Isabella of Castile: An Embattled Princess
Guest Post by C. W. Gortner, author of
The Queen's Vow
It cannot be denied that religion had a defining role in Isabella’s life. Like most of her fellow sovereigns in Europe, she was Catholic and believed Catholicism was the only true faith. And in her later years, as she endured personal tragedy, she turned increasingly for solace in her faith. But she had once been young and vibrant; and while doing intensive research into her tumultuous rise to the throne for my new novel, The Queen’s Vow, to my delight I discovered an Isabella we rarely see— a passionate princess, who overcame significant odds to be queen.
Though it may seem impossible in hindsight, at the time no one believed Isabella was destined for greatness. Her father King Juan died when she was a child; as the daughter of a royal widow, she and her younger brother were sent from court to reside in the stony isolation of Arévalo, a castle set in a rural area that was also impoverished. Isabella was educated, but it was rudimentary, designed to prepare her for marriage. She did not benefit from the breadth of opportunities that other Renaissance princesses would enjoy; indeed, she was not even taught Latin, the language of international diplomacy, and it was a handicap that she so regretted later as queen, she determined to remedy it.
Yet she possessed something innate that could not be taught: intelligence and a keen sense of her own self. These qualities served her in the stead of a broad education, as she discovered when she was thrust into danger while still in her teens, after being summoned to her half brother King Enrique’s licentious court. At court, depravity was a way of life. Enrique’s vivacious queen, Juana of Portugal, was almost certainly adulterous and set on corrupting young Isabella, who posed a threat to her own daughter. Isabella withstood numerous assaults on her honor with admirable stoicism; even when accused of treason, she did not waver in defense of her stance. We tend to forget she was only sixteen when she confronted that maelstrom of intrigue that might have cost her her life. It is undeniable testament to her integrity that she managed to overcome a situation that would have undone a lesser princess.
Isabella truly displayed her strength of character when she became heiress of Castile. Surrounded by opportunists, each seeking an advantage, she stood alone at a treacherous crossroads, where she could have taken a step in any direction but the right one, leading to her downfall. No queen had successfully ruled Castile for long; no one at the time, save perhaps Isabella herself, believed a queen could. She had few trusted friends to turn to for advice, and none had political standing. Without formal training as a future ruler, at eighteen years of age, Isabella might have done any number of things to put herself in jeopardy; instead, she alone devised a solution that displayed astonishing maturity, one that would maintain her prestige and attempt to resolve the civil war that had devastated Castile. Her decision would cost her later, but she never regretted it. For Isabella, the right way was almost always more important than the easy one.
The story of this embattled princess who was unexpectedly propelled to the throne is fraught with peril, intrigue, and twists of fate that no writer could make up; it is a story of resiliency and indomitable pride, of a woman who was determined to rule with greatness and ended up transforming the world. It is also a story that has rarely been told.
I sincerely hope you enjoy The Queen’s Vow.
Thank you for spending this time with me. To find out more about me and my books, please visit me at: www.cwgortner.com
Now for the giveaway. I have one copy of The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner up for grabs along with a beautiful embroidered purse. It is open to residents of the USA and Canada. The last day to enter the giveaway is June 30th.
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