Isabella I (Spanish: Isabel, 22 April 1451 – 26 November 1504) reigned as Queen of Castile from 1474 until her death. Her marriage to Ferdinand II of Aragon became the basis for the political unification of Spain under their grandson, Charles V. After a struggle to claim her right to the throne, she reorganized the governmental system, brought the crime rate to the lowest it had been in years, and unburdened the kingdom of the enormous debt her brother had left behind. Her reforms and those she made with her husband had an influence that extended well beyond the borders of their united kingdoms. Isabella and Ferdinand are known for completing the Reconquista, ordering conversion or exile of their Muslim and Jewish subjects, and for supporting and financing Christopher Columbus's 1492 voyage that led to the opening of the New World and to the establishment of Spain as the first global power which dominated Europe and much of the world for more than a century. Isabella, granted together with her husband the title "the Catholic" by Pope Alexander VI, was recognized as a Servant of God by the Catholic Church in 1974.
Isabella as depicted in the painting Virgen de la mosca at the Collegiate church of Santa María la Mayor
|Queen of Castile and León|
|Reign||11 December 1474 – 26 November 1504|
|Coronation||13 December 1474|
|Tenure||20 January 1479 – 26 November 1504|
|Born||22 April 1451|
Madrigal de las Altas Torres
|Died||26 November 1504 (aged 53)|
Medina del Campo
|Spouse||Ferdinand II of Aragon|
|Father||John II of Castile|
|Mother||Isabella of Portugal|
Isabella was born in Madrigal de las Altas Torres, Ávila, to John II of Castile and his second wife, Isabella of Portugal on 22 April 1451. At the time of her birth, she was second in line to the throne after her older half-brother Henry IV of Castile. Henry was 26 at that time and married, but childless. Her younger brother Alfonso of Castile was born two years later on 17 November 1453, lowering her position to third in line. When her father died in 1454, her half-brother ascended to the throne as King Henry IV of Castile. Isabella and her brother Alfonso were left in King Henry's care. She, her mother, and Alfonso then moved to Arévalo.
These were times of turmoil for Isabella. The living conditions at their castle in Arévalo were poor, and they suffered from a shortage of money. Although her father arranged in his will for his children to be financially well taken care of, King Henry did not comply with their father's wishes, either from a desire to keep his half-siblings restricted, or from ineptitude. Even though living conditions were difficult, under the careful eye of her mother, Isabella was instructed in lessons of practical piety and in a deep reverence for religion.
When the King's wife, Joan of Portugal, was about to give birth to their daughter Joanna, Isabella and her brother Alfonso were summoned to court in Segovia to come under the direct supervision of the King and to finish their education. Alfonso was placed in the care of a tutor while Isabella became part of the Queen's household.
Some of Isabella's living conditions improved in Segovia. She always had food and clothing and lived in a castle that was adorned with gold and silver. Isabella's basic education consisted of reading, spelling, writing, grammar, mathematics, art, chess, dancing, embroidery, music, and religious instruction. She and her ladies-in-waiting entertained themselves with art, embroidery, and music. She lived a relaxed lifestyle, but she rarely left Segovia since King Henry forbade this. Her half-brother was keeping her from the political turmoils going on in the kingdom, though Isabella had full knowledge of what was going on and of her role in the feuds.
The noblemen, anxious for power, confronted King Henry, demanding that his younger half-brother Infante Alfonso be named his successor. They even went so far as to ask Alfonso to seize the throne. The nobles, now in control of Alfonso and claiming that he was the true heir, clashed with King Henry's forces at the Second Battle of Olmedo in 1467. The battle was a draw. King Henry agreed to recognize Alfonso as his heir presumptive, provided that he would marry his daughter, Princess Joanna la Beltraneja. Soon after he was named Prince of Asturias, Isabella's younger brother Alfonso died in July 1468, likely of the plague. The nobles who had supported him suspected poisoning. As she had been named in her brother's will as his successor, the nobles asked Isabella to take his place as champion of the rebellion. However, support for the rebels had begun to wane, and Isabella preferred a negotiated settlement to continuing the war. She met with her elder brother Henry at Toros de Guisando and they reached a compromise: the war would stop, King Henry would name Isabella his heir-presumptive instead of his daughter Joanna, and Isabella would not marry without her brother's consent, but he would not be able to force her to marry against her will. Isabella's side came out with most of what the nobles desired, though they did not go so far as to officially depose King Henry; they were not powerful enough to do so, and Isabella did not want to jeopardize the principle of fair inherited succession, since it was upon this idea that she had based her argument for legitimacy as heir-presumptive.
The question of Isabella's marriage was not a new one. She had made her debut in the matrimonial market at the age of six with a betrothal to Ferdinand, the younger son of John II of Navarre (whose family was a cadet branch of the House of Trastámara). At that time, the two kings, Henry and John, were eager to show their mutual love and confidence and they believed that this double alliance would make their eternal friendship obvious to the world. This arrangement, however, did not last long.
Ferdinand's uncle Alfonso V of Aragon died in 1458. All of Alfonso's Spanish territories, as well as the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, were left to his brother John II. John now had a stronger position than ever before and no longer needed the security of Henry's friendship. Henry was now in need of a new alliance. He saw the chance for this much needed new friendship in Charles of Viana, John's elder son. Charles was constantly at odds with his father, and because of this, he secretly entered into an alliance with Henry IV of Castile. A major part of the alliance was that a marriage was to be arranged between Charles and Isabella. When John II learned of this arranged marriage he was outraged. Isabella had been intended for his favourite younger son, Ferdinand, and in his eyes this alliance was still valid. John II had his son Charles thrown in prison on charges of plotting against his father's life; Charles died in 1461.
In 1465, an attempt was made to marry Isabella to Alfonso V of Portugal, Henry's brother-in-law. Through the medium of the Queen and Count of Ledesma, a Portuguese alliance was made. Isabella, however, was wary of the marriage and refused to consent.
A civil war broke out in Castile over King Henry's inability to act as sovereign. Henry now needed a quick way to please the rebels of the kingdom. As part of an agreement to restore peace, Isabella was to be betrothed to Pedro Girón Acuña Pacheco, Master of the Order of Calatrava and brother to the King's favourite, Juan Pacheco. In return, Don Pedro would pay into the impoverished royal treasury an enormous sum of money. Seeing no alternative, Henry agreed to the marriage. Isabella was aghast and prayed to God that the marriage would not come to pass. Her prayers were answered when Don Pedro suddenly fell ill and died while on his way to meet his fiancée.
When Henry had recognised Isabella as his heir-presumptive on 19 September 1468, he had also promised that his sister should not be compelled to marry against her will, while she in return had agreed to obtain his consent. It seemed that finally the years of failed attempts at political marriages were over. There was talk of a marriage to Edward IV of England or to one of his brothers, probably Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but this alliance was never seriously considered. Once again in 1468, a marriage proposal arrived from Alfonso V of Portugal. Going against his promises made in September, Henry tried to make the marriage a reality. If Isabella married Alfonso, Henry's daughter Joanna would marry Alfonso's son John II and thus, after the death of the old king, John and Joanna could inherit Portugal and Castile. Isabella refused and made a secret promise to marry her cousin and very first betrothed, Ferdinand of Aragon.
After this failed attempt, Henry once again went against his promises and tried to marry Isabella to Louis XI's brother Charles, Duke of Berry. In Henry's eyes, this alliance would cement the friendship of Castile and France as well as remove Isabella from Castilian affairs. Isabella once again refused the proposal. Meanwhile, John II of Aragon negotiated in secret with Isabella a wedding to his son Ferdinand.
On 18 October 1469, the formal betrothal took place. Because Isabella and Ferdinand were second cousins, they stood within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity and the marriage would not be legal unless a dispensation from the Pope was obtained. With the help of the Valencian Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (later Alexander VI), Isabella and Ferdinand were presented with a supposed papal bull by Pius II (who had died in 1464), authorising Ferdinand to marry within the third degree of consanguinity, making their marriage legal. Afraid of opposition, Isabella eloped from the court of Henry with the excuse of visiting her brother Alfonso's tomb in Ávila. Ferdinand, on the other hand, crossed Castile in secret disguised as a servant. They were married immediately upon reuniting, on 19 October 1469, in the Palacio de los Vivero in the city of Valladolid.
On 12 December 1474, news of Isabella's brother King Henry IV's death in Madrid reached Segovia prompting Isabella to take refuge within the walls of the Alcázar of Segovia where she received the support of Andres de Cabrera and Segovia's council. The next day, Isabella was proclaimed Queen of Castile and León.
Isabella's reign got off to a rocky start. Because her brother had named Isabella as his successor, when she ascended to the throne in 1474, there were already several plots against her. Diego Pacheco, the Marquis of Villena, and his followers maintained that Joanna la Beltraneja, daughter of King Henry IV, was the rightful queen. Shortly after the Marquis made his claim, a longtime supporter of Isabella, the Archbishop of Toledo, left court to plot with his great-nephew the Marquis. The Archbishop and Marquis made plans to have Joanna marry her uncle King Alfonso V of Portugal and invade Castile to claim the throne for themselves.
In May 1475, King Alfonso and his army crossed into Spain and advanced to Plasencia. Here he married the young Joanna. A long and bloody war for the Castilian succession then took place. The war went back and forth for almost a year until 1 March 1476, when the Battle of Toro took place, a battle in which both sides claimed victory and celebrated the victory: the troops of King Alfonso V were beaten by the Castilian centre-left commanded by the Duke of Alba and Cardinal Mendoza while the forces led by John of Portugal defeated the Castilian right wing and remained in possession of the battlefield.
But despite its uncertain outcome, the Battle of Toro represented a great political victory for the Catholic Monarchs, assuring them the throne since the supporters of Joanna la Beltraneja disbanded and the Portuguese army, without allies, left Castile. As summarised by the historian Justo L. González:
Both armies faced each other at the camps of Toro resulting in an indecisive battle. But while the Portuguese King reorganised his troops, Ferdinand sent news to all the cities of Castile and to several foreign kingdoms informing them about a huge victory where the Portuguese were crushed. Faced with these news, the party of "la Beltraneja" [Joanna] was dissolved and the Portuguese were forced to return to their kingdom.
With great political vision, Isabella took advantage of the moment and convoked courts at Madrigal-Segovia (April–October 1476) where her eldest child and daughter Isabella was first sworn as heiress to Castile's crown. That was equivalent to legitimising Isabella's own throne.
In August of the same year, Isabella proved her abilities as a powerful ruler on her own. A rebellion broke out in Segovia, and Isabella rode out to suppress it, as her husband Ferdinand was off fighting at the time. Going against the advice of her male advisors, Isabella rode by herself into the city to negotiate with the rebels. She was successful and the rebellion was quickly brought to an end. Two years later, Isabella further secured her place as ruler with the birth of her son John, Prince of Asturias, on 30 June 1478. To many, the presence of a male heir legitimised her place as ruler.
The war dragged on for another three years and ended with a Castilian victory on land and a Portuguese victory on the sea. The four separate peace treaties signed at Alcáçovas (4 September 1479) reflected that result: Portugal gave up the throne of Castile in favour of Isabella in exchange for a very favourable share of the Atlantic territories disputed with Castile (they all went to Portugal with the exception of the Canary Islands: Guinea with its mines of gold, Cape Verde, Madeira, Azores, and the right of conquest over the Kingdom of Fez) plus a large war compensation: 106.676 dobles of gold. The Catholic Monarchs also had to accept that Joanna la Beltraneja remain in Portugal instead of Spain and to pardon all rebellious subjects who had supported Joanna and King Alfonso. And the Catholic Monarchs—who had proclaimed themselves rulers of Portugal and donated lands to noblemen inside this country—had to give up the Portuguese crown.
At Alcáçovas, Isabella and Ferdinand had conquered the throne, but the Portuguese exclusive right of navigation and commerce in all of the Atlantic Ocean south of the Canary Islands meant that Spain was practically blocked out of the Atlantic and was deprived of the gold of Guinea, which induced anger in Andalusia. Spanish academic Antonio Rumeu de Armas claims that with the peace treaty of Alcáçovas in 1479, the Catholic Monarchs "...buy the peace at an excessively expensive price..." and historian Mª Monserrat León Guerrero added that they "...find themselves forced to abandon their expansion by the Atlantic...".
Christopher Columbus freed Castile from this difficult situation, because his New World discovery led to a new and much more balanced sharing of the Atlantic at Tordesillas in 1494. As the orders received by Columbus in his first voyage (1492) show: "[the Catholic Monarchs] have always in mind that the limits signed in the share of Alcáçovas should not be overcome, and thus they insist with Columbus to sail along the parallel of Canary." Thus, by sponsoring the Columbian adventure to the west, the Spanish monarchs were trying the only remaining path of expansion. As is now known, they would be extremely successful on this issue. Isabella had proven herself to be a fighter and tough monarch from the start. Now that she had succeeded in securing her place on the Castilian throne, she could begin to institute the reforms that the kingdom desperately needed.
When Isabella came to the throne in 1474, Castile was in a state of despair due to her brother Henry's reign. It was not unknown that Henry IV was a big spender and did little to enforce the laws of his kingdom. It was even said by one Castilian denizen of the time that murder, rape, and robbery happened without punishment. Because of this, Isabella needed desperately to find a way to reform her kingdom. Due to the measures imposed, historians during her lifetime saw her to be more inclined to justice than to mercy, and indeed far more rigorous and unforgiving than her husband Ferdinand.
Isabella's first major reform came during the cortes of Madrigal in 1476 in the form of a police force, La Santa Hermandad (the Holy Brotherhood). While 1476 was not the first time that Castile had seen the Hermandad, it was the first time that the police force was used by the crown. During the late medieval period, the expression hermandad had been used to describe groups of men who came together of their own accord to regulate law and order by patrolling the roads and countryside and punishing malefactors. These brotherhoods had usually been suppressed by the monarch, however. Before 1476, the justice system in most parts of the country was effectively under the control of dissident members of the nobility rather than royal officials. To fix this problem, during 1476, a general Hermandad was established for Castile, Leon, and Asturias. The police force was to be made up of locals who were to regulate the crime occurring in the kingdom. It was to be paid for by a tax of 1800 maravedís on every one hundred households. In 1477, Isabella visited Extremadura and Andalusia to introduce this more efficient police force there as well.
Keeping with her reformation of the regulation of laws, in 1481 Isabella charged two officials with restoring peace in Galicia. This turbulent province had been the prey of tyrant nobles since the days of Isabella's father, John II. Robbers infested the highways and oppressed the smaller towns and villages. These officials set off with the Herculean task of restoring peace for the province. The officials were successful. They succeeded in driving over 1,500 robbers from Galicia.
From the very beginning of her reign, Isabella fully grasped the importance of restoring the Crown's finances. The reign of Henry IV had left the kingdom of Castile in great debt. Upon examination, it was found that the chief cause of the nation's poverty was the wholesale alienation of royal estates during Henry's reign. To make money, Henry had sold off royal estates at prices well below their value. The Cortes of Toledo of 1480 came to the conclusion that the only hope of lasting financial reform lay in a resumption of these alienated lands and rents. This decision was warmly approved by many leading nobles of the court, but Isabella was reluctant to take such drastic measures. It was decided that the Cardinal of Spain would hold an enquiry into the tenure of estates and rents acquired during Henry IV's reign. Those that had not been granted as a reward for services were to be restored without compensation, while those that had been sold at a price far below their real value were to be bought back at the same sum. While many of the nobility were forced to pay large sums of money for their estates, the royal treasury became ever richer. Isabella's one stipulation was that there would be no revocation of gifts made to churches, hospitals, or the poor.
Another issue of money was the overproduction of coinage and the abundance of mints in the kingdom. During Henry's reign, the number of mints regularly producing money had increased from just five to 150. Much of the coinage produced in these mints was nearly worthless. During the first year of her reign, Isabella established a monopoly over the royal mints and fixed a legal standard to which the coinage had to approximate. By shutting down many of the mints and taking royal control over the production of money, Isabella restored the confidence of the public in the Crown's ability to handle the kingdom's finance.
Both Isabella and Ferdinand established very few new governmental and administrative institutions in their respective kingdoms. Especially in Castile, the main achievement was to use more effectively the institutions that had existed during the reigns of John II and Henry IV. Historically, the center of the Castilian government had been the royal household, together with its surrounding court. The household was traditionally divided into two overlapping bodies. The first body was made up of household officials, mainly people of the nobility, who carried out governmental and political functions for which they received special payment. The second body was made up of some 200 permanent servants or continos who performed a wide range of confidential functions on behalf of the rulers. By the 1470s, when Isabella began to take a firm grip on the royal administration, the senior offices of the royal household were simply honorary titles and held strictly by the nobility. The positions of a more secretarial nature were often held by senior churchmen. Substantial revenues were attached to such offices and were therefore enjoyed greatly, on an effectively hereditary basis, by the great Castilian houses of nobility. While the nobles held the titles, individuals of lesser breeding did the real work.
Traditionally, the main advisory body to the rulers of Castile was the Royal Council. The Council, under the monarch, had full power to resolve all legal and political disputes. The Council was responsible for supervising all senior administrative officials, such as the Crown representatives in all of the major towns. It was also the supreme judicial tribunal of the kingdom. In 1480, during the Cortes of Toledo, Isabella made many reforms to the Royal Council. Previously there had been two distinct yet overlapping categories of royal councillor. One formed a group which possessed both judicial and administrative responsibilities. This portion consisted of some bishops, some nobles, and an increasingly important element of professional administrators with legal training known as letrados. The second category of traditional councillor had a less formal role. This role depended greatly on the individuals' political influence and personal influence with the monarch. During Isabella's reign, the role of this second category was completely eliminated. As mentioned previously, Isabella had little care for personal bribes or favours. Because of this, this second type of councillor, usually of the nobility, was only allowed to attend the council of Castile as an observer.
Isabella began to rely more on the professional administrators than ever before. These men were mostly of the bourgeoisie or lesser nobility. The Council was also rearranged and it was officially settled that one bishop, three caballeros, and eight or nine lawyers would serve on the council at a time. While the nobles were no longer directly involved in the matters of state, they were welcome to attend the meetings. Isabella hoped by forcing the nobility to choose whether to participate or not would weed out those who were not dedicated to the state and its cause.
Isabella also saw the need to provide a personal relationship between herself as the monarch and her subjects. Therefore, Isabella and Ferdinand set aside a time every Friday during which they themselves would sit and allow people to come to them with complaints. This was a new form of personal justice that Castile had not seen before. The Council of State was reformed and presided over by the King and Queen. This department of public affairs dealt mainly with foreign negotiations, hearing embassies, and transacting business with the Court of Rome. In addition to these departments, there was also a Supreme Court of the Santa Hermandad, a Council of Finance, and a Council for settling purely Aragonese matters. Although Isabella made many reforms that seem to have made the Cortes stronger, in actuality the Cortes lost political power during the reigns of Isabella and Ferdinand. Isabella and her husband moved in the direction of a non-parliamentary government and the Cortes became an almost passive advisory body, giving automatic assent to legislation which had been drafted by the royal administration.
After the reforms of the Cortes of Toledo, the Queen ordered a noted jurist, Alfonso Diaz de Montalvo, to undertake the task of clearing away legal rubbish and compiling what remained into a comprehensive code. Within four years the work stood completed in eight bulky volumes and the Ordenanzas Reales took their place on legal bookshelves.
At the end of the Reconquista, only Granada was left for Isabella and Ferdinand to conquer. The Emirate of Granada had been held by the Muslim Nasrid dynasty since the mid-13th century. Protected by natural barriers and fortified towns, it had withstood the long process of the reconquista. On 1 February 1482, the king and queen reached Medina del Campo and this is generally considered the beginning of the war for Granada. While Isabella's and Ferdinand's involvement in the war was apparent from the start, Granada's leadership was divided and never able to present a united front. It still took ten years to conquer Granada, however, culminating in 1492.
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. In 1485 they laid siege to Ronda, which surrendered after only a fortnight due to extensive bombardment. The following year, Loja was taken, and again Muhammad XII was captured and released. One year later, with the fall of Málaga, the western part of the Muslim Nasrid kingdom 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 and at the end of the year, Muhammad XII surrendered. On 2 January 1492 Isabella and Ferdinand entered Granada to receive the keys of the city, and the principal mosque was reconsecrated as a church. The Treaty of Granada was signed later that year, and in it Ferdinand and Isabella gave their word to allow the Muslims and Jews of Granada to live in peace.
During the war, Isabella noted the abilities and energy of Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba and made him one of the two commissioners for the negotiations. Under her patronage, De Córdoba went on to an extraordinary military career that revolutionised the organisation and tactics of the emerging Spanish military, changing the nature of warfare and altering the European balance of power.
Just three months after entering Granada, Queen Isabella agreed to sponsor Christopher Columbus on an expedition to reach the Indies by sailing west (2000 miles, according to Columbus). The crown agreed to pay a sum of money as a concession from monarch to subject.
His expedition departed on 3 August 1492, and arrived in San Salvador Island on 12 October. He named it San Salvador after Jesus the Savior. He returned the next year and presented his findings to the monarchs, bringing natives and gold under a hero's welcome. Although Columbus was sponsored by the Castilian queen, treasury accounts show no royal payments to him until 1493, after his first voyage was complete. Spain entered a Golden Age of exploration and colonisation, the period of the Spanish Empire. In 1494, by the Treaty of Tordesillas, Isabella and Ferdinand agreed to divide the Earth, outside of Europe, with king John II of Portugal. The Portuguese did not recognise that South America belonged to the Spanish because it was in Portugal's sphere of influence, and the Portuguese King John II threatened to send an army to claim the land for the Portuguese.
Isabella was not in favour of Columbus' enslavement of the American natives and attempted to enforce the recent policies of the Canaries upon the 'New World', stating that all peoples were under the subject of the Castilian Crown and could not be enslaved in most situations. The principles she established would have very little effect during her lifetime, however.
With the institution of the Roman Catholic Inquisition in Spain, and with the Dominican friar Tomás de Torquemada as the first Inquisitor General, the Catholic Monarchs pursued a policy of religious and national unity. Though Isabella opposed taking harsh measures against Jews on economic grounds, Torquemada was able to convince Ferdinand. On 31 March 1492, the Alhambra decree for the expulsion of the Jews was issued. The Jews had until the end of July, three months, to leave the country and they were not to take with them gold, silver, money, arms, or horses. Traditionally, it had been claimed that as many as 200,000 Jews left Spain, but recent historians have shown that such figures are exaggerated: Henry Kamen has shown that out of a total population of 80,000 Jews, a maximum of 40,000 left and the rest converted. Hundreds of those that remained came under the Inquisition's investigations into relapsed conversos (Marranos) and the Judaizers who had been abetting them.
Isabella received the title of Catholic Monarch by Pope Alexander VI, a pope of whose behavior and involvement in matters 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 institutionalised. After a Muslim uprising in 1499, and further troubles thereafter, the Treaty of Granada was broken in 1502, and Muslims were ordered to either become Christians or to leave. 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. By early 1497, all the pieces seemed to be in place: The son and heir John, Prince of Asturias, married a Habsburg princess, Margaret of Austria, establishing the connection to the Habsburgs. The eldest daughter, Isabella of Aragon, married King Manuel I of Portugal, and the younger daughter, Joanna of Castile, was married to a Habsburg prince, Philip I of Habsburg. In 1500 Isabella granted all non-rebellious natives in the colonies citizenship and full legal freedom by decree.
However, Isabella's plans for her eldest two children did not work out. Her only son, John of Asturias, died shortly after his marriage. Her daughter Isabella of Aragon, whose son Miguel da Paz died at the age of two, died in childbirth. Queen Isabella I's crowns passed to her third child Joanna and her son-in-law, Philip I.
Isabella did, however, make successful dynastic matches for her three youngest daughters. The death of Isabella of Aragon created a necessity for Manuel I of Portugal to remarry, and Isabella's third daughter, Maria of Aragon, became his next bride. Isabella's youngest daughter, Catherine of Aragon, married England's Arthur, Prince of Wales, but his early death resulted in her being married to his younger brother, King Henry VIII of England.
Isabella officially withdrew from governmental affairs on September 14, 1504 and she died that same year on 26 November at the Medina del Campo Royal Palace. It is said that she had truly already been in decline since the death of her son Prince John of Asturias in 1497. She is entombed in Granada in the Capilla Real, which was built by her grandson, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (Carlos I of Spain), alongside her husband Ferdinand, her daughter Joanna and Joanna's husband Philip I; and Isabella's 2-year-old grandson, Miguel da Paz (the son of Isabella's daughter, also named Isabella, and King Manuel I of Portugal). The museum next to the Capilla Real holds her crown and scepter.
Isabella was short but of strong stocky build, of a very fair complexion, and had a hair color that was between strawberry-blonde and auburn. Some portraits, however, show her as a brunette. Her daughters, Joanna and Catherine, were thought to resemble her the most. Isabella maintained an austere, temperate lifestyle, and her religious spirit influenced her the most in life. In spite of her hostility towards the Muslims in Andalusia, Isabella developed a taste for Moorish decor and style. Of her, contemporaries said:
Isabella and Ferdinand had seven children, five of whom survived to adulthood:
Towards the end of her life, family tragedies overwhelmed her, although she met these reverses with grace and fortitude. The death of her beloved son and heir and the miscarriage of his wife, the death of her daughter Isabella and Isabella's son Miguel (who could have united the kingdoms of the Catholic Monarchs with that of Portugal), the madness of her daughter Joanna and the indifference of Philip the Handsome, and the uncertainty Catherine was in after the death of her husband submerged her in profound sadness that made her dress in black for the rest of her lifetime. Her strong spirituality is well understood from the words she said after hearing of her son's death: "The Lord gave him to me, the Lord hath taken him from me, glory be His holy name."
In 1958, the Catholic canonical process of the Cause of Canonization of Isabella was started by José García Goldaraz, the Bishop of Valladolid, where she died in 1504. 17 experts were appointed to investigate more than 100,000 documents in the archives of Spain and the Vatican and the merits of opening a canonical process of canonisation. 3,500 of these were chosen to be included in 27 volumes.
In 1970, the Commission determined that "A Canonical process for the canonization of Isabella the Catholic could be undertaken with a sense of security since there was not found one single act, public or private, of Queen Isabella that was not inspired by Christian and evangelical criteria; moreover there was a 'reputation of sanctity' uninterrupted for five centuries and as the investigation was progressing, it was more accentuated."
In 1972, the Process of Valladolid was officially submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican. This process was approved and Isabel was given the title "Servant of God" in March 1974.
Some authors have claimed that Isabella's reputation for sanctity derives in large measure from an image carefully shaped and disseminated by the queen herself.
As Princess of Asturias, Isabella bore the undifferenced royal arms of the Crown of Castile and added the Saint John the Evangelist's Eagle, an eagle displayed as single supporter. As queen, she quartered the Royal Arms of the Crown of Castile with the Royal Arms of the Crown of Aragon, she and Ferdinand II of Aragon adopted a yoke and a bundle of arrows as heraldic badges. As co-monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand used the motto "Tanto Monta" ("They amount to the same", or "Equal opposites in balance"), it refers their prenuptial agreement. The conquest of Granada in 1492 was symbolised by the addition enté en point of a quarter with a pomegranate for Granada (in Spanish Granada means pomegranate). There was an uncommon variant with the Saint John the Evangelist's eagle and two lions adopted as Castilian royal supporters by John II, Isabella's father.
Isabella is most remembered for enabling Columbus' voyage to the New World, which began an era for greatness for Spain and Europe. In particular her reign saw the founding of the Spanish Empire. This in turn ultimately led to establishment of the modern nations of the Americas, in addition to the decimation of the pre-Columbian nations of the Americas.
She and her husband completed the Reconquista, driving out the most significant Muslim influence in Western Europe and firmly establishing Spain and the Iberian peninsula as staunchly Catholic. Her reign also established the Spanish Inquisition.
The Spanish crown created the Order of Isabella the Catholic in 1815 in honor of the queen.
Isabella was the first woman to be featured on US postage stamps, namely on three stamps of the Columbian Issue, also in celebration of Columbus. She appears in the 'Columbus soliciting aid of Isabella', 5-cent issue, and on the Spanish court scene replicated on the 15-cent Columbian, and on the $4 issue, in full portrait, side by side with Columbus.
The $4 stamp is 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 was also the first named woman to appear on a United States coin, the 1893 commemorative Isabella quarter, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus's first voyage.
|1949||Christopher Columbus||David MacDonald||Florence Eldridge|
|1951||Hare We Go||Robert McKimson||Unknown|
|1976||La espada negra||Francisco Rovira Beleta||Maribel Martín|
|1992||1492: Conquest of Paradise||Ridley Scott||Sigourney Weaver|
|1992||Christopher Columbus: The Discovery||John Glen||Rachel Ward|
|1992||Carry On Columbus||Gerald Thomas||June Whitfield|
|2001||Juana la Loca||Vicente Aranda||Susi Sánchez|
|2006||The Fountain||Darren Aronofsky||Rachel Weisz|
|2016||La corona partida||Jordi Frades||Michelle Jenner|
|2016||Assassin's Creed||Justin Kurzel||Marysia S. Peres|
|1985||Christopher Columbus||Faye Dunaway||-|
|1991||Réquiem por Granada||Marita Marschall||TVE|
|2004||Memoria de España||—||TVE|
|2015||El ministerio del tiempo||Michelle Jenner||TVE|
|2019||The Spanish Princess||Alicia Borrachero||STARZ|
Isabella of Castile: Europe's First Great Queen, by Giles Tremlett, won the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography in 2018.
Another biography of Isabella, Isabella, The Warrior Queen by Kirsten Downey, was published by Anchor Books of Penguin Random House in 2014.
Isabella is the subject of The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner, published in 2012.
A young Isabella is the main protagonist in Isabel, Jewel of Castile, a part of the Royal Diaries series by Scholastic.
Isabella's life, from her early youth through the conquest of Granada, is novelised in The Queen's Cross: A biographical romance of Queen Isabella of Spain by Lawrence Schoonover, published in 1955 by William Sloane Associates, Inc. It was reprinted in 2008 by Fountain City Publishing ISBN 0976086743.
Isabella is a main character in The Prisoner of Tordesillas by Lawrence Schoonover, Boston: Little, Brown & Company; 2nd Printing edition (1959), ASIN B000P0O1DM, a novel of her daughter and successor, Joanna of Castile, mother of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.
Isabella is the narrator of Crown of Aloes by Norah Lofts, Doubleday (1973) ASIN B00DY1H8TI.
As the leader of the Spanish civilization in Sid Meier's Civilization V, Isabella I is depicted carrying a gilded Christian cross while standing behind a Moorish-style palace likely to be the Alhambra.
Isabella I is listed in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed: Project Legacy as a potential assassination target for the player's assassin recruits.
She made an appearance in Age of Empires III, where her personality can be seen when the AI plays Spain. Special dialogue has been written to reflect her personality and behavior.
Isabella I of CastileBorn: 22 April 1451 Died: 26 November 1504
| Queen regnant of Castile and León
with Ferdinand V (1475–1504)
Title last held byJuana Enríquez
| Queen consort of Sicily
Title next held byGermaine of Foix
| Queen consort of Aragon|
Anne of Brittany
| Queen consort of Naples|
| Princess of Asturias
The Alhambra Decree (also known as the Edict of Expulsion; Spanish: Decreto de la Alhambra, Edicto de Granada) was an edict issued on 31 March 1492, by the joint Catholic Monarchs of Spain (Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon) ordering the expulsion of practicing Jews from the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon and its territories and possessions by 31 July of that year. The primary purpose was to eliminate their influence on Spain's large converso population and ensure they did not revert to Judaism. Over half of Spain's Jews had converted as a result of the religious persecution and pogroms which occurred in 1391. Due to continuing attacks, around 50,000 more had converted by 1415. A further number of those remaining chose to convert to avoid expulsion. As a result of the Alhambra decree and persecution in prior years, over 200,000 Jews converted to Catholicism and between 40,000 and 100,000 were expelled, an indeterminate number returning to Spain in the years following the expulsion.:17The edict was formally and symbolically revoked on 16 December 1968, following the Second Vatican Council. This was a full century after Jews had been openly practicing their religion in Spain and synagogues were once more legal places of worship under Spain's Laws of Religious Freedom.
In 1924, the regime of Primo de Rivera granted Spanish citizenship to the entire Sephardic Jewish diaspora. In 2014, the government of Spain passed a law allowing dual citizenship to Jewish descendants who apply, to "compensate for shameful events in the country's past." Thus, Sephardi Jews who can prove they are the descendants of those Jews expelled from Spain because of the Alhambra Decree can "become Spaniards without leaving home or giving up their present nationality."Carry On Columbus
Carry On Columbus (1992) is the 31st and final film of the series of Carry On films to be made; it was a belated entry to the series, following 1978's Carry On Emmannuelle. It was produced to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas (two other more serious films on the subject, 1492: Conquest of Paradise and Christopher Columbus: The Discovery came out the same year).Catholic Monarchs
The Catholic Monarchs is the joint title used in history for Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. They were both from the House of Trastámara and were second cousins, being both descended from John I of Castile; on marriage they were given a papal dispensation to deal with consanguinity by Sixtus IV. They married on October 19, 1469, in the city of Valladolid; Isabella was eighteen years old and Ferdinand a year younger. It is generally accepted by most scholars that the unification of Spain can essentially be traced back to the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella. Some newer historical opinions propose that under their rule, what later became Spain was still a union of two crowns rather than a unitary state, as to a large degree Castile and Aragon remained separate kingdoms, with most of their own separate institutions, for decades to come. The court of Ferdinand and Isabella was constantly on the move, in order to bolster local support for the crown from local feudal lords.
The title of "Catholic King and Queen" was bestowed on Ferdinand and Isabella by Pope Alexander VI in 1494, in recognition of their defense of the Catholic faith within their realms.
"Catholic monarchs" or "kings" can also be used in a generic sense (e.g., "the Pope had authority over Catholic monarchs..."); the particular or generic use can be distinguished from the context.Christopher Columbus (1949 film)
Christopher Columbus is a 1949 British biographical film starring Fredric March as Christopher Columbus and Florence Eldridge as Queen Isabella. It is loosely based on the novel Columbus by Rafael Sabatini with much of the screenplay rewritten by Sydney and Muriel Box.Christopher Columbus (miniseries)
Christopher Columbus was a television mini-series broadcast in Italy and the United States in 1985. In six hours, the series told the story of the life of Christopher Columbus, with Gabriel Byrne starring as the explorer.Churriana de la Vega
Churriana de la Vega is a municipality located in the province of Granada, Spain. According to the 2017 census (INE), the city has a population of 14,556 inhabitants. It sits on the Genil River and crossed by several smaller streams, providing the farmers around it with water and rich soil.
The first mention of Churriana de la Vega in writing comes from the 14th century Moorish polymath and writer Ibn al-Jatib. It was also the site of some of the negotiations for the final surrender of Grenada between the representatives of Boabdil and Isabella I of CastileCoat of arms of Gibraltar
The coat of arms of Gibraltar was first granted by a Royal Warrant passed in Toledo on 10 July 1502 by Isabella I of Castile during Gibraltar's Spanish period. The arms consists of an escutcheon and features a three-towered red castle under which hangs a golden key.Dawn of America
Dawn of America (Spanish: Alba de América) is a 1951 Spanish historical adventure film directed by Juan de Orduña and starring Antonio Vilar, María Martín and José Suárez. The film depicts the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus in the late fifteenth century.Descendants of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile
Ferdinand II of Aragon's marriage to Isabella I of Castile produced many children, five of whom survived to adulthood. They arranged strategic political marriages for all of these children to powerful monarchs and well-connected women. In time, many of their grandchildren became emperors and kings of various countries, and their first and second generation of descendants caused the genealogical lines of Isabella I and Ferdinand II to spread throughout Europe.
Among the living descendants of Isabella I and Ferdinand II include all of the current European monarchs. The current line of Kings of Spain are descended from their union, with their current major dynastic heir being King Felipe VI of Spain, who reigns in their native territories. Also among their descendants are King Albert II of Belgium, Grand-Duke Henri of Luxembourg, Queen Elizabeth II of the U.K., Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, King Harald V of Norway, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands – descend from Isabella I and Ferdinand II. This is also true of the Sovereign Princes of Europe: Albert II, Prince of Monaco and Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein.
Albert II of Belgium and Grand-Duke Henri of Luxembourg are, given the frequent intermarriage between Catholic dynasties, both descended from the medieval monarchs through multiple lines. The non-Catholic dynasties also share several lines of descent – the following are but a few examples. Elizabeth II of the U.K. descends from the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family and that line descends from Isabella I and Ferdinand II beginning with the 1636 marriage of Princess Elisabeth Sophie of Saxe-Altenburg (1619–1680) to Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha (1601–1675) (Elisabeth Sophie being a descendant through Isabella and Ferdinand's daughter Joanna of Castile). Margrethe II of Denmark, Harald V of Norway, and Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden also trace their mutual descent from Isabella I and Ferdinand II through that same line as Elizabeth II of the U.K. In addition, Margrethe II, Harald V, and Carl XVI Gustaf also trace their descent from the Iberian couple through Josephine of Leuchtenberg, Queen-consort to King Oscar I of Sweden. Josephine, like Queen Beatrix discussed in the following sentence, is descended from the Landgraves of Hesse-Darmstadt and that family is also descended from the Iberian couple. Beatrix of the Netherlands is descended from Isabella I and Ferdinand II through her great-great-great grandmother Wilhelmine of Prussia, wife of the first king of the Netherlands, William I. Queen Wilhelmine descends from the Landgraves of Hesse-Darmstadt and the Landgraves are descendants by virtue of the aforementioned 1636 marriage of Princess Elisabeth Sophie of Saxe-Altenburg and Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha (Elisabeth Sophie and Ernest I's daughter, Elisabeth Dorothea, married Louis VI, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt).
The Landgraves of Hesse-Darmstadt connection also provides the descent of Albert II, Prince of Monaco from Isabella I and Ferdinand II. Prince Albert's great-great-great grandmother, Princess Marie of Baden, was in turn the granddaughter of Landgravine Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt.
Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein is descended from Isabella I and Ferdinand II through his grandmother, Archduchess Elisabeth Amalie of Austria; Elisabeth Amalie descends from the Iberian couple via the Spanish and Hesse-Darmstadt houses, as well as through the formerly-reigning Catholic imperial or royal houses of Austria-Hungary, Portugal, and Bavaria (these formerly-reigning houses all descend from Isabella I and Ferdinand II).Flag of Gibraltar
The flag of Gibraltar is an elongated banner of arms based on the coat of arms of Gibraltar, granted by Royal Warrant from Queen Isabella I of Castile on 10 July 1502.Hare We Go
Hare We Go is a 1951 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies cartoon starring Bugs Bunny.Isabella (crater)
Crater Isabella is the second largest impact crater on Venus. The feature is named in honor of the 15th Century queen of Spain, Isabella I of Castile. Located at 30 degrees south latitude, 204 degrees east longitude, the crater has two extensive flow-like structures extending to the south and to the southeast. The end of the southern flow partially surrounds a pre-existing 40-kilometer (25 mi) circular volcanic shield. The southeastern flow shows a complex pattern of channels and flow lobes, and is overlain at its southeastern tip by deposits from a later 20-kilometer (12 mi) diameter impact crater, Cohn. The extensive flows, unique to Venusian impact craters, are a continuing subject of study for a number of planetary scientists. It is thought that the flows may consist of 'impact melt,' rock melted by the intense heat released in the impact explosion. An alternate hypothesis invokes 'debris flows,' which may consist of clouds of hot gases and both melted and solid rock fragments that race across the landscape during the impact event. That type of emplacement process is similar to that which occurs in violent eruptions on Earth, such as the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines.Loja, Granada
Loja (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈloxa]), formerly Loxa, is a town in southern Spain, situated at the western limit of the province of Granada. It is surrounded by the so-called Sierra de Loja, of which the highest peak, Sierra Gorda, stands 1,671 metres above sea-level.
Loja has sometimes been identified with the ancient Ilipula, or with the Lacibi (Lacibis) of Pliny and Ptolemy. It is unknown when Loja was first captured by the Moors; most likely this happened in the 8th century. It first clearly emerges in the Arab chronicles of the year 890. It was taken by Ferdinand III in 1226, but was soon afterwards abandoned. Its Moorish name, Medina Lawša, was changed to Lauxa when it was captured by the Christians in 1486, during the Reconquista. Isabella I of Castile called it the "flower among thorns".Mad Love (2001 film)
Mad Love (Spanish: Juana la Loca, literally Juana the Madwoman) is a 2001
period drama film written and directed by Vicente Aranda starring Pilar López de Ayala and Daniele Liotti. The plot follows the tragic fate of Queen Joanna of Castile madly in love to an unfaithful husband, Philip the Handsome, Archduke of Austria.
The film received 3 Goya awards, in the categories of Best Actress, Best Wardrobe, and Best Makeup and Hair.Madrigal de las Altas Torres
Madrigal de las Altas Torres is a municipality located in the province of Ávila, Castile and León, Spain. According to the 2005 census (INE), the municipality has a population of 1,825 inhabitants. In this village, Isabella I of Castile was born in 1451.Queen Isabella (sculpture)
Queen Isabella, also known as Queen Isabella (1451–1504), is an outdoor sculpture of Isabella I of Castile, installed outside the Organization of American States at 17th Street and Constitution Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., in the United States.Rex Catholicissimus
The Latin title Rex Catholicissimus, rendered as Most Catholic King and Most Catholic Majesty, was awarded by the Pope to the Sovereigns of Spain. It was first used by Pope Alexander VI in the papal bull Inter caetera in 1493.
One of the rights of a "Most Catholic" queen – either regnant or consort – is the privilège du blanc, meaning that she may wear white when meeting the Pope rather than the normal black used by other consorts and heads of state.
The best-known example of this title is the Catholic Monarchs (Los Reyes Católicos), used solely in reference to Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon.Treaty of Alcáçovas
The Treaty of Alcáçovas (also known as Treaty or Peace of Alcáçovas-Toledo) was signed on 4 September 1479 between the Catholic Monarchs of Castile and Aragon on one side and Afonso V and his son, Prince John of Portugal, on the other side.
It put an end to the War of the Castilian Succession, which ended with a victory of the Catholic Monarchs on land and a Portuguese victory on the sea. The four peace treaties signed at Alcáçovas reflected that outcome: Isabella was recognized as Queen of Castile while Portugal reached hegemony in the Atlantic Ocean.
The treaty intended to regulate:
The renunciation of Afonso V and Catholic Monarchs to the Castilian throne and Portuguese throne, respectively
The division of the Atlantic Ocean and overseas territories into two zones of influence
The destiny of Juana de Trastámara
The contract of marriage between Isabella, the eldest daughter of the Catholic Monarchs, with Afonso, heir of Prince John. This was known as Tercerias de Moura, and included the payment to Portugal of a war compensation by the Catholic Monarchs in the form of marriage dowry.
The pardon of the Castilian supporters of Juana
|Ancestors of Isabella I of Castile|
|House of Jiménez|
|House of Burgundy|
|House of Trastámara|
|House of Habsburg|
|House of Jiménez|
|House of Burgundy|
|House of Trastámara|
|House of Habsburg|