Chances are, if you hear of Spain's Queen Isabella, you might imagine her and King Ferdinand waving goodbye to Christopher Columbus as he sails West in 1492. What you probably don't know is much about how this extraordinary leader became unquestionably the most powerful force in Europe during the latter part of the 15th Century. At the time, lineage dictated who ruled what. Isabella's was (and still is) suspect. But few can ignore her impact as the world shook off a medieval past.
Isabella was nothing less than the right person at the right time. She was a born leader, fair, honest, fearless, compassionate, intelligent and utterly devoted to Catholicism and its God. She unflinchingly shared or gave credit to her husband, Ferdinand, who often proved he seldom deserved it.
Men thought no woman was "up to" leading nations. In fact, up to Isabella's time, history was punctuated by perilously few leading ladies. Isabella was one who looked westward and saw promise in New World.
She negotiated Spanish control over much of the New World with the help of Rodrigo Borgia, the infamous Pope Alexander VI. She also annihilated all who stood against her by establishing a bloody religious Inquisition that would darken Spain’s reputation for centuries. Whether saintly or satanic, no female leader has done more to shape our modern world.
As with many current historians, Downey plumbs newly accessible original sources to deliver fascinating insights to Isabella's reign. Credit to Isabella is due. And having the author bring forward a tapestry of tales about this laudable Queen and Spain's history during this period is equally overdue.— From Bob's Book Talk
An engrossing and revolutionary biography of Isabella of Castile, the controversial Queen of Spain who sponsored Christopher Columbus's journey to the New World, established the Spanish Inquisition, and became one of the most influential female rulers in history
Born at a time when Christianity was dying out and the Ottoman Empire was aggressively expanding, Isabella was inspired in her youth by tales of Joan of Arc, a devout young woman who unified her people and led them to victory against foreign invaders. In 1474, when most women were almost powerless, twenty-three-year-old Isabella defied a hostile brother and a mercurial husband to seize control of Castile and Leon. Her subsequent feats were legendary. She ended a twenty-four-generation struggle between Muslims and Christians, forcing North African invaders back over the Mediterranean Sea. She laid the foundation for a unified Spain. She sponsored Columbus's trip to the Indies and negotiated Spanish control over much of the New World with the help of Rodrigo Borgia, the infamous Pope Alexander VI. She also annihilated all who stood against her by establishing a bloody religious Inquisition that would darken Spain's reputation for centuries. Whether saintly or satanic, no female leader has done more to shape our modern world, in which millions of people in two hemispheres speak Spanish and practice Catholicism. Yet history has all but forgotten Isabella's influence, due to hundreds of years of misreporting that often attributed her accomplishments to Ferdinand, the bold and philandering husband she adored. Using new scholarship, Downey's luminous biography tells the story of this brilliant, fervent, forgotten woman, the faith that propelled her through life, and the land of ancient conflicts and intrigue she brought under her command.
About the Author
KIRSTIN DOWNEY is the author of The Woman Behind the New Deal, which was a finalist for the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She was one of the writers of the New York Times bestselling Report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and was previously a staff writer at the Washington Post, where she shared in the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings. She was a Neiman fellow at Harvard University in 2001. She is married to Neil Warner Averitt, and together they have five children.
"Kirstin Downey makes medieval history read like a modern day thriller. Queen Isabella's life unfolded at the pivotal moment when the old world was astonished by the discovery of the new, and this graceful and insightful biography reveals her crucial role in making it happen." —Deirdre Bair, National Book Award-winning author of Samuel Beckett
"Queen Isabella was the most important woman in the history of Europe, and more than any person of her era she set the stage for modern Europe and America. Using Muslim and Jewish sources as well as Christian ones, Kristin Downey's gripping biography reveals how Isabella acquired such importance and vividly narrates the incredibly emotional drama of her life." —Jack Weatherford, author of the New York Times bestseller Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
"Kirstin Downey triumphantly restores Isabella to her rightful place in history. This is an engrossing new portrait of one of the most fascinating and controversial women who ever lived." —Amanda Foreman, author of the New York Times bestseller Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire