Queen Consort of Aragon, Majorca, Naples, and Valencia
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Here Isabella was educated in all manners of queenly disciplines and her life improved considerably, but Henry did put one limiting condition on her - she was forbidden to leave Segovia without his permission. Henry claimed this was to keep Isabella from the political turmoil brewing in the kingdom over his choice of heir (his new daughter Joanna), but it could have also been to restrict her access to the rebelling noblemen.
The nobles, however, had no problem speaking with her younger brother Alfonso, and he instigated the Second Battle of Olmedo in 1467, demanding that he be made Henry's heir. As a compromise, Henry named Alfonso the Prince of Asturias, a title that would be given to the heir apparent of both Castile and Leon, and thought about marrying his daughter Joanna to Alfonso. But Alfonso didn't have long to enjoy his new role; he soon died, probably a casualty of the plague. Alfonso had named Isabella his successor in his will, and the title passed to her.
Rather than continue the rebellion against her older brother, Isabella met with Henry at Toros de Guisando and negotiated a permanent peace settlement. Henry would officially name Isabella as his heir, but she would not be allowed to marry without his consent. However, Henry could also not force her to marry against her will. Both parties pleased with their settlement, Henry began his search for a fitting husband for his younger sister.
Henry fails at matchmaking
Soon after in 1464, Henry attempted to marry Isabella off to King Edward IV of England, but Edward also refused. Many attempts were then made to wed the girl to Alfonso V of Portugal, but she refused him at the altar due to his old age.
The Castilian's personal soap opera continued with Isabella's betrothal to Pedro Giron, the brother of Henry's favorite Don. Isabella prayed feverishly that the marriage be called off, as Don Pedro was 27years older than she. Isabella fervently believed that God had answered her plea, as the Don died from a burst appendix on the way to greet his fiancée.
Next up in Henry's shrinking line of suitors was Louis XI's brother Charles, Duke of Berry. At this point Isabella had had enough of Henry's thinly veiled attempts to remove her from the line of succession with a poor political marriage, and she began to negotiate with John II of Aragon in secret to once again secure a marriage to his son Ferdinand.
Ferdinand and the fight for the Throne
However, Isabella refused to marry without the dispensation, as she was by this point a very devout woman. Ferdinand sought the help of Rodrigo Borgia in Rome (later Pope Alexander VI) and presented Isabella with a "Papal Bull" from Pius II. The probable forgery was good enough for her and she quickly agreed to the marriage. With the excuse of visiting her brother's tomb in Avila, Isabella managed to escape Henry's sight and Ferdinand slipped into Castile disguised as a merchant. Isabella's rather Shakespearian journey ended on October 19, 1469 when she wedded Ferdinand in Valladolid.
Henry found out about the marriage rather quickly after this, and pleaded with the Pope to dissolve the marriage. The new Pope, Sixtus IV, didn't have any of his predecessor's qualms about Castilian hostilities and instead gifted the wedded couple a real Papal Bull, thwarting Henry.
A few years later in 1474, Henry died and a succession war broke out across Castile. Portugal supported Henry's daughter, Joanna, to take the throne, but Isabella had the support of Aragon (through Ferdinand) and later France. The war dragged on for four years, but ultimately Sixtus IV again came to Isabella's rescue. The Pope annulled Joanna's marriage to Alfonso V of Portugal, ironically on the grounds of their close familial relationship. Joanna was forced to renounce her titles of Princess and Queen of Castile, and the throne passed to Isabella on January 20, 1479.
The early years of Isabella's reign mostly involved solidifying her power base and continuing the Reconquista (Recapturing) of the Iberian Peninsula. However, her reign became memorable, in the momentous year of 1492.
Spanning seven centuries, a lengthy war known as the Reconquista was fought by the Iberian monarchs, who were attempting to regain control of the region and force the Muslims out. For the last 200 of these years, the Emirate of Granada remained the final stronghold of the Muslim dynasties on the Iberian Peninsula. Isabella and Ferdinand continued the war and led a determined raid into the kingdom starting in 1482. Isabella often took it upon herself to rally her soldiers by praying in the middle of the battlefield, and even built her stronghold outside the city of Granada in the shape of a cross, believing she was doing God's will. Eventually Isabella's forces were victorious and she signed the Treaty of Granada, ending the Reconquista after 700 years of fighting.
Earlier in her reign, Isabella had been approached by a young explorer by the name of Christopher Columbus, who sought funding for a new expedition to reach the Indies by sailing west. Her advisors judged his plan impractical and believed that his proposed distance to Asia was much too short to be possible. However, instead of turning him out as Portugal had done, Isabella gave him a small annual allowance and free lodging in all her cities. He continued to try and sell his plan to the monarchs, and they continued to decline.
Upon returning from Granada, Isabella was again approached by Christopher Columbus. On the advice of her confessor, Isabella this time firmly turned him down. As Columbus was leaving Córdoba in despair, Ferdinand quickly convinced Isabella to change her mind. She sent a royal guard to fetch him and began to draw up plans for funding. Columbus left on his fateful voyage on August 3, 1492, and landed in America on October 12. Isabella and Ferdinand's patronage of the intrepid explorer began Spain's Golden Age of exploration and colonization.
No One Expects the Inquisition
A Dominican friar, Tomás de Torquemada became the first Inquisitor General and pushed the two monarchs to pursue a more active policy of religious unity. While Isabella was loathe to take harsh measures against the Jews in her kingdom (for purely economic reasons), Torquemada was able to convince Ferdinand and through him, Isabella. The Alhambra Decree was signed on March 31, 1492, calling for the forced expulsion of the Jews. About 200,000 Jews immediately left Spain while some others converted, but this latter group fell under strict scrutiny of the Inquisition.
The Muslims in the Granada region, who had originally been granted religious freedoms, were pressured to convert. After many Muslims revolted, a policy was enacted to force conversion or expulsion, much like with the Jews.
The Later Years
Isabella died in 1504 and was entombed in the Royal Chapel of Granada.