King St. Ferdinand Gallops To Arrest The Master of Santiago

November 16, 2017

Some knights had just returned from a mission on which the King had sent them that afternoon and said that they must speak to him urgently.

Upon hearing this Ferdinand frowned, stood immediately and, apologizing to the venerable nun for the interruption, left the room. He found the knights at the door.

“What has happened to you?”

“Lord,” answered the one acting as leader, “when we arrived we asked to see the Master of Santiago, but they told us he was not there. Actually, he had fled through another door as soon as he saw us coming, because he swore to Alfonso IX to keep the castle in the infantas’ name.”

In cases of rebellion, Ferdinand would not waste time.

“Go!” he said to the knight, “and order my horse Cierzo, which is the swiftest, to be saddled immediately and wait for me on the patio. And you, Rodrigo, come here,” he added to the page.

“Can you put on my spurs?” he asked him when they were brought to his room

“I have done so many times for my father, Lord,” the boy replied, satisfied with the important role he was playing.

Ferdinand had taken a piece of parchment and a pen and, while the page was putting on his spurs, he wrote:

“Do not expect me for another day, Doña Beatrice. If you were hunting birds this morning, I will be hunting Masters at night. Please tell my lady and mother about it, but the infantas should not know.”

He folded the note and gave it to Rodrigo, who, after having finished his work, was coming toward him with a hooded cape well-lined with fur with the intention of placing it over his shoulders if he could manage it, for the King was very tall and he was a little fellow.

“Give this to the Queen, my wife.”

The boy ran to fulfill the order, giving the note to Doña Beatrice who was with Doña Berenguera and all of the King’s sisters.

Doña Beatrice

She read it and without saying a word passed it unnoticed to her mother-in-law. The Queen Mother guessed immediately what it was about, frowned just as her son had done, and went out to try to catch him before he had left. She arrived at the patio just as they were bringing his horse to him.

“My Lady and Mother,” he explained, “the Master of Santiago refused to surrender the possessions of Castro Toral to the person I sent. I must apprehend him, because my sisters have asked for these possessions, and I would be willing to give them my eyes if they asked me.”

And he galloped off at full speed, for he could not waste one moment if they were to catch the Master, who had a lead of several hours, before he reached the frontier of Portugal. They ran like a hurricane through the field covered with snow, almost as clear as daylight under the moon. Close to midnight they discerned a fugitive on horseback ats the traveled across the rolling hills.

“Lord, look, the Master!” shouted three of the knights.

Now that they had him within sight, they galloped even more furiously. The flanks of the horses started to bleed under the prodding from the spurs, and the distance between them decreased visibly. The fugitive realized he was being followed and increased his speed as much as he could, but his horse, after so many hours of running, was exhausted, and continued to lose ground. Finally, when within hearing distance, Ferdinand called with a tremendous voice, “Halt for the King!”

Frozen with fear when he realized that the King himself was chasing him, the unfortunate Master stopped, and the five knights surrounded him.

“Are you Don Peter González Menge, Master of Santiago?”

“I am, Lord.”

“Surrender yourself.”

Don Peter dismounted, and, ungirding his sword, he placed it in the King’s hands, who gave it to one of his knights to hold.

Then the chastened Master mounted his horse, sad and with a bowed head, and started anew the way toward the castle, following the King and surrounded by his guards. As soon as they arrived Ferdinand ordered him to make a formal surrender, and the grieved and astounded nobleman immediately complied.*

This strong, decisive reaction greatly helped Ferdinand to control the excesses of subjects, for several had been trying to take advantage of the confusion.

Sr. Maria del Carmen Fernández de Castro Cabeza, The Life of the Very Noble King of Castile and León, Saint Ferdinand III (Mount Kisco, NY: The Foundation for a Christian Civilization, 1987), 119-21.


Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 601


* This castle of Castro Toral was kept by the Knights of Santiago as a fief of the Holy See. Saint Ferdinand must not have known anything of this, and thus, seeing in the Master’s refusal an act of rebellion, he apprehended him. The Holy See complained, and after some communication between Gregory IX and Saint Ferdinand, the problem was resolved in a satisfactory way for all (Miguel de Manuel).

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