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Series: Isabel
Everyone knows the Queen. No one knows Isabel.
— First season tagline

Companion book cover.Eng 

Isabel is a 2011 Spanish Historical Fiction series produced by Diagonal TV and aired by national broadcaster Televisión Española and its international station, the Canal Internacional.

Originally conceived as a Spanish answer to The Tudors, the series follows closely the various shenanigans that marked the life and later reign of Queen Isabella I of Castile, the Catholic (1451-1504), beginning in the time when a teenage Isabel and her brother Alfonso are brought from reclusion in the Castle of Arévalo to the Deadly Decadent Court of her half-brother, King Enrique IV, in Segovia. While surviving ridiculous levels of court intrigue, wars and treacherous advisors, what was once a little girl so far in the line of succession that nobody though she had a hope to rule makes use of her own self-strenght and ambition to become the historical figure that we remember today as the Queen that united the crowns of Castile and Aragon through her unauthorized marriage to King Ferdinand II, conquered Granada, sponsored Christopher Columbus, founded The Spanish Inquisition and expelled the Jews from Spain.

As of September 2014, the show is in its third season. The first one covers the period between 1461 and 1474, from the end of Isabel's childhood to her coronation in Valladolid; the second, from 1474 to the surrender of Granada and the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, and the third ends with Isabel's own death in 1504. It is debated if the series will continue without Isabel, or be replaced by a Spiritual Sequel centered around a different monarch.

Even before airing, the series acquired fame in its home country for its very Troubled Production that nearly got it cancelled before its debut. Isabel was expected (and advertised) to begin airing in the fall of 2011, but TVE pushed the premiere back a whole year after the first season was already completed as part of a Loophole Abuse to conform with its government-approved budget, since TVE's yearly cost is based on the cost of programs that have aired during said year. The series budget has not been disclosed but is believed to be high by Spanish TV standards, with former showrunner Javier Olivares merely stating that it is not superior to that of Aguila Roja, also airing at the same time in TVE and reputed to be the most expensive Spanish TV series ever. In the meantime the filming of the second season was put on hold and even the sets were dismantled. Diagonal TV went to the lenghts of organizing a premiere of the first episode on a Madrid theatre in May 28, 2012 to pressure TVE into airing their product. Luckily, when Isabel finally began airing in the fall of 2012 the series was immediately met with success, becoming one of TVE's most popular programs (averaging 20% share) and was praised by viewers and critics alike for its acting, historical accuracy, fabulous wardrobe design and set design.

The series is available in DramaFever with English subtitles and has been acquired by stations in a number of countries in Europe and the Americas.

Since the vast majority of the series content is History, there will be no covered spoilers bellow. Read at your own risk.


Tropes:

  • A Child Shall Lead Them:
    • Debatable in the case of the Infante Alfonso, who was historically proclaimed king at 11, but is (somewhat) older in the show.
    • Princess Juana claims the Crown when she is 13.
    • Juan II has his bastard grandson Alonso named Archbishop of Zaragoza. At age 7. Fernando is not amused.
    • Fernando won his first battle at 12.
  • Actually That's My Assistant:
  • Age Lift: As you might have noted by the introduction above, Isabel was 10 when she was taken to the Court, but in the series she's still played by then 25 years old Michelle Jenner who looks 14 in the first scene at the very least. 20 years-old Víctor Elías plays the Infante Alfonso, who would be 8 at the beginning of the series, more as a cocky, unfitted teenager than the clueless kid he would have been at the time of the Farce of Avila, and Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba (played by 36 years old Sergio Peris-Mencehta) joins Alfonso's entourage as a late teenager at the very least, already trained and seasoned in combat, rather than at 13 as in Real Life. These characters' ages are never mentioned on screen, so Vague Age is also at work. On the other hand, 36 year-old Rodolfo Sancho's Fernando of Aragon very much stands out, being 11 years older than Jenner, even though the fact that the two have the same age is an important plot point.
  • Agent Peacock / Bishōnen: Beltrán de la Cueva.
  • All Prophecies Are True: An astrologist predicts that Muley-Hacén's youngest son Nasr will "win a thousand battles" and that his eldest, Boabdil, will surrender the city to the Christians. Muley-Hacén replies that that doesn't make sense, but Boabdil does indeed become emir against his wishes and surrenders the city.note 
  • All There in the Manual:
    • Torquemada's own Jewish origins are not hinted.
    • Beatriz Galindo (the royal children's tutor) and Francisco García (Fernando's top artilleryman) were wife and husband in Real Life.
  • Aluminium Christmas Trees:
    • Before release, Olivares joked that people would surely criticize that the show's Isabel was too blonde and pretty. Guess what was the first thing people complained about, often waving a portrait of when she was pushing 50 and dying of cancer. The chronicles of the time do describe the young Isabel as "nice-looking" and say that Fernando and her were instantly smitten when they met.
    • Young Isabel's annoyance because the Queen piece in chess can only move one square at a time is not an oversight either, that was indeed the case in Medieval Chess. The change that made this piece so powerful was introduced in Spain during the 1490s, in apparent homage to Isabel herself.
    • The scene where Juana de Avis gets artificially pregnant is based on a 15th century chronicle. The method was used by Jewish cattle breeders at the time.
    • Juan Pacheco's villainy in the first season was toned down. Yep, he did try to kidnap Enrique IV and got away scott-free. The difference is that he did it twice. He also kidnapped Enrique's predecessor's once.
    • Some of the 1476 rioteers did enter the Alcázar, although the Infanta was not directly threatened.
    • The completely ridiculous way in which Boabdil is captured by the enemy also happened. Twice.
  • A Match Made in Stockholm: Isabel de Solís falls in love with Muley-Hacén after being made his slave. She denies it later, though.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling:
    • Alfonso of Castile to Isabel.
    • Isabel to Enrique IV, for pretty much the opposite reason.
    • Pedro Girón to Juan Pacheco.
    • Pedro to Diego de Mendoza, though it only manifests once in the second season.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Want to kidnap a king? Murder a queen in her sleep? Just abduct a woman and her daughter and tell their husband/father to do it. Or else.
  • Anti-Hero: Fernando is brave, gallant, educated, savvy and handsome. He is also ambitious, unfaithful, somewhat antisemitic and merciless to those he considers a threat.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Though very few go to the lenghts of Juan Pacheco and his family.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Isabel slaps her brother and husband once. Enrique also slaps Pacheco once. The only thing he ever does to him.
  • Arranged Marriage: All over the place, successful and otherwise. Most of the plot in Season 1 is directly related to the different attempts by Enrique IV to marry his sister and daughter to different guys.
  • Artistic License - History: While the writers do strive for accuracy they are clear that this is a drama and not a documentary. Some events are simplified, moved in the timeline, given to different characters or affected by Rule of Drama. The TVE website features interviews with the show's historical consultants telling what is real and what fictional in each episode.
  • Asexuality: Enrique IV is uninterested in sex. When he finally brings himself to have sex with his gorgeous wife for the sake of producing a heir, he still can't achieve penetration.
  • Ax-Crazy: Juan de Cañamares, a peasant that wants to kill Fernando because a voice in his head told him that he was the real King of Aragon.
  • Badass Preacher: Archbishop Carrillo is a great swordsman.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Rare, considering the show's predilection for historical figures, but there are some.
    • An anonymous soldier poisons Pedro Girón in vengeance for the death of his sister, changing the history of Castile and the world without even realizing it.
    • An unnamed Granadan scholar convinces Columbus that his data is wrong, leading him to think that he needs better ships than those used at the time, and tells him that he needs to sail from the Canaries to use the westward winds. In reality Columbus did not visit Granada or meet Boabdil before the surrender, though he was at the front at the time.
    • Beatriz Osorio, actually a historical figure, is blamed in show for both Prince Juan's historical sickliness and Isabel's difficult twin pregnancy that ended with one of the babies dead at childbirth. This are presented as a result of her poisoning or making sure in some other way that they get sick, hoping that this gets Fernando for herself. There is of course no evidence of anything of this other than that Osorio was at Isabel's service at the time, and the first historical mention that Isabel sent her away because she was "making eyes" with Fernando appears 40 years after the event. Osorio did build a very bad reputation as a cruel schemer once she arrived in the Canaries, however, where she was nicknamed "The Bloodthirsty".
  • Beware the Nice Ones: As a matter of course, Isabel and Fernando will be generous and negotiate. Once.
  • Big Bad: Juan Pacheco in the first season. His son Diego tries in the second season, but is not up to Dad's talent.
    • Big Bad Ensemble: The second season lacks a central villain. The most significant threat in the first half is the King of Portugal, and the King of Granada and his brother in the second half.
    • The third season has the Portuguese and the French as simultaneous threats.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Most of the things Pedro Girón's does.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Every royal suffers from this.
  • Chick Magnet: Fernando.
  • Christianity is Catholic: At the time and place, it was.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder:
  • Civil War: The episode where there isn't one going on is rare.
    • The noble revolt against Enrique IV in 1465-1468.
    • The civil wars in Catalonia of 1462-1472 and 1485-1486, though these happen mostly off-screen.
    • The War of Castilian Succession in 1475-1479.
    • The civil war in Granada between members of the royal family vying for the throne (1481-1492), at the same time they are fighting a war of conquest with the Christians.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Beatriz Osorio tries to hurt her target's family. Aixa plunges the entire realm in civil war.
  • Composite Character: "Zúñiga" plays the part of Álvaro de Zúñiga, who rebelled against Enrique IV and joined Alfonso (Afonso) V in Extremadura, and his son Íñigo, who was besieged at Burgos.
  • Consummate Liar: Juan Pacheco boasts that he can make the kingdom believe anything, and the king can do nothing about it.
  • Corrupt Church: The Vatican was at its worst in this time and is depicted as such. Excluding Veneris, the top bishops in Spain are just members of the local nobility who use their position to gather more power for themselves and their families, fight in wars and father bastards.
    • Despite being one of these very same nobles, Mendoza has a change of heart in his deathbed and advices Isabel to name a non-noble as the next Archbishop of Toledo (head of the Church in Spain). The chosen one is Cisneros, already in a campaign to fight corruption within the Church. Historians credit Cisneros as the reason Spain avoided the Reformation altogether.
  • Dark Is Evil: Juan Pacheco and El Zagal dress in all black.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: Enrique's Court in Segovia is not particularly well run. Muley-Hacén's Granada is even worse, with emphasis on the 'deadly'.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Muley-Hacén is fond of doing this, to his son's desperation.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • In the first season, the nobles rebel against Enrique IV accusing him of being homosexual, not the father of his child, a pacifist and too nice to religious minorities.
    • Fernando flat out refuses to promise Isabel fidelity. The show makes no secret of the fact that men sleeping around (even priests) is far better looked at than women doing so.
    • Isabel finds slavery shocking and horrible... if the slave is Christian. She's also okay with corporal punishment and the death penalty if the offender is guilty of blood crimes.
    • Isabel doesn't like the idea of a new civil war in Castile... because she wants all the nobles to march together against Granada, who has done nothing in recent memory but existing and being Muslim.
    • Juan II of Aragon, a Cool Old Guy Reasonable Authority Figure with no prejudices against Jews (unlike his son), is adamant that no woman will inherit his kingdom, and sees nothing wrong in raiding French territory in peace time. Looking at Juan's actual biography, these might as well be implications that he is a semi-Retired Monster.
    • "Judaizing" (i.e. Jews that pretend to be Christians in public, or are Christians but follow some Jewish practices from their ancestors out of custom, sometimes without being aware of their origin) is seen as one of the worst crimes possible.
    • Muslims and Christians call each other infidels, even in the presence of the other.
    • Witnesses are present for the consummation of a royal marriage and the birth of their children. At best, the new couple can hope they agree to be behind the door and just listening, but they will demand to see the bloodied sheets to certify that the bride was a virgin. Enrique IV actually gets flack because he refused to do this, and eventually abolished the practice, fueling the rumors that he is impotent, homosexual or both.
    • Chacón, who has been the Voice Of Reason up to that point, supports the expulsion of the Jews arguing that they are residents, not subjects, and that Castile and Aragon won't be different from other countries who have done it already.
  • Demoted to Extra: Not to an extreme degree, but Torquemada is introduced later than he joined Isabella's court in real life and the fact that he was one of her confessors is glossed over. In the show, his nomination as Grand Inquisitor of Castile seems to be an imposition of the Vatican, possibly to avoid making Isabel too unsympathetic.
  • Dysfunctional Family:
    • Given how closely related most monarchs are, this trope is in full force. When Isabel tells the King of Portugal that she'd rather be at peace with a relative, he mockingly replies that disputes are more common with relatives than with strangers.
    • Fernando is his father's heir because his older half-brother rebelled against him years ago and lost. His half-sister is queen in Navarre and she believes that he is trying to usurp her kingdom.
    • Juan of Portugal tries to usurp his father while he is negotiating an alliance in France. When he inherits the throne legally, he immediately has his aunt's family (the Braganças) arrested and dispossesed of lands, and his cousin executed, to secure his absolute rule.
    • Aixa and Boabdil try to overthrow their husband/father after he takes another wife and names her child heir.
  • End Of An Era: Isabel and Fernando's reign is considered the end of the Middle Ages in Spain.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Though unplanned, Isabel is first seen during her coronation as the ambitious and stern monarch who will accept orders from no one, not even her husband.
    • Ignoring that short scene in the first episode (which was originally going to be in the season finale, same as above), Fernando first appears in bed with his mistress while his father negotiates his marriage.
    • Alfonso Carrillo bests his nephew during sword practice. Then he puts on his priest robes. Juan Pacheco immediately lies down the exposition on the King's lack of interest in sex and how they have to manouvre to get their hands on his brother, dismishing Isabel as a tool to forge international alliances through marriage.
    • Rodrigo Borgia is in bed with two women. In the Vatican.
    • Cisneros living a strict monacal life and tightening a cilice around his arm until it bleeds.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Say what you want of Juan Pacheco, but the man loves his family.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Carrillo is disgusted by Pedro Girón's rapist impulses.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses
  • Exact Words: Fernando gets a rebel leader to surrender after promising amnesty to his men and their families. The leader, however, is arrested and executed.
    • After Fernando receives a life-threatening injury, Charles VIII says that the Aragonese will be in his prayers.
  • Famous Ancestor:
    • The Mendozas are descendants of El Cid.
    • Juana de Avis' lover is a great-grandson of Pedro the Cruel, the king that the Trastámaras overthrew and murdered to found their dynasty. He has as much respect for them as you imagine.
  • Foil:
    • Isabel sets herself as an opposite to her brothers once she gains the throne. Where they weakened the Crown by giving away lands and titles to backstabbing aristocrats, she seizes whatever she thinks is needed and demands true fealty - or else.
    • Tomás de Torquemada to Hernando de Talavera. Both are austere friars that want to serve the Church, rather than using it to accumulate wealth and power for themselves. However, while one is The Fundamentalist who sees only more reasons to kill infidels and heretics (and seize their stuff to pay wars or build churches), the other is a learned Good Shepherd who believes in peaceful preaching and hates the Inquisition's methods. Historically, both were also descendants of Jews.
    • Juan II of Portugal to Fernando II of Aragon. Both are perfect Renaissance princes: young, energetic, ambitious, educated, cunning and manipulative (both are regarded, in fact, as possible inspirations of Machiavelli's The Prince) and they stop at nothing to strengthen their respective crowns and kingdoms when they become kings. Both are the sole surviving sons of their aging, but still powerful and ambitious fathers, and both are drawn by them into fighting the War of Castilian Succession against each other, each on behalf of a Castilian princess, Juana and Isabel, where both excel at the battlefield. Their respective princess also falls in Love at First Sight with them. However, while Fernando is free to marry Isabel and lead the Aragonese army in Castile while his father remains in Aragon, Juan is already married when the war begins and Juana has to marry his widower father, who takes command of the Portuguese army. The more cautious father is outperformed by Fernando, losing the land campaign as part of his indecision in the key moments. Had Juan been free to marry Juana, her side could have prevailed and this show been made about them. To top the cake, both have one adknowledged bastard and one legitimate son that predeceases them, making their crown go to an Unexpected Successor upon their death. The resemblance is so uncanny that the only reason the Portuguese comes as a villain in the show is that we rarely see his family life, while Fernando gets plenty of Pet the Dog moments from his.
    • Juana de Avis to Anne of Brittany. Both are queens that were forced to marry kings well bellow them in term of looks and intelligence, condemning them to loveless marriages with no children (one because her husband is asexual, the other because of multiple miscarriages).
  • The Fundamentalist: The Dominican friars, with Tomás de Torquemada at their helm. In Real Life they were nicknamed Domini Canes, or Hounds of the Lord.
  • Genghis Gambit: Going to war with Granada helps unify the infighting Castilian nobles (less so the Aragonese), puts Castilians and Aragonese under one command, and secures the peace with Portugal and France because no Christian nation will risk the PR disaster that comes from attacking Christians fighting a war with Muslims that, to top it, has been given treatment of Crusade by the Pope.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Isabel slaps Alfonso when he says that he'd rather have them be peasants than princes.
  • Good Shepherd: Hernando de Talavera, the only recurrent priest that is not some kind of hypocrite, be it for lack of zeal (Carrillo, Mendoza, Borja) or excess (Torquemada).
    • Third season's Cisneros is another example, his more severe and humorless character notwithstanding.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Not as pimped as they could, though.
  • Guess Who I'm Marrying?: More like Guess Who You Are Marrying? Enrique gives Isabel's hand in marriage to Pedro Girón, the man who tried to rape her mother. Juana de Trastámara is married to her mother's brother, who is also 30 years older than her.
  • Hair of Gold: Isabel of course. Fittingly, her adoption of the white cowl in the second season is coincident with the final loss of her innocence.
  • Hanging Judge: Torquemada doesn't care if you did it, only that you admit it.
  • Harmless Villain: Enrique IV is technically a main antagonist in the first season, but he rarely does more than surrendering, negotiating and accepting accomplished facts.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • In the second season, a miller complains about the new mayor's "sisas". "Sisar" survives in modern Spanish as slang for stealing, but it originally meant taxing.
    • Only Moors say "ojalá", and they do it very serious and solemnly. This is because it stands in dialogue for its root, sha'a Allah, or "God willing" in Arabic, which later passed into colloquial Spanish as slang for "I hope".
  • The High Queen: Isabel, in spades.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba joins Alfonso's entourage as a trained and seasoned warrior, rather than as the 13 year-old page he was in real life.
    • Inverted with Diego Pacheco, who surrenders after Fernando's victory in Zamora and breaks down crying when he is threatened with execution. In real life he had to be subdued again when the Portuguese invaded Extremadura, and afterwards served the CCMM in Granada, where he lost an arm in combat. None of this is shown in the series.
    • Also inverted with Boabdil, who is depicted as a wimp who can barely hold a sword. In real life he was a great swordsman, but sucked completely as a general.
  • Historical Beauty Update:
    • Isabel and Fernando were considered handsome, but she was still more on the portly side than Jenner (and even more after the pregnancies). Fernando definitely didn't look much like Sancho - Word of God is that Sancho was chosen because he conveyed best Fernando's charisma and volcanic persona, as well as being suited for the Chick Magnet part.
    • Enrique IV is often described as having gigantism and a broken nose among other things. Pablo Derqui has neither. On the other hand, it's been suggested that this is the result of confusion with his father Juan II, or outright fabrication by Isabel's propagandists.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Excluding the odd servant, the vast majority of characters are historical.
  • Historical Fiction
  • Hollywood History: The Granada plotline has been criticized as being a bit too simplified, and its wardrobe closer to Ottoman if not Arabian Nights-like than properly Nasrid. Granadan soldiers are also almost all armed with scimitars, when they used straight swords in real life. Finally, the Berber Gomeres from Northern Morocco are portrayed by Black African actors.
    • The writers also admit to including dubious stories from the time if they make good television: Juana de Avis' artificial fertilization, Aldonza travelling in drag with Fernando, Beatriz Osorio having an affair with him, Aixa telling Boabdil to "cry like a woman what you couldn't defend like a man"...
  • Homage: Each season homages a famous painting in its BookEnds:
  • How We Got Here: Each season begins with a scene from the finale. After that, the action jumps to a scene set "a few years earlier" and proceeds to show how the last scene came to be.
  • Hyper Awareness: The first time they meet, Cisneros fishes Isabel among her handmaidens when she wants to test him.
  • Hypocrite: Cesare Borgia scoffs at the legitimacy of the Trastamara branch of Naples because it is descended from bastards.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: The Infante Alfonso says that he'd rather be a peasant, earning him an Armor-Piercing Slap from his sister. Cisneros would rather be an enclosed monk but keeps getting promotions to his dismay. When he is named Archbishop of Toledo and is forced to reside in his predecessors' palace, he sleeps in a wooden table next to his rich bed.
  • I Have Your Wife: Many examples.
    • Enrique is successively extorted into giving up his brother, sister, daughter and wife to the conspirators, always as leverage.
    • After being captured, Boabdil is freed at the cost of leaving his son Ahmed in his place.
  • Inadequate Inheritor:
    • Princess Juana is widely believed to be illegitimate.
    • Diego Pacheco is not as smart as his father, and thinks (hilariously) that Juan was moved by Honor Before Reason. He has the hardest time weasseling his way into power like his old man did.
    • Mulay-Hacén sees Boabdil as a poet not fit for Emir-ship.
    • Prince Juan of Castile is hinted to be this. He is sickly and not very interested in war. He also adknowledges that his sister Juana is smarter than him and the country would be better if she was the heir.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Happens to Pacheco (coupled with Blood from the Mouth), Carrillo and Mendoza.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Torquemada's opinion of suspects is that they are all guilty because God wouldn't let an innocent suffer torture and murder. Nevermind that he follows a religion that worships hundreds of martyrs for being tortured and murdered, and in one episode his case is the (claimed) torture and murder of an innocent child.
  • Jerk Ass: Too many to count.
  • Kissing Cousins: Isabel and Fernando. Enrique and Juana would be too, if they actually kissed.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Locked Away in a Monastery / Taking the Veil:
    • Princess Juana's fate after losing the succession war and having her marriage declared void by the Pope. The alternative would be to remain unmarried until 35, when, according to the treaty, Isabel and Fernando's son would come of age and decide if he wanted to marry her or free her of the vow.
    • Princess Isabel, Isabel and Fernando's first child, wants to do this after her first husband dies but they won't allow it.
    • What Talavera and Cisneros would rather do than being at the Royal Court. Talavera copes a lot better than the second.
  • The Libby:
  • Love at First Sight: Isabel and Fernando, Isabel Jr. and Prince Alfonso of Portugal. Fernando and Beatriz Osorio have at least a big desire at first sight.
  • Made a Slave: Christians and Muslims enslave each other in times of war. In the Granadan border, this war is continuous.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: Isabel's mother is insane and has been locked away in a castle for years.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: The writers have fun portraying some sudden deaths, many of which were at least argued by someone to be foul play back in the day for different reasons. Some are portrayed as genuine natural deaths (but some characters believe them not), others as successfully covered up murders. Poison is often featured.
  • The Man Behind the Man:
    • Juan Pacheco to Enrique IV.
    • Carrillo's plan is to become this to Fernando and Isabel.
    • Diego Pacheco's plan is to be this to Enrique, and failing that, the King of Portugal.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Juan Pacheco is the biggest example, but there are many others: Archbishop Carrillo, Cardinal Borja, Fernando of Aragon and Juan (Joao II) of Portugal.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • After being bethrothed to Pedro Girón, Isabel prays for a whole night and is later informed that he has died of the plague, which she takes as a miracle (he was poisoned instead). Before that, Girón sees a bunch of storks behaving in a strange manner that his men take as an omen, though he thinks nothing of it.
    • Isabel also prays all night for her ill son, at some point asking God to take other child in his place. Her son recovers, and her son-in-law (and daughter's dream match) dies in an... accident. Cue My God, What Have I Done?.
    • The kid Enrique IV sees in the first season finale is either his imagination, an angel or a doppelgänger.
    • Diego Pacheco's visions of his father while in prison are very likely happening inside his head, if only for the very un-Pacheco way he behaves.
    • Diego Susón uses his last words to curse those around him. Seville is then hit by The Plague.
  • The Medic: Lorenzo Badoz.
  • The Mentor: Gonzalo Chacón to Isabel.
    Isabel: Sometimes I fear that because of my duty, and because of pride, I will become you.
  • Miss Fanservice: Aldonza de Ivorra.
  • Modest Royalty: The clothes are realistic, functional (Medieval castles were cold), and ofter somewhat simple, particularly young Isabel's.
    • The Iberian courts that take most of the screen time were not as lavish as the ones in other countries that spring to mind when we hear the word "Renaissance". This is reflected by the brief apparitions of the French court, or when Cardinal Borja mentions that he finds Castile dull compared to Rome. The opulence of Seville's nobility in the second season makes the Royal Court in Segovia seem poor and backwards in comparison, and Muslim Granada is just fabulous. It's no wonder that Isabel's wardrobe takes a step upward after visiting Andalusia.
  • Momma's Boy: Boabdil.
  • Mr. Exposition: Hernando de Talavera at times.
  • Mr. Vice Guy:
    • Fernando's womanizing.
    • Isabel's sometimes sickening religiosity.
    • Enrique's lack of commitment.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Isabel asks herself this when she is told that her son-in-law died, as she had asked God to take other child in her ill son's place and he ended recovering. Interestingly, this happens after she is also told that the Inquisition likely murdered eight innocents for a crime they didn't commit (or even existed), but she thinks nothing of it.
  • Nepotism:
    • One of Alfonso's first acts as "king" is giving his sister Isabel a town.
    • Juan II of Aragon makes his 7 year-old grandson Archbishop of Zaragoza. The highest Church office in Aragon.
    • Andrés Cabrera substitutes an antisemite mayor with his own father-in-law, Pedro de Bobadilla. The guy immediately reveals himself to not be very fit.
  • Nice Guy: Surprisingly many, despite the great number of cutthroat and backstabbing characters: Gonzalo Chacón, Andrés Cabrera, his wife Beatriz, etc. Every problem of Enrique IV stems from the fact that he is too nice to be king.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Álvaro de Luna's execution, years before the timeframe of the series. We know that Pacheco "conspired" to make it happen and that Isabel's mother blames herself for it and the guilt may have driven her insane.
    • Enrique mentioning that he rebelled against his own father, apparently under Pacheco's influence.
    • Some of Fernando's life before his introduction in the first episode, such as the fact that he lead armies and won his first battle at 12, or that he was under siege with his mother before Verntallat rescued them.
  • Nun Too Holy: Rampant: Alexander VI is Pope in the third season, after all. When Cisneros decides to correct it, he realizes that the problem is even worse than he imagined.
  • Old Friend: Francesc de Verntallat, to Fernando of Aragon.
  • One-Woman Wail: The show's opening.
  • Out-Gambitted: Carrillo conspires to place Isabel on the throne of Castile, hoping to become as powerful and her and Fernando (or more), as well as to become Cardinal in Rome. He ends getting neither.
  • Planet of Steves: Just how many Juans and Juanas are there?
  • Prince Charming: Fernando.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • Every now and then, some town complains that events that happened there in Real Life are depicted in the show as happening in a bigger town like Segovia, Valladolid or Seville. This is obviously tied to the tourism to these places generated by the series.
    • The establishment of the Inquisition and the "Susón conspiracy" are simplified and combined into a single event. Historically the Susón was a rich Jewish merchant family (not Convert as in the show) whose head Diego Susón was accused of planning, along with others, to stage a coup against the Christian knightly class in Seville in collaboration with the Kingdom of Granada. According to the story (how much real and how much legend is debated), Diego's daughter Susana heard of the plot and warned her boyfriend, a Christian knight, leading to the authors being hanged (rather than burned by the Inquisition, as this was a civil offense). Susana (Ben) Susón wasn't Isabel's handmaiden.
    • The Granada plotline is very streamlined. Isabel de Solís was captured and became Muley-Hacén's wife 20 years before shown in the show, and her eldest child was already an adult by the beginning of the Granada War, which makes Muley-Hacén's in show decision to name him heir ahead of 22 year-old Boabdil because "Granada needs a warrior" far more reasonable (this was never as clear stated either, but Aixa certainly feared it and plotted for her son to take the throne as a result). Granada's decision to not continue paying tribute to Castile was thus not spinned from a reclamation to release De Solís, but an opportunist move while Isabel and Juana were distracted fighting each other. Al-Sarray and Abén Hud are fictional characters used to give a face to the Abencerraje (Ibn Sarray) tribe, who were enemies of Mulay-Hacén and his brother. The siege of Malaga is followed in the next episode by the siege of Granada itself, omiting the Almeria campaign that happened in the years in between.
    • As explained in the accompanying web video, inquisitors actually didn't interrogate the suspects during the torture sessions, many times were not even present during them, and a confession extracted during torture was in fact not admitted (one under threat of torture or between sessions was fair game, however). These are all disregarded to occupy less time, but at least the show has no inquisitors pulling the torture machines or lighting the pyres themselves and it is civil servants doing it instead. The tortures are also the simple ones that were really used like the rack or waterboarding, not the imaginative ones that were made up by fiction writers from the 17th century on.
    • Nobody ever says the word "Spain". It was actually common in the Middle Ages, though only as a geographic name of the Iberian Peninsula since there was no state with that name (and the Portuguese considered themselves as "Spanish" as their neighbors). This omision is obviously intended to avoid misunderstandings among the viewers.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Enrique IV.
  • Puppet King:
    • Enrique IV to Juan Pacheco. Even when Pacheco betrays him.
    • "Alfonso XII" to the rebels in the first season, who think that Enrique is not puppet enough.
    • Carrillo's plan for Isabel and Fernando. It fails.
    • Juana to the Portuguese.
  • Race Traitor: Abandoning one's religion for another is a very serious offense. To the ones in the original religion, of course.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica:
    • Attempted with Isabel multiple times by arranging her marriage in Portugal and France.
    • Chacón's designation as Isabel and Alfonso's tutor in Arévalo, which in essence exiled him from the Royal Court.
    • Beatriz de Osorio being given in marriage to the viceroy of the Canary Islands.
  • The Renaissance
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Everyone but Enrique probably qualifies.
  • Ruling Couple: As per history.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: God's sake Enrique. You can avoid everything if you just do something!
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Isabel.
  • Sinister Minister: Carrillo and the Dominicans (Ojeda and Torquemada. Yes, that one).
  • Smug Snake: Most notably the Pachecos and their relative, Alfonso Carrillo. In the second half of the second season the spot is filled by King Juan II of Portugal and Tomás de Torquemada.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Torquemada, in contrast to his usual portrayal as a high-pitched, frothing-in-the-mouth fanatic, is instead a courteous and very soft-spoken individual that plays the good cop and the bad cop at the same time.
  • The Spanish Inquisition: Founded in the second half of the second season.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Why Pacheco and Carrillo don't even consider Isabel a heir at the beginning of the series. When Alfonso dies, Carrillo decides to work for Isabel figuring that she'll be docile and easy to control.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Aldonza disguises herself as a boy to follow Fernando to Valladolid. She fools no one.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Enrique wants to marry Isabel to the King of Portugal, his wife's brother, which would make them siblings by blood and on law at the same time. His daughter is at different points promised or proposed to marry two of her uncles and a cousin, and develops romantic feelings for another cousin.
  • Timeshifted Actor: Generally avoided. When it happens it's usually characters born during the series, like Princess Juana and Isabel's children.
  • Token Evil Teammate: To Isabel, Alfonso Carrillo and later Tomás de Torquemada.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Pushed by Enrique until it becomes literal: He dies of indigestion.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Seville is the largest and richest city in Castile, has trade with the most exotic locales far away, and the oppulence of its nobles make the Royal Court dull and backwards in comparison. It's also a place with high crime and corruption, rivalry between noble families, fundamentalist preachers and the highest slave population in the kingdom.
  • Tragic Villain:
    • Enrique IV is not a bad guy, he's actually too nice to be king.
    • Juana de Avis acts the way she acts because 1) she loves her daughter and 2) her husband won't stand for her or even touch her.
  • Translation Convention: Every character speaks modern Spanish (only somewhat old-fashioned) in Standard (Northern) Castilian accent, regardless of origin. The only time this doesn't happen is during prayer, which Christian characters do in Latin, Muslims in Arabic and Jews in Hebrew, and in a rare instance in the first season when a guard introduces the Duke of Guyenne in French. Handwritten letters are in the original Arabic or 15th Century Spanish, however.
  • Turbulent Priest: Carrillo is a villainous version.
  • Unexpected Character: Cardinal Rodrigo Borja (or Borgia) in the first season counts, unless the viewer is aware of his historical visit to Castile, of course.
  • Unknown Rival:
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • Chacón and Beatriz de Bobadilla to Isabel.
    • Fernández de Córdoba, to Alfonso and then Isabel.
    • Undying Loyalty to the Crown is a famous trait to the Mendozas, although Enrique's constant blunders ends alienating even them.
    • Beltrán de la Cueva is also loyal to the Crown, and Enrique also manages to drive him mad. In the second season he becomes a loyal and reliable subject of Isabel, even during the war against his claimed bastard daughter.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Juan Pacheco and Tomás de Torquemada.
  • We Are Struggling Together: Granada bleeds itself in civil war while it should be using all its men to fight the Christians, with predictable results.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Alonso de Palencia, a minor but constant character in the first season, is nowhere to be seen in Season 2, even though in real life he remained part of the Royal Court until 1480.
    • Diego Pacheco disappears after he begrudgingly accepts Isabel's leadership. In real life he took part in the conquest of Granada and eventually weaseled his way back in the Court.
    • Susana disappears after Moisés takes her away from her father's execution.
    • El Zagal disappears after escaping from the siege of Málaga.
    • Gutierre de Cárdenas is missing from the third season. Notably, he was the man that wrote the Treaty of Tordesillas in real life.
  • Wild Card: The Papacy, especially when Borgia becomes Pope.
  • Woman Scorned:
    • Isabel to Fernando, because of his constant infidelities. It acquires epic proportions in the Season 2 premiere, when he also fails to deliver as a tactician.
    • Aixa plunges Granada into civil war at the worst possible time because she can't get over the fact that she is not her husband's first wife anymore.
    • Beatriz Pacheco does not forgive Isabel for marrying Fernando when she was bethrothed to him first.
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: It actually takes Fernando a while to get used to it.
  • You Have to Have Jews: In such a key period and setting, of course!
  • Young Future Famous People:
    • Isabel, obviously, debuts as a young girl that no one expects to inherit the throne.
    • The future Pope Alexander VI as a Papal envoy to Castile.
    • Beatriz Osorio appears in the second season as a young servant of Isabel, years before she gained fame as an ambitious, ruthless schemer worthy of the Borgia family during her stay in the Canary Islands.
  • Your Cheating Heart:
    • Fernando keeps fooling around despite Isabel's constant pleas. Eventually she gives up and tells him to at least do it in secret.
    • Juana de Avis' adventure outside marriage doesn't exactly help her daughter's case.
I, ClaudiusHistorical FictionMasada
InquisitioHistorical SeriesJack-of-All-Trades

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