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How the Spanish Monarch Presented Madrid to the Last King of Cilician Armenia: an Excerpt from Kostan Zaryan’s Novel “Spania” (Part 2)

How the Spanish Monarch Presented Madrid to the Last King of Cilician Armenia: an Excerpt from Kostan Zaryan’s Novel “Spania” (Part 2)

Read the beginning of the story here

Juan, who had earlier presented the cities to Levon without setting any preconditions, now has to change his mind and announce that after his death Madrid with its income and privileges, will return under the rule of the Castilian crown. And in order to dispel any doubts (...), Juan solemnly gives a noble royal word that after the death of the Armenian king, the city will pass to Juan's first son the infante Don Enrique and his heirs (...)

But all this, as it turned out later, was in vain.

The fact that Juan has taken preventive steps for the future isn’t so surprising. But what about the present?  ... Who will compensate the loss of knights and honest people? The money that the barbarian Armenian king spends, the income that he receives, all that is the expense of their pockets. Religion is religion, humanity is humanity, but what about their money ?!

Anger and hatred for the Armenian king were growing.

Hiding in his palace, surrounded by hostile courtiers who despised him, the last Armenian King  and the first Armenian Refugee experienced difficult, bitter days.

Someone’s house, someone’s living! ...

The heralding of the tragedy will become for most of the Armenians an almost natural state. The first sale of the etranger [dirty alien (fr.)], The first moral blow of the whip, (...) which the offended pride of the Armenians was to suffer for many centuries!

Honestly, I personally do not have much sympathy for this pathetic Lusignan as king. His fanatical commitment to Catholicism plunged the Armenian people into trouble. In recent years of the Cilician kingdom the Armenian nation was split, corrupted, devoid of spiritual consent. The losses, the damage that the ignorant (...) alien clergy caused by the support of the throne to our nation, are incalculable and still continue to inflict. (...)

Levon the Fifth was in his new prison, in Madrid: did he realize that?

It could seem that after the explanations given by Juan, the aristocrats of Castile should have calmed down. But no, the struggle against the foreign king continued more fiercely than before. Our money! Our income!

Despite Levon's best efforts to please his subjects, to be a just ruler, a humble and zealous Catholic, compassionate for the poor, generous, kind and wise, the number of disgruntled people was increasing.

In order to discredit King Levon, thousands of different gossips began to spread about him: “All this is a lie, as if he had lost his kingdom, defending orthodox Christianity,  Armenians have always been enemies of Catholicism and pursued missionaries! Juan the First is just too kind and naive. He believes this insidious Eastern man and does not think that if he dies tomorrow, this former tyrant can take over our country. And finally, our money! Our income!”

In order to show his unselfishness, King Levon spent most of his income on rebuilding the city, on strengthening the crumbling fortresses and walls. He lived very modestly, spent little and gave away money for charity a lot. “Let it be so,  the enemies mumbled, but what if all this is a cunning ruse and an insidious diplomatic game to win the trust of the people and our sympathies? (...)

And again a delegation was sent to King Levon demanding to sign a new paper, to give new vows (...). Moreover, King Levon had to swear in a writing form that he had no right to apply any punishment to the officers of the palace and the city, princes, court ladies, servants and girls, even if they opposed him.

In short, the lord without power!

And  Levon, by the grace of God, the king of Armenia and the ruler of Madrid, Villarreal and Andujara, (...) promises and swears that he will fulfill all the requirements, will not take taxes, will not do this, will not do that.

And he signs: “Rey Lyon Quinto, regnante” — “King Levon the Fifth, reigning ...”

The word "reigning" sounds like a terrible mockery. Over whom does he reign, over what does he reign?! There, in Cilicia, ruins and ashes, but here ... There is no need to be a great psychologist to imagine the intolerable atmosphere that has developed around Lusignan (...). If it were not the persuasion of Juan the First, the unfortunate king would have fled. But Juan did his best to help him. Besides, where would he go?

The situation in the West was confusing as always: two large countries that could come to the aid of the Armenian king,  were in a state of incessant struggle, moreover, there was already nothing to rob in Armenia the Turks took everything and devoured.

Papal authority was even more pitiful than ever. Christ and his teachings were put up for sale and became an instrument of petty local politics.

Where to go?

And the Refugee king, bowed his head, humbled himself. "Be patient," said Juan to him, "be patient, let’s see what happens."

On October 9, 1390, Juan I and the Archbishop of Toledo, Don Pedro Tenorio, accompanied by a group of Castilian nobles, rode from Alcala to the port of Burgos.

They were riding on Arabian horses (...) It seemed wings had grown behind their shoulders.

— On the sand, in the desert, maybe, but not here, not on this stony ground, — noted Juan.

— It depends on who the rider is, Your Majesty, — one of the knights exclaimed, and, pulling on the reins, they instantly snapped off and flew forward.

In the cloud of dust they soon became invisible. 

— It’s wonderful! — Said Juan, addressing the archbishop of Toledo. — But why do these gentlemen think that you can only become a good rider after serving in Africa? Look! ... And, having quilted his horse, he, bending down, rushed off.

— God Almighty, — the Archbishop whispered, — God Almighty! …

Half an hour later, the king lay on the ground breathless, with the head smashed against the stones.


This generally accepted explanation for the death of King Juan seems to me dark and suspicious.

The king was accompanied by aristocrats who had served in Africa for many years Those who are familiar with the manners of the adventurers of the time, the scammers, for whom profit is paramount, and crime is the usual means to achieve it, can imagine the moral character of these people. But let us leave aside the suspicious presence of these gentlemen from Africa.

The fact is that the horsemen retired a considerable distance, and Juan, trying to catch up with them, left the archbishop, a friend of his father, quickly drove off his horse and disappeared. And what happened there, in the distance, where Juan, probably caught up with the riders, the archbishop could not see.

So his testimony, if it was, is of no value. The king lay on the ground with a broken head, lifeless, and it was not difficult to convince the old man that the he had simply fallen from his horse and had broken. Let us disregard the fact that the mores of the clergy were no less predatory, and in those times it was the easiest thing to silence one bishop when committing a crime.

But the strangest thing is that the Spanish chroniclers do not speak about this death for a long time. No details. (...) An inquisitive reader who knows how to read between the lines (...) has the impression that people were not too sad, but on the contrary, freely sighed finally got rid of Juan.

Instead,   the chronicles speak much on the events that followed the king’s death.

First, these events were extremely important, because after Juan’s death, due to the infante’s status, the power actually passed to the nobility and clergy of Castile. Therefore, the nobility and clergy, dissatisfied with the actions of Juan, were interested in his disappearance.

Although I can’t bring any facts, but I think that they killed Juan to get rid of Levon.

And got rid of.


It is not difficult to imagine Levon’s  state  after the death of Juan.

The joy of Madrid knew no bounds. The Council of the city, without losing a minute, convened the clergy, noble and wealthy people and declared Don Enrique the only legitimate heir to the throne. On the squares of the future capital, they raised flags with the name of the new king, wishing thereby to show that he was the sole ruler of the city, and not anyone else.

 Magnificent celebrations took place.


One of the first steps of the regents of Enrique the Third was the annulment of all privileges granted by the former king. The clergy and nobility revolted against Levon, and even staying in the country was already dangerous.

Levon the Fifth could no longer stay in Madrid. Moreover, he couldn’t even stay in Spain. Therefore he left.


Materials about Levon the Fifth have been generally collected and written by Armenian Catholics, spiritual and secular figures. For obvious reasons, they tried to instill the idea that during our national misfortunes, if not all of the people who professed Catholicism, then at least the clergy were with us. And as an example they cited an episode with our last king, Levon:  see what Catholicism is!  It presented three cities to our last king, it did this, it did that... And we naively, I would say, foolishly feel flattered, and are ready to forget the deadly grievances and harm that the same Catholicism and Eurpe caused to us.

Our absurd illusions, our vain, empty hopes for Europe cost us too much. And the source of these illusions was the legend of Levon, an episode ugly and humiliating for self-esteem, which was presented to us in a beautiful candy wrapper.

Let it not seem strange that quite recently, in the same Cilicia, in Cilicia floating in our blood, the French soldiers, in alliance with the Turks, shot at our volunteers, and let it not seem strange that today too our cattle-like executioners are met everywhere with honors, while we are strongly embarrassed.

And this isn’t something new, it has been so since then.

As can be seen, the regents and educators of Enrique III, mostly clerics in order to prevent him from the Christian manners of his father, grew him up with hatred for Christians of the East and for Armenians in particular. I'm not talking about the Jews, whom he destroyed mercilessly. “Eastern Christians and Armenians should be hated. They are schims, they do not accept papal power, oppose the interests of the Latin and have persecuted preachers from Rome all the time”.

Such barbarians as the Seljuks and the Mongols were much preferable. And this hatred was so strong that when Tamerlane killed hundreds of thousands of Christians, destroyed cities, burnt villages, destroyed the church, the King Enrique III defender of Catholicism and the favorite of the papal throne — in 1402 sent a large, solemn and rich delegation to congratulate Tamerlane on his victories. Para felicitarle por sus triumfos ...

Tamerlane expressed his gratitude to him and sent rich gifts and two captivated girls to the king Enrique.

Enrique felt so flattered that on May 22, 1403, new ambassadors from Puerto de Santa Maria departed in order to pass on to Tamerlane even greater evidence of the profound friendship and affection of the Spanish king. "To the Great Warrior, whose brave deeds have eclipsed the glory of all the former commanders." Para darle mayores moestros de amistad...

Kostan Zaryan, novel “Countries and Gods: Spania” (19351938).

Translated by Manan Ajamyan.

Source: Aniv Magazine.


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