Posthumous portrait of Queen Isabella I of Castile.

Queen Isabella I of Castile: What Drastic Measures Did She Take to Keep Her Power?

(Read the article on one page)

Isabella I was a Queen of Castile and León who lived between the middle of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th centuries. Her reign is notable for a number of important events, including the completion of the Reconquista, the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition, and Christopher Columbus’ 1492 voyage, which the monarch supported and financed.

Battle for the Throne

Isabella I was born in 1451. Her father was John of Castile, and her mother Isabella of Portugal. When her father died in 1454, Isabella’s half-brother, Henry IV, became the new king of Castile. Henry designated his daughter, Joanna, as his heir, though he was forced by the nobles to revoke this, and accepted Alfonso, Isabella’s younger brother, as heir instead. The young prince, however, died in 1468 of suspected poisoning or as a victim of the plague. Isabella was named by Alfonso as his successor, and the nobles opposing Henry offered her the crown, which she refused. The pressure mounted by the nobles on Henry, however, forced the king to compromise by naming his half-sister as his heiress.

Isabella I of Castile, depicted in the painting Virgen de la mosca at The Collegiate church of Santa María la Mayor

Isabella I of Castile , depicted in the painting Virgen de la mosca at The Collegiate church of Santa María la Mayor (Church of Saint Mary the Great). ( Public Domain )

In 1469, Isabella married Ferdinand, who would become the King of Aragon, a union which would later serve to unify Spain physically and spiritually. This marriage would also create the basis for the political unification of Spain under Charles V, one of their grandsons. As the marriage occurred without the king’s consent, however, Isabella’s recognition as heiress to the throne of Castile was withdrawn by Henry, and Joanna was once more named as the Henry’s successor. In 1474, Henry died and a civil war between Isabella and Joanna ensued. Isabella emerged victorious in 1479, and was recognized as the new Queen of Castile.

The wedding portrait of Ferdinand and Isabella, c. 1469.

The wedding portrait of Ferdinand and Isabella, c. 1469. ( Public Domain )

Strengthening Her Position as Queen

The reign of Henry had shown that a noble class with too much power in their hands was a threat to the monarchy. Therefore, one of the first steps taken by Isabella and Ferdinand to secure the throne was the initiation of reforms that served to increase the power of the monarchy, whist reducing the power of the nobles. Apart from curbing the influence of the nobility, the new monarchs also saw religious conformity as a means to strengthen their position. At this point of time, Spain was home not only to Christians, but also to significant communities of Jews and Muslims.

Ferdinand and Isabella with their subjects.

Ferdinand and Isabella with their subjects. ( Public Domain )

Isabella and Ferdinand perceived these non-Christians as threats to their Christian kingdom and sought to do something about it. In 1480, the Spanish Inquisition was established. This was aimed at Jews and Muslims who had converted to Christianity, though suspected of practicing their former faiths secretly. By rooting such individuals out, the Inquisition sought to “purify” the faith and the kingdom from potentially treacherous elements.

Isabella I. of Castile, Queen of Castile and León, with her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon.

Isabella I. of Castile, Queen of Castile and León, with her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon. ( Public Domain )

The Queen’s External Enemies and a Voyage to the ‘New World’

Apart from internal enemies, Isabella and Ferdinand also dealt with external ones. The Reconquista, which had been going on since the 8th century, was concluded during their reign. By the 15th century, the only remaining Muslim state in the Iberia was the Emirate of Granada in the southern part of the peninsula. In 1492, Granada fell to forces of Isabella and Ferdinand.

It was also during that year that the Alhambra Decree (known also as the Edict of Expulsion) was issued by Isabella and Ferdinand. The decree affected the kingdom’s Jewish population, who were given the choice either to convert to Christianity or to leave. Another significant event in that year was Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the New World. The Genoese explorer had successfully convinced Isabella and Ferdinand to sponsor his voyage of discovery. This would later lead to Spanish dominance in South America.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

A modern Pagan Wiccan altar set up.
Magic is one of the aspects that can be found in many of the groups that are part of the movement known collectively as Modern Paganism. According to practitioners of magic within the movements of Modern Paganism, magic is something real, and not merely a figment of one’s imagination. Nevertheless, there is no ‘one size fits all’ definition of what magic is. Several different views of magic are available, and it is up to a practitioner to decide which of these best suits him / her.

Myths & Legends

An image of Enki from the Adda cylinder seal.
In the belief system of the Sumerians, Enki (known also as Ea by the Akkadians and Babylonians) was regarded to be one of the most important deities. Originally Enki was worshipped as a god of fresh water and served as the patron deity of the city of Eridu (which the ancient Mesopotamians believe was the first city to have been established in the world). Over time, however, Enki’s influence grew and this deity was considered to have power over many other aspects of life, including trickery and mischief, magic, creation, fertility, and intelligence.

Human Origins

Ancient Technology

Representation of an ancient Egyptian chariot.
The wheel can be considered mankind’s most important invention, the utility of which is still applied in multiple spheres of our daily life. While most other inventions have been derived from nature itself, the wheel is 100% a product of human imagination. Even today, it would be difficult to imagine what it would be like without wheels, since movement as we know it would be undeniably impossible.


El Caracol Observatory at Chichen Itza (Wright Reading/CC BY-NC 2.0) and Composite 3D laser scan image of El Caracol from above
In 1526, the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo arrived on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and found most of the great Maya cities deeply eroded and unoccupied. Many generations removed from the master builders, engineers, and scientists who conceived and built the cities, the remaining Maya they encountered had degenerated into waring groups who practiced blood rituals and human sacrifice.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article