THE DIFFERENT FACES OF THE LEGEND OF THE KING DON PEDRO

There is a very popular legend in Seville: the legend of King Don Pedro's head. Practically all Sevillians know about it, but if you ask for it nobody knows how this story was develops. This is something very curious, since the fact of not remembering it well has gave different ways of telling this legend. Well, let's know not only the most complete legend, but also the different versions that are told.

The context of this legend is developed in the 14th century, when the King Peter I rules, called the Cruel or the Justicer, it's depend of who talk about him. For the most humble of the kingdom it would be the righteous, for the aristocracy and the church, the cruel one. This character in the history of Spain has given much to talk about. In addition there are many legends in which he and his family are the protagonists, because they had given more than enough for a novel.

According to the main legend that we are going to tell, the mayor of the city said that no crime committed in the city was unpunished, and the king tried to challenge him on this, wanted to prove it for himself. Don Pedro was walking alone in the night city with his cloak when he bumps with his direct rival: one of the Guzmanes, son of the Count of Niebla, family that supported Enrique de Trastamara, the king’s bastard brother, who wanted to depose him.

A bad meeting that ended up becoming a spontaneous night fight and that ended in the death of the member of the Guzmanes. There was a witness who saw between the curtains of the window what happened: an old woman who looked out called by the noise of the steel crashing. Lighting up with a lamp, he could see that the murderer was a blond man, who lisped when he spoke and whose knees sounded as if they were walloping, that is, the king himself. With time it has been possible to demonstrate thanks to a medical study that the remains of Pedro I (buried in the Royal Chapel of the Cathedral of Seville), that due to infantile cerebral palsy, the king suffered a incomplete physical development in some parts of the body: legs.

Here we already find variations in history. These are, for example, the reason why Pedro I gets involved in this fight, it is said that it was also due to a woman trouble that they were working on, normal considering Pedro's behavior.

For fear of being revealed, she quickly goes off from the window, which caused the guards to identify her as the only witness. When the Guzmanes appeared the next day in the Courtroom of the Alcazar she was called to the palace to testify what she saw that night. The king, to calm them, promised to find that murderer and also cut off his head to expose it as a warning. The old woman for fear of reprisals didn't want to testify. At one point, the king called the old woman and whispered in his ear, "Tell me who you saw and nothing will happen to you, I give you my word." The old woman, at the king's promise, calmed down and said: "Sir, you were the murderer, the sound of your knees is recognized anywhere."

The way to discover who was the murderer, it's said that there were many ways to show. Two of the most popular versions apart of this story, is that the old woman brought a mirror in front of the king's throne to observe himself, and the other is that she asked to him to look out a window where he could see his own reflection at the background of the room in a mirror, much more discreet way to show than the previous one.

The king, let us say, fulfilled in his own way the promise to cut off the murderer's head. He ordered to place a wooden box in the place of the fact, in which, he claimed to the Guzmanes he kept the murderer's head and ordered that it not be opened until the day of his death, being watched day and night. When Pedro I died the box was opened and what was the surprise of all when finding in it a marble head of the monarch. Nowadays it's visible, although it isn't primitive, and gives the name to the street Cabeza del rey don Pedro. The street that is right in front of the bust is the one that the woman was supposed to live, that's why Candilejo was called to that street. Both streets are cut in the corner where everything happened.

But life is capricious and seems to give each one his own turn. All we have to do is look at the curious ending that awaited Pedro I: eight years later, in March 1369 he went from Seville to Toledo to end the revolt. In the field of Calatrava his brother Enrique was waiting for him. Pedro's troop suffers a resounding defeat and he is forced to seek refuge in the castle of Montiel (Ciudad Real), where he is besieged by enemy troops for nine days. In such a desperate situation, he tries to bribe Du Guesclin, Enrique's trusted man, offering him land and wealth to put in his favor, and let him escape. This seems to accept and they meet with Pedro in his tent, in which Enrique de Trastámara was waiting for him and in a fight ends up killing Don Pedro.

When the King dead his head was cut off and hanged on the tower of the castle, as if life had forced him to fulfill his word in the end. At last the murderer's head was cut and exposed.

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