Isabella Catolicheskaya

Isabella Catolicheskaya

Queen of Castile and Leon, Consort of Ferdinand II of Aragon
Date of Birth: 22.04.1451
Country: Spain

Queen Isabella I of Castile and Leon

Isabella I of Castile and Leon was the queen consort of Ferdinand II of Aragon and played a significant role in the unification of Spain. She was born to King Juan II of Castile and his second wife, Infanta Isabella of Portugal. After her father's death, her older brother Enrique IV became the king of Castile.

Enrique IV was unable to produce an heir, earning him the nickname "the Impotent." His first wife, Blanca of Aragon, supposedly remained a virgin throughout their 13-year marriage, which ended in divorce. His second wife, Juana of Portugal, was rumored to have remained untouched after their wedding night and soon took a lover, Beltran de la Cueva. Their daughter Juana was widely believed to be the result of adultery and was nicknamed "Beltraneja" after her presumed father. Enrique divorced his second wife as well.

These circumstances, along with Enrique's incapacity, infidelity of Queen Juana, and doubts about the legitimacy of her daughter Juana, made the issue of succession a pressing matter. The nobility forced Enrique to name his younger brother Alfonso (XII) as his heir, with Isabella being the middle child. However, Enrique later changed his mind.

The nobles, led by Alfonso's supporters, fought against Enrique in the Battle of Olmedo in 1467. The kingdom of Castile was divided into two factions, with the northern provinces supporting Enrique and the southern provinces supporting Alfonso. A year later, Alfonso died at the age of 14, and the hopes of the rebellious nobles turned to Isabella. However, she rejected their advances and remained loyal to her brother, who officially declared her his heir. In Toros, in 1468, a treaty was signed between Enrique and the nobles, recognizing Isabella as the heiress to the throne.

Isabella married Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Aragon, on October 19, 1469, despite her brother's disapproval. The marriage was kept secret, as Enrique had not given his permission. The necessary papal dispensation was fabricated, and permission was obtained retroactively. Ferdinand, by virtue of the marriage contract, agreed to live in Castile, obey its laws, and not undertake anything without Isabella's consent, becoming the prince consort to the future queen.

During her nearly 30-year reign, Isabella elevated the royal power of Castile to unprecedented heights. The autonomy of the Castilian nobility and the independence of the cities were greatly restricted, and the Cortes gradually lost their independence and submitted to royal absolutism. The three military orders of Castile, Santiago, Calatrava, and Alcantara, also experienced the same fate after Isabella made Ferdinand their grand master. In religious matters, Isabella sought to limit the dependence of the Castilian Church on the Roman Curia and further subjugate it to royal authority.

Under her reign, significant events took place, including the conquest of Granada, marking the end of the Reconquista, the patronage of Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America, as well as the expulsion of Jews and Moors from Spain. In her later years, Isabella became melancholic and reclusive. She passed away in 1504, leaving her daughter Joanna as her successor.

Isabella was known for her beauty, intelligence, energy, noble character, determination, piety, and self-confidence. Despite their differences in character, she and Ferdinand had a harmonious relationship based on their shared political goals. Isabella was buried in the Royal Chapel in Granada.

Isabella had four daughters, Isabella (1470-1498) by her first marriage to Infante Alfonso of Portugal, Joanna (1479-1497) married to Philip the Handsome, Maria of Aragon (1482-1517) who became the Queen consort of Manuel I of Portugal, and Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536) who married Arthur, Prince of Wales, and later his brother Henry VIII.

Isabella's reign marked a turning point in history, and she is often associated with the increased power and influence of female rulers.