- Isabella I of Castile
Infobox Spanish Royalty|monarch
name =Isabella I
title =Queen of Castile and León
Queen consort of Aragon, Majorca, Naples and Valencia, Countess of Barcelona
spouse =Ferdinand V
Ferdinand II of Aragon
December 10, 1474- November 26, 1504 January 20, 1479- November 26, 1504
predecessor =Henry IV
successor = Joanna and Philip I
issue =Isabella, Queen of Portugal
John, Prince of Asturias
Maria, Queen of Portugal
Catherine, Queen of England
royal house =
House of Trastámara
father =John II
mother =Isabella of Portugal
date of birth =
April 22 1451
place of birth =
Madrigal de las Altas Torres
date of death =death date and age|1504|11|26|1451|4|22
place of death =
Medina del Campo
place of burial =
Capilla Real, Granada, Spain
Isabella I (
April 22 1451– November 26 1504, reigned 1474-1504) was Queen of Castile and León. She and her husband, Ferdinand II of Aragon, laid the foundation for the political unification of Spainunder their grandson, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The Castilian version of her name was "Ysabel" (" Isabel" in modern spelling), which is etymologically the same as " Elizabeth", but in Germanic countries she is nevertheless usually known by a Latin form of her name, "Isabella". The official inscription on her tomb renders her names in Latin as "Helizabeth". Pope Alexander VInamed Isabella and her husband the Catholic Monarchswhich is the reason why she is often known as "Isabel la Católica" ("Isabella the Catholic") in Spanish.
Isabella was born in the country of
Madrigal de las Altas Torres, Spainon April 22, 1451. Her brother Alfonso was born three years later. When her father, John II, died in 1454, her much older half-brother Henry IV became king. As soon as he ascended to the throne, he sequestered his half-siblings to Segoviaand his stepmother to Arévalo, in virtual exile. Henry IV, whose first marriage to Blanca of Navarre was not consummated and had been annulled, remarried to have his own offspring. He then married Joana of Portugal. His wife gave birth to Joan, princess of Castile. When Isabella was about ten, she and her brother were summoned to the court, to be under more direct supervision and control by the king. In the Representation of Burgosthe nobles challenged the King; among other items, they demanded that Alfonso, Isabella's brother, should be named the heir to the kingdom. Henry agreed, provided Alfonso would marry his daughter, Joan. A few days later, he changed his mind.
The nobles, now in control of Alfonso and claiming him to be the true heir, clashed with Henry's forces at the
Battle of Olmedoin 1467. The battle was a draw. One year later, Alfonso died at the age of fourteen, and Isabella became the hope of the rebelling nobles. But she refused their advances, acknowledging instead Henry as king, and he, in turn, recognized her as the legitimate heir in the Treaty of the Bulls of Guisando, rather than Joan whose paternal origin was in dispute. In 1475, Joan married her uncle, the King of Portugal, but their marriage was later annulled by the Pope because of their family relation. Henry tried to get Isabella married to a number of people of his choice, yet she evaded all these propositions. Instead she chose Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Aragon. They were married October 19, 1469in Valladolid.
The events of 1492
1492 was an important year for Isabella: seeing the conquest of
Granadaand hence the end of the ' Reconquista' (reconquest), her successful patronage of Christopher Columbus, and her expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain.
The Kingdom of
Granadahad been held by the Muslim Nasriddynasty. Protected by natural barriers and fortified towns, it had withstood the long process of the reconquista. However, in contrast to the determined leadership by Isabella and Ferdinand, Granada's leadership was divided and never presented a united front. It took ten years to conquer Granada, culminating in 1492. When the Spaniards, early on, captured Boabdil(Sultan of Granada) they set him free - for a ransom - so that he could return to Granada and resume his reign. The Spanish monarchs recruited soldiers from many European countries and improved their artillery with the latest and best cannons. Systematically, they proceeded to take the kingdom piece by piece. Often Isabella would inspire her followers and soldiers by praying in the middle of, or close to, the battle field, that God's will may be done. In 1485 they laid siege to Ronda, which surrendered after extensive bombardment. The following year, Loja was taken, and again Boabdil was captured and released. One year later, with the fall of Málaga, the western part of the Muslim Nasridkingdom had fallen into Spanish hands. The eastern province succumbed after the fall of Baza in 1489. The siege of Granada began in the spring of 1491. When the Spanish camp was destroyed by an accidental fire, the camp was rebuilt, in stone, in the form of a cross, painted white, and named Santa Fe ("i.e." 'Holy Faith'). At the end of the year, Boabdil surrendered. On January 2, 1492Isabel and Ferdinand entered Granada to receive the keys of the city and the principal mosquewas reconsecrated as a church. The Treaty of Granadasigned later that year was to assure religious rights to the Muslims - but it did not last.
Queen Isabella rejected
Christopher Columbus's plan to reach the Indiesby sailing west three times before changing her mind. His conditions (the position of Admiral; governorship for him and his descendants of lands to be discovered; and ten percent of the profits) were met. On August 3, 1492his expedition departed and arrived in America on October 12. He returned the next year and presented his findings to the monarchs, bringing natives and gold under a hero's welcome. Spain entered a Golden Ageof explorationand colonization. In 1494, by the Treaty of Tordesillas, Isabella and Ferdinand divided the Earth, outside of Europe, with king John II of Portugal.
Isabella tried to defend the
American aboriginesagainst the abuse of the colonists. In 1503, she established the Secretary of Indian Affairs, which later became the Supreme Council of the Indies.
Expulsion of the Jews and Muslims
With the institution of the Roman Catholic Inquisition in Spain, and with the
Dominican friar Tomás de Torquemadaas the first Inquisitor General, the Catholic Monarchs pursued a policy of religious unity. Though Isabella opposed taking harsh measures against Jews on economic grounds, Torquemada was able to convince Ferdinand. On March 31 1492, the Alhambra Decree for the expulsion of the Jews was issued (See main article on Inquisition). Approximately 200,000 left Spain. Others converted, but often came under scrutiny by the Inquisition investigating relapsed "conversos" ( Marranos) and the Judaizers who had been abetting them. The Muslims of the newly conquered Granada had been initially granted religious freedom, but pressure to convert increased, and after some revolts, a policy of forced expulsion or conversion was also instituted in 1502 (see Moriscos).
Isabella received with her husband the title of Reina Católica by
Pope Alexander VI, a pope of whose secularism Isabella did not approve. Along with the physical unification of Spain, Isabella and Ferdinand embarked on a process of spiritual unification, trying to bring the country under one faith (Roman Catholicism). As part of this process, the Inquisition became institutionalized. After an uprising in 1499, the Treaty of Granadawas broken in 1502 and Muslims were forced to either be baptized or to be expelled. Isabella's confessor, Cisneros, was named Archbishop of Toledo. He was instrumental in a program of rehabilitation of the religious institutions of Spain, laying the groundwork for the later Counter-Reformation. As Chancellor, he exerted more and more power.
Isabella and her husband had created an empire and in later years were consumed with administration and politics; they were concerned with the succession and worked to link the Spanish crown to the other rulers in
Europe. Politically this can be seen in attempts to outflank France and to unite the Iberian peninsula. By early 1497 all the pieces seemed to be in place: Don Juan, the Crown Prince, married Margaret of Austria, establishing the connection to the Habsburgs. The eldest daughter, Infanta Isabella, married Manuel I of Portugal, and the Infanta Juana was married to another Habsburg prince, Philip of Burgundy. However, Isabella's plans for her children did not work out. Juan died shortly after his marriage. Isabella, Princess of Asturiasdied in childbirth and her son Miguel died at the age of two. Queen Isabella's titles passed to her daughter Joan the Mad ("Juana la Loca") whose marriage to Philip the Handsomewas troubled. Another daughter,Catherine, became the first wife of King Henry VIII of England. She gave birth to a daughter, Mary, who would become the fourth crowned monarch of the Tudor dynasty. Isabella died in 1504 in Medina del Campo, before Philip and Ferdinand became enemies.
Isabella is entombed in
Granadain the Capilla Real, which was built by her grandson, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor(Carlos I of Spain), alongside her husband Ferdinand, her daughter Juana and Juana's husband Philip; and Isabella's 2-year old grandson, Miguel (the son of Isabella's daughter, also named Isabella, and King Manuel of Portugal). The museum next to the Capilla Real houses her crown and scepter.
Isabella and her husband established a highly effective coregency under equal terms. They utilized a prenuptial agreement to lay down their terms. During their reign they supported each other effectively in accordance to their joint motto of equality: "Tanto monta
ormonta tanto, Isabel como Fernando" ("They amount to the same, Isabella and Ferdinand"). In addition to her sponsorship of Columbus, Isabella was also the principal sponsor of Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, the greatest military genius and innovator of the age. Isabella and Ferdinand's achievements are remarkable - Spain was united, the crown power was centralized, the reconquista was successfully concluded, the groundwork for the most dominant military machine of the next century and a half was laid, a legal framework was created, the church reformed. Even without the benefit of the American expansion, Spain would have been a major European power. Columbus' discovery set the country on the course for the first modern world power.
Isabella and contemporary politics and religion
In the twentieth century, the regime of
Francisco Francoclaimed the prestige of the Catholic Monarchs. As a result, Isabella was despised by those opposed to Franco.
Some Catholics from different countries have attempted to have Isabella declared as Blessed, with the aim of later having her canonized as a Saint. Their justification is that Isabella was a protector of the Spanish poor and of the American Indians from the rapacity of the Spanish nobility; in addition,
miracles have reportedly been attributed to her. In 1974, Pope Paul VIopened her cause for beatification. This places her on the path toward possible sainthood. In the Catholic Church, she is thus titled " Servant of God". This movement has met with opposition from Jewish organizations, Liberation theologians and the Jewish-born Archbishop of Paris Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, given that Isabella with husband Ferdinand had created the Spanish Inquisition, persecuted Jews and had had many Muslims killed after their evictory at Cordoba.
Isabella was the first named woman to appear on a United States coin, an 1893 commemorative quarter, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus's first voyage. In the same year she was the first woman to be featured on U.S. postal stamps, namely on three stamps of the
Columbian Issue, also in celebration of Columbus. She appears in the Spanish court scene replicated on the 15-cent Columbian, on the $ 1 issue, and in full portrait, side by side with Columbus, on the $4 Columbian, the only stamp of that denomination ever issued and one which collectors prize not only for its rarity (only 30,000 were printed) but its beauty, an exquisite carmine with some copies having a crimson hue. Mint specimens of this commemorative have been sold for more than $20,000.
Isabella in popular culture
*Ferdinand and Isabella appear in
Lope de Vega's play " Fuente Ovejuna" ("c." 1611), represented positively as supporters of a group of villagers in their struggle against their feudaloverlord.
*Isabella appears as the mother of Catherine, the titular heroine of the novel "The Constant Princess", by
Royal Diaries, a series of biographical novels about royal women from around the world, includes "Isabel, Jewel of Castilla, Spain, 1466" by Carolyn Meyer. It details her life from the time she was exiled to the time she married.
*Isabella is movingly evoked in Norah Lofts' historical novel "Crown of Aloes" (1973).
*Christopher Columbus negotiates with Isabella and her husband, Ferdinand of Aragon, in
Orson Scott Card's "Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus".
*Isabella is a character in the
short story"Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate Their Relationship" by Salman Rushdie.
*In film, Isabella has been played by
Lola Flores, in " Juana la Loca, de vez en cuando" (1983), by Sigourney Weaver, in Ridley Scott's "" (1992), by Rachel Ward, in "Christopher Columbus: The Discovery" (1992), and fictionally interpreted by Rachel Weiszin Darren Aronofsky's film, The Fountain(2006).
* She was also played in the 1985 TV miniseries "Christopher Columbus" by
Faye Dunaway, opposite Gabriel Byrne as Colombus.
*In the video game
Civilization IVIsabella appears as a leader for the Spanish Empire.
*Isabella is the Royal leader of the Spanish Empire in the computer game
Age of Empires III.
Isabella's great-great-grandfather, the founder of the Trastámara dynasty,
Henry II of Castilewas a son of Castilian King Alfonso XIand his mistress Eleanor of Guzman. Katherine of Lancaster, Isabella's paternal grandmother, was a granddaughter of Peter of Castileand his mistress/wife Maria de Padilla. Her maternal grandmother was the daughter of Afonso, 1st Duke of Braganza, whose mother Ines Pirez, a mistress of John I of Portugal.
Descendants of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon
*Townsend Miller. "The Castles and the Crown: Spain 1451-1555" (New York: Coward-McCann, New York, 1963)
Warren H. Carroll. "Isabel Of Spain: The Catholic Queen" (Front Royal, VA: Christendom Press)
*Carolyn Meyer. "Isabel: Jewel of Castilla" (The Royal Diaries) (New York: Scholastic Press, 2000)
*Nancy Rubin Stuart. "Isabella of Castile: The First Renaissance Queen" (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991)
*Peggy K. Liss, "Isabel the Queen," New York: Oxford University Press, 1992, p. 165
*Norman Roth, "Conversos, Inquisition, and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain," Madison, WI, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1995,p. 150
*Isabel Violante Pereira, "De Mendo da Guarda a D.Manuel I", Lisboa, 2001, Livros Horizonte
James Reston, Jr."Dogs of God," New York: Doubleday, 2005, p. 18
*Cardinal Cisneros, Isabella and Ferdinand's famous and powerful Cardinal
History of Spain
Monarchs of Spain family tree
* [http://www.el-mundo.es/cronica/2004/459/1091455989.html El obispo judío que bloquea a la "santa"] . A report in Spanish about the beatification in "El Mundo"
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08177a.htm Isabella I in the Catholic Encyclopedia]
* [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/columbus2.html Medieval Sourcebook: Columbus' letter to King and Queen of Spain, 1494]
* [http://www.goldbergweb.com/en/magazine/essays/2004/02/20213_print.php Music at Isabella's court]
* [http://www3.dcs.hull.ac.uk/cgi-bin/gedlkup/n=royal?royal00841 University of Hull: Genealogy information on Isabella I]
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