Inspired by my b.e.a.u.tiful Rifle Paper & Co desk calendar, I will be dedicating a post every month to one of the fabulous female leaders portrayed in said calendar. Some posts may be a list of facts, others myth busting or perhaps even an article about their life/achievements. I’m not too sure at the moment, I’ll have to see how each ruler strikes me! I may even throw some male rulers in too, just to spice things up a bit! Anyway, watch this space.
This month is dedicated to the formidable Isabella of Castile, who held the Crown of Castile from 1474 – 1504. Mother of the famous Katherine of Aragon and one half of the Spanish Catholic Kings, Isabella is known for reviving and uniting Spain after her brother and predecessor depleted its coffers.
1) Isabella married Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1469 and together they were successful in ruling over a united Spain. Through the famous Spanish Inquisition, the crowned ‘Catholic Kings’ succeeded in the spiritual unification of Spain by ensuring any Jewish or Islamic populations were converted to Roman Catholicism or expelled entirely.
2) She expanded Spanish influence by financing Christopher Columbus’ voyage and reaped the rewards of his discovery of the New World.
3) Interestingly, much like her daughter Katherine of Aragon, Isabella required a Papal dispensation to marry Ferdinand as their status as cousins placed them within the prohibited degree of consanguinity.
4) Isabella remained the ruler of Castile even after her marriage as Ferdinand was required to sign a pre-nuptial agreement that limited his role and power to Prince Consort, this leaving power firmly with Isabella.
5) She was able to prove her political and ruling prowess early in her reign. Despite her predecessor, her half-brother Henry IV of Castile, naming her as his heir many believed his daughter Joanna was the rightful successor. Joanna’s champions sought Portuguese aid and together brought an army into Spain. Although the final battle was fairly indecisive, word spread around the country and to surrounding Kingdoms that the Portuguese army had been destroyed. This was a great political victory for Isabella as her opposition swiftly disbanded, disheartened by the news and returned to Portugal. Her crown assured.
6) Isabella led her troops into battle and spent the majority of her life on tours of her land and gave birth to many of her children in camps along the way. This demonstrated how important it was for a ruler to be out in the field rather than holed up in a distant castle irrelevant of gender and set an excellent example for her children.
7) In order to provide her subjects a personal connection to their monarchs, every Friday Isabella and Ferdinand would receive them at court so that they could make their grievances in person. This was a new type of personal justice in Spain and certainly aided their popularity.
8) To improve the crime rates upon succession, Isabella was the first Spanish monarch to utilise and active, nationwide police force. La Santa Hermandad were deployed with the power to punish criminals and restore stability and safety.
9) By establishing a monopoly over the royal mints, Isabella ensured all coinage compiled with a fixed legal standard.
10) Isabella was a great patron of education. She loved scholars and artists and encouraged their growth. She learned Latin and read widely – another trait she passed onto her children. She educated her sons and daughters equally, established many educational institutions and cultivated an enviable art collection.
Isabella was an impressive ruler who not only maintained power over her own lands but unified Spain geographically through marriage and spiritually and culturally through the Inquisition.