Isabella of Castile facts

Isabella I
Isabella I of Castile, depicted in the painting Virgen de la mosca at The Collegiate church of Santa María la Mayor (Church of Saint Mary the Great)
Queen of Castile and León
Reign 11 December 1474 – 26 November 1504
Coronation 13 December 1474
Predecessor Henry IV
Successor Joanna
Co-monarch Ferdinand V
Tenure 20 January 1479 – 26 November 1504
Spouse Ferdinand II of Aragon
Issue
  • Isabella, Queen of Portugal
  • John, Prince of Asturias
  • Joanna I, Queen of Castile and Aragon
  • Maria, Queen of Portugal
  • Catherine, Queen of England
House Trastámara
Father John II of Castile
Mother Isabella of Portugal
Born 22 April 1451
Madrigal de las Altas Torres
Died 26 November 1504(1504-11-26) (aged 53)
Medina del Campo
Burial Royal Chapel of Granada
Signature
Religion Roman Catholic

Isabella I, 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 I. 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.

Life and reign

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.

Isabel de castilla
Isabella in the Rimado de la Conquista de Granada, from 1482, by Pedro Marcuello

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.

Her brother, Enrique IV, who was the king of Castile, wanted her to marry her off. She wanted to marry someone from Portugal to make a political ally. She secretly married Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1469, and had five children with him. The youngest was Catherine of Aragon, who married Henry VIII of England in 1509. She was the grandmother of Carlos I of Spain (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor).

When Isabella’s husband died, she was supposed to be the new queen. Her brother Enriques’s daughter, Juana, wanted to become queen instead. After a war, Isabelle became queen. At the same time, Isabella’s husband, Ferdinand, became king of Aragon. They united the lands of Castile and Aragon into present-day Spain. Isabella helped pay for four of Christopher Columbus’ trips to find the Americas. In their time, the Americas were called “The New World”. She signed a truce in 1492 that made Spain a Christian country. After she died, her daughter Joanna of Castile became queen.

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