Presumably most Bujold fans are aware that her two most recent fantasy novels, The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls, are set in an alternate fantasy world version of Spain. People who are interested in learning how things turned out for Iselle might wish to read Washington Irving’s Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada. As Irving explains in his foreword, the book is a popular history which includes both references to a fake historian (as in Scott’s novels) and real footnotes referring to real period chronicles. Irving also wrote the Legends of the Alhambra. For something a bit more rigorous and scholarly, try William H. Prescott’s History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic. However, be aware that historians often show a great deal of anti-Catholic (or anti-past) bias against Isabella and Ferdinand. They were Renaissance rulers, sometimes better, sometimes worse than their peers. Here’s a short version of their lives, while this page has some nice portraits of the two of them.
The military orders portrayed by Bujold were inspired by the four great Spanish military orders: Santiago de la Espada (red cross), Calatrava (red Greek cross with M for Mary making fleur de lys-shaped ends), Alcantara (dark green, same as Calatrava), and Montesa (black with red, same as Calatrava).
So you want to cheat and have all the equivalent characters spelled out for you? Okay. Spoiler-riffic equivalents below!
Chalion = Castile
Roya Orico = King Enrique IV (the Impotent) of Castile
Royina Sara = Juana of Portugal, Henry’s queen
March Martou dy Jironal = Beltran de La Cueva, duke of Albuquerque
Roya Ias = King Juan II of Castile, son of Henry III of Castile and Catherine of Gaunt
(one of John of Gaunt’s daughters)
Dowager Royina Ista = Isabel of Portugal, exiled second wife of the late Juan II of Castile
Lord dy Lutez = Alvaro de Luna
Royse Teidez = Prince Alfonso of Castile, Isabel’s son
Royesse Iselle = Princess Isabel of Castile
Ibra = Aragon
The Fox of Ibra = King Juan II of Aragon
Roya Fonsa the Fairly Wise = King Alfonso X (called the Wise) of Castile and Leon
The Golden General = Muhammad Ibn Yusuf Ibn Nasr, founder of the Nasrid dynasty. He reconquered Granada for the Moors.
Brajar = Portugal
Darthaca = France
South Ibra = Catalonia?
Yiss = Navarre? Andorra?
Cardegoss = Toledo
Lady Betriz = Beatriz de Bobadilla
Bergon = Ferdinand (yeah, you and I both knew that).
Alas! Lois McMaster Bujold stops by my blog, and it’s a mess! Well, that’s Murphy for ya….