 and 3 are the most likely candidates for the “Bernardo del Carpio” and “Roncesvalles” that Don Quixote’s barber and curate wished to condemn to the flames.

Chapbooks continued to circulate for centuries. Historia fiel y verdadera de Bernardo del Carpio was published as late as the 1700s by Manuel José Martín.

Modern Ballads. The Hispanic ballad tradition is still flourishing in Iberia and Latin America, and clings tenuously to life among the Sephardic Jewry. Our notes on modern tradition are not, and cannot be, exhaustive, thought we will attempt to include as much as we can.

A Note on Spanish Ballads

Spanish ballads are called romances. A collection is called a romancero, a word which also can refer to the corpus of Hispanic balladry. Spanish ballads have no official numbering system, nothing comparable to the Child Ballads or the Roud Folk Song Index. Hence all ballads must be identified by their numbers in the major collections.

Durán: Agustín Durán’s Romancero General, (first volume 1832, final volume of expanded edition 1851) an indiscriminate collection of most of the ballads printed before 1800, whether traditional or literary.

Class I ballads are pure folksongs.

Class III are productions of uneducated or scarcely educated minstrels.

Class IV are versifications of chronicles, mostly made by educated men with little poetic talent.

Class V are early literary ballads, attempts to imitate the oral tradition.

Class VIII are Siglo d’Oro literary ballads, which do not attempt to imitate the oral tradition.

(No Carolingian Ballads fall into Durán’s Classes II, VI, or VII.)

Wolf: Primavera y Flor de Varios Romances. Edited by Ferdinand Wolf and Konrad Hoffman 1856. A collection of romances believed to be traditional and printed by the sixteenth century (essentially a trimming of Durán, with some variants he did not include, and new notes).

Class I: Primitive Romances (=Durán I, II)

Class II: Primitive Romances reworked by learned or artistic poets (=Durán IV, V)

Class III: Minstrel Romances (=Durán III)

Romancero Tradicional: Menéndez Pidal’s multi-volume collection of the old printed romances with some of their modern recorded variants, and many from manuscript collections unknown to Durán. Volume 1 (1957) is dedicated to Roderick, Last of the Goths, and to Bernardo del Carpio. His classes are:

Primitivos: “With roots in the Middle Ages.”

Viejos: Of a purely Minstrel style, or already traditional by 1550.

Eruditos: The “Romancero Medio,” made by versifiers of chronicles.

Artificiosos: The “Romancero Nuevo,” = Durán VIII.

Samuel Armistead’s collections of Sephardic ballads, while not quite on the scale of the above, are nonetheless extremely valuable, and will be cited when appropriate.

Saint George for England – Additional Verse 2018

Columbus sailed into the West, to conquer lands unknown;
De Soto loved this land so much he never went back home.
Ponce de Leon went looking for the Font of Youth,
Magellan and Cor’nado were both valiant men in truth.
And Cortez and Pizarro they destroyed the heathen idols,
But Saint George, Saint George, he pierced the dragon’s vitals!
Saint George he was for England; Saint Denis was for France,
Sing, Honi soit qui mal y pense.

There is a ballad in Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, first printed in 1612, which lists great knights and heroes of old and compares them to Saint George. You can read it here. I wrote this extra verse myself, and am posting it here in honor of Saint George’s Day. You can read my verse from St. George’s Day 2017 here.
As for the heroes listed, there is much misinformation spread about them today. A more accurate account of Columbus’ life and motivations can be found here.
Read about De Soto here.
Ponce de Leon may have heard about the Fountain of Youth from Mandeville’s Travels, a book fascinating in its own right, which may be the subject of a future post.
Magellan did not, of course, prove the world was round. The ancient Greeks had already proved as much. Nonetheless, his voyage was of immense importance, and perhaps even more daring than Columbus’.
Coronado was considered a failure in his lifetime, and his contributions to geography and ethnography were only appreciated after his death
Cortez was not only a conqueror of the infidel Aztecs, but also a stalwart soldier against the Mohammedans in North Africa. A good summary of his American adventures can be found in Andrew Lang’s True Story Book.
Pizarro’s story can be found here, and a more complete account in Andrew Lang’s Red True Story Book.
As for Saint George himself, he was martyred under Emperor Diocletian in Diospolis, in Palestine [now called Lod in Israel]. The legend of the dragon was not attached to him until the time of the First Crusade, when his popularity in the west exploded – but that is a story for another post. For now, I refer you to the summary in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Book I, Canto XIV, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto XIV, Stanzas 41-60

I do not know, my lords, if ere this time
You’ve heard the fame of great Uberto bruited?
He was a knight most courteous and fine,
Strong and courageous and for all things suited.
He scanned th’horizon with his watchful eye,
(For diligence he ever was reputed)
And thuswise was he when the lady fair
Came to the side of Count Orlando there.

King Adrïano and the bold Grifon
Stand in the loggia and discourse of love.
While Aquilante sings with Chiarïon,
The first the tenor part, the next above,
While Brandimarte sang the baritone;
And King Balllano was discoursing of
Swords, lances, armor, horses, weapons, war
With Belarussia’s baron, Antifor.

The damsel takes Orlando by the hand
And on his finger puts the wondrous ring
Which magic hath no power to withstand.
At once the Count remembers everything,
But when he sees who ’tis before him stads,
He quick forgets all else, save how to bing
Pleasure to her, though scarcely can he deem
He is awake, and this is not a dream.

The damsel hastily explaineth all
About the garden, how he thither came,
And Dragontine captured him in thrall
And wiped all memory clean from his brain.
And then for succor and for aid she calls,
With humble prayer asking if he’ll deign
To fight ’gainst Agricane and his horde,
Who waste her land with fire and with sword.

But Dragontina, standing in the palace
Looked out the window and beheld the dame.
She ran to find her knights, snared by the chalice,
But none are armed; her caution was her bane.
Now Count Orlando in the saddle tall is,
And in his arms Uberto he restrained,
Before he had the chance to stir one foot,
And then the ring upon his finger’s put.

The situation quickly is made clear.
Obert will help the spell be overthrown.
Now pay attention, lords, and you shall hear
Their wondrous deeds most worthy to be known.
They captured first the sons of Olivier,
The one Don Aquilant, the one Grifon.
The count had not yet recognized the boys,
But now he did. Great was Orlando’s joy.

And greater joy upon the brothers came,
Seeing each other at this blesséd hap.
Now Dragontina nearly goes insane,
Seeing her garden lost by sad mishap.
The potent ring makes all her magic vain.
The palace vanished with a thunderclap.
Bridge, river, fairy, vanished where they stood,
And left the barons standing in a wood.

They stand in stupefaction and amaze.
At one another stare they all and seek
Among the knights for a familiar face.
The Count of Brava, who is first to speak,
Addressing all assembled in that place,
Explains what happened, then proceeds with meek
And humble words, to ask the lords to fight
For her who rescued them from such a plight.

He tells of Agricane’s mighty war,
And how he has destroyed the lovely city,
And in the keep she is besiegéd sore.
Ev’ry last cavalier is filled with pity
And swears to bering the lady fair succor,
As long as he can fight, or on horse sit he,
And to force Agricane to retire,
Or in attempting the great deed, expire.

They set out, all together, on the road.
The lady guides them, and the knights escort.
Of Trufaldino now must things be told;
Who was holed up within the tiny fort.
Evil when young, and worse when he was old,
He was as treacherous as he was short.
No one suspected him. Each trusting head
Of Turk and of Circassian lay abed.

Torindo’s valor can avail no more
Than all of Sacripante’s chivalry.
For each of them is lying wounded sore
From fighting in the battle valiantly.
They’ve lost much blood, and they are weak therefore,
And they are overpowered instantly.
King Trufaldino binds them hand and foot.
Into a turret’s attic are they put.

He sends a messenger to Agrican,
Saying that he can have at will the keep.
The rock is his, and his the barbican.
Both of the kings were tied up in their sleep,
And now he wished to place them in his hand.
But the great Tartar’s ire runneth deep.
With eyes ablaze and with a haughty look,
He thus addressed the messenger, who shook:

“Go tell thy lord that Termagant forbid
That any man on earth should ever say
That traitors helped in anything I did.
By honest strength I’ll win; no other way.
I’ll fight in daylight, not by darkness hid,
But thee and thy false lord I shall make pay
For impudence to thus suggest this thing.
You scoundrels from the battlements will swing.

“Fool though thou art, thou still must be aware
You cannot long remain within your fort;
And once I take it, thou wilt hang in air,
Out of a tower window by thy foot.
Thou and thy Trufaldin will make a pair,
And ev’ry person who his hand hath put
To do a treason so black and immense
Will likewise dangle from the battlements.

The herald listened, while his face had turned
Now ghostly white, and now as red as flame.
He wished that long ago he had returned,
And thinks that Tartar has to be insane.
The king turned ’round, once he the offer spurned,
And the miscreant when back the way he came.
He went as swift as if the Fiend pursued,
Without the rich reward he’d thought his due.

Trembling all over, he regained the hold,
And told King Trufaldino what befell.
Now turn we to Orland, brave and bold,
Who came with his companions, right good-willed.
By night and day without a rest they rode.
One morn they reached the summit of a hill.
From the top they look down, and all they see
Is the vast campment of their enemy.

Such were the numbers nearly infinite
So many tents and such  mass of banners,
Angelica is dumbstruck at the sight.
They must pass through these legions in some manner,
Before they can regain the fortress’ height.
But the brave knights do not an instant stammer.
They see that glory will be their reward,
Taking the lady home by force of sword.

About the treason, nothing o they know,
Which wicked Trufaldino has prepared.
But on the mountaintop with hearts aglow,
They plan out how the duties will be shared
To let Angelica in safety go,
Though all the world in arms against them fared.
They don their armor and they mount their steeds,
Discuss and form a plan that may succeed.

In this formation, then, they will confront
And pass through all of this enormous rabble.
The Count Orlando will be at the front,
With Brandimarte, to begin the battle.
Then four knights will protect from all affront
The lady in a ring around her saddle.
Oberto, Aquilant, and Chiarïon
With Adrïano will escort her home.

Angelica, defended by these four
Need have no feat of any foeman’s blow.
The rearguard will be made of three, no more.
But everyone his valor well will show.
Grifone, Belarussian Antifor,
And King Ballano, who does not fear know.
The whole brigade is ready for to start.
They fear not all the world, these noble hearts.