Isabella I

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Isabella I


Isabella the Catholic,

1451–1504, Spanish queen of Castile and León (1474–1504), daughter of John II of Castile. In 1469 she married Ferdinand of Aragón (later King Ferdinand IIFerdinand II
or Ferdinand the Catholic,
1452–1516, king of Aragón (1479–1516), king of Castile and León (as Ferdinand V, 1474–1504), king of Sicily (1468–1516), and king of Naples (1504–16).
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 of Aragón and Ferdinand V of Castile). At the death (1474) of her half-brother Henry IVHenry IV,
1425–74, Spanish king of Castile and León (1454–74), son and successor of John II. His weakness opened the way to civil strife and anarchy. The Castilian nobles refused to recognize Henry's alleged daughter Juana la Beltraneja as his heiress and
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 of Castile, the succession to Castile was contested between Isabella and Juana la BeltranejaJuana la Beltraneja
, 1462–1530, Castilian princess, daughter of Juana of Portugal, queen of Henry IV of Castile. Her paternity was generally attributed to the court favorite Beltrán de la Cueva, whence her name.
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, who was supported by Alfonso VAlfonso V,
1432–81, king of Portugal (1438–81), son of Duarte and Queen Leonor. During his minority there was a struggle for the regency between the queen mother and Alfonso's uncle, Dom Pedro, duke of Coimbra.
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 of Portugal. The civil war ended with Isabella's victory in 1479, the year in which Ferdinand became king of Aragón. Isabella and Ferdinand, known as the Catholic kings, ruled Castile and Aragón jointly. Although the union of their crowns was personal rather than institutional, their reign in effect marked the beginning of the unified Spanish kingdom. Isabella's principal aim was to assert royal authority over the lawless Castilian nobility. To this end she revived the medieval hermandadhermandad
[Span.,=brotherhood], a peacekeeping association of armed individuals, a characteristic of municipal life in medieval Spain, especially in Castile. Hermandades are known to have existed as early as the 12th cent.
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 and confiscated the lands of many magnates. She also took over the administration of the holdings of the powerful religious military orders (by making Ferdinand their grand master) and established the InquisitionInquisition
, tribunal of the Roman Catholic Church established for the investigation of heresy. The Medieval Inquisition

In the early Middle Ages investigation of heresy was a duty of the bishops.
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 under royal control. She was a prime mover in the expulsion (1492) of the Jews from Spain, the conquest (1492) of Granada, and the forced conversion of the Moors. She showed foresight in her patronage of Christopher ColumbusColumbus, Christopher,
Ital. Cristoforo Colombo , Span. Cristóbal Colón , 1451–1506, European explorer, b. Genoa, Italy. Early Years
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. The Catholic kings furthered learning and the arts and promoted great building activity. The style of the period is called isabelino after the queen; it combines Gothic, Mudejar, and Renaissance features. Isabella bequeathed Castile to her daughter JoannaJoanna
(Joanna the Mad), 1479–1555, Spanish queen of Castile and León (1504–55), daughter of Ferdinand II and Isabella I. She succeeded to Castile and León at the death of her mother.
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, with Ferdinand as regent.


See biographies by I. L. Plunket (1915), W. T. Walsh (1987), and K. Downey (2014); W. H. Prescott, History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic (3 vol., 1838; abr. ed. 1962); J. H. Mariéjol, The Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella (1892, tr. 1961); R. B. Merriman, The Rise of the Spanish Empire, Vol. II (1918, repr. 1962); J. H. Elliott, Imperial Spain: 1469–1716 (1963).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Isabella I


Born Apr. 22, 1451, in Madrigal; died Nov. 26, 1504, in Medina del Campo. Queen of Castile from 1474. Daughter of King John II.

Isabella’s marriage in 1469 to Ferdinand of Aragon, who became the king of Aragon in 1479, led to the dynastic union of Castile and Aragon (in fact, to the unification of Spain). Isabella broke the resistance of the feudal aristocracy with the help of the league of cities (hermandad). She subsequently restricted city liberties, laying the foundation for the system of centralized administration. With the capture of Granada, the Reconquista was completed under Isabella. Columbus’ expedition was equipped during her reign. Isabella’s religious policy was notable for its fanaticism and included the establishment of the Inquisition in 1480, the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, and the forcible conversion of the Arabs to Christianity.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Isabella I

known as Isabella the Catholic. 1451--1504, queen of Castile (1474--1504) and, with her husband, Ferdinand V, joint ruler of Castile and Aragon (1479--1504)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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