The story is known, but the details. The so-called Hundred Years War – a conflict between the kingdoms of England and France that spanned from 1337 to 1453 – moved to the Peninsula in the form of a warlike confrontation between two half-brothers, Enrique de Trastamara and Pedro I el Cruel, both sons of Alfonso XI, king of Castile. The two offspring fought with their hosts at the foot of the castle of La Estrella, in Montiel (Ciudad Real). Pedro had barricaded himself in the fortress, but was tricked out of it and killed by his brother thanks to the French Constable Beltrán du Guesclin grabbing him from behind, a moment that the Trastamara took advantage of to inflict a fatal stab at him. “I neither put nor remove a king, but I help my lord”, it is said that the Frenchman justified himself before the assassination. With all these elements, the project’s research work was completed on October 31 Archeology of the battle and siege of Montiel (III): Excavation, prospecting and polyoracetic study in the castle of La Estrella. It is an “exceptional find”, maintain its editors, the archaeologists Jesús Molero García, David Gallego Valle and Cristina Peña Ruiz, when they refer to the 300 pieces of metal corresponding to weapons found in a room in the fortress, owned by the warrior monks. of the Order of Santiago, in addition to the structure of a temple, the exact location of the places of the fratricidal battle and even the camp to which King Pedro he was tricked into his murder.
Archaeological work at the site began in 2012 and this year’s research project is funded by the Castilla-La Mancha Community Board, the Montiel City Council, the Castillo de la Estrella Foundation and the University of Castilla-La Mancha. , and had a double purpose: the location of the archaeological remains of the battle, which occurred in 1369, and the excavation of the castle where Pedro I took refuge. In its interior, archaeologists have exhumed something out of the ordinary in this last campaign. It is a space, possibly a smithy or a warehouse, where a set of metal elements dating mostly to the 14th century has been discovered.
To date, more than 300 pieces of iron, lead, bronze, gilt and brass have been inventoried, corresponding to swords, knives, iron caltrops, spearheads, fragments of chain mail, brigantines, a perforated plate for shooting tests. crossbow, cavalry harness, pinjantes, buckles, earrings, pins, thimbles, bracelets, a Nasrid end and a gilt bronze seal with a legend alluding to the jurisdiction over the old term of Mentesa Oretana and that should hang from some medieval document today lost. All the material will be transferred shortly to the Provincial Museum of Ciudad Real for its cataloging.
Likewise, the structure of a temple of the Order of Santiago has been found, built in the second half of the 13th century to serve “knights, sergents and auxiliary personnel”, according to the texts of the time. It was built with a rectangular plan measuring 30 meters in length and 8 in width, it was built in masonry and ashlar masonry with brick vault roofs and it had a sacristy in the tower. It was preceded by a tripartite portico of which both the colonnaded entrance to the entrance and a paving that precedes a wide running bench is preserved.
Archaeologists have also managed to delimit for the first time the two great battle scenarios and rescue numerous weapons used, such as arrowheads, fenders or horse fittings. “The first surprise and ephemeral clash between the vanguard of the Enriqueño army and some advanced observers from Pedro I’s side, occurred in the valley of the Jabalón River, although the battlefield itself was in the vicinity of the current Montiel. Later, Enrique II located his royal or camp for the siege very close to the fortress of La Estrella. It was there that he murdered his stepbrother, ”says Jesús Molero García, professor of Medieval History at the University of Castilla-La Mancha.
Armies from Navarra, Aragon, Portugal and Granada took part in the fight, as well as knights of the orders of Santiago and Calatrava and English, French and Italian mercenaries who took part on either side.
David Gallego, co-director of the excavations, assures that the investigation has made it possible to “delimit this first warlike encounter between the two contenders in a space around the river ford.” And he adds: “The registry of the prospecting of the plots has documented four types of elements related to the fact of weapons. This is how iron arrows or bolts (crossbow arrows) have been recovered, as well as a sword blade, but also horseshoes and iron nails from the Middle Ages ”. In the place, a coin from the reign of Alfonso X has also been found, a gilt bronze plate with rivets that contains the representation of a lion looking to the left, from the 13th or 14th centuries, as well as bells, pins or nails clearly related to the baggage and clothing of the armies.
For the decisive confrontation with his brother, Pedro I gathered his troops in the Llano de la Fuente area, to the west of the current town, which was then a place of small agricultural lands and farmhouses. From that battle, archaeologists have found iron bolts from the El Cruel troops and edged weapons, such as knives or short swords, daggers, buckles, heraldic bronze pieces from Castilla y León, from the Order of Calatrava and fleurs de lis.
Pedro I lost the battle and took refuge in the castle. His stepbrother then closed all the escape routes with guards and set up a nearby camp, which has also been detected. To locate it, the experts took into account that it had to have visual control of the fortress and the town of Montiel, so due to its orography it could only be to the southeast or southwest of the castle. It also had to have points for the aguada, such as fountains or channels. When prospecting a hill that met these conditions, more knives, a piece of plate coat, a brigantine and other archaeological materials were found. It was there precisely where Pedro I was treacherously killed, perhaps with a weapon very similar to one of those found inside the castle.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.