The king’s banners thread through the first three tapestries, beginning with a dense cluster of masts and rigging on the far left of the first panel, where they swirl with undaunted energy and expectation around the royal ships; continuing through the bombardment of the town in the second panel; and ending with another flourish on the right side of the last of the Asilah tapestries, where they accompany a crowded and chaotic scene of hand-to-hand combat during the final assault on the doomed town.
The conquest of Asilah cost its Muslim defenders some 2,000 dead and 5,000 captured, which helps explain why the last of the four panels, “The Conquest of Tangier,” feels very different, more orderly and restrained. Horrified by the fate of Asilah, and offered no hope of relief by local leaders, the people of Tangier abandoned their city to the Portuguese. The desolate Tangerines can be seen on the far side of the panel, making an orderly exit to the right, with babies slung over the backs of women and carefully tied bundles of possessions carried by the men. Over the ramparts of Tangier, a lone Portuguese soldier raises the victor’s flag. Otherwise, the city is empty and almost eerily calm.