History : Mar-Apr 2018
70 MARCH/APRIL 2018 named Ferdinand heir to Aragon and the other lands under his control. Battle-tested Ferdinand appealed to Isabella. It would be smart to ally with Aragon, she decided, which was keen to unite with Castile to form a vast kingdom in Iberia. Throughout 1468 Isabella continued to be coy toward the Portuguese overtures, never outright rejecting marriage to its king, while she se- cretly entertained envoys from Aragon and discussed different marriage possibilities. By January 1469 she had made her choice, and it was Ferdinand. Some historians have claimed that Isa- bella fell for Ferdinand’s dashing reputation, that his youth and machismo tipped the scales. While this is a romantic story, it is more likely that Isa- bella was following her head and not her heart when she chose her mate. She suspected that once married to Afonso V, she would be forced to forfeit her power and become little more than a consort. With Ferdinand, she could craft a bet- ter deal to maintain her power even though she would be openly rebelling against her brother. Marriage preparations were carried out in the utmost secrecy. According to their negotiations, Ferdinand could administer justice in Castile, but Isabella would retain power as queen over every other domain. Ferdinand could not even leave Castile without her permission. The engagement remained secret, but Isabella had to make a public demonstration of her loyalty to Ara- gon to seal the deal. She did so by leaving Ocaña, the town where Henry had placed her under the careful watch of his support- ers. Without her brother’s consent, she traveled to Madrigal de las Altas Torres, her birthplace, and from there to Valladolid in northern Castile, where the pair would marry. In September 1469 Ferdinand set out from Aragon to join Isabella. Disguised as a servant, he rode in a small party of six to avoid attracting unwanted attention. Two days after Ferdinand’s arrival, the couple met for the very first time. Four days later, Isabella and Ferdinand were wed. The marriage was duly consummated on the following day, in a nuptial chamber shared with AKG/ALBUM TOUGH AS NAILS I n Isabella’s time, the Spanish people as- sociated masculinity with authority and power, a custom that shaped Isabella’s life from the start. On announcing her birth, her father proclaimed that he was father to “a princely daughter.” When Isabella became queen, her propaganda touted her qualities of strength, stoicism, and toughness. “She is strong, more than the strongest man,” the Italian courtier and scholar Pietro Martire d’Anghiera said of her. Another chronicler, Lucio Marineo Siculo, wrote, “according to the ladies who served her . . . they never saw her complain about pain, even the pain of childbirth.” In a romance about the war in Granada, Juan del Encina spoke of Ferdinand as Spain’s “brave lion,” but added, “Long live King Ferdinand! / Long live the great lioness / The prosperous high queen!” A FORMIDABLE QUEEN VICTORIOUS ENTRY OF ISABELLA AND FERDINAND INTO GRANADA IN 1492. 16TH-CENTURY ALTARPIECE, ROYAL CHAPEL OF GRANADA ART ARCHIVE A KING DEFIED Depicted as a strong figure in a stained-glass window from the Alcázar of Segovia, King Henry IV opposed Isabella’s secret marriage to Ferdinand.