Spanish History for Bujold Fans

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….


Filed under fandom, History

9 responses to “Spanish History for Bujold Fans

  1. Pingback: Aliens in This World

  2. Bill Wenrich

    “March Martou dy Jironal = Beltran de La Cueva, duke of Albuquerque”

    Shouldn’t that be Alburquerque? The first “R” was dropped from the city name.

  3. Alison

    “However, be aware that historians often show a great deal of anti-Catholic (or anti-past) bias against Isabella and Ferdinand.”
    What a nice way to mention the expulsion of the Jews.

  4. Maureen

    No. It’s a nice way of saying that, while the Protestant half of Europe was busy torturing, killing, and expelling Catholics, they spent a great deal of time inveighing against any Catholic rulers who were busy (often far less cruelly) with doing anything roughly similar to Protestants. (For example, English history has routinely given a pass to Henry VIII, Edward, and Elizabeth, while Mary’s sins were depicted in lurid tones for kiddies in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.)

    It was far better to be in the hands of the Spanish Inquisition than in a Tudor prison, I’ll tell you that.

    And yes, textbooks in English get very lyrical on the wicked expulsion of the Jews from Spain, while staying very quiet indeed about the much earlier wicked expulsion of the Jews from England. Moreover, there were huge numbers of “new Christians” in positions of power and influence throughout Spain. Catholics in England were forbidden to have any such position. (St. Teresa of Avila came from a Jewish family, for example. Her position and that of her father was difficult beyond doubt; they both received a good amount of attention from the Inquisition. But they were still a lot comfier than a comparably “suspicious” English family. St. Teresa is a Virgin and Doctor of the Church, not a martyr — despite all the doctrinal and political messes she poked her nose into, and all the fugitives her order sheltered.)

    Furthermore, the only reason the crappy dhimmi status of Jews in Granada looks so good is that almost everywhere else in Europe or the Islamic Near East, Jews were being treated even more crappily. Granada was just too busy to do more than the ordinary sharia oppression. But the Papal States generally were a pretty decent place for Jews to live, since the Popes could keep tabs on whether their edicts on protecting Jews were followed there. Thus the huge old Roman synagogue — yet we don’t hear about that in the textbooks, either.

    For my money, the centralization of kingly power all over during the Renaissance was a bloodbath, and religion was mainly used by them for the next few centuries as an excuse to help monarchs gather more power and tax money.  (The Germanies were particularly bad for this.) Ferdinand and Isabella at least had a real war with real opponents before they started on their own citizens and people from across the sea. Tudor England, OTOH, almost exclusively went after its own people, because Henry VIII couldn’t do a decent war against France or Scotland or make a prosperous peace in his own Irish lands. His expansionist moves on his own people were copied by generations of European rulers to come.

    (Of course, having tiny warring feudal demesnes constantly at each other’s throats was a bloodbath, too, but we today don’t see what sorts of things the nobles got up to. And really, the situation was pretty stable by Tudor times; Parliaments and noble councils were doing their job in many late medieval countries. One can’t help thinking that “divine right” and centralization theory has a lot of suffering to answer for.)

  5. “Yiss” may just refer to Ys, which existed onthe Breton peninsula and south to the Garonne area.

  6. You’re right. Totally logical, too.

  7. pgranzeau

    It’s obvious, but either I missed it or you didn’t include Bergon, who is obviously Ferdinand (the Catholic) II of Aragon, III of Naples, II of Sicily, and king consort of Castile from 1474.

  8. Yeah, I know who Bergon is. Organizational skills, on the other hand, I don’t know. 🙂

  9. Pingback: That Bujold Post | Aliens in This World

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.