Isabella of Castile: a bio full of mistakes

Isabella of Castile: a bio full of mistakes
Isabel del Rio

Isabella of Castile, Ysabel I in old Spanish, and also Isabel I ‘the Catholic Queen’ (Madrigal de las Altas Torres, 22 April 1451- Medina del Campo, 26 November 1504).

Isabella of Castile

Isabella of Castile

I’m Spanish. Then, from the beginning, I was familiarized with the queen Isabella, founder of my country in 1569 when she married Ferdinand of Aragon, her cousin and heir of the other half part of lands of future Spain.

I can remember my old scholar books. The idea was: ‘That exceptional woman was unique at her time. In fact, she didn’t have a feminine personality but masculine. Then, she could order, to take decisions and to organize the first modern state of Europe.’ (Amen).

Afterwards, I studied History and… surprise! Very many books (‘serious’ books) continued saying those nonsenses.

Sexism? Yes, of course, because to believe women are unable of properly commanding is an irrational idea repeated along the History (anyone? Never ever?). Same happened with Christina of Sweden, and they even unearthed the corps to check she was a woman (‘How was that possible if she was clever?’). Too much.

Isabella de Castile was a handsome young woman, blond and smartly dressed. All of the testimonies of her time claim her appearance caused great sensation (for example, her entry in Seville being still a princess or the letters of foreign ambassadors). It’s famous that some priests (Cardinal Cisneros) advised her to dress with less expensive jewelry.

Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon

Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon

She had more than six children and was a sweet mother, who liked endeavoring and the feminine hobbies of the 15th century.

Her childhood was terrible sad. Closed in a castle in Arevalo (Avila) and taking care of his insane mother. Once his father died (John II of Castile), she was surrounded by intrigues and her only friend was Beatriz of Bobadilla, the daughter of the warden, and a very important person for the Spanish and American future, as I’ll explain.

Therefore, her education and habits were really feminine, far of that image (spread in novels and films) of an ugly and angry queen, wearing black clothes and all of the time praying.

She was a princess of the Renaissance, very fond of arts (she collected Flemish paintings) and writing (she had a personal library of about 200 manuscripts).

Her passion for reading was so great that she called Beatriz Galindo from Salamanca University to teach her Latin and other languages.

Beatriz of Bobadilla? Beatriz Galindo? Who were these women? Only Little friends?

Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile

Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile

In this point, maybe we find the biggest mistake of Isabella’s bio. We can understand nothing if we are so full of prejudices about all times thinking ancient women neve had power or successful works or created masterpieces. In those years, Lucia de Medrano was also professor in Salamanca University, and 10 years later Maria Pacheco commanded an army (about old woman artist, I wrote about: I found more than 200 successful painters).

Isabella of Castile was the most powerful person of her time by law, her husband was only an equal), and she had a permanent cabinet of ministers. Two of them were women.

In fact, Beatriz of Bobadilla was her first minister and when Columbus arrived at Spain, he knew he had to speak with her, and was her who supported the idea of the trip to America and proposed how to pay the expedition.

Same happens with Beatriz Galindo. She was not only a translator, she managed the official correspondence (and the secret too). She was paid with titles of nobility and lands, because the queen was paying a minister and not a teacher. (In Madrid, we can still see the ruins of an old hospital paid by Beatriz Galindo to help poo people).

When Charles I, grandson of Isabella, came to Spain to be King (after the succession problems), the first thing he did, it was to meet Beatriz Galindo, old and retired in her farm. To receive Latin lessons? No, he needed the secret documents of his grandfathers.

Therefore, Isabella was not a strange being, and some historiography should be rewritten because lack of common sense and its writers seem the strange beings.

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Isabel del Rio

Managing Editor at Yareah® Magazine. Author of ‘Ariza’ (2008) and ‘The Girls of Oil’ (2010)

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