Queen Isabella Of Castile Essay Example

  • Category: History,
  • Words: 966 Pages: 4
  • Published: 30 March 2021
  • Copied: 176

To this day, Queen Isabella of Castile is still considered one of the most influential queens the world has ever seen. During her reign from 1474 to 1504, it was essential for women to present themselves in a certain way in order to get the same opportunities as men. For Isabella, coming off this way was the key to becoming powerful and educated, eventually proving Spain to be the mightiest country in the world. Now in the 21st century, many of her actions and decisions are considered callous or insensitive, but those very actions were the ones that helped define her path and become as memorable as she is today. Although Queen Isabella’s notable rise to power was through her marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon, she paved her own path by continuing to uphold the newly established influence by presenting herself as a devout Catholic, marrying into a political family, and using the intellectual tools taken from religion to her reinforce her ability to form opinions that would allow her to rule better.

Coming off as a very religious, devout practicer of the Catholic faith was beneficial for Queen Isabella as it presented her to the public as a queen willing to anything for her religion, including the expansion of Catholicism. Isabella was a huge proponent of Christopher Columbus and funded his voyage to the New World. The notorious saying is that the three main objectives of this expedition were gold, God, and glory (McLane). After defeating the Moors, which she viewed as her biggest accomplishment, Isabella wanted to continue to spread the word of Christ by sending Christopher Columbus to the New World and “see how [the Native American’s] conversion to [the] Holy Faith might be undertaken” (Columbus via source 3). Columbus tried enticing the Native Americans with “many beautiful and pleasing things” hoping they “might become Christians and inclined to love our King and Queen and Princes and all of the people of Spain…” (Columbus via source 1). Because of Isabella’s endorsement and seeming patriotism, Spaniards could also appreciate the cause. Ultimately, no matter the means, the Spanish truly believed that there was nothing higher than Catholicism, and by converting the Natives to Catholicism through using force and violence, that they would have, from a “state of blindness, been raised to the common level of the human race, reclaimed from savagery to gentleness and humanity…” (Columbus via source 2). 

By marrying into a powerful family, Queen Isabella could both retain her independence and possess the funds as well as power needed to execute certain deeds and by doing so, helped lay the foundation for modern-day Spain through the unification of Castile and Aragon. Ferdinand and Isabella’s relationship was mostly transactional early on in their marriage. Isabella sought a relationship exactly like this, one in which she could be on equal par with her husband and did not have to be held back (Lunenfeld 60). Luckily, Ferdinand's father, John II, "was desperate to make a match with Castile to recoup family fortunes… and [he] would pay a large sum for the privilege and throw Aragon behind her claim to the throne” (Lunenfeld 60), allowing Isabella to have exactly the power and position she desired. However, Ferdinand and Isabella grew to respect and love each other, and “knowledge of [Isabella’s] wifely attributes received general dissemination, to the point that she has been praised for mending her husband's shirts by her own delicate hand” (Lunenfeld 69). Sadly, while Ferdinand “cheated constantly, traveled often, and was neither so intelligent or driven as his wife” (Kellem), Isabella was doing his job and only “few public occasions were let pass without elaborate indications of [her] solicitude [to Ferdinand]” (Lunenfeld 69). However, despite some challenges, Ferdinand and Isabella’s partnership was integral to their success as the Catholic monarchs. By ruling out apostates and heretics, the “bad Christians” (Nykanen), together, they were able to finish the ongoing Reconquista and establish the Spanish Inquisition that left Spain a Catholic state, leaving Spain a more unified, proud, and powerful state more than ever.  (McLane).

Through her study of the bible, the proper way at the time for women to get educated, Queen Isabella gained intellectual tools that allowed her to make her own, educated decisions, which furthered her influence and knowledge about the world around her. The Book of Hours, known as “the best-seller of the middle ages” (Fliegel) was a prayer book Isabella often used to worship. Its popularity stemmed from members of nobility, then expanded audiences to be loved by common folk (Stein).  It contained various devotional elements such as a calendar, paintings and embellishments, and readings from the gospel and about the virgin Mary. It was thought that Isabella would open her Book of Hours and read from it at the 8 canonical hours, which are 4 hours apart (Fliegel). During this time, the demand grew for books of hours: “Increasing literacy among a wider circle of the population- both men and women- expanded the market for books in general” (Stein). Additionally, women introduced this book to their children as a tool for learning how to read (Fliegel). It is a great example of how Isabella sought to expand her horizons, as she fought for education, specifically that of her daughter. Additionally, Isabella was able to use her intellect to fend for herself and step in on decisions she did not agree with, typically with the pope. In one case in 1478, Isabella rejected an Italian cardinal whom the pope had appointed. He accepted her Spanish replacement four years later (Highfield). In general, Queen Isabella “sought candidates of high standards; judged by her choices of men such as Talavera and Cisneros…” (Highfield).  This specific instance of self-advocation ensured she could be fully satisfied with her associates and therefore accomplish her tasks more efficiently. 

All in all, whatever stance modern day researchers have on Queen Isabella’s values, her infamous reign and career were built atop those somewhat controversial actions, such as her leadership in the Spanish Inquisition. Although her gender made it more difficult for Isabella to receive equal treatment from men, she paved the way as an opinionated woman with a radial, feminist approach. Isabella overcame the very obstacle that inhibited her, making a huge mark in history, inspiring young women all over the world (Lee).

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