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B. Teba

The Battle of Teba, 1330, 25 August

The Date of the Battle

From: John S. Quarterman
Date: Monday, August 09, 1999 8:48 PM

Thus far we have the Battle of Teba occuring in three different months:
25 March 1330 (Laurel quoting Ronald McNair Scott)
8th September 1330 (Niven Sinclair)
25 August 1330 (Pete Cummings)
At least we all agree on the year....

Teba (not Theba; there is no th in Spanish) has its own web pages. They mention a memorial plaque. That battle was the biggest thing that ever happened in Teba. :-)

As for Saladin, yes, he was exceptional, but Muslims in general considered Christian Europeans to be barely better than barbarians with no manners, and with quite a bit of justification, given the behavior of the crusaders. The Byzantines held a similar opinion, for similar reasons.

The Aftermath of the Battle

From: "Spirit One Email" <>
Date: 3 Aug 1999 17:51:06 -0700


It seems that the Saracens pretended to ride away. Douglas gave the order to follow and his group of 10 were drawn away from the rest of the army. Suddenly the enemy turned their horses and encircled them but Douglas was able to evade them. When he looked back he saw that Sir William Sinclair had been captured along with two other knights, Sir Robert and Sir Walter Logan. Douglas came back to rescue them but was surrounded by the Moors and cut down.

The casket containing Bruce's heart was still chained around Douglas' neck when Sir Alan Cathcart took it from him.

(Cathcart family tradition — but I think it makes more sense than the Saracens returning it — Saladin was a very exceptional person. His chivalry and nobility were unusual among his people and among the Europeans. The days of chivalry were formed in his image. His actions sharply illuminated the debauchery of the Crusaders.)

From this story we are not able to determine whether John Sinclair was in the group with his brother. It doesn't sound like it. But perhaps killed elsewhere on the battle field that day. As you visualize the bringing of the bodies from Spain, here is another aspect to consider:

Douglas' body was brought to his cousin, Sir William Keith who didn't participate in the battle because he had a broken arm. He was now in charge it seems. Maybe he and Cathcart were the only ones to survive?

Since it would take some weeks to embark, sail south to the Mediterranean and then up the coast to Scotland, it is obvious that in that warm climate these bodies couldn't be taken home as they were. So Sir William Keith had the bodies prepared for the journey by having them boiled (in vinegar — from a Cadfael story) so that the flesh fell off. It was only the bones of the dead that went back to Scotland. The flesh was buried in holy ground in Spain. I wonder whether anyone has gone there to look for a monument to them?

The heart of Bruce was carried in the little casket and buried at Melrose Abbey. The bones of Douglas were buried in the Kirk of Douglas.


Bruce and companions' bodies.

From: "Spirit One Email" <>
Date: 23 Aug 1999 09:48:58 -0700

Quoting from the book Robert the Bruce by Ronald McNair Scott (RMS):
``Finally in Oct 1328 the Pope lifted the interdict from Scotland and the excommunication of Robert. He now felt his death approaching and the need to make peace with God. King Bruce spent Christmas of 1328 at Cardross where he recouperated enough to go on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Ninian, near Wigtownshire and the battlefield of Bannockburn. This saint was the first Christian missionary in Scotland (5th century). He was carried by stretcher on a last visit to St. Ninian. They got as far as Castle Kennedy by Stranraer when he had a relapse. He recovered enough after a month to go on to the shrine by April 1. He fasted four or five days and prayed to the saint. Then by slow stages they took him northwards through Galloway and Carrick and then he back to Cardross by the end of April.

``Now he was feeling the weakness increasing daily. He sent letters to all the leading men of the kingdom to come to him.

Probably our elderly Henry St. Clair was there. He died 1331. Perhaps his sons, William and John, were also there.
``They pledged their support to the King's son and to obey him when he came of age when he would be their King.

```Sirs', he said, `my day is far gone and there remains but one thing, to meet Death without fear, as every man must do. I thank God he has given me the space to repent in this life, for through me and my wars there has been a great spilling of blood and many an innocent man has been slain. Therefore I take this sickness and this pain as a penance for my sins.'''

He said that he had hoped to be able to go in person to fight against the heathen but now he wouldn't be able. He asked them to choose one among them to carry his heart against the enemies of Christ. This does not say that he particularly wanted his heart to go to Jerusalem. So in the battle of Teba they did carry out his wish after all. But this version varies on this point from that reported on the Douglas website.

RMS then quotes from a modern paraphrase of book 20 of The Brus by John Barbour, c. 1375:

``Then James Douglas knelt beside the King, and when he could speak for weeping he thanked him for all the benefits he had received since he first came into his service, but above all that he had been given the honour of taking into his keeping his master's heart, which all the world knew was so full of nobleness and valour. Then the King thanked him tenderly and `there was none in that company but wept for pity.'''
The original Scots text by Barbour reads as follows:
`` `I thank you gretly lord,' said he,
`Off the mony larges and gret bounte
That yhe haff done me fel-sys
Sen fyrst I come to your service,
Bot our all thing I mak thanking
That ye sa dyng and worthy thing
As your hart that enlumynyt wes
Off all bounte and all prowes
Will that I in my yemsall tak.
For you, schyr, I will blythly mak
This travaill, gif God will me gif
Layser and space sua lang to lyff.'
The king him thankyt tendrely,
Than wes nane in that cumpany
That thai na wepyt for pite,
Thar cher anoyis wes to se.''
A few days later, Robert died on 7 June 1329, not quite 55 years old. His heart was placed in a little silver and enameled casket which Douglas placed around his neck.

RMS continues, quoting from a Cathcart family manuscript:

``Early in the spring of 1330, he set sail from Berwick in a ship fitted out in royal state so that all might know he was the bearer of the heart of Robert, King of Scotland, and on his way to lay it in the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. He had on board six knights, linked in friendship, neighbouring landowners from the Stewart domains: Sir William Sinclair of Roslyn, Sir Robert and Sir Walter Logan, Sir William Keith, Sir Alan Cathcart and Sir Seymour Loccard of Lee, and one other knight unnamed. Twenty-six squires and gentlemen were there to serve them.''
Here again the quote at the Douglas site varies on this point. They point out that Bruce just wanted his heart "carried" to Jerusalem, symbolic of Bruce making the journey, and expected that it would return and also be buried at Melrose Abby.

Niven speculates that one of the 26 squires was John Sinclair, brother of Sir William Sinclair.

Outremer Perdue

Acre fell in 1291; it was the last Crusader strongholder in the Middle East. Saladin had already taken Jerusalem in 1187 and the Crusaders never got it back. However, during the Sixth Crusade of 1228-1229, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II von Hohenstaufen gained agreement with the Muslims permitting Christians free access to the Holy Places. In between, King Robert's grandfather Robert Bruce the Contender accompanied St. Louis of France on the Eighth Crusade of 1269-1270 to Tunis, as did Prince Edmund of England. And Edward Longshanks (the future Edward I of England) was on the Last Crusade of 1270-1272 that got as far as Acre before discovering Louis was in Tunis. As for Spain, the Reconquista was a crusade, so naturally these chivalrous Scots carrying the heart of a would-be crusader would be drawn into it, especially considering it was more or less on the way by sea from Scotland to Palestine. —jsq

RMS continues:

``They stopped first at Sluys in Flanders where they stayed 12 days, entertaining lavishly on gold and silver plate on board their ship and inviting all who wished to fight in the Holy Land to come along. There were rough seas between them and the Mediterranean.''
Were they already planning to go to Seville without any previous direct invitation from King Alfonso to fight the Moors? There are versions of this story that Alfonso sent them an invitation. If Bruce had asked them to take his heart into battle, maybe this was their plan and not to actually go to Jerusalem, where there were no battles raging there since its fall in 1291.

Let us continue by paraphrasing RMS.

But there was a gathering of knights from all over Europe at Seville prompted by a general invitation from King Alfonso. Perhaps the death of Bruce was seen as the catalyst for an all out battle to expell the Moors. When they were at Sluys, Flanders, they invited men to join with them. Perhaps there were a number that would not commit to go to battle in Jerusalem — a place few returned from, but a nearer battlefield in a Christian country, easily accessible and where the supply lines were assured, appealed to a larger group. Then the decision was made to only go to Seville. Or it could have been go to Seville and then we'll decide after that whether to go on to Jerusalem.

When they arrived Alfonso XI (1312-1350), King of Castile, and numerous other foreign and English knights who were already there came to welcome them. So they rested there awhile. Then in March the Moorish King of Granada, Muhammad IV (1325-1333), threatened the city. Alfonso brought out the troops asking Douglas to lead them. On March 25th, at Zebas de Ardales, the armies came face to face.

The Garden of God

There is a town called Ardales somewhat southeast of Teba. The name Ardales comes from the Arabic Ard-Allah, or Garden of God, which was given it by the Muslims when they originally conquered it. Is the name Zebas an old form of Teba? — jsq

That is the story as Ronald McNair Scott tells it. Now let us speculate.

It is possible that the Moors laid siege for a couple of months before Douglas' last crazy charge in Aug. 25th. Maybe the news got back to Scotland on Sept. 8th or Douglas' charge was in March, then it took time for wounded people to heal, boil the bones, bury the flesh, load the ships sail slowly, stopping at ports to let people grieve, and got back to Scotland on Aug. 25th. Then they buried Douglas' bones or Robert's casket on Sept. 8th. I am suspicious of my timetable though, when RMS says they left in early Spring. The earliest in Spring one can leave is March 1st. (Did people ever think that Feb. was in the Spring? I wouldn't think so in Scotland?) Then 12 out the remaining 25 days were spent in Sluys; that leaves 13 days to beat against the storms down a long coast of France and Portugal. The Guadalquivir River is not far around the corner but still west of Gibraltar. Then it looks like about 25 miles up the River. Was that river navigable by these ships to Seville? I suppose it was or else Seville wouldn't have prospered so much.


Yes. Seville was the transshipment point from seagoing ships to riverboats. —jsq

Then it seems they were there at least a day before they began fighting. Does that sound reasonable to any of you? Perhaps they had a tail wind southward and it is OK. But an August arrival seems like a long time for the journey beginning in Spring.

Last changed: 00/05/28 15:53:51 [Clan Sinclair]