|Queen Isabel's portrait at Segovia's Alcazar|
Sounds like a fairytale match destined to end happily ever after, but pragmatism governed decisions in the marriage between Fernando of Aragón and Isabel of Castile. In the Pact of the Toros de Guisando negotiated a year before the union, Enrique IV withdrew his long-held declaration that his daughter the Infanta Juana (whom many believed to be the child of another man) would be Castile's heir. With his queen in disgrace, pregnant by another man, and his younger half-brother the Infante Alfonso dead of a sudden illness, Isabel emerged as the best candidate in the succession. The Pact required her marriage, but she rejected her brother's choice and selected Fernando. He traveled to Castile under escort while Isabel wrote her brother of her intent to marry, despite his personal opposition to the interference of Aragón in Castile's political future. Isabel and Fernando met at Valladolid. They had a prenuptial agreement requiring each to support the other in the defense of their individual realms, but the terms made it clear; Isabel expected to remain in control of Castile without her husband's meddling. A fake dispensation from the papal court alleviated claims that their blood ties should prevent the marriage, a situation Isabel abhorred and ensured she had rectified some years later by a real papal bull issued from Pope Sixtus IV.
|Painting of Isabel's crowning|
Since the union occurred without the approval of Enrique IV, he judged the terms of the Pact as voided and refused to uphold Isabel's rights to succession. Instability followed, which even the death of Enrique IV on December 11, 1474, did not resolve. When her brother's demise occurred, Isabella was in Segovia and rushed to claim the throne of Castile. Back in Aragón, Fernando heard the news and returned to assert his right as king; since he and his wife had independent interests, he might have held some concern over Isabel's failure to wait to claim her rights through her husband. The Portuguese monarch backed the claim of Isabel's niece Juana (who was also his niece through her mother), whom he married. Another five years would pass before Pope Sixtus IV annulled Juana's marriage to her maternal uncle and invalidated her claim to Castile.
Isabel and Fernando had five daughters and one son. During this time, she also endured her husband's adulterous behavior, the proof being children born in subsequent years after their wedding. Fernando named his illegitimate son an archbishop. Despite these affairs, the mutual interests of Isabel and Fernando prevailed. They established the Inquisition to root out so-called heretics, rid the country of its last Moorish rulers, and maintained a highly effective rule over their respective kingdoms. While their son died before his parents, their daughter Juana inherited the unified crowns of Castile and Aragón.
History of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, volume 1, by William Hickling Prescott
Spain: the Root and the Flower by John A. Crow
A History of Medieval Spain by Joseph O'Callaghan
Spain's Centuries of Crisis: 1300-1474 by Teofilo F. Ruiz