Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Who are these crazy people?" - The Nasrids of Granada

One of my beta readers for Sultana received the synopsis last night and emailed me, asking, "Who are these crazy people?" The Moorish historical figures in my next novel weren't crazy, per se. I'll admit one of them was definitely nuts but for the most part, the rest just had lots of family issues. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

The Moors were Islamic people who invaded the Iberian Peninsula, beginning in the eighth century. Two centuries later, the Spanish Christians had had enough. They were determined to drive out the Moors. By the thirteenth century, only the Nasrid dynasty remained, nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The first Nasrid ruler, Muhammad, was born in 1191, eldest among four brothers. Moorish Spain encompassed the lower half of the Iberian Peninsula. The family of Hud governed a large part of Muhammad's home base, but he was what I like to call ambitious, so he decided on a regime change. He rebelled and soon conquered principal cities, including Guadix in 1232, Granada in 1237, Almeria the following year, and Malaga by 1239. In 1238, Muhammad began construction on his palace in the capital of Granada, which has since become one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in the West, the Alhambra. If you've never seen it, it's well worth the trip. A few years back, it was under consideration as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

Muhammad had some help in his conquests from powerful allies, the Ashqilula family. They had a nice working relationship, lots of intermarriage between the two families. The only problem with ambitious people is sometimes they don't always share the wealth. The Ashqilula were about to find that out the hard way. When Muhammad wasn't building the Alhambra or stamping out his rivals, he was raising four sons, the eldest of whom he chose to rule after him. The Ashqilula didn't appreciate that choice and rebelled against him. He laid siege to Malaga, one of the cities they governed, in 1266. That pretty much ensured the end to their alliance. A brutal civil war erupted that divided Moorish Spain for several years even after Muhammad's death in 1273. Eventually Muhammad's son, named for his father, dealt with the Ashqilula. That didn't mean things were any better within his family.

The first Muhammad's descendants were just as ambitious as him.  You could say, he set the example and they just followed suit, taking whatever and whomever they wanted. Even if that meant getting their hands a little bloody. At least fourteen of Granada's subsequent rulers were dethroned or murdered, usually by members of their own family. Muhammad III poisoned his father, Muhammad II.  When one of his jailers tried to show mercy to his father's imprisoned servants by bringing them something to drink, Muhammad III cut the jailer's throat and let the blood spray his prisoner's faces. He was definitely the psycho of the bunch, but most of his relatives weren't any better.

Nasr I dethroned Muhammad III, his own half-brother and eventually blinded and killed him. Muhammad II's grandson Ismail was stabbed to death by his cousin in a quarrel over a slave girl. Two of Ismail’s sons, Muhammad IV and Yusuf I, also met violent deaths. When Yusuf's son Muhammad V came to power, his stepmother, half-sister, and her husband conspired and drove him into exile in Morocco. Muhammad V recovered his throne, but his descendants rarely held it for very long. His grandson Muhammad IX lost and regained the Alhambra at least four times during a span of thirty-five years. Also, the jealous mother of Muhammad XII encouraged her son to rebel against his father, Abu'l-Hasan Ali, because the ruler favored his Christian wife and her children. The dynasty came to a close in 1492, more than two violent centuries after it had begun.

Who wouldn't want to write about a crazy family like that?


Julie K. Rose said...

Ooooh....this sounds fascinating!

Lisa Yarde said...

Thanks, Julie, I hope potential readers will think so when the books come out.

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