(1451 – 1504)
Isabella of Castile was born in Madrigal, April 22, 1451 , the daughter of John II of Castile by his second wife, Isabella of Portugal. Until her twelfth year, Isabella lived with her mother in retirement in the small town of Arevalo .
After numerous intrigues on the part of her royal sponsors to contract political marriages that were distasteful to her, she finally married in 1469, Ferdinand V., King of Aragon.
After the death of her brother, Henry IV, in 1474, Isabella ascended the throne of Castile , to the exclusion of her elder sister, Joanna, who had the rightful claim to the crown. During the lifetime of her brother, Isabella had gained the favor of the estates of the kingdom to such a degree that the majority, on his death, declared her queen. Being victorious in the Battle of Toro in 1476, backed by her husband’s army, assured her position as queen and united the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile forming the country of Spain . After this their fortunes were inseparably blended. For some time they held a humble court at Duenas and afterward they resided at Segovia.
Isablella was a gracious woman and she united the courage of a heroine and the diplomacy of a statesman and legislator. She was always present at the transaction of state affairs and her name was placed beside that of her husband in public ordinances.
The conquest of Granada , after which the Moors were entirely expelled from Spain , and the discovery of America , were, in a great degree, her work. When all others had discounted the scheme of Columbus , she welcomed the adventure with these words, “I will assume the undertaking for my own crown of Castile , and am ready to pawn my jewels to defray the expenses of it, if the funds in the treasury should be found inadequate.”
While often accused of severity, pride, and unbounded ambition, these very traits oftentimes promoted the welfare of the kingdom, as well as developed her virtues and talents. A spirit like hers was necessary to humble the haughtiness of the nobles without exciting their hostility and to restrain the vices of her subjects, who had become corrupt.
The very sincerity of her faith in God and strength of her religious convictions led her more than once in public policy. However, she fell into great error and acts of violence when Spain , as a nation-state that was born out of religious struggle between numerous different belief systems, chose Catholicism to unite the nation. With the permission of the Pope she and Ferdinand began the Spanish Inquisition to “purify” the people of Spain . They began by driving out Jews, Protestants and other non-believers and committed horrible acts against those who would not turn to the Catholic faith.
Though she was known throughout the world for her beauty, virtue, piety, learning, and political wisdom, her wholesale expulsion of the Jews and other acts of fanaticism have been a black mark on her character.
Before her death in 1504, Isabella extorted from her husband an oath that he would never marry again. She had five children: Isabella, Juan, Juana, Maria, and Catharine, wife of Henry VIII of England .
Source of Quotes:
Woman: Her Position, Influence, and Achievement, published by The King-Richardson Company in 1903