Ferdinand (1452–1516) and Isabella (1451–1504)

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were the first monarchs to rule a united Spain. They are remembered for sponsoring Christopher Columbus' voyage across the Atlantic in 1492. But the importance of their reign was even more far-reaching. With their marriage, Ferdinand and Isabella united Aragón and Castile, Spain's two most powerful kingdoms. This union laid the foundation of a mighty empire. It dominated Europe and the New World for well over 100 years.

Isabella I of Castile was born on April 22, 1451. Her cousin Ferdinand II of Aragón was born on March 10, 1452. They married in 1469, the year Isabella became queen of Castile. Their two kingdoms were formally united when Ferdinand became king of Aragón in 1479.

In the 1400's, Spain was made up of several kingdoms. Aragón, Castile, and Navarre were controlled by Christians. But another kingdom, Granada, was ruled by the Moors (Muslims from North Africa).

Ferdinand and Isabella were called the Catholic Monarchs. They wanted Spain to be inhabited only by Christians. In 1483, with the cooperation of Pope Sixtus IV, they revived a brutal organization called the Inquisition. It was first organized in the 1100's to root out heretics (people who did not believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church). Ferdinand and Isabella hoped a new Inquisition would unite the Spanish people under one religion and make them loyal subjects. Many heretics were burned at the stake.

At the same time, Ferdinand and Isabella fought to drive the Moors from Spain. In 1492 they captured the kingdom of Granada. Then they ordered the Moors—and also the Jews—to either convert to Christianity or leave Spain. Thousands fled.

That same year, the monarchs sponsored Christopher Columbus on a voyage to find a new route to Asia by sailing westward across the Atlantic Ocean. Ferdinand and Isabella supplied Columbus with money and ships. But instead of finding Asia, Columbus discovered what came to be known as the New World. He claimed the land and all of its wealth for Spain.

Meanwhile, Ferdinand and Isabella further extended their influence in Europe. Isabella gained the support of the Castilian nobles. Ferdinand, a strong military leader and a clever diplomat, brought stability to Aragón. He also conquered Naples, much of southern Italy, and part of the kingdom of Navarre. Those victories brought all of the territory south of the Pyrenees mountains (except Portugal) under Spanish control. Ferdinand and Isabella also made powerful foreign alliances. Each of their five children married the heirs of other European kingdoms.

Isabella died on November 26, 1504. Ferdinand died on January 23, 1516. They are buried together in the Royal Chapel at Granada Cathedral.


Reviewed by
William D. Phillips, Jr.
University of Minnesota


How to cite this article:

MLA (Modern Language Association) style:

"Ferdinand (1452–1516) and Isabella (1451–1504)." Reviewed by William D. Phillips, Jr. . Scholastic Grolier Online, go.scholastic.com/content/schgo/D/article/a20/100/a201004
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Chicago Manual of Style:

"Ferdinand (1452–1516) and Isabella (1451–1504)." Reviewed by William D. Phillips, Jr. . Scholastic Grolier Online. https://go.scholastic.com/content/schgo/D/article/a20/100/a201004
0-h.html (accessed November 21, 2019).

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Ferdinand (1452–1516) and Isabella (1451–1504). (2019). (W. D. Phillips, Jr., Rev.). . Retrieved November 21, 2019, from Scholastic Grolier Online. https://go.scholastic.com/content/schgo/D/article/a20/100/a201004
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SOURCE: The New Book of Knowledge


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