Queen of Castileby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
"Tanto monta, monta tanto—Isabel como Fernando (As much as one is worth so much is the other—Isabel as Fernando). This motto of the reign of Isabella and Ferdinand is one of the many signs of Isabella's wisdom, discernment, and her ability to rule a kingdom. When Isabella was still a teenager, she showed her wisdom by refusing the usurped crown that was offered to her while her brother Henry IV was still on the throne and proclaiming that she would not become queen while her brother was still living. At only 19 years of age Isabella disobeyed the wishes of Henry by marrying Ferdinand V, heir to the throne of Aragon. In the same year Henry died, making Isabella his heir instead of his daughter Joan, who some people thought may have been illegitimate. When Isabella ascended the throne of Castile and Ferdinand succeeded his father to the throne of Aragon, they founded the monarchy of Spain. Their right to rule became unquestionable after suppressing a rebellion from Portugal inspired by Joan, Henry's daughter.
Although many people tried to say that Isabella was queen consort to Ferdinand V, Isabella was the one on whose strength the kingdom relied. Isabella, not Ferdinand, is responsible for most of the remnants of the golden age of Spain. For instance, the Castilian that Isabella spoke became the standard Castilian of the court, and many of her religious beliefs left strong foundations for the Church in later years. The strength of the government and the peace on the borders of Spain enabled Isabella and Ferdinand to begin a reconquest of the lands that had been rebellious so long under the reign of less competent rulers. They were successful in their efforts to enlarge the kingdom and acquired Granada, Coin, Guadix, Almeria, Loja, Velez, Malaga, and Baza. Isabella was actively involved in these wars and showed her strength of character by constantly visiting the troops and encouraging them in their labor.
Isabella was given the title Isabella the Catholic because of her extreme vision to purify the faith. As a result of this vision, Ferdinand and Isabella instituted the Spanish Inquisition, whose object was to convert all people to Catholicism and punish the heretics that rebelled against the Inquisition. It was aimed at the Jews, thousands of which were exiled from Spain or killed during the Inquisition. While Isabella's motives were just, her actions were extreme and the Inquisition made many enemies. Its greatest enemy was a group called Protestants, those who did not comply with the beliefs of Catholicism. Protestantism and Catholicism are both large religious groups today.
What Queen Isabella is perhaps most remembered and revered for is her sponsorship of Christopher Columbus's voyage to discover a path that traveled west to India. Columbus had petitioned several other monarchs who had been too busy to care about Columbus's desire to discover new lands. After Columbus's discovery of the New World in 1492, Spain's power increased dramatically through trade from the wealth of the Americas. While Isabella was pleased to have the New World under the control of Spain, she was always careful to do her best to preserve and respect the rights of the natives. While others were trying desperately to get their hands on the resources of that bountiful new land, Queen Isabella was speaking out against those who were trying to take advantage of the natives. In her will Isabella stated her concerns at the abuse that many kingdoms were showing towards the Indians.
Isabella and Ferdinand's family set a wonderful example for their subjects. Despite all the affairs of the kingdom that occupied the queen, she was devoted to the education and refinement of her five children: Isabella, John, Joan, Maria, and Catherine. She educated her four girls not only in domestic necessities, but also educated them beyond what most girls of that era were expected to know. Ferdinand rarely wore a garment that had not been woven by one of his dutiful and skilled daughters. However, despite all her efforts to teach them, all five of Isabella's children were unsuccessful and she left no heir that was strong enough to continue her great power of a Spanish monarchy.
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Women's History. December 7, 2003.