King St. Ferdinand endures war from his father – continued

October 27, 2014

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Archbishop of Toledo, Don Rodrigo Ximénez de la Rada

Archbishop of Toledo, Don Rodrigo Ximénez de la Rada

A few hours later the King left at the head of his army in the direction of the town besieged by the King of León. Accompanying him were the Archbishop Ximénez de la Rada and the Bishops Don Maurice and Don Tello. Astonished, the prelates and the noblemen watched their lord, for it was strange and painful to see a son, and such a son, forced to wage war against his father. Ferdinand went enraptured with his eyes fixed on heaven. In that gaze was an intense and constant prayer. As his confidence increased, his attitude became loving and trustful rather than anxious and full of anguish. At first, this calm and serene attitude of their King in the midst of a trial so repulsive to his filial piety confused everyone. But, little by little, he prevailed upon them and won their hearts so that in the end they developed a great respect for his spirituality. They expected, almost without realizing it, that this young King who acted like a saint would perform some wonder. Men of firm and ingenious faith, they knew how to see the Providence of God in the course of events. And certainly, God never left confused those who trusted in Him. The Archbishop, who had known Ferdinand since childhood, kept studying him attentively. He finally concluded that if he had greatly loved the winner of the Navas, he was going to love his grandson even more.

Finally the army went past Medina del Campo to a place where they could see Castrejón surrounded by the enemy. The white tents from León contrasted with the reddish brown of the soil. Facing them, the King of Castile ordered his men to encamp, and as soon as he dismounted, he called the prelates and the most distinguished of the noblemen to explain his plan. He took out a parchment he had brought with him and gave it to Ximénez de la Rada.

“Your Excellency,” he said, “take this letter to the King of León, my father and lord.” He added in general to the others, “You, go with the Archbishop to the King of León and try to persuade him to desire peace. Know that you will do a great service to God and to myself, and that I will greatly appreciate it.”

They bid farewell, thanking the King for the trust placed in them, and promising to use prudence and to spare no effort. Don Ferdinand, as soon as he saw that they had left, called his squires and warned them, “Watch that no one interrupts me, unless something very important occurs, until the Archbishop returns.” He then disappeared behind the tapestry that divided the tent in two.

St. Ferdinand III

St. Ferdinand III

In the meantime the Archbishop and his companions mounted their horses and rode toward the encampment of León. They had not ridden even half way when they saw a group similar to their coming toward them from the León side. It was already past sundown, so they could not see them clearly until they had met.

They then recognized the archbishop of Santiago with the bishops of Zamora and Astorga, accompanied by other noblemen of León. They greeted each other with great courtesy. The archbishop of Santiago said to his counterpart from Toledo, “Your coming seems to be peaceful, Archbishop.”

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“The King of Castile desires peace very much, and even though his strength is great, he does not want to make war against his father and lord.”

“I tell you, Archbishop, that God sent you at the right time. The one who instigated this unjust war, Don Alvaro Nuñez de Lara, is sick in bed, and so he will not be able to do more harm.”

It was not difficult for the Castilians to believe that it was by God’s intervention that Don Alvaro was ill. Seeing the good dispositions of the ambassadors from León, they gained new hope of achieving their goal, and together they rode in the direction of the royal tent.

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Sr. Maria del Carmen Fernández de Castro Cabeza, The Life of the Very Noble King of Castile and León, Saint Ferdinand III (New York: The Foundation for a Christian Civilization, Inc., 1987), 55-60.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 432

 

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