Legends of Medieval Spain

King Sancho III "The Great" was the King of Navarra which at that time included Navarra, The Basque Country, Castile and Aragon. When he died Aragon passed to his eldest son Ramiro (Ramiro I) who was illegitimate and in theory, should not have inherited anything. Navarra and the Basque Country passed to Don Garcia (Garcia Sanchez III) and the county of Castile to Don Fernando (Ferdinand I), his third son. This legend explains why the King divided up his kingdom in this way. It should be noted it is only a legend and that as far as we are aware there is no historical evidence which either proves or disproves it.

The Legend of King Sancho The Great's Horse

King Sancho III of Navarra dreamed of uniting and ruling the whole of Spain. According to the legend on one occasion, when he was obliged to be away from home for a long period, he entrusted the care of his favourite horse to his wife Queen Elvira and told her that no-one should ride the horse while he was away.

The Queen took good care of the horse, feeding it herself, brushing it every day and even letting it sleep in her own quarters. Her eldest son repeatedly asked her to let him ride the horse. The Queen said no but little by little, Garcia wore her down until she was at the point of giving in to his requests. However, a Knight of the court advised her that she should stand firm otherwise the King would be very angry.

When the King returned, Garcia accused his mother of having an affair with the Knight. The King was furious and locked the Queen in a tower whilst holding a trial to find the truth. At the trial neither of the Queen's sons would stand up for their mother so the King decided to stage a tournament to see whether the Queen was guilty of adultery. In the end the only person who came forward to defend the Queen's honour was Ramiro ( who was the King's illegitimate son by another woman).

Fortunately, before the tournament could take place, the King was visited by a pious monk from a nearby monastery. The monk said that if the King promised to forgive the guilty parties then he would tell him what had really happened. The king agreed and the monk told him the truth.

King Sancho released the Queen from the tower and asked her to forgive him and his treacherous sons. The Queen agreed , with the proviso that Garcia would never inherit Castile ,which had belonged to her brother Count Garcia Sanchez and that Aragon should pass to Ramiro.

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