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Alfonso XI of Castile (1311-1350):

Alfonso XI and the Black Death: Three Sources

Royal Mandate from Alfonso XI (1312-50) to the Councils and Authorities of the Kingdom of Murcia, giving instructions over the performance of acts of mourning in light of the pestilence (October 4, 1348, Cuéllar) Arch. Mun. Murcia, C.R 1348-1354, f. 1r-v.

Don Alfonso, by the grace of God, king of Castile, of Toledo, of Leon, of Galicia, of Seville, of Cordova, of Murcia, of Jaen, of the Algarve, of Algeciras and Lord of Molina. To the council and military governor, and to the judges, and officials of the city of Murcia and of all the villages, and places of its reign, and to the good men that we installed to administer the council of said city, and of the other aforementioned villages and places, and of each one, that now are or will be hence, or to anyone or any of you to whom this letter, or its copy signed by a public notary, is shown. Salutations and grace.

Know that because we are aware of the very cruel mortality happening each (day) in the villages and places of our domain, and that it appears to be pestilence sent by God upon the land, more than any other; and also because the men and women that were still alive engaged in great lamentations for the dead, and also they engaged in periods of mourning for them and because this is of great harm to the living and provides no benefit for the dead, we deem it proper to command you, after seeing this our letter or a transcript, signed as said above, that each of you, in your locales and jurisdictions, endeavor to promulgate throughout all of the city, and all the villages and locales of your (kingdom and) that no one, be it Christians or Jews or Moors, dare to engage in public lamentations or engage in mourning for the departed. . .engage in the said mourning and to not do it after said promulgation, except for the women. . .we deem it proper that they engage in mourning over their husbands for one year. And if not, anyone who did (public lamentations) or engaged in mourning starting from eight days after said promulgation; that each one who committed any of these be fined for each act. . .six hundred maravedis of the usual coinage; and of this (punishment) two parts will be for us and the other part for the accuser.

And with this our mandate or its transcript, signed as said above, we command you, the (councils) and officials, and to anyone of you that might be crossing through the said. . . the maravedis from whomever was caught, and that you give the two parts (to us) and give the remaining part to the accuser who accused them.

And no one is to do this hence in any way under penalty of our mercy and of six hundred maravedis of the (new) coinage.

And so that our letter be promulgated and obeyed, we command that any notary public, who was called to do this, give the man who (showed) it to him a testimony signed with his seal to that we may know how well you have complied with our mandate; and if he does not do this hence, (he will be) under the same penalty. Once the letter has been read, give it to him.

Granted in Cuellar, four days of October of the era of a thousand and three hundred and eighty six years. I, Alfonso García, ordered it to be written by command of the king.

Source: Colección de documentos para la historia del reino de Murcia. VI. Documentos de Alfonso XI. Ed. Francisco de Asís Veas Arteseros (Murcia: CSIC, 1997), p. 478-79, doc. 420.

Trans: Nicolás Agrait

Royal Provision from Alfonso XI (1312-50) to the council of Murcia, ordering that, by cause of the epidemic of pestilence, to not send any messengers to the court until the first days of May (Toledo, February 12, 1349) Arch. Mun Murcia, C.R. 1348-1354, f. 5v.

Don Alfonso, by the grace of God, king of Castile, of Toledo, of León, of Galicia, of Seville, of Córdoba, of Murcia, of Jaén, of the Algarve, of Algeciras, and lord of the county of Molina. To the council and city of Murcia, Salutations and grace. Know that this messenger that you sent us delivered some petitions for us from your part. And know that we were not able to see them and we commanded him to leave, because we agreed to not resolve any petitions from any of the places in our domains due to the pestilence and mortality that have broken out over the land. And we commanded that all those who were here with petitions to leave so that they would not anger us, and that no others were to come hereon with any petitions until the first day of May, because we trust in God that in the meantime this pestilence will cease, and then you will send us your messengers with said petitions so that we will see them and endeavor to find a way by which we can favor you.

Because we command you that until the said first day of May to no send us these or any other petitions.

And do not do so until then.

Granted in Toledo, sealed with our privy seal, twelve days of February, year in the era of one thousand CCC and LXXX VI years. I, Matheos Fernandez, ordered it to be written by command of the king.

Source: Colección de documentos para la historia del reino de Murcia. VI. Documentos de Alfonso XI. Ed. Francisco de Asís Veas Arteseros (Murcia: CSIC, 1997), p. 488.

Trans: Nicolás Agrait

Death of The King from Plague

“. . .After all the battles and conquests that the noble Prince King Don Alfonso of Castile and Leon had done, he henceforth went to besiege the town and castile of Gibraltar on the year of our Lord one thousand and three hundred and forty and nine years, and the year in the era of Caesar of one thousand and three hundred and seventy-seven years. And that place of Gibraltar was a very noble town and castle, and very noteworthy, and very strong, and valued by both Moors and Christians. . .

And this noble King Don Alfonso having the Moors that were besieged inside the city of Gibraltar so harried that they were about to give the city to him, as they had no help whatsoever . . .

. . . and with this condition in the siege of Gibraltar, it was the will of God that a very large pestilence of death resurged in the royal encampments of the King Don Alfonso of Castile in the year after he established his siege of Gibraltar: nd this one was the first and great pestilence that was called the great death; as two years prior there was this same pestilence in parts of France, and in England, and in Italy, and even in Castile, and in Leon, and in Extremadura, and in other parts. And how the Infante Don Fernando, Marques de Tortosa, his nephew, son of the King of Aragon and of Queen Doña Leonor, his sister, and Don Juan Núnez de Lara, lord of Biscay, and Don Fernando, Lord of Villena, son of Don Juan Manul, and Don Juan Alfonso de Alburquerque, and other Counts and Masters, and great lords, and Ricos omes (Rich, powerful men), and prelates and caballeros (knights) that were with King Don Alfonso in the aforementioned siege at Gibraltar, he was told and counseled to leave the siege, because many were dying from the pestilence, and even he was in grave dangers: yet despite all this the king refused to leave . . because he had that city and noble fortification about to surrender to him. . .and it would be a great shame to him to have left the because he was afraid of death. . .

. . .after many counsels and complaints by these lords and knights to lift the siege, he never agreed to do so. And it was the will of God that the King got sick, and developed buboes. And he died on Friday of Holy Week. . . twenty and seven days of March. . . in the year of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ of one thousand and three hundred and fifty years, which was at the time a jubilee year.”

Source: From Crónica del muy alto e muy católico rey don Alfonso el onceno in Crónicas de los reyes de Castilla. (Chronicle of the Most High and Catholic King Don Alfonso XI in Chronicles of the Kings of Castile)Vol. 1.Ed. D. Cayetano Rosell. (Madrid: M. Rivadeneyra, 1875), chap. 338, p. 390-91

Trans and Ed: Nicolás Agrait

Source: All texts translated and (c) Nicolás Agrait. Source given with each document.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history. Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

Paul Halsall, November 2023

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