Isabella and Ferdinand; she before he. The couple ruled together, but she was the one who created a centralized government in what is now modern-day Spain, and together they ended an 800-year holy war. It was she who funded slick sailsman (little nautical pun there), Cristoforo Columbo, to set sail to the Indies and it was she who hauled him back after he robbed, pillaged, enslaved and brought European illnesses to the indigenous people of Not-the-Indies. It was she who gave birth to five children, and she who supported the arts and education in her country.
The couple made sure their children were educated and married off in political unions although tragedy followed in their lives. Together they did some eyebrow-raising, sweeping changes like beginning the Spanish Inquisition and banishing Jewish and Muslim people from Castile and Grenada. Christiandom was expanded in the name of the church so significantly during their reigns that the pope named them The Catholic Monarchs. Because of her funding exploration, routes to colonize the Americas were opened up (that’s good or bad depending on how you look at it) and a long list of countries that we now know were, eventually, formed. She did a lot of good in her lifetime and, although the inhumane treatment of “others” is a dark portion of her legacy, she was a woman like no other.
A tale of Christopher Columbus in Two Paintings:
Queen Isabella died of natural causes at the age of 53 on November 26, 1504.
We’re sorry to say that here wasn’t a smooth transition of power after her death: her husband Ferdinand and Phillip, the husband of her heir, Juana, battled it out to be the last king standing. Thanks to nature (or with a poisonous assist) Ferdinand was the victor. Although he had been on Team Isabella for 35 years, he couldn’t fill her shoes as a ruler.
Time Travel with The History Chicks
Three bios that we would recommend:
Not a very bright or light read but very important:
And a kid’s series we liked:
The Jewish Virtual Library article about the expulsion of Jews from Spain: The Spanish Expulsion (1492) and another article about How Muslims and Christians view the Crusades differently
Matt Iman of The Oatmeal explains Christopher Columbus, as do the fine folks at Biography.com, and an NPR piece about a painting in the Vatican, commissioned by Pope Alexander VI (Borgia) that was restored and revealed the first images of the indigenous people of the ” New World.”
Queen Isabella and the game of chess...she not only had influence over the world, but over the game boards, too!
Perkin Warbeck, possible former prince in the tower, possible fraud…it’s a big mystery. He wrote to Isabella but it wasn’t enough to spare his life.
Kirsten Downey giving a talk on Isabella with a Q & A at the Library of Congress:
Tides of History has a couple of podcasts that talk in more detail about the Reconquista and the Spanish Inquisition. There is a new podcast, with a lot of cussing so you’ve been warned, called History Uncensored that did a deep dive into the life of Christopher Columbus.
TudorCon! This is Isabella adjacent. Heather Teysco of Renaissance English History Podcast is producing TudorCon at a winery near the Pennsylvania RenFest grounds in Manheim PA on October 18-20, 2019. You can get 10% off your ticket to party like it’s 1509 by using the code CHICKS at this link, TUDORCON. We can’t go, but if you do please report back–it looks like there are a lot of really great events planned!
It’s in Spanish, but Isabel la Católica, a historical fiction series is on Amazon Prime Streaming, Dan Snow’s Battle Castle is also on Amazon Prime, episode 6 is about Malaga. If you ponied up for the Starz subscription on Amazon Prime, you can watch The Spanish Princess (high drama, decent entertainment, some sexy scenes, and a hefty dose of historical inaccuracies.)
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