Castile, 1474-1516

During the 15th century, Castile went through troublesome years, involving competition among claimants for the crown often dividing the country into hostile factions and at times resulting in civil war. Aragon often interfered in these troubles.
In the 1460es, it was King ENRIQUE IV., without sons, and his chosen heiress, young ISABELLA OF CASTILE, who competed for the domination of the Kingdom of Castile. King Enrique arranged Isabella to be married to a crony of his, a marriage Isabel resented. She selected FERDINAND, heir of Aragon, instead, who in 1469 entered the country incognito and secretly married his bride. Enrique now disinherited Isabella and chose Juana, alleged to be an illegitimate daughter of his wife, heiress. She was promised to King Alfonso V. of Portugal.

Then, in 1474, King Enrique IV. died. Isabel was recognized as the Queen of Castile at Segovia. An invading Portuguese army was defeated in the BATTLE OF TORO in 1476. In 1479, Ferdinand was crowned King of Aragon and Sicily.

Ferdinand and Isabella ruled their countries together, thus (temporarily) creating Spain, without formal institutions. Ferdinand, by having himself appointed Grand Master of Spain's military orders, added their riches to the royal treasure. Ferdinand dealt with Castille's powerful nobility, which was kept busy with the renewed War against Granada and in 1495 took on a systematic Church Reform, a reform which made Spain relatively immune against the reformation soon after spreading over much of Europe. The INQUISITION was reorganized, became a state institution - the first instutution responsible for both Castile and Aragon - and soon, with the conquest of Granada (1492) became an active instrument of religious policy. In 1492, Spain's Jews were forced to convert or leave the country. A similar fate befell Granada's Moorish population after a futile rebellion in 1499.
In 1492, CRISTOBAL COLON (Christoph Columbus) sailed out to discover a new route to the Indies, and was to discover the New World. Queen Isabella herself was the patron of his expedition, and already in 1494, in the TREATY OF TORDESILLAS, Spain would claim it's half of the world outside Europe, most of which, at that time, still had to be discovered.
Meanwhile, Ferdinand followed traditional Aragonian policy, acquiring the KINGDOM OF NAPLES in 1504 and pushing for conquests on the African coast.

Queen Isabella died in 1504, succeeded by her daughter Juana, who was married to Philip of Habsburg (Burgundy). Ferdinand withdrew to Aragon; the inofficial union of Castile and Aragon was dissolved again. Queen Juana was mentally instable; yet the Castilian Cortes distrusted 'the foreigner', Philip, and his Flemish councillors. Juana, suspicious of Philip being unfaithful, poisoned him to death (1506). Now her father Ferdinand was recalled from Aragon and given the position of Regent; Juana (Joan the Mad) was removed to Tordesillas, where she lived for the rest of her life.

With Ferdinand being King of Aragon and Regent of Castile, the inofficial union of Castile and Aragon was restored. Castile-Aragon was involved in the War of the League of Cambrai against Venice 1508-1509, and in the War of the Holy League against France 1510-1516.
Ferdinand of Aragon did not intend for the union of Castile and Aragon to continue; he married Germaine de Foix. However, the couple remained childless; Ferdinand died in 1516, Aragon to be inherited by his grandson, Charles V. (Juana was technically still Queen of Castile).

Article Isabella of Castile, from Wikipedia, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Juana la Loca, Isabel, Fernando, Los Reyes Catolicos, Felipe de Austria, from ArteHistoria, in Spanish
Joan the Mad, from Web Gallery of Art; mere textfile
Titles of European Rulers : Castile / Spain
DOCUMENTS Treaty of Alcacovas, between Spain and Portugal, 1479, from Treaties Collection
Compact between Spain and Portugal, signed by the Catholic Sovereigns at Madrid, May 7, 1495 (Treaty of Tordesillas), from Avalon Project
Castile 1504-1808, tax revenue, posted by ESFDB
Castilian finances in the 15th century, posted by ESFDB
REFERENCE Teofilo F. Ruiz, Spanish Society 1400-1600, Harlow : Pearson Education 2001, KMLA Lib.Sign. 306.0946 R934s

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 9th 2004

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics