I’m delighted to once more be hosting a guest post from fellow historical fiction author Stuart Rudge, as part of the blog tour for his latest release Blood Feud, the second novel in his ‘Legend of the Cid’ sequence, which began with Rise of a Champion.
Here he gives us a little of the background to the fascinating history portrayed in Blood Feud. Over to you, Stuart!
When Fernando of Leon-Castile died at Christmas 1065, and divided his kingdom between his three sons, Sancho, Alfonso and Garcia, he must have envisioned a conflict would eventually flare between them. He himself had experienced the same throughout his reign; his father was Sancho el Mayor of Navarre, who ruled over Navarre, Aragon, Castile, and held a protectorate over the kingdom of Leon and the Catalan counties. Fernando had received Castile as his allotted prize, and after he had married Sancha of Leon, he deposed her brother Bermudo and became king of Leon-Castile. In the waning days of his reign he decided to follow a similar route in his succession; it was Sancho who was given his father’s legacy of Castile as his inheritance, whilst Alfonso received Leon, and Garcia was given Galicia.
To his two daughters, Urraca and Elvira, Fernando bequeathed the cities of Zamora and Toro respectively, along with the peerage of all the monasteries in the kingdom; as their small domains were located within the borders of Alfonso’s realm, it is not uncommon to see them as signatories on the charters issued by the Leonese monarch, though they do appear in the charters of their other brothers on occasion. But as a close confident to the new king, it was the kingdom of Castile that Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar would serve so devotedly in this period.
Northern Spain, c. AD 1067. Copyright Stuart Rudge
The War of the Sanchos
Sancho II of Castile’s first conflict as king was the War of the Sanchos in 1066–7, against his cousins and namesakes in Navarre and Aragon. Sancho of Navarre had put pressure on amir al-Muqtadir of Zaragoza to pay parias tribute to him instead of Castile, and when the notion was rejected, he began to raid the taifa; al-Muqtadir subsequently petitioned Castile to come to his aid. Yet Sancho of Navarre was quick to ally himself with Sancho Ramirez of Aragon, and the latter had ample reason to fight as it was Sancho of Castile who had defeated his father, Ramiro, at Graus only a few years previously. The chance to avenge his father’s death was all too tempting.
The sources are quite hazy on the war, but what followed was a hard fought conflict which lasted for more than a year, and only the intervention of Zaragoza drew Aragon away from the fight to balance the odds, and set up a decisive clash. The war culminated in a Castilian victory at Viana in 1067. According to the Chrónica Najerense, a duel between Rodrigo Diaz and a knight of Navarre named Jimeno Garces allegedly happened, and that was when Rodrigo first gained his title of campi doctor, or “master of battle”, which would later become el Campeador. But the documents are hazy on the details of when and where this duel took place.
Aljaferia Palace in Zaragoza. Copyright Inspirock
Castile and Zaragoza
Castile’s relations with Zaragoza are somewhat unclear in this period. Sancho’s father, Fernando, had reduced the taifa to a vassal state, and the amir paid parias tribute for the promise of peace. The Chrónica Najerense has claims of a Castilian siege against the city, and if we are to believe the Chrónica, it may well be that al-Muqtadir had been emboldened to abandon the Christian shackles after the death of Fernando, and perhaps the recent aggressive nature of the crusaders against Barbastro in 1064. However, it seems the payments resumed once more, though whether this is owing to a show of force by Sancho, or the fact the payments did not cease, is unclear. What is clear is that Sancho must have had some sort of favourable diplomatic relations with Zaragoza; it was Sancho who rode to Zaragoza’s aid at Graus in 1063, and the action was reciprocated in 1067, for it was al-Muqtadir’s decision to send the governor of Huesca with a raiding party into Aragon which turned the tide of the War of the Sanchos in Castile’s favour.
El Cid. Copyright Wikipedia
Castile and Leon
The battle of Llantadilla (or Lantada) was the first recorded conflict between Leon and Castile in the period, said to have taken place on 19 July 1068. The sources are scant with regards to detail; the chronicle of Bishop Pelayo of Oviedo mentions the clash as no more than a skirmish. Another source goes on to claim it was a sort of judicial duel in which the loser forfeited their kingdom to the winner, yet this seems an absurd claim, as no monarch in his right mind would stake an entire kingdom on the outcome of a clash of champions. Indeed, given the documentary evidence regarding Alfonso at the time, it is highly probable that he was not present, for he was issuing charters in Sahagún a week or two before the date of the battle, and his alferez did the day after the battle. Before that, Alfonso had been intervening in the politics of the Moorish taifa of Badajoz, where he was successful in wresting control of the parias payments from his brother, Garcia.
It is the thirteenth-century Primera Crónica General that places Rodrigo Diaz at the site of the battle, though this may well be a complete fabrication given the widespread knowledge of El Cid’s fame and antics throughout Europe at the time, and it may have been an attempt to further his name. Nevertheless, with no definite account of the battle, we cannot completely discredit the possibility that Rodrigo, and even the kings of Leon and Castile, were present at the conflict.
Castile, AD 1067
The clouds of war gather over Hispania, and Antonio Perez continues on his path to knighthood, under the watchful eye of his lord, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar. A peculiar invitation sees Antonio and Arias in the den of their nemesis, Azarola, where they discover the truth of his marriage to Beatriz, Arias’s sister, and the years of suffering he has inflicted upon her. Arias vows to deliver Beatriz from the clutches of Azarola and restore his family’s honour – even if it means betraying Rodrigo, defying his king and threatening the future of his country.
Fresh from his victory over Navarre and Aragon, King Sancho of Castile sends his revered champion Rodrigo to Saraqusta, to treat with amir al-Muqtadir. His mission is to secure an increase to the parias tribute from the Moors and hasten preparations for a war with Leon. But an unknown evil stirs in the shadows of the city which, if allowed to fester, not only threatens Saraqusta itself, but the entire political harmony of Northern Hispania. It is up to Rodrigo and Antonio to root out the conspiracy before it is too late.
Blood Feud is the stunning second instalment of ‘Legend of the Cid’.
Blood Feud can be bought from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08DRBSQLP
About the Author
Stuart Rudge was born and raised in Middlesbrough, where he still lives. His love of history came from his father and uncle, both avid readers of history. By day, he works down the local dock, playing with shipping containers and trains. Rise of a Champion was the first piece of work he has dared to share with the world. He hopes to establish himself as a household name in the mould of Bernard Cornwell, Giles Kristian, Ben Kane and Matthew Harffy, amongst a host of his favourite writers.
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Alex Marchant is author of two books telling the story of the real King Richard III for children aged 10+, The Order of the White Boar and The King’s Man, and editor of Grant Me the Carving of My Name and Right Trusty and Well Beloved…, two anthologies of short fiction inspired by the king, sold in support of Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK).
Alex’s books can be found on Amazon at:
My Twitter handle and Matthew Wansford’s
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