Visiting the remains of old Spanish forts scattered along our southern seaboard makes me wonder about how our region might have been different if not for the visionary thinking of a young queen.
Today marks the 542nd year since Isabella of Castile married her second cousin, Ferdinand of Aragon and began one of the most important royal marriages in history. Though the two worked together to unite Spain, Isabella, who had the foresight to add an autonomy clause to the marriage contract, acted independently to erase the debts her brother had accumulated and to lower the crime rate in Castile. But her most lasting claim to fame, as any third grader knows, was the funding of Christopher Columbus’s 1492 voyage to the new world. A voyage that changed the world forever. What I find interesting about Isabella is that she was remarkably modern in her attitudes toward marriage and a woman’s role in ruling a country.
The royal couple, who were known as the “Catholic Kings” worked to further learning and the arts and to promote building activity. The style of the period, a combination of Gothic and Renaissance influences, was called isabelino, after the queen. But Ferdinand and Isabella were also responsible for confiscating the lands of the lawless Castillians and even worse, for the infamous Spanish Inquisition. Despite her angelic appearance, Isabella had a ruthless side; she was the prime force behind the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, the conquest of Granada, and the forced conversion of the Moors.
Upon Isabella’s death in 1504, Castile passed into the hands of her daughter, Joanna, with Ferdinand as regent.
Happy anniversary, Ferdie and Izzie. I wonder what might have happened if Isabella hadn’t sent Chris C and his three little boats sailing off the edge of the world. Hmmm. Maybe there’s a story in there somewhere. What do you think?