Ferdinand II of Aragon
Rex Catholicissimus
Portrait by Michel Sittow
King of Aragon, Valencia, Majorca and Count of Barcelona
Reign20 January 1479 – 23 January 1516
PredecessorJohn II
SuccessorCharles I and Joanna I
Count of Roussillon and Cerdanya
Reign19 January 1493 – 23 January 1516
PredecessorCharles VIII
SuccessorCharles I and Joanna I
King of Sardinia
Reign20 January 1479 – 23 January 1516
PredecessorJohn II
SuccessorCharles I and Joanna I
King of Sicily
Reign27 June 1468 – 23 January 1516
PredecessorJohn II
SuccessorCharles I and Joanna I
King of Naples
Reign31 March 1504 – 23 January 1516
PredecessorLouis XII
SuccessorCharles I and Joanna I
King of Navarre
Reign24 August 1512 – 23 January 1516
PredecessorJohn III and Catherine
SuccessorCharles I and Joanna I
King of Castile and Leon
Reign15 January 1475 – 26 November 1504
PredecessorHenry IV
SuccessorPhilip I and Joanna I
Co-regentIsabella I
Regent of the Crown of Castile
Reign17 August 1506 – 23 January 1516
PredecessorFrancisco de Cisneros
SuccessorFrancisco de Cisneros
Count of Ribagorza
Reign25 July 1458 – 27 June 1468
PredecessorJohn II
SuccessorAlfonso de Aragón y Escobar
Born10 March 1452
Sos del Rey Católico, Aragon
Died23 January 1516 (aged 63)
Madrigalejo, Extremadura
Burial10 November 1521
Spouse
(m. 1469; died 1504)
(m. 1506)
Issue
Detail
HouseTrastámara
FatherJohn II of Aragon and Navarre
MotherJuana Enríquez
ReligionRoman Catholicism
Signature

Ferdinand II (Aragonese: Ferrando; Catalan: Ferran; Basque: Errando; Spanish: Fernando; 10 March 1452 – 23 January 1516), also called Ferdinand the Catholic, was King of Aragon and Sardinia from 1479, King of Sicily from 1469, King of Naples (as Ferdinand III) from 1504 and King of Navarre (as Ferdinand I) from 1512 until his death in 1516. He was King of Castile and Leon (as Ferdinand V) from 1475 to 1504, alongside his wife Queen Isabella I. From 1507 to 1516, he was the Regent of the Crown of Castile, making him the effective ruler of Castile. From 1511 to 1516, he styled himself as Imperator totius Africa (Emperor of All Africa) after having conquered Tlemcen and making the Zayyanid Sultan, Abu Abdallah V, his vassal.[1] He was also the Grandmaster of the Spanish Military Orders of Santiago (1499-1516), Calatrava (1487-1516), Alcantara (1492-1516) and Montesa (1499-1516), after he permanently annexed them into the Spanish Crown. He reigned jointly with Isabella over a dynastically unified Spain; together they are known as the Catholic Monarchs. Ferdinand is considered the de facto first King of Spain, and was described as such during his reign (Rex Hispaniarum), even though, legally, Castile and Aragon remained two separate kingdoms until they were formally united by the Nueva Planta decrees issued between 1707 and 1716.[2]

The Crown of Aragon that Ferdinand inherited in 1479 included the kingdoms of Aragon, Valencia, Majorca, Sardinia, and Sicily, as well as the principality of Catalonia. His marriage to Queen Isabella I of Castile is regarded as the "cornerstone in the foundation of the Spanish monarchy".[3] Ferdinand played a major role in the European colonization of the Americas, from drawing up the Capitulations of Santa Fe (anticipating a rogue Columbus) to having his personal accountant, Luis de Santangel, undertake more than half the cost (2 million maravedis of the total 3 million) of sponsoring Christopher Columbus first voyage in 1492 (ensuring the Crown was virtually risk-free in this great gamble) to prudently negotiating the terms with John II of Portugal for the Treaty of Tordesillas. That same year, the couple defeated Granada, the last Muslim state in Western Europe, thus completing the centuries-long Reconquista.

Ferdinand was King of the Crown of Castile until Isabella's death in 1504, when their daughter Joanna became Queen. That year, after a war with France, Ferdinand conquered the Kingdom of Naples. In 1507 he became Regent of Castile (as Rey Señor de Castilla) on behalf of his mentally unstable daughter Joanna. In 1506, as part of a treaty with France, Ferdinand married the niece of King Louis XII of France and the sister of Gaston of Foix (the Thunderbolt of Italy), Germaine of Foix. There were no surviving children from this union. In 1512 Ferdinand conquered the Kingdom of Navarre, ruling all the territories comprising modern-day Spain until his death in 1516. He was succeeded by his eldest surviving child, Joanna and his grandson, Charles. Ferdinand's great-grandson Phillip II of Spain, while staring at a portrait of him, is recorded to have said "We owe everything to him".[4] Modern historian John Elliott concluded "in so far as it [the establishment of the Spanish Empire] can be attributed to any particular set of policies and actions, they were those of King Ferdinand and Cardinal Cisneros."[5]

Early life

Ferdinand was born on 10 March 1452, in the town of Sos del Rey Católico, Kingdom of Aragon, as the son of John II of Aragon by his second wife, Juana Enríquez.[6] He was hailed as a child prodigy by John. Age just 8 years, Ferdinand managed to beat his father, his mother, his mentor; Joan Margarit i Pau and other members of the court every single time they played chess or checkers.[7] As a child, he excelled at pretty much all physical activities required of a royal prince. In the words of Hernando del Pulgar: " [Ferdinand] was a very good equestrian, jouster and lance thrower, and did all the things that a Prince ought to with such ease and with such skill, that no one his age, in all his kingdoms, did it better."[8] And from a very young age, he seemed to have developed a great sense of humility and respect toward people of "low birth" (especially his constant servants).[9]

Ferdinand's armour.
Ferdinand's armour.

A Prince of the Sword

Ferdinand was born during a period of turbulence, with King John II and his son, Charles, Prince of Viana (Ferdinand's elder half-brother) embroiled in open conflict.[10] Ferdinand was by no means meant to inherit the Crown of Aragon. That privilege was reserved for Charles but John II was not having it. Within the Crown of Aragon, John had the support of Aragon, Sardinia, Sicily, Majorca and the Remences of Catalonia while Charles had the support of Catalonia and Navarre. Valencia chose to remain neutral while Louis XI of France and Henry IV of Castile allied with John and Charles respectively.[11] After Charles' unexpected death on 23 September 1461, Ferdinand was made John's undisputed heir.[12]

In February 1462, Civil war broke out in Catalonia with the commencement of the First War of the Remences led by Francesc de Verntallat.[13] The peasants revolted against the Consell del Principat with the hope of receiving royal support. On 11 March, Queen Juana sensing danger, departed Barcelona for Girona, with the 10-year old Prince Ferdinand in tow. They hoped to receive protection from the French garrison stationed in Girona. In May, the deputy leader of the Consell, Francesc Pallarès, along with two other former leaders, were executed by the Generalitat for colluding with the Queen. This meant civil war, once more.[14]

An army of the Consell was formed and placed under the command of Hug Roger III, Count of Pallars Sobira. After besieging and capturing Hostalric on 23 May, Roger marched on Girona, where he was received warmly on 6 June while the Queen and the Prince took refuge in the citadel, Força Vella, all throughout June. Gaston IV, Count of Foix, leading a French army, took Girona on 23 July and rescued the Queen and Prince.

By this time, King John II and King Louis XI had signed the Treaty of Sauveterre (3 May) and the Treaty of Bayonne (9 May) in which Louis pledged 4,200 French Knights to John's cause in return for 200,000 escut as payment. And until the payment was made, Louis received Roussillon and Cerdagne as collateral, along with the right to garrison Perpignan and Cotlliure.[15]

With this, the Consell named John II "an enemy of Catalonia" and offered the Principality to three different foreigners; Henry IV of Castile, Peter of Coimbra and René of Anjou.[16][17] The War waged on until John II and Prince Ferdinand entered Barcelona in 1471 and the Consell signed the Capitulation of Pedralbes. Here, Ferdinand displayed his magnanimity by convincing his father to issue a general pardon to all their former opponents (except Hugh Roger III).[18][19]

Inbetween 1463 and 1469, Ferdinand had managed to bag multiple victories against all manner of foes (the French led by the Duke of Lorraine, the Castilians led by John of Beaumont, the Portuguese led by the Constable of Portugal and the Catalans led by the Count of Pallars Sobira).[20] Some of his notable victories were at Vildamat, Berga, Alt Emporda, Els Prats del Rei, Bellegarde, Collioure, and Salses. He also led the liberation of Navarre from the French, when he, along with his father, entered Perpignan on 1 February 1473 amidst jubilation.[21]

By the time he was just 17, he was a proven battlefield commander and a shrewd diplomat (earning praise from Louis XI of France himself).[22][23] In 1473, he was made a Knight of the Golden Fleece by Charles, Duke of Burgundy.

Appearance and personality

Ferdinand the Catholic
Ferdinand the Catholic

The prince had marvelously beautiful eyes, which were large, almond-shaped, and laughing; thin eyebrows, very sharp nose, of such size and form that were demanded for a good-looking face; mouth and lips slightly large; and since youth is, by its nature, very prone to laugh, in this prince, the joy of the heart was written on his face, and thus as it always happens, mouth is then of more open features. His whole face was white, cheeks were red-colored, the beard at the time, given the tender youth, was small and very well set, in such place where it fitted best; he had brown straight and flowing hair, cut in keeping with the fashion of the times; his neck was well formed, fitting the stature of his body, which was medium, neither tall, nor small, but of such size, where smart and refined clothes fitted well; his legs were very handsome and well-chiseled; his entire appearance, face, and body were of a gallant, on whom the royal or modest garments looked better than on any other man of his court, to such extent, that he was seen as both an elegant man and king. He was a great rider of the bridle and the jennet, great lance thrower as well as other things in everything he did, he had very good skill and grace.

— Zuan Badoer[24]

A young man of twenty-two years, nine months and twenty-three days of age, of medium and well-composed stature; his face is serious, white and handsome; he has brown hair, light eyes with lively gravity; his nose and mouth are small; his cheeks and lips are red-colored, his neck and back are well formed; he has clear and calm voice, walks and rides a horse very energetically.

This King was a man of middle stature, of well-proportioned members and well-composed features of his face, of laughing eyes, straight and dark hair; he was a well-built man. When he spoke he did not do it either too quickly or too slowly. He was of good understanding, very moderate in both eating and drinking, and in the way, he moved because neither rage nor pleasure altered him greatly. He was a keen hunter of birds, a man of good effort and very hard-working and resilient on wars. Through his natural condition, he was inclined to administer justice, and he was also pious, he took pity on those miserable people who he saw were in distress. He had so singular a grace that everyone who talked to him, came to love him, and wanted to serve him because he was of very friendly communication. He likewise paid attention to the advice, especially that coming from the Queen, his wife, because he knew her great competence and discretion. Since childhood, he was raised at wars, where he went through many labors and dangers. And because all his income was spent on wars he had, he was in constant need. We can not say that he was generous. He was a man of truth, although the great need in which wars put him made him sometimes deviate. He liked to play all the games; such as checkers, chess and ball games; and when he was a young man, he spent on it more time than he ought to. Although he loved the Queen, his wife greatly, he gave himself to other women. He likewise was a man who took time to change things at times, but more because of petitions and inopportuneness of others that because of his own interest and will. He was a man who treated everyone very well, particularly his constant servants.

The King is a man of medium stature, his countenance is between serious and smiling, he is of great intelligence, healthy complexion, and 44 or 45 years old. After having his kingdoms calmed and the governance of the land put on a good way, he occupies himself a great deal with religious needs, restoring ruined temples and building new ones. He likes to hunt, for it’s a beneficial exercise for the body and preserves health for a long time.

— Jeronimo Munzer[27]

King Ferdinand was of medium stature, all his members were well proportioned. He was fair with very gracious luster, with a happy and glowing aspect; his hair was straight and of nearly light chestnut color; his eyebrows were of the same color as the hair, and separated one from another; his eyes were light and nearly smiling; the nose was small and well-formed, fitting other features of the face; his cheeks were like red roses; his mouth was small and good-looking; he had red-colored lips, which resembled coral; his teeth were white and small; his beard was venerable and of much authority, the nape was neither fat, nor thin, neither long, nor short; he had high-pitched voice; his way of speaking was poised and gracious; of great intelligence and wit, and of good judgement; of kind and liberal spirit; very prudent in advice; affable in his habits, without any grief, he walked and moved like a great lord and true King. He was very serious in his acts and speeches; his appearance was of marvelous dignity. Marvelously, he was never seen angry or sad. He was very temperate in eating and drinking. Because neither he ate many times, nor drank more than twice during the meal. He never ate (even if he was on the road) without attending the mass first, and always a prelate or priest blessed his table, and he thanked God after the meals. He was very neat in all the things. He used modest clothes, at times; particularly on solemn occasions and during great festivities, he wore a necklace or golden chain, decorated with pearls and other precious stones. He enjoyed horse riding because since childhood he was a good rider of the bridle and the jennet. He exercised in jousting and games of cañas, in which he surpassed many other strong Caballeros, who were experienced in this discipline of chivalry. He was a great thrower and well trained in military art. He was of enormous endurance at work, both at war and business. He favored justice and demanded a very tight account from those who exercised it. He showed clemency and humanity around those who were distraught and miserable. He was also very gracious and affable with women and his children. He greatly loved and honored wise and virtuous men, and willingly paid attention to their advice, and he loved the Caballeros no less, particularly those of his household. When he was a youngster he dedicated himself to games such as ball game and chess, and he also played cards towards the end of his days. He also had an inclination to hunting, in which he found great delight; but he preferred hunting birds to other animals.

Many lords spiritual and temporal, also many knights, attend upon the King. He rises before 6, and by 8 hath heard two masses, after which he goes to dinner, where every man may see him. Is a good feeder, and drinks two great draughts of wine and water; never sits more than half an hour at table, and none sit with him. After he hath dined all the lords and others go to their own lodgings to dine.

— James Braybroke, Francis Marsin and John Stile[29]

His actions, words, habits, as well as opinion that exists today, prove that he is a prudent and very private man, who speaks of important matters only when it is necessary; also one can not be more patient than he is, he lives in great order, spending his time on all difficult and most relevant matters of the kingdom, and everything goes through his hands, to a great extent he is the one who resolves all the matters and gives orders. He is thought to be a fan of profit, which reduces expenses when it can be done. He is skillful with weapons, and he had proved it before he became king, and afterward; he appears to be very religious, speaking of God with great respect, and relating everything to Him, he shows great religiosity in the godly solemnities and ceremonies, which is certainly common for the entire nation. He is not a man of letters but he is kind, and it is easy to obtain audience with him, and his answers are selfless and very careful, and only a few leave displeased, at least upon his words, but it’s said many times he does not keep his promises, because he believes that when situations that occur make him change the goals, therefore he does not consider keeping his promises; it seems to me that he knows how to camouflage himself more than other people, but I don’t know if it is true or imputed defect, for as we can notice, the fame acquired by some prudent men always is accompanied by suspicion; in a word, he is a very esteemed king, with great and many talents; he is accused of not being liberal enough, and of not keeping his word, but in all other matters his kindness and prudence shine; he is not a big-head and ill-conceived words that would be improper for prudent and fair man never come from his mouth.

Unless Ferdinand throws off his appetites he must soon go the way of all flesh. He is 63, besides his asthma, it is now winter, and the country is very cold, yet he talks like a young man of going to the mountainous country of Leon, because he hears that bears are to be found there. If he does not part with one rib, he will lose all. Charon will carry in his boat both him and Louis if they are not careful.

Ferdinand always appeared happy in front of the ambassadors, and no part of him was displeased, and he was loved as if he were Emperor Vespasian himself.

— Alvaro Fernandez de Cordova[32]

Marriage and accession

The wedding ceremony of Ferdinand and Isabella
The wedding ceremony of Ferdinand and Isabella

King of Castile

As heir apparent to the Crown of Aragon, Ferdinand was the subject of many royal matches. A notable one being a marriage proposal made by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy for his daughter, Mary of Burgundy. He eventually married Isabella, the half-sister and heir presumptive of Henry IV of Castile, on 19 October 1469 in Valladolid, Kingdom of Castile and Leon.[33] Since the marriage was done against Henry's wishes, Isabella's status as his heir presumptive was revoked and she was disinherited in favour of Henry's daughter; Princess Joanna. Although Isabella never gave up her claim to the title; Princess of Asturias, from 1469 to 1475, they had to rely on Ferdinand's regal title; King of Sicily.[34]

Before the marriage, Ferdinand was asked to sign the humiliating Capitulations of Cervera on 5 March 1469. Most people, like Alfonso de Palencia, Pedro de Peralta, Archbishop Margarit and even Castilians like Archbishop Carrillo, Gutierre de Cardenas and Juan Pacheco, wondered why a royal prince would even contemplate signing such a document. But Ferdinand, being the shrewd politician he is, was playing the long game.[35][36]

On 12 December 1475, Henry died in Madrid. When news reached Segovia, where Isabella was residing, she immediately convened the Courts of Castile the following day, disinherited her niece Joanna and proclaimed herself Queen of Castile with Ferdinand as her "legitimate husband". Ferdinand was not present for all this because, at the time, he was campaigning against the French occupying Roussillon. When he got word, he was incandescent with fury. He immediately rode for Segovia, where he was given a royal entry on 2 January 1475.[37]

Immediately, a new agreement of understanding was drafted with Archbishop Carillo representing the interests of Ferdinand and Cardinal Mendoza representing the interests of Isabella. The Concord of Segovia, completed on 5 January, was not an agreement between husband and wife but one between two rival political parties.[38] In it, Ferdinand renounced all claims to the throne of Castile as closest male heir of the House of Trastamara. Isabella was recognized as sole owner of the Kingdom with it passing to her descendants at the time of her death. All official documents, the coin, the seal and the proclamations will be headed by the names of both with Ferdinand taking precedence over Isabella. Both their arms were merged into one with Isabella's Eagle of Saint John and Ferdinand's motto "Tanto Monta" ("it amounts to the same [cutting as untying]") added in. It was decided that the arms of the House of Trastamara; the arms of Castile y Leon, would take precedence over the arms of Aragon y Sicily in their new joint heraldry. Ferdinand was recognized jure uxoris King of Castile as Ferdinand V of Castile, with near equal powers to those of Isabella.[39][40] Identical equal powers (with the added benefit of being made the supreme authority on the joint Crown's foreign, military and social policies) were ceded by Isabella to Ferdinand on 28 April 1475, at the outbreak of the Castilian War of Succession.[41][42] This document, nullifying the separation of monarchical powers established in the Concord of Segovia, signified the commencement of a reign of true equals.[43][44][45][46]

Ferdinand the Catholic swearing the fueros as the Lord of Biscay at Guernica in 1476.
Ferdinand the Catholic swearing the fueros as the Lord of Biscay at Guernica in 1476.
Ferdinand the Catholic, flanked by Cardinal Mendoza and the Duke of Alba, at the Battle of Toro (1476).
Ferdinand the Catholic, flanked by Cardinal Mendoza and the Duke of Alba, at the Battle of Toro (1476).

War with Portugal and King of Spain

Shortly after Ferdinand and Isabella were invested as the Monarchs of Castile, Queen Joanna's husband; King Afonso V of Portugal, declared Isabella a usurper and took up his wife's cause. According to him, she was the legitimate heir of Henry IV, and as her husband, he, the legitimate jure uxoris King of Castile (as Alfonso XII). Isabella had no option but to reciprocate by claiming the throne of Portugal (as the daughter of Isabella of Portugal) and declaring war on Afonso.[47]

On one side was the Crown of Aragon and the pro-Isabella faction of Castile. On the other, the Kingdom of Portugal and the pro-Joanna faction of Castile. The 3 most powerful Houses of Northern Castile (the House of Enriquez, the House of Mendoza and the House of Alvarez de Toledo) formed the pro-Isabella faction because of their familial ties to Ferdinand. The lesser Hidalgos (who made up 2/3 of Castile's nobility) led by the House of Pacheco-Giron, the House of Zuniga and the Archbishop of Toledo (the supreme ecclesiastical authority of Castile) formed the pro-Joanna faction.[48] France supported Afonso and Joanna (because of a wider war raging in Roussillon, Cerdagne and the Italian Peninsula with Aragon) and Burgundy supported Ferdinand and Isabella (for the same reason France supports Portugal). The Kingdom of Navarre was going through a civil war, so it, along with the Taifa of Granada and the Kingdom of Galicia, chose to remain neutral.[49]

Ferdinand, as Captain-General, led the Castilian-Aragonese army while Afonso and the "Perfect Prince" led the Castilian-Portugese army. Under the leadership of Ferdinand, the pro-Isabella Castilians won some decisive battles in Trujillo, Burgos, Cantalapiedra, Castronuño, Sieteiglesias, Cubillas, Villalonso, Portillo, Villaba and Zamora.[50][51] On 1 March 1476, Ferdinand (along with Cardinal Mendoza and the Duke of Alba) secured a major victory at the Battle of Toro, which essentially crushed all hopes of a Portuguese victory on land. After signing a Treaty with Afonso V on 23 September 1475, Louis XI of France sent a wave of French armies under Alain I of Albret, all throughout March–June of 1476, to push into Castile via Hondarribia.[52] Ferdinand not only crushed this French Invasion but also managed to gain a foothold in the Kingdom of Navarre by conquering Viana and Puente La Reina. He then acted as arbitrator between the warring factions of Navarre while gaining the right to station 1,000 men-at-arms in Pamplona. This victory shielded Aragon and Castile from any future French offensives.[53] Although Ferdinand was winning on land, at sea, the Portuguese, along with Norman pirates led by Guillaume Coullon, were gaining the upper hand (especially after the Battle of Guinea and the Battle of Elmina).[54][55] On 9 October 1478, Ferdinand pressured Louis XI to sign the Treaties of Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Guadalupe, in which France recognized Ferdinand and Isabella as the legal Monarchs of Castile in return for Ferdinand breaking all ties with Maximilian I, Duke of Burgundy.[56]

Emboldened by the victory at Elmina, Afonso V decided to undertake a last-ditch invasion of Castile. In February 1479, a Castillan-Portuguese army commanded by Garcia de Meneses, Bishop of Evora, penetrated into Extremadura. The objective was to occupy and reinforce the strongholds of Merida and Medellin, controlled by Beatriz Pacheco, Countess of Medellin and supporter of Joanna. Ferdinand immediately dispatched Alonso de Cardenas, Master of the Order of Santiago, with a Castilian-Aragonese army, to face this threat. On February 24, near the hill of Albuera, the two forces jostled for dominance. Despite Cardenas having been outnumbered 2:1, he completely routed the invasion force and Ferdinand quickly put Merida and Medellin under siege.[57] In June 1479, Ferdinand launched an offensive against the rebel Archbishop of Toledo, who was forced to surrender. This signified the end of hostilities towards Ferdinand and Isabella within Castile. The pro-Joanna faction disintegrated, with its leaders; the Marquis of Villena, the Maquis of Cadiz and the Count of Ureña, submitting themselves to the Queen's mercy.[58] All that remained was Portugal itself and with Pope Sixtus VI revoking his papal dispensation for the marriage between Afonso and his niece, Joanna, the legitimacy of Afonso V as King of Castile fell by its foundations.

The document that put an end to the war, the Treaty of Alcáçovas-Toldeo, was drafted on September 4, 1479. It was ratified by Afonso V of Portugal in Alcáçovas on September 8, 1479 and by Ferdinand and Isabella in Toledo on March 6, 1480. In it, Afonso renounced all claims to the throne of Castile and Isabella did the same to the throne of Portugal. The treaty wasn't harsh on any party apart from Queen Joanna herself, who was required to renounce all regal claims associated with Henry IV and retire to a nunnery for the rest of her life.

On 20 February 1479, Ferdinand's father, King John II of Aragon, passed away and that same year Ferdinand succeeded him as King. Now, he was King of Castile, Leon, Aragon, Sicily and Count of Barcelona. And on April 14 1481, in the Cortes of Calatayud, he granted his wife Isabella, the same powers that he had received on April 28 1475, designating her as co-regent, governor and administrator of the kingdoms of the Crown of Aragon.[59] This signified the symbolic union of the Crown of Castile and the Crown of Aragon into one: the Crown of Spain. In the words of a letter drafted by the Town Council of Barcelona to the Town Council of Seville: "Now...we are brothers."[60]

Reign

Emulating what the ancient Kings of Aragon did with their newly acquired muslim communities (especially in Valencia),[61][5] Ferdinand imposed the extremely liberal Treaty of Granada (1491) on Granada during its capitulation. The treaty proved extremely favourable to the muslims who got to retain their faith, customs, and attires. The new Archbishop of Granada, Hernando de Talavera, was an ardent supporter of the treaty and much like the King, he wanted to win hearts and minds which would result in a slow but resolute process of conversion. This all changed when the Archbishop of Toledo, Francisco Jimenez de Cisneros, settled in Granada in 1499. He carried out a policy of heavy-handed forced conversion which was in gross violation of the initial treaty.[4][5] This resulted in the Rebellion of the Alpujarras (1499–1501) which saw swaths of muslim communities up in arms. As King, Ferdinand crushed the rebellion with brutal efficiency and in that same year he, along with Isabella I, issued an edict of conversion.[5] All Muslims residing in the Crown of Castile were to convert to Christianity or face expulsion. Most did convert nominally while the remaining few emigrated to North Africa. Muslims residing in the Crown of Aragon were safe under Ferdinand,[62] but they too suffered the same fate under his grandson in 1526.[5][63]

Wedding portrait of Ferdinand and Isabella
Wedding portrait of Ferdinand and Isabella

The latter part of Ferdinand's life was largely taken up with disputes with successive kings of France over control of Italy, the Italian Wars. In 1494, Charles VIII of France invaded Italy and expelled Alfonso II, who was Ferdinand's first cousin once removed and step nephew, from the throne of Naples. Ferdinand allied with various Italian princes and with Emperor Maximilian I to expel the French by 1496 and install Alfonso's son, Ferdinand II, on the Neapolitan throne. In 1501, following Ferdinand II's death and accession of his uncle Frederick, Ferdinand signed an agreement with Charles VIII's successor, Louis XII, who had just successfully asserted his claims to the Duchy of Milan, to partition Naples between them, with Campania and the Abruzzi, including Naples itself, going to the French and Ferdinand taking Apulia and Calabria. The agreement soon fell apart and, over the next several years, Ferdinand's great general Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba fought to take Naples from the French, finally succeeding by 1504.

The King of France complains that I have twice deceived him. He lies, the fool; I have deceived him ten times and more.

— Ferdinand the Catholic[64]

Some time before 1502 Andreas Palaiologos, the last surviving male heir of Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos, bestowed his titles and rights to the Byzantine throne to Ferdinand in his last will. This move was primarily influenced by Ferdinand's successful military campaigns against the Ottoman Empire in Otranto and Cephalonia. [65] But Ferdinand never used the titles during his lifetime, feeling that they would obligate him to launch an expensive crusade.

After Isabella

Ferdinand on his throne flanked by two shields with the emblem of the Royal Seal of Aragon. Frontispiece of a 1495 edition of Catalan constitutions.[66]
Ferdinand on his throne flanked by two shields with the emblem of the Royal Seal of Aragon. Frontispiece of a 1495 edition of Catalan constitutions.[66]

Isabella made her will on 12 October 1504, in advance of her 26 November 1504 death. In it she spelled out the succession to the crown of Castile, leaving it to Joanna and then to Joanna's son Charles. Isabella was dubious of Joanna's ability to rule and was not confident of Joanna's husband Archduke Philip. Ferdinand moved quickly after his wife's death to continue his role in Castile. On the day of his wife's death, he formally renounced his title as king of Castile and instead became governor (gobernador) of the kingdom, as a way to become regent. Philip deemed his wife sane and fit to rule. A compromise was forged between Philip and Ferdinand, which gave Ferdinand a continued role in Castile.[67] Ferdinand had served as the latter's regent during her absence in the Netherlands, ruled by her husband Archduke Philip. Ferdinand attempted to retain the regency permanently, but was rebuffed by the Castilian nobility and replaced with Joanna's husband.

In the Treaty of Villafáfila of 1506, Ferdinand renounced not only the government of Castile in favor of Philip but also the lordship of the Indies, withholding half of the income of the "kingdoms of the Indies".[68] Joanna and Philip immediately added to their titles the kingdoms of Indies, Islands and Mainland of the Ocean Sea. But the Treaty of Villafáfila did not hold for long because of the death of Philip; Ferdinand returned as regent of Castile and as "lord of the Indies".[69]

The widowed Ferdinand made an alliance with France in July 1505 and married Germaine of Foix, cementing the alliance with France. She was the granddaughter of his half-sister Queen Eleanor of Navarre and niece of Louis XII of France. Had Ferdinand's son with Germaine, John, Prince of Girona, born on 3 May 1509, survived, "the crown of Aragon would inevitably been separated from Castile"[67] and denied his grandson Charles the crown of Aragon. But the infant Prince John died within hours and was buried in the convent of Saint Paul in Valladolid, Kingdom of Castile and Leon, and later transferred to Poblet Monastery, Vimbodí i Poblet, Catalonia, Kingdom of Aragon, traditional burial site of the kings of Aragon.[70]

Ferdinand had no legal position in Castile, with the cortes of Toro recognizing Joanna and her children as heirs and Ferdinand left Castile in July 1506. After his son-in-law Philip's untimely death in September 1506, Castile was in crisis. Joanna was allegedly mentally unstable, and Joanna's and Philip's son, Charles, the future Emperor Charles V, was only six years old. Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, the Chancellor of the Kingdom, was made regent, but the upper nobility reasserted itself. Ferdinand led an army against Pedro Fernández de Córdoba y Pacheco, the marquis of Priego of Córdoba, who had seized control there by force.[71]

Statue of Ferdinand in the Sabatini Gardens in Madrid
Statue of Ferdinand in the Sabatini Gardens in Madrid

In 1508 war resumed in Italy, this time against the Republic of Venice, in which all the other powers with interests on the Italian peninsula, including Louis XII, Ferdinand II, Maximilian, and Pope Julius II joined together against as the League of Cambrai. Although the French were victorious against Venice at the Battle of Agnadello, the League of Cambrai soon fell apart, as both the Pope and Ferdinand II became suspicious of French intentions. Instead, the 'Holy League' was formed, in which now all the powers joined together against Louis XII and France. In 1509, an official triumph was held in Valladolid, the de facto capital of Castile where Ferdinand entered the city amidst jubilation and was given the title Rey Señor de Castilla (Lord King of Castile).[72]


In November 1511 Ferdinand and his son-in-law King Henry VIII of England signed the Treaty of Westminster, pledging mutual aid between the two against Navarre and France ahead of the Spanish invasion of Navarre as of July 1512. After the fall of Granada in 1492, he had manoeuvred for years to take over the throne of the Basque kingdom, ruled by Queen Catherine of Navarre and King John III of Navarre, also lords of Béarn and other sizeable territories north of the Pyrenees and in Gascony. Ferdinand directly annexed Navarre first to the Crown of Aragon, then later made it an autonomous Kingdom subjected to a personal union with the Sovereign of Castile. The Holy League was generally successful in Italy, as well, driving the French from Milan, which was restored to its Sforza dukes by the peace treaty in 1513. The French were successful in reconquering Milan two years later, however. In 1513, another triumph was held in Valladolid to immortalise Ferdinand's successful conquest of Navarre, the conquest of the North African coast and the vassalization of the inner Maghreb.[73]

Ferdinand the Catholic died on 23 January 1516 in Madrigalejo, Extremadura, Kingdom of Castile and Leon. He is entombed at Capilla Real, Granada. His wife Isabella, daughter Joanna, and son-in-law Philip rest beside him there.

Legacy and succession

Renaissance statue of Ferdinand the Catholic in Court Church.
Renaissance statue of Ferdinand the Catholic in Court Church.
Statue of Ferdinand the Catholic at Palacio Real de Madrid.
Statue of Ferdinand the Catholic at Palacio Real de Madrid.
Ferdinand the Catholic's royal arms in the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See.
Ferdinand the Catholic's royal arms in the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See.

Ferdinand and Isabella established a highly effective sovereignty under equal terms. They utilised a prenuptial agreement to lay down their terms. During their reign they supported each other effectively in accordance to his joint motto of equality: "Tanto monta [or monta tanto], Isabel como Fernando" ("They amount to the same, Isabel and Ferdinand"). Isabella and Ferdinand's achievements were remarkable: Spain was united, or at least more united than it ever had been; the crown power was centralised, at least in name; the reconquista was successfully concluded; the groundwork for the most dominant military machine of the next century and a half was laid; a legal framework was created; the church was reformed. Even without the benefit of the American expansion, Spain would have been a major European power. Columbus' discovery set the country on the course for the first modern world power.

During the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, Spain pursued alliances through marriage with Portugal, Habsburg Austria, and Burgundy. Their first-born daughter Isabella was married to Alfonso of Portugal, and their first-born son John was married to Margaret of Austria. However, the deaths of these children, and the death of Isabella, altered the succession plan forcing Ferdinand to yield the government of Castile to Philip of Habsburg the husband of his second daughter Joanna.[74]

In 1502, the members of the Aragonese Cortes gathered in Zaragoza, and Parliaments of the Kingdom of Valencia and the Principality of Catalonia in Barcelona, as members of the Crown of Aragon, swore an oath of loyalty to their daughter Joanna as heiress, but Alonso de Aragón, Archbishop of Saragossa, stated firmly that this oath was invalid and did not change the law of succession which could only be done by formal legislation by the Cortes with the King.[75][76] So, when King Ferdinand died on 23 January 1516, his daughter Joanna inherited the Crown of Aragon, and his grandson Charles became Governor General (regent).[77] Nevertheless, the Flemish wished that Charles assume the royal title, and this was supported by his paternal grandfather the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and by Pope Leo X. Consequently, after Ferdinand II's funeral on 14 March 1516, Charles I was proclaimed King of Castile and of Aragon jointly with his mother. Finally, the Castilian Regent, Cardinal Jiménez de Cisneros accepted the fait accompli, and the Castilian and Aragonese Cortes paid homage to him[78] as King of Aragon jointly with his mother.[79]

Ferdinand's grandson and successor Charles, was to inherit not only the Spanish lands of his maternal grandparents, but the Austrian and Burgundian lands of his paternal family, which would make his heirs the most powerful rulers on the continent and, with the discoveries and conquests in the Americas and elsewhere, of the first truly global Empire.

Children

With his first wife, Isabel I of Castile (whom he married on 19 October 1469), King Ferdinand had seven children:

  1. Isabel of Aragon (1470–1498), Princess of Asturias and Girona (1497–1498). She married first Afonso, Prince of Portugal, then after his death married his uncle Prince Manuel, the future King Manuel I of Portugal. She died giving birth to her son, Miguel da Paz, Crown Prince of Portugal and Spain who, in turn, died in infancy.
  2. A son, miscarried on 31 May 1475 in Cebreros.
  3. Juan of Aragon (1478–1497), Prince of Asturias (1478–1497) and Girona (1479–1497). He married Margaret of Habsburg (daughter of Emperor Maximilian I). He died of tuberculosis and his posthumous child with Margaret was stillborn.
  4. Juana of Castile (1479–1555), Princess of Asturias (1500–1504) and Girona (1500–1516) and Queen of Castile (1504–1555) and Aragon (1516–1555). She married Philip I (son of Emperor Maximilian I) and was the mother of King Charles I of Spain (also known as Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor). Due to her mental instability, she was confined to the Palace of Tordesillas indefinitely by her father and son.
  5. Maria of Aragon (1482–1517). She married King Manuel I of Portugal, the widower of her elder sister Isabella, and was the mother of King John III of Portugal and of the Cardinal-King, Henry I of Portugal.
  6. The stillborn twin of Maria (sex disputed). Born on 1 July 1482.
  7. Catalina of Aragon (1485–1536). She married first Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of and heir to King Henry VII of England and, after Prince Arthur's death, she married his brother Henry, Duke of York, who also became Prince of Wales and then King Henry VIII. By marriage, she was Queen of England, and was the mother of Queen Mary I of England.

With his second wife, Germaine of Foix (whom he married on 19 October 1505), King Ferdinand had one son:

  1. Juan of Aragon, Prince of Girona, who died hours after being born on 3 May 1509.

He also left several illegitimate children, two of them were born before his marriage to Isabella:

With Aldonza Ruiz de Iborre y Alemany, a Catalan noblewoman from Cervera, he had:

With Joana Nicolaua, a Catalan noblewoman from Tarrega, he had:

With Nazari Aixa bint Muhammad, daughter of the last Nasrid Sultan, Muhammad XII of Granada, he had:

With Toda de Larrea, a Biscayan noblewoman from Guernica, he had:

With Juana Pereira, a Portuguese noblewoman from Alcáçovas, he had:

Heraldry

Depiction in film and television

Films

Year Film Director(s) Actor
1951 Hare We Go Robert McKimson Mel Blanc
1976 La espada negra Francisco Rovira Beleta Juan Ribó
1985 Christopher Columbus Alberto Lattuada Nicol Williamson
1992 Christopher Columbus: The Discovery John Glen Tom Selleck
1992 1492: Conquest of Paradise Ridley Scott Fernando García Rimada
1992 Carry On Columbus Gerald Thomas Leslie Phillips
2001 Juana la Loca Vicente Aranda Héctor Colomé
2016 Assassin's Creed Justin Kurzel Thomas Camilleri

TV series

Year Series Channel
1980 Shaheen(Based on Naseem Hijazi Novel) PTV
1991 Réquiem por Granada TVE
2004 Memoria de España TVE
2011 Muhteşem Yüzyıl Show TV
2012 Isabel, mi reina TVE
2014 Borgia (TV series) Canal+

See also

References

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Ferdinand the CatholicHouse of TrastámaraBorn: 10 March 1452 Died: 23 January 1516 Regnal titles Preceded byJohn the Great King of Sicily 1468–1516 Succeeded byJoanna the Mad King of Aragon, Valencia, Sardinia and Majorca, Count of Barcelona 1479–1516 Preceded byIsabella the Catholicas sole monarch King of Castile and León 1475–1504with Isabella the Catholic Preceded byCharles the Affable Count of Roussillon and Cerdagne 1493–1516 Preceded byLouis III King of Naples 1504–1516 Preceded byCatherine and John III King of Navarre 1512–1516 Titles of nobility Preceded byCharles of Viana Prince of Girona 1461–1479 Succeeded byJohn of Asturias Preceded byJohn the Great Lord of Balaguer 1458–1479 Duke of Gandía 1461–1479 Merged with the Crown Preceded byJuana Enríquez Lord of Casarrubios del Monte 1468–1479