Isabella I of Castile

Before she became Isabella II of Spain...

Isabella I of Castile was born on April 22, 1451, and died November 26, 1504 in Medina del Campo, a place in the municipality of Valladolid. She was the Queen of Castile and Leon in her time. Queen Isabella led a rich life, which is demonstrated in her many differentiating titles. The original Spanish edition of her name is actually not Isabella, but Ysabel - that translates to Isabel in modern spelling. This name, despite prior ideas, is the same as Elizabeth, but she is usually known by the Latin form of her name - Isabella. Still, the official inscription on her tomb, in Latin, is Helizabeth. And, if that isn’t confusing enough, when she and her husband Ferdinand were eventually named the Catholic Monarchs by Pope Alexander VI, she is often known as Isabella Catolica in Spanish. 

Isabella was born in Madrigal de las Altas Torres, in a municipality in Spain, and her brother Alfonso was born three years after her. The family lived a short, though content, life together until John II, her father, died in 1454. At this point, her much older half-brother Henry IV was crowned as king. Their peaceful existence was immediately put to a screeching halt when Henry ascended the throne and seized his family’s property and sent all of his half-siblings, including Isabella and her stepmother - siblings to Segovia, and stepmother to Arevalo. They were completely exiled. Henry was a fearful ruler, and it was he eventually summoned Isabella and Alfonso to court to be put under more direct supervision and control. 



Yet again, all hell broke loose in Isabella’s world - although, this time, it eventually would change her eventual future for the better. When she and her younger brother Alfonso were living under the sharp eye of King Henry, nobles were secretly plotting against the latter. Eventually, these nobles challenged the King. Among other complaints and charges against him, they forcefully demanded that poor, young Alfonso be named heir to the kingdom when Henry IV died. Surprisingly enough, Henry agreed - but only if Alfonso would marry his little daughter, Joan. Unsurprisingly, he changed his mind a few days later.

This angered the nobles in control of Alfonso greatly, and claimed him to be the one and only true heir to this throne that Henry had power over. These forces became stronger and clashed at the Battle of Olmedo in 1467, which was a draw. Alfonso, at the tender age of fourteen, died a year later. Because of this, the only one left to become the hope of the rebelling nobles was Isabella. She knew that she had to refuse their advances, and used her wits - acknowledging Henry as true king. Her efforts paid off, and, in return, Henry recognized her as the legitimate, true heir of the throne rather than his own daughter, Joan. 


Even though she and Henry were now on better terms, she was still mostly controlled by him and his power-hungry hand. He tried to persuade her to marry a number of people of his particular choice. Yet, Isabella stayed their advances and propositions and, instead, chose Ferdinand, then the heir of the prodigious throne of Aragon. She preferred him, a handsome, young Ferdinand, to the actual King of Portugal, who was one of Henry IV’s marriage choices for her. This angered Henry again, for pretty, fair-haired princess Isabella could have easily won over much more powerful men as she was seen as quite the catch. 


She evaded his evil advances again, and secretly married Ferdinand on October 19, 1469 in the city of Valladolid - oddly enough, the city in which she perished, as well. This marriage began a chain of events that would change and shape Spain and the citizen’s way of thinking and living forever.