Isabella of Castile: Top 5 facts about Spain’s Inquisitor Queen

Spanish Inquisition founder, unifying force of Spain and defender of the Catholic faith, here are the Top 5 Facts on Isabella of Castile.

1. She helped discover America

It was with Isabella’s backing that Christopher Columbus was able to afford his voyage to the New World. Not only did this bring wealth to Spain, but the lands discovered were now owned by Castile. When Native Americans were brought back as slaves, Isabella demanded that they be set free.

2. She created the Spanish Inquisition

Isabella and her husband Ferdinand II established the Spanish Inquisition to ensure that Jews and Muslims, who had converted to Christianity, were keeping to their new faith. She also commanded that all Jews and Muslims in Spain that refused to convert to Christianity be exiled. Whether she purposely intended to influence the famous Monty Python sketch is still up for debate…

3. She was the first woman on a US coin

In 1893, 400 years after Columbus’s fateful voyage, a coin was issued in the United States that featured Isabella’s image. That same year she also became the first woman featured on a commemorative US postage stamp, when she was featured alongside Columbus on the eight-cent stamp.

4. She had a famous daughter

Of her five children, only three outlived Isabella, one of which was Joanna, nicknamed ‘Joanna the mad’ for her mental instability. However, her daughter Catherine of Aragon went on to become the first wife of Henry VIII, making Isabella the grandmother of Mary I of England.

5. She was a mature student

Isabella championed education, making sure both her sons and her daughters received a full education. She also set up many educational institutions and amassed a large art collection. Widely read, Isabella continued her own studies well into adulthood and learned Latin when she was 35 years old.


For more on the world’s greatest warriors, pick up the new issue of All About History or subscribe now and save 25% off the cover price.