Isabella I the Catholic, Queen of Castile

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Isabel I «la Católica» de Castilla y León, Queen of Castile

Spanish: Isabel I «la Católica» de Castilla y León, reina de Castilla
Also Known As: "The Catholic Castile"
Birthplace: Madrigal de las Altas Torres, Province of Ávila, Castilla y León, Spain
Death: November 26, 1504
Castle of La Mota, Medina del Campo, Valladolid, Valladolid, Spain
Place of Burial: Granada, Granada, Andalusia, Spain
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Juan II, rey de Castilla and Isabel de Portugal, reina consorte de Castilla
Wife of Ferdinand II the Catholic, King of Aragon
Mother of Isabel de Castela e Aragão, rainha consorte de Portugal; Juana I 'la Loca' de Castilla y Aragón, Reina de Navarra, Aragón, Mallorca y de Sicilia; N.N.; Catherine of Aragon, Queen consort of England; Maria de Castela e Aragão, rainha consorte de Portugal and 1 other
Sister of Alfonso Trastámara de Castilla, Príncipe de Asturias
Half sister of Catalina, princesa de Castilla; Leonor, princesa de Castilla; Enrique IV el Impotente, rey de Castilla y León and María, princesa de Castilla y León

Occupation: Reina de Castilla y León., Queen Of Spain, Queen of Castile, Queen Consort of Aragon, AKA Isabella the Catholic, Born Aixa; Daughter of the vanquished Arab King Muhammad XII of Granada, known as Boabdil, Queen of Majorca, Naples, Aragon and Valencia
Managed by: Henn Sarv
Last Updated:

About Isabella I the Catholic, Queen of Castile

Isabel I of Castilla, llamada the Catholic (Madrigal de las Altas Torres, 22 de abril de 1451—Medina del Campo, 26 de November of 1504) fue reina de Castilla desde 1474 hasta 1504, y reina consorte de Sicilia desde 1469 y de Aragón en 1479.

Isabella succeeded her brother as Queen of Castile in 1474. The two young monarchs were initially obliged to fight a civil war against Juana, princess of Castile (also known as Juana la Beltraneja), the purported daughter of Henry IV, but were ultimately successful. When Ferdinand succeeded his father as King of Aragon in 1479, the Crown of Castile and the various territories of the Crown of Aragon were united in a personal union creating for the first time since the 8th century a single political unit which might be called Spain, although the various territories were not properly administered as a single unit until the 18th century. The first decades of Ferdinand and Isabella's joint rule were taken up with the conquest of the Kingdom of Granada, the last Muslim enclave in the Iberian peninsula, which was completed by 1492. In that same year, the Jews were expelled from both Castile and Aragon, and Christopher Columbus was sent by the couple on his expedition which would ultimately discover the New World. By the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494, the extra-European world was split between the crowns of Portugal and Castile by a north-south line through the Atlant

Isabella I, Queen of Castile and León

Queen consort of Aragon, Majorca, Naples and Valencia, Countess of Barcelona

Consort December 10, 1474-November 26, 1504

January 20, 1479 - November 26, 1504

Consort to Ferdinand V

Ferdinand II of Aragon

Father John II

Mother Isabella of Portugal

Born April 22, 1451

Madrigal de las Altas Torres

Died November 26, 1504 (aged 53)

Medina del Campo

Burial Capilla Real, Granada, Spain

Isabella I (April 22, 1451 – November 26, 1504, reigned 1474-1504) was Queen of Castile and León. She and her husband, Ferdinand II of Aragon, laid the foundation for the political unification of Spain under their grandson, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.

The Castilian version of her name was Ysabel (Isabel in modern spelling), which is etymologically the same as Elizabeth, but in Germanic countries she is nevertheless usually known by a Latin form of her name, Isabella. The official inscription on her tomb renders her names in Latin as "Helizabeth". Pope Alexander VI named Isabella and her husband the Catholic Monarchs which is the reason why she is often known as Isabel la Católica ("Isabella the Catholic") in Spanish.

Isabella was born in the country of Madrigal de las Altas Torres, Spain on April 22, 1451. Her brother Alfonso was born three years later. When her father, John II, died in 1454, her much older half-brother Henry IV became king. As soon as he ascended to the throne, he sequestered his half-siblings to Segovia and his stepmother to Arévalo, in virtual exile. Henry IV, whose first marriage to Blanca of Navarre was not consummated and had been annulled, remarried to have his own offspring. He then married Joana of Portugal. His wife gave birth to Joan, princess of Castile. When Isabella was about ten, she and her brother were summoned to the court, to be under more direct supervision and control by the king. In the Representation of Burgos the nobles challenged the King; among other items, they demanded that Alfonso, Isabella's brother, should be named the heir to the kingdom. Henry agreed, provided Alfonso would marry his daughter, Joan. A few days later, he changed his mind.

The nobles, now in control of Alfonso and claiming him to be the true heir, clashed with Henry's forces at the Battle of Olmedo in 1467. The battle was a draw. One year later, Alfonso died at the age of fourteen, and Isabella became the hope of the rebelling nobles. But she refused their advances, acknowledging instead Henry as king, and he, in turn, recognized her as the legitimate heir in the Treaty of the Bulls of Guisando, rather than Joan whose paternal origin was in dispute. In 1475, Joan married her uncle, the King of Portugal, but their marriage was later annulled by the Pope because of their family relation. Henry tried to get Isabella married to a number of people of his choice, yet she evaded all these propositions. Instead she chose Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Aragon. They were married October 19, 1469 in Valladolid.

1492 was an important year for Isabella: seeing the conquest of Granada and hence the end of the 'Reconquista' (reconquest), her successful patronage of Christopher Columbus, and her expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain.

The Kingdom of Granada had been held by the Muslim Nasrid dynasty. Protected by natural barriers and fortified towns, it had withstood the long process of the reconquista. However, in contrast to the determined leadership by Isabella and Ferdinand, Granada's leadership was divided and never presented a united front. It took ten years to conquer Granada, culminating in 1492.

When the Spaniards, early on, captured Boabdil (Sultan of Granada) they set him free - for a ransom - so that he could return to Granada and resume his reign. The Spanish monarchs recruited soldiers from many European countries and improved their artillery with the latest and best cannons. Systematically, they proceeded to take the kingdom piece by piece. Often Isabella would inspire her followers and soldiers by praying in the middle of, or close to, the battle field, that God's will may be done. In 1485 they laid siege to Ronda, which surrendered after extensive bombardment. The following year, Loja was taken, and again Boabdil was captured and released. One year later, with the fall of Málaga, the western part of the Muslim Nasrid kingdom had fallen into Spanish hands. The eastern province succumbed after the fall of Baza in 1489. The siege of Granada began in the spring of 1491. When the Spanish camp was destroyed by an accidental fire, the camp was rebuilt, in stone, in the form of a cross, painted white, and named Santa Fe (i.e. 'Holy Faith'). At the end of the year, Boabdil surrendered. On January 2, 1492 Isabel and Ferdinand entered Granada to receive the keys of the city and the principal mosque was reconsecrated as a church. The Treaty of Granada signed later that year was to assure religious rights to the Muslims - but it did not last.

Queen Isabella rejected Christopher Columbus's plan to reach the Indies by sailing west three times before changing her mind. His conditions (the position of Admiral; governorship for him and his descendants of lands to be discovered; and ten percent of the profits) were met. On August 3, 1492 his expedition departed and arrived in America on October 12. He returned the next year and presented his findings to the monarchs, bringing natives and gold under a hero's welcome. Spain entered a Golden Age of exploration and colonization. In 1494, by the Treaty of Tordesillas, Isabella and Ferdinand divided the Earth, outside of Europe, with king John II of Portugal.

Isabella tried to defend the American aborigines against the abuse of the colonists. In 1503, she established the Secretary of Indian Affairs, which later became the Supreme Council of the Indies.

With the institution of the Roman Catholic Inquisition in Spain, and with the Dominican friar Tomás de Torquemada as the first Inquisitor General, the Catholic Monarchs pursued a policy of religious unity. Though Isabella opposed taking harsh measures against Jews on economic grounds, Torquemada was able to convince Ferdinand. On March 31, 1492, the Alhambra Decree for the expulsion of the Jews was issued (See main article on Inquisition). Approximately 200,000 left Spain. Others converted, but often came under scrutiny by the Inquisition investigating relapsed conversos (Marranos) and the Judaizers who had been abetting them. The Muslims of the newly conquered Granada had been initially granted religious freedom, but pressure to convert increased, and after some revolts, a policy of forced expulsion or conversion was also instituted in 1502 .

Isabella received with her husband the title of Reina Católica by Pope Alexander VI, a pope of whose secularism Isabella did not approve. Along with the physical unification of Spain, Isabella and Ferdinand embarked on a process of spiritual unification, trying to bring the country under one faith (Roman Catholicism). As part of this process, the Inquisition became institutionalized. After an uprising in 1499, the Treaty of Granada was broken in 1502 and Muslims were forced to either be baptized or to be expelled. Isabella's confessor, Cisneros, was named Archbishop of Toledo. He was instrumental in a program of rehabilitation of the religious institutions of Spain, laying the groundwork for the later Counter-Reformation. As Chancellor, he exerted more and more power.

Isabella and her husband had created an empire and in later years were consumed with administration and politics; they were concerned with the succession and worked to link the Spanish crown to the other rulers in Europe. Politically this can be seen in attempts to outflank France and to unite the Iberian peninsula. By early 1497 all the pieces seemed to be in place: Don Juan, the Crown Prince, married Margaret of Austria, establishing the connection to the Habsburgs. The eldest daughter, Infanta Isabella, married Manuel I of Portugal, and the Infanta Juana was married to another Habsburg prince, Philip of Burgundy. However, Isabella's plans for her children did not work out. Juan died shortly after his marriage. Isabella, Princess of Asturias died in childbirth and her son Miguel died at the age of two. Queen Isabella's titles passed to her daughter Joan the Mad (Juana la Loca) whose marriage to Philip the Handsome was troubled. Another daughter,Catherine, became the first wife of King Henry VIII of England. She gave birth to a daughter, Mary, who would become the fourth crowned monarch of the Tudor dynasty. Isabella died in 1504 in Medina del Campo, before Philip and Ferdinand became enemies.

Isabella is entombed in Granada in the Capilla Real, which was built by her grandson, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (Carlos I of Spain), alongside her husband Ferdinand, her daughter Juana and Juana's husband Philip; and Isabella's 2-year old grandson, Miguel (the son of Isabella's daughter, also named Isabella, and King Manuel of Portugal). The museum next to the Capilla Real houses her crown and scepter.

ISABEL (Doña) la Católica, Reyna propietaria de Castilla y Leon, nació en Madrid el Juéves Santo 22 de Abril del año 1451, como lo asegura el Licenciado Diego de Colmenares en la Historia de Segovia, desechando la opinion comun y corriente hasta su tiempo, de que esta gran Reyna habia nacido en Madrid. Lucio Marineo Sículo, que imprimió en 1530 su Historia de las cosas memorables de España, fué el primero que dixo que nació en Madrigal año 1449. Hernando del Pulgar, y Antonio de Nebrija no la señalan patria, ni año de nacimiento; y Fernan Perez de Guzman en la Historia de Don Juan el II solo expresa que nació en 23 de Abril de 1451, mas sin asignar el lugar. Garibay y Mariana siguiéron á Marineo Sículo en quanto al lugar del nacimiento, y á Hernan Perez en el año; pero todas estas dudas las aclaró el dicho diligentísimo Historiador de Segovia, que al año 1451 fol. 361 dice así, hablando del nacimiento de nuestra Reyna: "El orígen verdadero de Historias antiguas son los Archivos. En el de nuestra Ciudad permanece original la carta siguiente en forma de Cédula, como entónces se usaba, copiada aquí con toda puntualidad".

                                        YO EL REY.

Envio mucho saludar á vos el Concejo, alcaldes, Alguacil, Regidores, Caballeros, Escuderos, Oficiales é homes buenos de la Ciudad de Segovia, como aquellos que amo é de quien mucho fio. Fago vos saber que por la gracia de nuestro Señor, este juéves próxîmo pasado la Reyna Doña Isabel, mi muy cara, é muy amada muger encaesció de una Infante. Lo qual vos fago saber, porque dedes muchas gracias á Dios, así por la deliberacion de la dicha Reyna, mi muger, como por el nascimiento de la dicha Infante, sobre lo qual mande ir á vos á Juan de Busto, mi repostero de camas, lebador de la presente. Al qual vos mando dedes las albricias, por quanto, le yo fice merced de ellas. Dada en la Villa de Madrid á XXIII dias de Abril de LI.

"El juéves señalado en la carta por dia del parto fué 22 de Abril, dia próxîmo antecedente á la data, conforme al cómputo y letra dominical que aquel año fué C, y así consta claro haber sido el parto en Madrid, pues la idstancia de Madrigal á Madrid no puede ajustarse á tanta estrecura de tiempo". Han seguido esta opinion todos los eruditos Historiadores que han escrito despues, como Mendez de Silva, Ortiz de Zúñiga, Puente, Manzano y otros, hasta el R.P. Fr. Henrique Florez que hace crítica de las palabras y razon de Colmenares, sobre la distancia que hay de Madrigal á Madrid (a), mas no repara que la certeza del nacimiento de la Reyna en Madrid se funda en el contexto de la misma carta. Quando se refiere un caso que no ha sucedido en el propio lugar en que está el que lo escribe, se dice, suceidó en tal parte; pero quando ha sido allí, no es menester expresarlo: y así parece que el Rey, habiendo sido en Madrigal el Parto, debiera haberse explicado así: Este juéves próxîmo pasado la Reyna Doña Isabel, mi muy cara é muy amada muger, estando en Madrigal, encaesció de una Infante, ú en otra forma equivalente. La misma Reyna Católica dió en toda su vida pruebas de haber sido Madrid su dichosa Patria, por el mucho amor que tuvo á esta Villa y á todos sus vecinos, llenando su Casa Real de criados de las familias nobles de ella, como se advierte ene sta obra, y en el capítulo 66 del libro 2º. de Quintana, que trata de la nobleza de los Caballeros de Madrid. Asentado ya el nacimiento de nuestra esclarecida Reyna en Madrid, que es lo mas importante de mi intencion en esta obra, casi no necesitaba decir mas, ni explayarme en un asunto, que han tratado los mayores hombres de la nacion; mas no obstante, el afecto á que obliga á todos la memoria de esta heroina Castellana, me excitará á insinuar brevemente algunas circunstancias de su vida, y virtudes Reales y Católicas. Su padre fué el Rey Don Juan el II, y su madre la Reyna Doña Isabel de Portugal, de quien tomó el nombre y la educacion, por haber fallecido el Rey su padre á los tres años de su nacimiento. Educóse, pues, sin el regalo y la opulencia que correspondia, retirada con su madre en la Villa de Arébalo. Declarada ya sucesora de los Reynos de Castilla, despues de la muerte de su hermano el Rey Don Henrique, se desposó el dia 18 de Octubre de 1469 con el Príncipe de Aragon, Rey de Sicilia Don Fernando. El año de 1474 falleció su hermano, y luego fué aclamada Reyna en Segovia, ántes de cumplir 24 años de edad, briosa para las grandes empresas que Dios la tenia reservadas, en fatigas, viages, cuidados y solicitudes de dilatados Reynos. Para esto la dió el Ciulo unas bellas disposiciones corporales; todas sus facciones proporcionadas para formar un compuesto muy amable; el rostro hermoso, el color blanco y rubio, los ojos entre verde y azul; el mirar gracioso y honesto; la estatura mediana, el movimiento magestuoso; la voz suave y expedita; el ingenio agudo, y su modestia tanta, que aun á la hora de la muerte no quiso descubrir el pie para la Santa Uncion. El sufrimiento fué tan superiro, que ni aun en los dolores de parto se quexaba; y aun hubo lance de caminar acelerada de una Ciudad á otra, y no suspender las marchas, sin embargo de malparir en el camino. Era amiga de la fama, enemiga de supersticiones; irreconciliable con los enemigos de la fé; zelosa en dar buenos Prelados á la Iglesia; amante del culto Divino; atenta á la justicia, sin olvidar la misericordia; protegia las gentes de letras para ilustrar con ellas la nacion; y en fin tenia en sí un conjunto de prendas, qual se requiere para formar una perfecta Heroina. Esta era la que se requeria, junta con otro Príncipe como su esposo, no de ménos valor, para restablecer el Reyno que se hallaba en el mas lastimoso estado, sin justicia, lleno de vicios, y los vasallos sin Rey á quien acudir. Pero la prudencia de estos, su constancia, y el zelo de la Religion conduxo el Trono á la Magestad y altura que convenia. Conquistáron, y descubriéron Reynos y Provincias, é hiciéron otras obras, que solo en nombrarlas me dilataria demasiado. Dbilitada la salud de nuestra Reyna de tantas fatigas, viages y cuidados, enfermó en Madrid año de 1503, y convalecida, pasó á Medina del Campo, en donde la cometió la última enfermedad, que le duró quatro meses. Hizo el Reyno entre tanto solemnes y piadosas rogativas por su amada Señora, pero infructuosas, pues tenia el Cielo decretado el premio y el descanso de la que tanto se fatigó por dilatar la fé, de la que en todos sus pasos tenia por primera causa la de Dios; de la que intruduxo el culto en tantos pueblos; de la que tuvo guerra perpetua contra los Hereges y Judiós; de la que por tanto fué aclamada por antonomasia la Católica; de la que no solo en vida, sino en muerte, respiró religion y devocion. Recibió los Sacramentos con la fé que estuvo cultivando toda su vida; dispuso su testamento con gran piedad; y falleció el mártes 26 de Noviembre del año 1504. Fué llevada á sepultar á la bóveda de la Capilla Real de la Ciudad de Granada, con hábito de San Francisco, y allí yace con su esposo el Rey Don Fernando, que murió el juéves 23 de Enero de 1516, y con sus hijos Don Felipe I y Doña Juana. Sobre esta bóveda, en el piso de la Iglesia, en mdio de la Capilla mayor estan los túmulos de los quatro Reyes; son de dos varas de alto, de finísimo alabastro y feligrana, adornados con muchas estatuas de Angeles, Santos y trofeos militares de relieve y primorosa escultura, y enciam echados los bultos Reales en su estatura natural. Los de los Reyes Católicos tiene á los pies una targeta, y en ella esta inscripcion:




(a) Silva, Catálogo Real, § 76 Zúñiga, Anales de Sevilla, año 1451 p. 336. Puente, Epítome de la Crónica de Don Juan el II cap. 19 p. 281. Manzano, Reynados de menor edad, pág. 355. Florez, Reynas Católicas, tom. 2 p. 733. Hijos de Madrid, Ilustres en Santidad, Dignidades, Armas, Ciencia y Artes Por D. Joseph Antonio Alvarez y Baena, Madrid, MDCCXC, Tomo Segundo. F.G.H.I. Págs. 413-417

  • 2nd Wife of Ferdinand V:

-- +Isabel d. b: 4/22/1451 m: 10/19/1469 d: 11/26/1504 Father: Juan Mother: Isabel - 2 Isabel b: 10/02/1470 d: 1498

+Alfonso o. - *2nd Husband of Isabel:
+Manuel o. - 2 Juan b: 6/30/1478
+Margaret o. Austria -2 Juana b: 11/06/1479 d: 4/11/1555
+Philip I. b: 7/22/1478 m: 8/21/1496 d: 9/25/1506 Father: Maximilian Mother: Mary -2 Maria b: 6/29/1482 d: 1517
+Manuel o. - 2 Catherine b: 12/15/1485 d: 5/19/1536
+Arthur Tudor b: 1486 m: 11/04/1501 d: 4/02/1502 Father: Henry Tudor Mother: Elizabeth Plantagenet - *2nd Husband of Catherine:
+Henry V. Tudor b: 6/28/1491 m: 6/11/1509 d: 1/28/1547 Father: Henry Tudor Mother: Elizabeth Plantagene

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Isabella I the Catholic, Queen of Castile's Timeline

April 22, 1451
Madrigal de las Altas Torres, Province of Ávila, Castilla y León, Spain
April 22, 1451
Madrigal de las Altas Torres, Ávila, Castilla y León, Spain
April 22, 1451
- July 5, 1468
Valladolid, Valladolid, Castilla y León, Spain
July 5, 1468
- December 11, 1474
Age 17
Valladolid, Valladolid, Castilla y León, Spain
October 19, 1469
- November 26, 1504
Age 18
Palermo, Provincia di Palermo, Sicilia, Italy
October 2, 1470
Age 19
Dueñas, Palencia, Castille and Leon, Spain
December 11, 1474
- November 26, 1504
Age 23
Valladolid, Valladolid, Castilla y León, Spain
December 11, 1474
- November 8, 1480
Age 23
Volsinia, Latvislavia, Bahrenburg