Formidable Power of the Moors Intimidated most of the Grandees of Sanchez Court


“The luster of their virtues and the glory they acquired daily by their valor raised a generous emulation among the nobility and gentry of Spain. We observed, at the beginning of this history, that the Moors, in the eighth century, took the greatest part of that kingdom from the Goths. ‘Tis well known, that the Christians which remained of that nation, flying from the persecution of the infidels, retired at first into the mountains of the Asturias, from whence they sallied out afterward, under the conduct of Pelagius, to defend their liberty and their religion. That prince, by little and little, enlarged the bounds of his kingdom. His successors were yet more prosperous; they recovered several provinces from the Moors; and these Christian princes, who carried on the war in different quart among others, to preserve a reciprocal independency among themselves, erected these provinces over which they assumed sovereignty into so many kingdoms. Such is the original of the kingdoms of Leon, Castile, Navarre, Aragon, Portugal, Valentia, &.”

“The Moors too, on their side, had cantoned out their conquest, and we find among those Barbarians the kings of Toledo, Cordova, Murcia, and Granada. The one was every day in action the other, and for several ages, there was continual war between them. Some Spanish gentlemen, in imitation of the Templars and Hospitallers, and for the defense of religion, formed hereupon several societies and military orders, composed only of the nobility and gentry of that nation: of the order of Calatrava is reckoned the most ancient. Don Sanchez, the third king Castile, having won from the Moors the city of Calatrava, a strong place and frontier of the kingdoms of Castile and Toledo, committed the government and defense of it to the Templars but these knights having afterward advice, that the kings of the Moors had joined their forces to besiege it, and finding themselves to few to defend it, they delivered the place back again to the king.”

“Sanchez had need of all his forces to keep the field and make head against the Moors, who threatened, at the same time, to break into Castile. That prince, in this distress, declared, that if anyone was able and brake enough to undertake the defense of Calatrava, he would give it to him in property, to be held under the immediate sovereignty of his crown. But the formidable power of the Moors had so intimidated the most of the grandees of his court, that there was not who offered to throw himself into a place which was going to have at the foot of its wall the whole forces of the infidels.” 

Source: The History of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem …, Volume 1 By Vertot (abbé de)



Iberian Moors migrated into West Africa 1492

Moor, 1) Muslim of North Africa. Although often assumed to be a black race, in fact, the Moors were of Berber and Arab descent, mixed with considerable Negroid and Iberian blood. The word probably derives from Mauri, L. by way of Gr. for ‘dark men.’ Their native lands constituted parts of Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania. One theory is that the name originally derives from Berber Amazigh, ‘freemen,’ referring to their nomadic existence, and in Greek times came to mean anyone with dark skin. By the Middle Ages the term came to be applied to any Muslims (similarly, all Europeans were called Franks in the Mohammadean world). Since Moors were thought of as being dark skinned, the word was also used generally to apply to blacks, although light-skinned Moors were well known. The word ‘blackamoor’ was also common, which implies a distinction from lighter-skinned Moors.

In any case, attitudes to race were much different then because there had been so little direct contact between the population of England and the ‘exotic races. There was also no long history of the disgusting racist theories which still burden the modern world. There were celebrity Moors in London, but the overall awareness would be of a faraway people, who to a greater or lesser degree were allied with the enemies of Christendom. After their early history (see Mauritania), the Moors were overrun by the Arabs in the 7th c., who replaced their religion and language and formed a dynamic culture. In the 8th c. the Moors defeated the Visigoths and conquered Spain.

Their attempt to move north into France was turned back by Charles Martel in 732, though they conquered Sicily in 827. Gradually the Christian reconquest drove them back until the only Moorish stronghold in Spain, Granada, fell in 1492.“The Iberian Moors, who had considerably intermarried, returned to Africa where they were known as Andalusians, and scattered over the enormous range of the Moors, from the Mediterranean to the Senegal river, and from the Atlantic to Timbuktu.” 

Source:  The Shakespeare Name Dictionary By J. Madison Davis, Daniel A. Frankforter

“Ever since the Andalusians had turned on alMutawakkil, however, al-Mansur had held them in suspicious respect, even going so far as to have a spy monitor them at the Battle of Wadi al-Makazin. After having their leader, al-Dughali, disposed of he retained substantial Andalusian troops, but drew his senior commanders from the ranks of the renegados, who commanded what was essentially a standing professional army of twenty-six thousand troops, with another twenty-five thousand scattered throughout the country.  Smith, Ahmad al-Mansur, 52. This of course changed over time. By 1602, according to Weston F. Cook, something resembling a standing national army consisted of some fifty thousand men under al-Mansur’s direct command stationed around Marrakech. Discrete units made up of Turks, Algerians, and Andalusians remained, with commanders drawn from their ranks and well as from those of renegados. Most of the cavalry were Moroccans organized by region or as jaysh tribes. By the end of his reign al-Mansur had also introduced black Sudanese slaves to the army. Cook, The Hundred Years War, 261.”

Source: MOROCCO IN THE EARLY ATLANTIC WORLD, 1415-1603 A Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Georgetown University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History By Earnest W. Porta, Jr., J.D


England & the Crusades, 1095-1588

“Men from London were in the fleet that sailed from Dartmouth in May 1189 and took Silves from the Moors in September. A year later another shipload of at least eighty Londoners embarked for Jerusalem, their eventful voyage to Spain being recounted in some detail by Roger Howden. During a storm, St. Thomas Becket appeared to three men on board to assure them of his protection, as well as that of St. Edmund and St. Nicholas, and to clam the tempest. Later the ship was deliberately scuttled by local Christians in the newly conquered Silves, in an attempt to persuade the Londoners to help the king of Portugal resist a fresh Moorish invasion; this they agreed to do only after receiving assurances of full compensation.” See Page 73 

“The absence of English crusaders in the Baltic stands in clear contrast to the following century. Spain continued to attract some Englishmen. It is possible that Englishmen took the cross to fight the Moors in 1211 and that others were among those who captured Valencia in 1238; at Seville, after its capture from the Moslems in 1248, there settled one Arnold of London, a John of London, and his son. However, a long-projected Anglo-Castillian scheme for a crusade to North Africa came to nothing.” See Page 89

“The list of Chaucer’s knight’s campaigns “in hethenesse” included Algeciras, Alexandria, Satalia, Russia, Prussia, and Granada, in no particular order of merit or distinction. This catholic approach reflected life. Henry of Grosmont fought the Moors of Spain and the Slaves of the Baltic.” Page 266

“In contrast to the Baltic Crusades, the crusades launched against the Moors of Spain and North Africa were peripheral to the experience of English nobles in the fourteenth century. This was partly because the crusades in the western Mediterranean had increasingly become the preserve of Iberian rulers or, in the case of North Africa, of Italian commercial interest, and partly because of the war with France.” See Page 276

“Even interest in the projected crusade of 1330-31 was largely a function of Anglo-French relations. Vice versa, there was an attempt to characterize the 1367 campaign that culminated in the victory of Najera as a crusading venture, Walsingham reporting that the Black Prince’s enemies included Saracens. This may have been induced by the explicitly crusading propaganda of the French, who associated England’s ally Peter the Cruel with the Moors of Granada and North Africa. The wider conflict in northern Europe, febrile dynasticism in the peninsula, a disputed succession, and civil wars ensured that the Moors, in their mountainous redoubt of Granada, from mid-century had little to fear. The one major English intervention was characteristic. In the early 1340s, Alfonso XI of Castille (1312-50) had succeeded in gathering land and sea forces from Aragon and Portugal as well as from his own kingdom, in an attempt to clear the Moors from the ports nearest the African coast, Algereicas, and Gibraltar.”  See Page 277

“The siege of Algeciras caused little stir amongst English chroniclers at the time, hardly rating a footnote to Grosmont’s more illustrious career north of the Pyrenees. Even though it was the only English expedition to the Iberian peninsula in the fourteenth century directed openly against the infidel, its impact was at home minimal. The same is true of another example of Englishmen fighting against the Moors mentioned by observers in England. Walsingham noted that in 1415 Englishmen (in one version he called them merchants) fought under the king of Portugal and, as at Algeciras, in company with Germans at the capture of Ceuta, on which campaign English ships and equipment were also used. However, this involvement was more a result of the close and friendly diplomatic relations between the English ships and equipment were also used. However, this involvement was more a result of the close close and friendly diplomatic relations between the English and Portuguese courts, which has been fostered in no small measure by the marriage in 1386 of James I of Portugal to John of Gaunt’s daughter Phillippa, granddaughter of Henry Grosmont.” See Page 278

“The castellan of Pontefract, Thomas, Lord Darcy, on seeing the badges of the Five Wounds was reminded that he had used the same device on an expedition he had led to fight the Moors of North Africa IN 1511. He may not have been alone in the reminiscence, as one of the rebel leaders at Pontefract, Sir Robert Constable, and another knight who had been persuaded to join the rebellion, Sir Ralph Ellekar, had also been on that expedition.” See Page 343

“In the early years of his reign, Henry VIII continued to talk of a new crusade. In the summer of 1511, in response to an appeal by Ferdinand of Aragon, who had already occupied Oran in 1509, Henry sent Lord Darcy to Cadiz, at Darcey’s own request with fifteen hundred archers ready to fight the Moors of North Africa, alongside the Spaniards. Unfortunately, the English archers behaved in Cadiz rather like modern English football fans abroad they got very drunk on local wine and smashed up the place. One Englishman was killed, as were a number of Spaniards. Ferdinand was not amused, and in a diplomatic move of lightning speed, he made a truce with the Moors and managed to ship the English home only a little over a fortnight after their arrival. The arches still capable of it had not seen a single Moor. In the next decade, the crusade remained the stated context and excuse for trying to resolve the bitter conflicts in Italy and elsewhere between Habsburg and Valois. The Anglo-French Treaty of Lond [1518] included clauses designed to create an international alliance against the Turks, in support of the crusade being preached at that time by Leo X.”  See Page 352