4th of August 1578, when three kings were killed in Oued Al Makhazin Battle

In 1578, three of the most courageous kings marked history in one of the largest wars ever fought in North Africa between 1400 and 1700. Sultan Abd al Malik, the dethroned sultan Mohammed Al Motawakkil and the Portuguese King, Sebastian I were all killed in the battle known as Alcacer Quibir.

Battle of the Three Kings in Ksar Elkbir, Morocco./ Ph . Brainexplor
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Fought near the city of Ksar-el-Kebir, in the north of the Moroccan kingdom, the Battle of the three Kings was one of the largest wars that marked the history of both Morocco and Portugal. The battle that was also known as «Oued Al Makhazine», and which lasted according to historians for approximately four hours and 20 minutes, was the deadliest of them all. In one day three kings were killed in battlefield, namely Sultan Abd al Malik, the dethroned Sultan Mohammed Al Motawakkil, and the Portuguese King Sebastian I.

It all started in 1576 when Sultan Abdullah Mohammed II was dethroned in favor of his uncle Abd al-Malik, son of Sultan Mohammed Asheikh from the Saadi dynasty. Frustrated by the decision and blinded by anger and vengeance, Mohammed II escaped Morocco to Portugal seeking the help of the Portugal's youngest king, Sebastian I. The latter, according Brain explor, had a great desire to conquer the Moroccan Sultinate but his wish came true when he met Sultan Mohammed II.

«The dethroned Sultan Abdallah Mohammed II fled to Portugal following his usurpation where he sought the aid and favor of King Sebastian and his court», stated the same source. Basically Sultan Mohammed II «wanted the kings’ of Spain and Portugal’s help in defeating his Turkish supported rival, offering territory to Sebastian should he help him reclaim his sultanate».

A tempting offer for King Sebastian

For the young King, the offer was quiet tempting as it would serve his own agenda of defeating the Turkish and stepping on the North African soil. However, Sebastian could not convince his uncle King Philip II of Spain into helping him. Equipped by 500 unarmed Castilian volunteers, the Portuguese king was determined to accompany the Saadi dethroned sultan to Morocco without the help of the Spanish.

Departed on the 24th of June 1578, «Sebastian’s army landed at Asilah, a small coastal fortress city 20 miles or so south of Tangier in early July 1578». Once there, he was joined by Mohammed II and 6,000 Moorish allied troops. On the other camp, their enemies’ troops accounted for tens of thousands, as Sultan Abd al Malik’s calls for Jihad spread all over the sultanate. According to the same source, «over 2,000 of his force were comprised of the (mostly) elite Aventuros and Encubertados, heavily armored gentlemen of the war».

The day of the battle 

On the day of the battle, 4th of August 1578, troops of the Saadi Sulate Abd al Malik and his brother, Emir of Fez Moulay Ahmed (who would be throned later and named Manssour Dahbi), awaited the Portuguese soldiers six miles south Ksar Elkbir. The Saadi soldiers were around 50,000 and 70,000 based on estimations. Outnumbered by the Saadi troops, and exhausted by having to cross Al Makhazin river, «Sebastian and his army may have lost the battle beforehand in moving so quickly for Ksar el Kebir».

Although they fought furiously, the Portuguese alongside their King reppeled. They were defeated by the Saadi troops led by Sultan Ahmed Manssour Dahbi, unaware of the death of Sultan Abd al Malik. According to a Portuguese source quoted by Brain Explor, «Sebastian fought like a lion to save it from annihilation. The young king battled with fanatical courage, rushing here and there, bringing reinforcements and leading cavalry charges in a futile attempt to hold the square together-wounded in the arm, with three horses shot from beneath him, Don Sebastian was relentless. It was said that he killed as many of the enemy as any man in the [Portuguese] army that day.»

As for the dethroned sultan Mohammed II, the account provided by the same source, indicates he was thrown in the river (Oued Al Makhazin) when he was trying to flee the battlefield on the back of his horse. The three Kings were killed that day. On the other hand «around 8,000 of Sebastian's army were killed in the Battle of Ksar el Kebir and close to 15,000-16,000 were wounded and/or captured. Almost every noble family suffered a slain family member and some were entirely extinguished following the conclusion to the battle. The Moroccans lost approximately 6,000 killed or severely wounded».

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