Isabella: The Warrior Queen by Kirstin DowneyAn engrossing and revolutionary biography of Isabella of Castile, the controversial Queen of Spain who sponsored Christopher Columbuss journey to the New World, established the Spanish Inquisition, and became one of the most influential female rulers in history
Born at a time when Christianity was dying out and the Ottoman Empire was aggressively expanding, Isabella was inspired in her youth by tales of Joan of Arc, a devout young woman who unified her people and led them to victory against foreign invaders. In 1474, when most women were almost powerless, twenty-three-year-old Isabella defied a hostile brother and mercurial husband to seize control of Castile and Leon.
Her subsequent feats were legendary. She ended a twenty-four-generation struggle between Muslims and Christians, forcing Moorish invaders back over the Mediterranean Sea. She laid the foundation for a unified Spain. She sponsored Columbuss trip to the Indies and negotiated Spanish control over much of the New World with the help of Rodrigo Borgia, the infamous Pope Alexander VI. She also annihilated all who stood against her by establishing a bloody religious Inquisition that would darken Spains reputation for centuries.
Whether saintly or satanic, no female leader has done more to shape our modern world, where millions of people in two hemispheres speak Spanish and practice Catholicism. Yet history has all but forgotten Isabellas influence, due to hundreds of years of misreporting that often attributed her accomplishments to Ferdinand, the bold and philandering husband she adored.
Using new scholarship, Downeys luminous biography tells the story of this brilliant, fervent, forgotten woman, the faith that propelled her through life, and the land of ancient conflicts and intrigue she brought under her command.
Isabella of Castile: Top 5 facts about Spain’s Inquisitor Queen
All rights reserved. Isabella of Castile should never have been queen. Her sex and her birth order should have kept her from the throne, but Isabella was a woman who defied the odds. Tough, determined, and iron-willed, Queen Isabella of Castile deftly maneuvered dynastic feuds and political rivalries. Together with her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon, she politically and religiously united Spain , routed the last Muslim stronghold in western Europe, and launched the age of exploration by backing Christopher Columbus.
Isabella I was not originally heir to the throne. In terms of accomplishments, Isabella I unified Spain through her marriage to Ferdinand II of Aragon , and she financed the expedition of Christopher Columbus , leading to the discovery of the Americas. She also completed the Reconquista but infamously expelled Jews and Muslims and empowered the Spanish Inquisition. Three years after she was born, her half brother became king of Castile as Henry IV. Though her early years were spent quietly with her mother, she was soon drawn into Castilian politics. Three years after her birth her half brother became king as Henry IV. At first the opposition to Henry IV gathered around Alfonso, but when the latter died in July , the rebellious magnates naturally turned to Isabella.
He united the Spanish kingdoms into the nation of Spain. In portraits, King Ferdinand II appears with soft, well-proportioned features, a small, sensual mouth, and pensive eyes. His literary descriptions are more complicated, although they agree in presenting him as good-looking, of medium height, and a good rider, devoted to games and to the hunt. He had a clear, strong voice. In , in the midst of a bitterly contested succession, John II named him heir apparent and governor of all his kingdoms and lands.
King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were the first monarchs to rule a united Spain. They are remembered for sponsoring Christopher Columbus' voyage across the Atlantic in But the importance of their reign was even more far-reaching. This union laid the foundation of a mighty empire. It dominated Europe and the New World for well over years.
Not only did this bring wealth to Spain, but the lands discovered were now owned by Castile. When Native Americans were brought back as slaves, Isabella demanded that they be set free. Isabella and her husband Ferdinand II established the Spanish Inquisition to ensure that Jews and Muslims, who had converted to Christianity, were keeping to their new faith. She also commanded that all Jews and Muslims in Spain that refused to convert to Christianity be exiled. Whether she purposely intended to influence the famous Monty Python sketch is still up for debate…. That same year she also became the first woman featured on a commemorative US postage stamp, when she was featured alongside Columbus on the eight-cent stamp.