Queen Isabella I of Spain

(r. 1474 - d. 1505)

Isabella of Castile was a powerful queen as Europe passed from the Late Middle Ages to the Renaissance. When she was eighteen she already favored jewels and beautiful gowns which she wore throughout her life. She had beautiful blue eyes and chestnut hair and was just striking. Isabella was queen of Castile from 1474 to 1505, and she had to fight a civil war to secure her throne. Her marriage to Ferdinand II of Aragon began a thirty five year joint rule of a unified Spain by the Catholic Monarchs. Ferdinand and Isabella succeeded as joint sovereigns to the throne of Castile on the death of Isabella's half brother Henry IV in December of 1474. From 1481 the "Catholic Kings," as Ferdinand and Isabella were known, ruled both kingdoms jointly, but it was a union of crowns not countries. The two kingdoms maintained their separate laws, institutions and governments. In 1478, they established the Spanish Inquisition as a royal council under royal control. In 1492 The Inquisition persuaded the Catholic Kings to expel the Jews whose conversion to Christianity was doubtful. 

It was typical of Isabella's political vision that she agreed to finance the expedition of Christopher Columbus which brought the New World and wealth to Spain. If it weren't for Queen Isabella of Spain, Christopher Columbus would never been able to set sail. Isabella took an interest in the Native Americans of the new lands and when some of them were brought back to Spain as slaves she had them returned and freed, she wanted the Indians to be treated fairly. 

Isabella had five children: Isabel, John, Joan, Maria, and Catherine. Of her five children, two of them were deceased before Isabella, also her grandson and heir passed on, which brought many sorrows during her last few years. Also her daughter Joanna Juana la Loca was mentally unstable and her son Charles, after Ferdinand's death, became Holy Roman Emperor. Catherine was the first wife of Henry VIII of England and mother of Mary I of England.

Through all of this Isabella found the time for education, which was very important to her. She learned Latin at age thirty five. Also, she wanted scholars to set up palace schools at her court. She also educated her sons and daughters. Isabella lived a life as a mother, wife, Catholic and queen. Her dream was for continued rule for her family, which was successful, and greatness for her country.

Annotated Bibliography

Anonymous. "Queen Isabella of Castile". <http://www.medievalqueens.com/isabella_of_castile.shtml> (2004)  accessed 25 October 2005. 
This was an informational but short source.  It gives a brief overview of Queen Isabella's Castile touching on main points such as funding Christopher Columbus's trip; but in order to find more information on that subject you would have to look else where because it doesn't go into detail; it only outlines it.  However, there is a great bibliography listed for further research including websites and books.

Kamen, Henry. The Spanish Inquisition. New York, N.Y.: The New American Library Inc., 1965.
This book is excellent on the Spanish Inquisition in general but does not provide an abundance of information concerning Isabel. Kamen received his doctrine in history in 1963, taught at the University of Warwick for most of his career until he moved to Barcelona.  Many of his articles have appeared in leading scholarly publication.

Liss, Peggy K. Isabel the Queen: Life and Times. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1992.
This is a concise work covering the main events and accomplishments of Isabel's reign. It examines her relationship with Christopher Columbus. Liss also includes a chapter on Isabel's children and the relationships they had with their mother who educated them and cherished them. For further reference and research, a bibliography and index are included. In addition to this concise source listing, there is a family tree tracing Isabel's royal lineage.

Miles Jesu, "Queen Isabel the Catholic," The International Committee for the Canonization of Servant of God Queen Isabel the Catholic of Spain. 2005 <http://www.queenisabel.org/> (accessed 7 December 2005). 
Created by the Miles Jesu (Knights of Christ), a lay organization promoting Roman Catholic ideals and service. The site offers some information under pages titled Queen Isabel and the Spanish Inquisition, Isabel the Catholic - Ready to Shed Her Blood for the Church of Rome, Isabel of Spain, the Catholic Queen, Queen Isabel and the Jews, Queen Isabel and the Inquisition. A detailed history, and ways to contribute to the canonization process are also prominent on the site. 

Miller, Townsend. The Castles and The Crown. New York, N.Y.: Coward-McCann, Inc.,1963.
This book focuses on the relationships with those closest to the Queen. Each chapter examines the relationship with a different individual. Also discussed is how each of these relationships affected her reign and policies. Miller includes photographs of castles and statues resulting from Isabella's reign.

O'Connell, Marvin R. and Lewis A. Tambs. 1492. New York, N.Y.: Wethersfield Institute, 1992.
Although this book is short in length, it thoroughly examines Spain's association with the New World and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. A major drawback however, is it focuses on Christopher Columbus more than Isabella's contributions. If it were not for Isabel, Columbus would have never been able to set sail. The authors fail to see the importance of Isabella. They do not look past the mere association. The expulsion of the Jews is viewed as an act of religion rather than a race. Before the expulsion Jews had held positions of power in Spain and under Isabel and Ferdinand. Some fellow Catholics such as Thomas Aquinas viewed this as an act of injustice. There is a short reference list included to assist the reader.

Rushdie, Salman. "Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate." New Yorker, 17 June 1991, 32-34.
This article was the most useless, distasteful, work of literature. It is not worth reading. However, it makes light of our current problems of immigration, and the stereotyping of foreigners. It attempts to explain these problems in terms of the discovery of America in 1492. It distorts the relationship between Columbus and Isabella. This article is a satirical piece written for amusement only.

Walsh, William Thomas. Isabella The Crusader. New York, N.Y.: Sheed and Ward, 1935.
Walsh provides the reader with a general outlook into Isabella's life. There is no special attention paid to a particular area of her life. The book is difficult to uses as research material. There is not only a lack of endnotes, or an index, but the chapters are untitled and there is no table of contents.

Woodward, Kenneth L. "Saint Isabella? Not So Fast." Newsweek, 15 April 1991, 67.
This article discusses the debates between the Vatican and Jewish opponents, over the issue of canonizing Isabella as a saint. It mentions that the Pope stalled this process. This article is a good source because it adds another dimension to Isabella's reign.


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URL: http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/isabel.html
Revised version by Lynn Isaacs, 7 December 2005
Original version by Melanie Filiziani, 1998
Last Revision: 31 may 2008
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