History : Mar-Apr 2018
66 MARCH/APRIL 2018 ISABELLA TRIUMPHANT Isabella symbolized a new, united Spain. In this 1867 painting (above), Eduardo Cano de la Peña depicted the queen in a saintly pose after the 1487 capture of Málaga, a crucial step toward the full conquest of Granada in 1492. Museum of Fine Arts, Seville ORONOZ/ALBUM Aragon, she politically and religiously united Spain, routed the last Muslim stronghold in western Europe, and launched the age of explo- ration by backing Christopher Columbus. His voyages would lay the foundation for what would become the Spanish Empire. At the height of her power, one European observed, “This queen of Spain, called Isabella, has had no equal on this earth for 500 years.” A Kingdom Divided When Isabella was born, Spain was not united. Instead, it was fractured into several small king- doms. Her father, John II, ruled Castile. Meaning “land of castles,” Castile had once been a small I sabella of Castile should never have been queen. Born on April 22, 1451, she was the second child of King John II of Cas- tile. The king already had an heir, Henry, a 26-year-old son from his first mar- riage, making him Isabella’s half brother. The king’s second wife, Isabella of Portugal, would deliver a son, Alfonso, two years later, making Isabella third in line. 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 rival- ries. Together with her husband Ferdinand II of Rebellious nobles support Isabella’s claim to the throne. To hold power, Henry is forced to name her his heir over his daughter. Secretly marrying Ferdinand of Aragon, Isabella defies Henry, who had hoped to marry her to the Portuguese king. FIGHT FOR THE THRONE 1451 1454 1468 1469 Isabella is born to John II of Castile and his wife Isabella of Portugal. Henry, John’s son from his first marriage, is his heir. After John II’s death, Henry becomes king. A weak ruler, he remains childless until 1462 when his daughter, Joanna, will be born.