Wedding portrait of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile
Ferdinand and Isabella are well-known for a few things: They funded Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the New World, and they were Henry VIII’s first father-in-law and mother-in-law. But their impact on the religious and political makeup of Europe and the world was even more significant, lasting for centuries.
When Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile married in 1469, they incorporated not only their two kingdoms but also independent Spanish dominions into a large, unified country that wielded political and religious power over much of Europe for years. Recognized by the pope as the “Catholic Monarchs of Europe” and by historians as the first king and queen of a unified Spain, the couple ruthlessly promoted Spanish Christianity, launching the Inquisition, conquering Granada, and expelling Jews and Muslims from the nation.
Tudor scholar and historian Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger traces the history of this famous couple and their lasting impact on the thrones of several European nations, particularly the Habsburg empire. Lloyd-Stanger explores the immediate impact of the couple’s marriage as the union of Aragon and Castile reshaped the European map and power structure, laying the foundation for the world’s first global empire. She also considers the individual accomplishments of Isabella as a rare female ruler at a time of male domination and how those accomplishments influenced future rulers in other countries.
In addition, Lloyd-Stanger examines the questionable actions that sacrificed other people and religions in a quest for domination. Finally, she delineates the legacy of Ferdinand and Isabella and their descendants through royal houses of Europe right up to King Charles III.
Lloyd-Stanger is the former manager of visitor education at the Folger Shakespeare Library.