Women Who Once Ruled the World- Isabella I

Keyra Herrington, Staff Writer

Continuing on with the series of Women Who Once Ruled the World, we have Queen Isabella I. Isabella was the daughter of John II of Castile and Isabella of Portugal. Although Isabella’s older brother was crowned King and her younger brother was the next heir, Isabella found herself a Queen nonetheless. Being a royal heiress, the stance on who she was to marry was diplomatically crucial. King Henry, her older brother, had three suitors from other countries brought forth for him to choose from. Although, Isabella would not allow any man to choose who she married. The King aspired for her to marry Afonso V of Portugal, but without his approval, she chose Ferdinand of Aragon. The marriage created a severe strain on the family relationship and led to many issues, but they reconciled at some point later on. Although, when the King died, the issue of succession sprung to life creating the opportunity of a lifetime. Isabella was to be Queen of Castile and with Ferdinand at her side, they would unite Spain as a whole. 

A lot of the Queen’s actions were deemed in good light, she was a woman of many accomplishments. Although, her biggest and most disgusting flaw was the Spanish Inquisition which can not be ignored. The Spanish Inquisition was a movement across Spain to eradicate other religions besides Catholicism.  The main victims of the Spanish Inquisition were Muslims, Jews, and Christians. In 1478, Pope Sixtus IV issued an order for any Catholic Monarch to name inquisitors who would address the growing issue of the various religions in Spain. The first grand inquisitor in Spain was the Dominican Tomás de Torquemada. Through torture and confiscation, Torquemada was able to sentence many to death. Victims were put on display upon a stake in front of large crowds, which had many monarchs throughout, and burned alive. This continued on and brought about 2,000 deaths. With persuasion from Torquemada, the King and Queen went on to issue another order that said if a Jew was baptized they would not be exiled, this led to the exile of around 160,000 Jews. This same issue carried on to Muslims and ended in 300,000 Muslims being expelled from Spanish territories. Due to the start of the Spanish Inquisition, it further spread to even more countries and established a large Catholic faith. The force of the Inquisition remained in Spain for hundreds of years-well past Queen Isabella’s rule. Although the blood from this terror that ran through Spain for hundreds of years was on the Queen’s hands, she did make many accomplishments for her country; to which she was brutally loyal. 

Queen Isabella I was a woman who strived to achieve her goals. She didn’t back down from anyone, she was fearless and strong. Just like every other political leader throughout history and currently, she had made mistakes, but she also had some successful conquests. Her most extensive and impressive achievement was her funding Christopher Columbus on his journey to find a new way to India, China, Japan, and the Spice Islands. Although as many know, he found something even bigger and better, the Americas. With Christopher Columbus came colonization, and tying that to Isabella I is one of her most admirable actions. Isabella recognized Native Americans as equals, did as much as she could to prevent the colonization of the Natives, and forbade her conquistadors from entrenching the Natives into slavery.  She did many other things besides that major accomplishment she can take credit for. From coming to power during a civil war to uniting all of Spain, Isabella I was a remarkable woman of great power. She took a great interest in war and military strategies and weapons. Isabella can be credited with making major advancements in Spain’s military strength. Isabella may have had a rocky history with the Spanish Inquisition, but nonetheless, she was devoted to her empire.