January 1492. The Conquest of Granada.
No woman had ruled the joint kingdoms of Castile and Leon in more than two hundred years.
Isabella had married the young Prince of Aragon when she was a teenager –an initiative that was a great scandal at the time. Princesses did as they were told. Women, even learned ones –she was told by her siblings– did as they were told. But she was not like other women. “Ordinary” “simple–minded” they called her. Nobody thought she’d ever amount to something. The conversos in her brother’s court would eye her with interest, while the moriscos would shake their heads in dismay at her antics. “Who does she think she is?”
I will tell you who I am; I am Infanta Isabella Trastamara and one day I will succeed my brother and wear the crown of Aloes. But such a thing would be beneath her. She was after all a royal, half–divine. Or so she wanted the people to think. While God had chosen her to rule over her brother’s dominions, the decision to take the crown and not wait for the Cortes to decide who was the rightful monarch, was her own. God gave her the tools and she acted on them. She wasn’t like most girls who sat and prayed, hoping against all hope that their salvation would be delivered to them. She acted on her will, and unlike most royals of the age, including Princes, she didn’t count on anyone to rescue her.
Ferdinand had comforted her in the first days following their union, after she had discovered that they had married under a false bull. “It will be all right. It does not matter. A solution will present itself.” A warrior like him could count on spontaneity, a pragmatist like her on the other hand who knew all too well about the duplicitous nature of Castilian nobles, could not.
So, she gave excuse after excuse, buying the people’s favor with her womanly grace and the high clerics with promises of wealth beyond anything they could ever dream of. The latter gladly accepted. Like pigs who couldn’t wait to get their hands on the soiled goods of their vanquished foes, they complimented her endlessly, agreeing to her every proposal. They probably thought that once I was crowned, I would hand over state affairs to my husband. What could a woman possibly know about running a kingdom? When the papal bull was reissued, making her union with Ferdinand legal, and their (then) heiress, little Isabel, legal, she rejoiced. Her older brother was left with very little choices. He had gone back against his promises time after time, promising her to marry to his wife’s family, or his allies, to neutralize her threat; but once her union became legal, there was no denying it. She was Enrique’s true heir. La Beltraneja, that bastard born of his harlot wife’s womb, would never rule Castile. Of that, she made sure the minute she ordered her men to place the crown upon her head.
That was less than two decades ago. Now she could give a sigh of relief. Her kingdom was finally at peace. On this day, a day that would go down in history, as the greatest day in Christendom, she had defeated the Moors. She had put an end to the Reconquista, to their ambitions of expanding their empire beyond the Iberian Peninsula. The last Moorish Kingdom in Castile had been Granada and for years no monarch had dared to wage war against the Moors because they feared the repercussions of such enterprise. “What about the peace? What about our Christian brothers who are living in peace under the Infidels’ dominions as long as they pay a special tax?” Isabella had heard just about every peace offering, and like the true maverick she and Ferdinand were, had played Boabdil against his late father, weakening their kingdom until it was right for the taking. “We will starve them until their very last one cries out to Boabdil to make peace with us.”
After she and Ferdinand had received the news of Boabdil’s peace terms, she had told Torquemada who was with them now, “This day will forever be remembered as the day the Infidel’s nightmare was put to rest.”
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