Ferdinand 1452–1516 and Isabella 1451–1504

Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile created the foundations of the modern Spanish state. Through their sponsorship of Christopher Columbus, they also initiated Spain’s American empire. Ever since Muslims from North Africa had established themselves in the Iberian Peninsula in the early eighth century c.e. by defeating the Christian Visigothic kingdom, various centers of Christian resistance had emerged and been engaged in a centuries-long struggle, the Reconquista, to recapture the peninsula. In the High Middle Ages, Moorish Spain had been an important cultural center and point of contact between the Islamic world and Christian Europe. But by the fifteenth century, the Iberian Christian kingdoms Castile, Aragon, Portugal, and Navarre had won back the peninsula with the exception of the Moorish kingdom of Granada, on Castile’s southeastern border. It was into this still-divided Iberian world that Isabella was born in 1451 to King John II Trastamara of Castile. During the reign of Isabella’s half brother, Henry IV, civil war erupted, and Isabella became the rallying point for the discontented Castilian nobles. To secure peace, Henry IV recognized his half sister as his heir in 1468, thus setting aside his daughter, Juana la Beltraneja, whose legitimacy had been questioned. Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand welcome Christopher Columbus in Barcelona upon his return from the New World in April 1493. His first voyage marked the beginning of Spain’s empire in the Americas. (Brown Brothers, Sterling, Pennsylvania) To strengthen her political position, Isabella arranged to marry her second cousin, Prince Ferdinand, born in 1452 to King John II Trastamara of Aragon. Since Henry had not sanctioned the marriage, Ferdinand had to secretly enter Castile in 1469 to claim his bride. Upon Henry’s death in 1474, Isabella had herself crowned queen of Castile with her husband named as king consort, which meant that if Ferdinand outlived his wife, he could not be king of Castile in his own right. Isabella’s claim to the throne did not go unchallenged. Her dispossessed niece, Juana, put in a rival claim with the military backing of the king of Portugal. But by 1479, Isabella and Ferdinand’s forces had triumphed in the field, and, that same year, Ferdinand inherited Aragon upon his father’s death. The dynastic union of the two largest Iberian kingdoms was now achieved, although both kingdoms would continue to be governed by their own laws throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The monarchs had to rebuild royal authority, but the Crown of Aragon remained contractual in nature, which meant that the king’s authority was limited by representative assemblies (cortes). In Castile, however, the larger state with a richer economy based on wool exports, the monarchs exercised more absolute control. In 1482, Ferdinand and Isabella initiated a campaign against the last Moorish kingdom, which culminated ten years later, on January 2, 1492, with their triumphal entry into the city of Granada. Among those who witnessed this epochal event was Christopher Columbus, who had arrived in Castile in 1486 seeking sponsorship for a voyage to find new trade routes to the east by sailing west. Isabella’s resources had been tied up in the Granada war, but with the war’s completion and despite her advisers’ negative evaluation of Columbus’s proposal the queen decided that Castile would finance the Genoese explorer. On August 3, Columbus set sail into the uncharted waters of the Atlantic, and on October 12, 1492, he made his historic landfall in the Caribbean. While Columbus’s royal sponsors sought new trade routes and territorial expansion, they also envisaged the spread of Christianity. For the Catholic Monarchs (los reyes catolicos), as Pope Alexander VI titled them for the successful completion of the Reconquista, religious uniformity had been an aim from early in their reign. In 1478, they had received the right from the papacy to hold a royal Inquisition to investigate conversos, those who had converted from Judaism to Christianity but were suspected of secretly reverting in faith. In 1492, the monarchs called for the conversion or the expulsion of all Jews from Castile, and, in 1502, the Muslims of Granada were given the same choice. Ferdinand and Isabella had achieved outward religious conformity in Castile, but at the cost of uprooting vital segments of their people. On his four voyages Columbus did open new lands for conversion and laid the groundwork for Spain’s overseas empire. Prior to his death in 1506, he explored beyond the islands of the Caribbean, reaching the coasts of South America and Central America on his last two voyages. In 1503, a Casa de Contrataci³n (house of trade) was founded in Seville to control New World trade. By 1508, Spain controlled the island of Hispaniola, which would be used as a base for further exploration and colonization. In 1513, Juan Ponce de Le³n explored Florida, and Vasco Nº±ez de Balboa reached the Pacific Ocean by crossing the Isthmus of Panama. Ferdinand also increased Spain’s power within Europe by annexing Naples to the Crown of Aragon in 1504 and the kingdom of Navarre to Castile in 1512. He forged dynastic alliances through the marriages of his five children. His youngest daughter, Catherine, became the first wife of Henry VIII of England. However, the monarchs’ only son, Juan, who had married in 1497, died that same year. Their eldest daughter, Isabella, died in childbirth in 1498, and her infant son lived just two years. With Queen Isabella’s death in 1504, her second daughter, Juana, married to Philip of Hapsburg, became queen of Castile. After Philip’s sudden death in 1506, Juana, known as La Loca, was judged mentally incapable of ruling. Instead, Ferdinand became regent of Castile from 1507 until his death in 1516, when the kingdoms of Spain and Spain’s growing American empire passed to his eldest grandson, Charles of Hapsburg. Florene S. Memegalos See also: Charles V; Columbus, Christopher; Exploration; Spanish Colonies on Mainland North America (Chronology); Document:Columbus’s Letter Announcing His Discoveries in the New World (1493). Bibliography Edwards, John. The Spain of the Catholic Monarchs 1474 1520. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2000. Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe. Ferdinand and Isabella. New York: Taplinger, 1975. Rubin, Nancy. Isabella of Castile, the First Renaissance Queen. New York: St. Martin’s, 1991. Ferdinand The Catholic 1452-1516 And Isabella 1451-1504 The Stock … Mapq8Juana or Joanna of Castile, called `The Mad’ (1479-1555) daughter … Mapq8Ferdinand II Of Aragon Getty Images Mapq8

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