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- Early Life of Isabella of Castile
- Succession and Marriage
- Death and Legacy
Key Facts And Information
Let’s find out more about Isabella of Castile!
- Isabella (or Isabella I) was the Queen of Castile from 1474 until her death. As the wife of King Ferdinand II, she also became Queen Consort of Aragon in 1479. The couple reigned over the two kingdoms to unite Spain and would be known later on as “Catholic Monarchs”.
- Isabella was born to King John II of Castile and Isabella of Portugal on 22 April 1451 in Madrigal de las Altas Torres, Ávila.
- At Isabella’s birth, she was second in line of succession to her father, following her older half-brother Henry. When her other brother Alfonso was born in 1453, she became third in line to the throne.
- Henry became King Henry IV of Castile when their father died in 1453.
- Isabella and Alfonso were raised by their mother until 1457 when they were sent by Henry to court. During these times, Isabella lived in difficulty because of financial problems and poor living conditions at their castle in Arévalo.
- Despite their living conditions, Isabella was well educated under the careful eye of her mother.
- She was instructed to study lessons of practical piety and deep reverence for religion. She also had Beatriz Galindo, a medicine, philosophy, and rhetoric professor at the University at Salamanca, as a tutor.
- Later on, they went to the court in Segovia to come under direct supervision of the King.
- As Alfonso was placed in the care of a tutor, Isabella became part of Queen Joan of Portugal’s household. It was in Segovia where Isabella’s living conditions improved.
- In here, she always had food, clothing, and even a basic education. She and her ladies-in-waiting also entertained themselves with art and music.
- Nonetheless, despite having a relaxed lifestyle, the King forbade her to go out so she rarely left Segovia. Moreover, she was also kept out from the political turmoils that were going around in the kingdom.
Succession And Marriage
- When King Henry was in the throne, many noblemen were anxious for power and demanded that his younger brother Alfonso become his successor. At the Second Battle of Olmedo in 1467, the nobles clashed with King Henry’s forces and it ended with a draw.
- To settle disputes, King Henry agreed to recognise Alfonso as his heir with the condition that he must marry Henry’s daughter Princess Joanna la Beltraneja. Alfonso agreed and soon enough he was named Prince of Asturias. This didn’t last, however, as Alfonso died in July 1468.
- With his death, the nobles asked Isabella to take his place as champion of the rebellion.
- She preferred negotiated settlement in contrast to continuing the war so she met with Henry at Toros de Guisando where they reached a compromise:
- The war would stop.
- Isabella will become Henry’s heir-presumptive instead of his daughter Joanna.
- Isabella will not marry without Henry’s consent, though she wouldn’t be forced against her will.
- Despite the terms, in October 1469, Isabella married her second cousin Ferdinand of Aragon, without her brother’s approval.
- Because of this, Henry withdrew his recognition of Isabella as the heir and named his daughter Juana instead.
- Isabella and Ferdinand had seven children with five of whom surviving to adulthood:
- Isabella (1470–1498) - She was first married to Prince Alfonso of Portugal then secondly to Manuel I also of Portugal.
- They had a son but miscarried on 31 May 1475 in Cebreros.
- John (1478–1497) - He was the Prince of Asturias and he married Archduchess Margaret of Austria.
- Joanna (1479–1555) - She became Queen of Castile and she married Philip the Handsome.
- Maria (1482–1517) - She married Manuel I of Portugal, her sister's widower.
- They had a daughter born on 1 July 1482 at dawn and was the stillborn twin sister of Maria.
- Catherine (1485–1536) - She married firstly to Prince Arthur of Wales, then secondly to Henry VIII of England.
- When Henry died in 1474, a war of succession ensued. It was settled 5 years later with Isabella recognised as Queen of Castile.
- Her husband Ferdinand, on the other hand, became King of Aragon and the couple began to rule both lands, unifying Spain in the process. In order to increase the power of the crown, the couple’s first acts as leaders of both lands were to reduce the power of the nobility.
- CATHOLIC MONARCHS
- In 1480, Isabella and Ferdinand instituted the Spanish Inquisition which was aimed at Jews and Muslims.
- Although they had overtly converted to Christianity, they were thought to be secretly practicing their faith; thus, seen as heretics by the church for rejecting Roman Catholic orthodoxy.
- The couple planned to expel the Moors Muslims who held parts of Spain in order to unify the country. Their efforts were successful because in 1492, they were able to conquer the Muslim Kingdom of Granada.
- In recognition of their role in “purifying” the Catholic faith, Pope Alexander VI gave them the title “Catholic Monarchs”.
- NEW WORLD
- Christopher Columbus in 1492, convinced Isabella to sponsor his first voyage of exploration. In turn, these encountered lands in the New World, would be given to Castile.
- After his exploration, he brought some enslaved indigenous people back to Spain. Though Isabella took special interest in them, she insisted they be returned and freed as she expressed her wish for them to be treated with fairness.
Death And Legacy
- Isabella died on 26 November 1504. By this time, her sons, grandsons, and only daughter had died too. This left “Mad Joan” Juana to become the queen of Castile in 1504 and of Aragon in 1516.
- During her lifetime, Isabella was a patron of scholars and artists. She also established educational institutions and built a large collection of artwork. In her will, she has written what she thought were her achievements during her years in throne.
- Since she had a “reputation of sanctity”, the Roman Catholic began the process of canonising her in 1958. Finally after an exhaustive investigation, she was recognised by the Vatican with the title “Servant of God” which was a step forward in the process of canonisation.