El Cid is one of the great heroes of Spain and, unlike Britain’s beloved King Arthur, he is someone who really existed.
Born sometime in 1040, close to Burgos in the kingdom of Castille, El Cid was a true adventurer who had an extraordinary life, during which (somehow) he managed to survive despite fighting, at various times, for both the Moors and for the Spanish. By the end of his life, this remarkable soldier had carved out his own fiefdom in Valencia. This he ruled with little more than cursory attention to King Alfonso VI – the most powerful Christian king in Spain at the time.
Of course, to many people, the image of El Cid that springs to mind is that imprinted by the great 1961 Hollywood epic of the same name, in which Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren star. The most memorable image of the film is when a dead El Cid, fully armoured, is strapped to his war horse, Babieca, and led into battle – just as the dastardly Moors are about to conquer the Spaniards. Finding the great El Cid unkillable, the Moors retreat in terror…
In fact, probably to the surprise of anyone who knew him in real life, El Cid died peacefully! Equally, it would certainly be wrong to think that it was El Cid who drove the Moors from Spain. This was far from the truth.