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marriage occurred without the king’s consent, however, Isabella’s recognition as heiress to the throne of Castile was withdrawn by Henry, and Joanna was once more named as the Henry’s successor.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

Great Pyramid of Egypt. Source: BigStockPhoto
A new set of investigations in ancient Egypt have led to some startling discoveries – the translation of an ancient papyrus, the unearthing of an ingenious system of waterworks, and the discovery of a 4,500-year-old ceremonial boat – may be the final pieces to the millennia-old puzzle of how the Great Pyramid of Egypt was really built.

Myths & Legends

A vase-scene from about 410 BC. Nimrod/Herakles, wearing his fearsome lion skin headdress, spins Noah/Nereus around and looks him straight in the eye. Noah gets the message and grimaces, grasping his scepter, a symbol of his rule - soon to be displaced in the post-Flood world by Nimrod/Herakles, whose visage reveals a stern smirk.
The Book of Genesis describes human history. Ancient Greek religious art depicts human history. While their viewpoints are opposite, the recounted events and characters match each other in convincing detail. This brief article focuses on how Greek religious art portrayed Noah, and how it portrayed Nimrod in his successful rebellion against Noah’s authority.

Human Origins

Silhouettes (Public Domain) in front of blood cells (Public Domain) and a gene.
Most people who have the Rh blood type are Rh-positive. There are also instances, however, where people are Rh-Negative. Health problems may occur for the unborn child of a mother with Rh-Negative blood when the baby is Rh-Positive.

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