Pedro the Cruel’s Jews

The 1390 slaughter of Barcelonan Jewry, natural disaster and ritual combat constitute today’s Libro verde items. The following bizarre anecdote from R Coltman Clephan’s excellent and ridiculously cheap The Mediaeval Tournament combines all three:

In La Vie de Bertrand Du Guesclin is an account of a singular legal duel between Jews, named Daniot and Turquant, which took place in Spain; and the narration aptly illustrates the superstitious character of the times and country. These Jews were accused of assasinating Blanche de Bourbon at night in her bed; and on being charged with the crime Daniot averred that he had not entered the bed-chamber of the princess at all, and had done his best to prevent Turquant from committing the murder. This Turquant denied on oath, stating that his accomplice had taken and equal part with himself in causing the death of the princess. On hearing of this direct conflict of testimony Bertrand Du Guesclin is stated to have suggested a judicial duel in the lists (champ-clos) between the parties, and this having been assented to the fight duly took place. The combatants, who were well mounted and in complete armour, fought with swords, and after some severe passages Turquant wounded Daniot in the arm so severely that he was incapacitated from further combat, owing mainly to the loss of so much blood. The coup de mort was about to be given to the vanquished champion and a confession of his guilt demanded when just at that moment a thick cloud appeared above the heads of the combatants, and issuing from it a flash of lightning struck them both dead.

I don’t know who the instruments were, but Blanche is actually believed (I wonder whether this is principally on the strength of the numerous Spanish ballads treating the subject) to have been poisoned on the orders of her husband, Pedro the Cruel, who preferred Maria of Padilla and resented Blanca’s political claims. Here’s a bit of pre-nuptial mood-building from Old Court Life in Spain by Frances Minto Eliot (1893):

Now Blanche is at Valladolid, in the Gothic palace, with its dark patio and big angular casements, which still jut out over the street just as they did then.

She is expecting the king, who is to arrive that very night. Need I say that she is quite beside herself with terror? Resistance is vain; as well might the helpless lamb resist the butcher’s knife.

The dreadful hour has come when she is to be eaten up by the royal ogre, and she can only lie and sob in the quant painted chamber prepared for her.

Jews achieved their maximum influence under Pedro, but his torture and murder of his brilliant Toledan banker, Samuel ha Levi, Spain’s last Jewish minister, demonstrated the perilous foundations of that success.

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