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XIII Century's best Spanish Novel: Amadis of Gaul and it's Author: Henry of Castile

Santiago Sevilla

For the English speaking people, Amadis of Gaul is a revelation of the way of life in Europe in the XIII century. This chivalric novel has England, Scotland and Wales as it's first locations. Later, following the errants of it's author, it wanders over Italy,Greece and Constantinople. It also lands in Sicily, and Pantelleria . The fictional great battles referred to in "Amadis" are indeed the most famous warring encounters of the Thirteenth Century: Cadfan in Wales (1257), Lewes (1264) and Evesham (1265) in England, Benevento (1266) and Tagliacozzo (1268) in Italy, Sciacca (1267) in Sicily. The fictional characters correspond to real members of the nobility: Edward I Longshanks is king Lisuarte, his sister Eleanor of England is Oriana, Amadis is Simon de Montfort. The author himself, Henry of Castile, is represented by Brian de Monjaste, like him, the son of the Spanish king Ladasan, or Ferdinand III the Saint.
The core of the novel is the passionate love story of Oriana and Amadis.

They make love, and Oriana gets pregnant. The boy is Esplandian, who becomes an awesome knight. Oriana and Amadis cannot marry, because King Lisuarte wants to give Oriana in marriage to the Emperor of Constantinople. Amadis kidnaps her, and takes her to his island, where they live together for a while. Esplandian confronts Amadis later, and blames him for dishonoring his mother and making him a bastard. In the end he kills Amadis, and Oriana, witnessing the death of her lover, killed by her own son, commits suicide, jumping from the castle's window. The inspiration for the story is the failed marriage of Henry of Castile with the Infanta Constanza of Aragon, due to the armed opposition against it, by his brother King Alfonso X of Castile. Simon de Montfort did marry Eleanor of England after she conceived from him an ilegitimate baby, who would be the awesome knight, Guy de Montfort, Count of Mola, famous for his murderous cruelty. Simon died in the battle of Evesham, killed by Edward I Longshanks, a most daring fighter and strategist king. Henry of Castile wrote "Amadis" while imprisoned in Canosa di Puglia, and Castel del Monte, for 22 years, after the battle of Tagiacozzo against his cousin Charles of Anjou,conqueror of Sicily and Naples. Henry fought on the side of Conradin of Hohnstaufen,also his cousin, imperial heir to the Kingdom of Sicily.

The novel is a treasure trove of pictures of Thirteen century Europe, the style is most elegant and pleasant. Cervantes based "El Quijote" on many features of "Amadis" three hudred years later( 1606). Unfortunatly in 1508 Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo copied three books of the original"Amadis" and added a fourth book, pretending to appear as the saviour of an old tale without an author. The Spanish literary establishment has accepted the plagiarism. Nevertheless, a linguist, Antonio Rodriguez Monino discovered some four folios of the original work, and one can easily state that Garci Rodriguez misappropriated the original novel, and became famous, notwithstanding his rather shameful plagiarism. After dedicated research, I have discovered the author, Henry of Castile, Senator of Rome, and some Medievalists have accepted my finding. Henry of Castile is recognized as a fine poet in Italy. Margarita Torres Sevilla, professor at University of Leon is author of his most romantic biography; and Valeria Bertoluci Piezzorusso, professor at Pisa University, has published a brilliant paper on Henry's Italian poetry. With this discovery, the history of Spanish literature has reached the threshhold, where the first, and perhaps one of the best European novels in Castilian Spanish can be acknowledged.


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