El Cid: Discerning Fact from Fiction

It’s a pleasure to welcome Stuart Rudge to the blog again today with some insight into discerning fact from fiction when writing historical fiction in his Legend of the Cid series. How much of that story is true? It just might surprise you!

Welcome, Stuart!



Ed Cid: Discerning Fact From Fiction

Guest Post by Stuart Rudge

The previous three novels of the Legend of the Cid series dealt with the early life of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, El Cid Campeador, from his humble beginnings as a knight from Castile, through his tenure as alferez to Sancho of Castile and his role in the struggles between the sons of Fernando. Master of Battle advances the story with some of the most significant events in his life; his marriage to Jimena Diaz, his acquisition of the legendary sword Tizona, and how he came to receive the title of El Cid.

Rodrigo and Jimena

By 1073, after the long period of unrest in Leon and Castile caused by Fernando’s death nearly a decade earlier, Rodrigo would have been around thirty years of age. For a man of his importance and age to be unmarried was rather uncommon. We do not know the circumstances of their first meeting or betrothal, but we know Rodrigo and Jimena wed in the city of Palencia on July 1074. It is generally accepted that Jimena was an Asturian, the daughter of the Count of Oviedo, and a distant cousin of Alfonso through their grandparents. Royal blood and a Visigothic lineage would have made her a worthy bride for any lord looking to advance his status. Perhaps the royal connection was a tool Alfonso used to ensure Rodrigo’s loyalty, having served Sancho so vehemently for years. The original marriage contract survives to this day, and the signatories included the king himself as well as many of the leading lords of the kingdom, showing the marriage was a grand affair and celebrated by many in Leon and Castile. After years of civil strife, it was proof Leon and Castile could coexist together once more.

Rodrigo and Jimena in Amazon’s El Cid
Source: Daily Express

Part of the mythical legend of the Cid has him kill Jimena’s father in a duel, as depicted in the Charlton Heston film, but there is no historical evidence to support this. Indeed, there is debate as to who her father was; Diego Fernandez, the count of Oviedo featured in this series, may not have been a real person, but to me is the most likely candidate. Almost nothing is known of her mother, but her two brothers Fernando and Rodrigo both served as counts of Asturias at some point in their lives.

In regards to Master of Battle, there is nothing to suggest Jimena ever had an affair with another man, for her early years are shrouded in mystery, and the complex love story between Antonio and her is purely fictional. Rodrigo and Jimena would go on to have three children; Christina, Maria and Diego, and with a swath of estates from their marriage, they would not have lacked for wealth. The initial years of marriage seemed to be fruitful and uneventful. But there is always something, or someone, willing to upset the status quo.


The name of the sword of the Cid first appears in the Cantar del mio Cid, where it is called Tizon; the poem dates to around 1160-1200 AD, just a few generations after the Cid lived, and thought some historians doubt its existence, it seems highly likely to me that he carried a blade of that name. The name seems to come from the Latin titio, which means ’embers, burning wood’, or ‘firebrand, burning torch’. Though a real sword with the same name is currently housed in the Museum of Burgos, it is most certainly not the original. An examination of the blade in 2001 suggested it could have originated in the eleventh century, but the cross guard and pommel are of a Gothic style and date to a few centuries later, and so it is unlikely it the true blade which the Cid carried in to battle.

Tizona in the Museum of Burgos
Source: Wikipedia

The origins of the blade remain a mystery. The Cid had a military career spanning nearly four decades, and fought countless battles, so it is almost impossible to say. It could have been taken from a Moorish captive after some raid or significant battle; it may have been a gift from the amir of Zaragoza or Seville. The Cantar del mio Cid claims he won it from the King Yusuf of Valencia. As a historical fiction writer, I have used a little bit of research and creativity to produce an original origin story for the Cid’s acquisition of Tizona.

The Historia Roderici claims that the Cid did battle and defeated a champion of Medinaceli, but does not provide a date as to when this duel allegedly took place. Medinaceli is a town in eastern Spain, and the name derives from the Arabic Medina Salim, which meant ‘the safe city’ as it was perched on top of a hill, surrounded by a stout wall and protected by a castle. In the year 1080, a raiding party of Moors proceeded north from Medinaceli, or the area around it, and attacked the fortress of Gormaz, at that time under Castilian control, and laid waste to it. In retaliation, El Cid led an attack of his own and devastated the Moorish countryside, taking many slaves back to Castile with him. In popular tradition this act intensified an already strained relationship between Alfonso and the Cid. During the Cid’s act of retribution against the Moors, is this where he faced the champion of Medinaceli? It seems entirely plausible, and so in Master of Battle, it was all too tempting to include the duel and have the Cid take the sword of his adversary as his own.

The Battle of Cabra

The first third of the book heavily involves Garcia Ordóñez. During the reign of Sancho he had been lord of Pancorbo in eastern Castile, and seemed to have held a position of prominence; he was the signatory of several of the king’s charters, and his father had once been alferez to Fernando of Leon-Castile. In 1074, we know that he held the same position as alferez to Alfonso, and he was even a witness and signatory of Rodrigo and Jimena’s marriage contract. Then he vanishes. He is not seen in court again until the year 1080, when he

is named as count of Najera in the Rioja. Where had he been for the previous six years? We cannot be certain, but it may be he was stripped of his power and exiled from the kingdom for some undisclosed slight against the king, and it is this little snippet of possibility which I use for the inspiration for the trial of Antonio and Jimena and his subsequent exile.

Whatever Garcia’s political status in 1079, in some versions of the Cidian legend, it is recorded that he led troops belonging to the amir of Granada and attacked the taifa of Seville. Whether or not this venture was authorised by Alfonso is unclear, but it just so happened Rodrigo, one of Garcia’s most prominent political rivals, was in Seville at the time, collecting the parias tribute. Details are sparse but, believing he was defending the king’s interests in al-Andalus, Rodrigo did battle with Garcia, defeated and captured him at Cabra, and held him captive for three days. But the king was enraged with such an act, and whilst Rodrigo was reprimanded by Alfonso and his standing plummeted, Garcia’s stock rose with him becoming a count and gaining a bride of high standing in Urraca, the sister of the late King Sancho of Navarre.

A Map of Al-Andalus, 1079 AD
Source: Stuart Rudge

The term Cid derives from the Arabic honorific title al-Sayyidi, and translates as “The Master”. There is no definitive date for when Rodrigo gained this title, and neither do we know the identity of the man who bestowed it. In Amazon’s El Cid series, he is given it by the Moors after the battle of Graus in 1063. If Rodrigo did perform heroics in the battle, it is entirely plausible to have been named the Cid, but personally I believe he would have been too young to receive it after Graus. I have decided to bestow it upon him after Cabra, where a host of Muslim warriors and the amir of Seville himself would have witnessed Rodrigo’s heroics and prowess. Placing it at this point also gives the likes of Pedro Ansúrez, the king’s closest advisor, and Garcia Ordóñez an extra reason to petition the king for punishment against him; after all, if a Christian warrior is given an honorific title by the Moors, it can only increase the animosity with his jealous comrades.

I must now confess that, as a historical fiction writer, I have bent the truth of history slightly to satisfy my narrative. In this novel, the Battle of Cabra takes place after Rodrigo’s raid in to the taifa of Tulaytula; in reality, it was the other way round, for Cabra took place in 1079, and the raid in 1080. In the real series of events, the fact that Rodrigo would fight for a Muslim amir against his own comrades from Castile was a point vehemently taken up with the king by his enemies, and he most likely received a reprimand for it. Then in the following year, when raiders from Toledo attacked the great fortress of Gormaz, Rodrigo led his own incursion in retaliation – without the authority of the king. After defeating the Moorish force, Rodrigo laid waste to the surrounding area, allegedly taking thousands of slaves and returning to Castile as a rich man. But for all the wealth he plundered, his actions had serious ramifications…

Master of Battle by Stuart Rudge

Peace reigns in the Kingdom of Leon-Castile, and Antonio Perez returns to his native Asturias to discover the fate of his remaining family. Whilst there, he reconnects with Jimena, his childhood companion and the girl he once loved. But when his loyal friend Rodrigo and Jimena fall in love, Antonio is consumed by jealousy. As the wedding of two of his closest companions approaches, Antonio must battle his enemies and his inner demons, lest it lead to the ruin of all he holds dear.

Having secured his borders, Alfonso VI of Leon-Castile pushes south against the Moors. When a raid by the Moors threatens Castile, Rodrigo leads his men on a daring campaign of vengeance. But with the venture a credible threat to the uneasy peace Alfonso has brokered with the taifa kings, Rodrigo’s bravado could have dire consequences to himself and the security of the kingdom. With enemies old and new circling, will Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar find greatness on the battlefields of Hispania, and cement his reputation as one of the most feared warriors in the land, or will his actions lead to his ruin?

Master of Battle is the exhilarating fourth instalment of the Legend of the Cid.

Available now on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Connect with Stuart

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, and his love of table top war gaming and strategy video games. He studied Ancient History and Archaeology at Newcastle University, and has spent his fair share of time in muddy trenches, digging up treasure at Bamburgh Castle.

He has worked in the retail sector and volunteered in museums, before working in York Minster, which he considered the perfect office. His love of writing blossomed within the historic walls, and he knew there were stories within which had to be told. Despite a move in to the shipping and logistics sector (a far cry to what he hoped to ever do), his love of writing has only grown stronger.

Rise of a Champion and Blood Feud are the first two instalments of the Legend of the Cid series. He hopes to establish himself as a household name in the mound of Bernard Cornwell, Giles Kristian, Ben Kane and Matthew Harffy, amongst a host of his favourite writers.

Connect with Stuart through his blog, Facebook or Twitter.