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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Caught on Tape: Isabella of Castile

caught on tape

This was supposed to go live right around the time I featured C.W. Gortner and his new release, The Queen’s Vow, however I am a little delayed at getting this up and running. Isabella of Castille is one of those polarizing characters in history and one who could make quite the powerful presence on the screen. Since the start of the film industry she has been one of the royals featured on the silver screen. From 1910 in the silent black and white film, Isabelle of Arragon through 2001’s Mad Love, Isabella has been a presence portrayed in different angles. Check out some of the below films for a selection of Isabella films.

Christopher Columbus (1985)

Although this is a tv miniseries and one from the 1980’s, the reviews are staggeringly to the positive. While not trying to cash in on the hype of the 500th anniversary of the Columbus voyage (as the next two films below did) this miniseries took the type to get it right. The look of this film is beautiful. Faye Dunaway plays Isabella and I have seen her described as the perfect mix of authoritative and subdued. She however doesn’t look the part of what I have come to expect Isabella to look like.

1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)

“Poised to benefit from wealth gained after the establishment of trade routes and colonies in far-flung lands, Spain's Queen Isabel (Sigourney Weaver) funds navigator Christopher Columbus's (Gérard Depardieu) historical voyage to the "New World." After traversing the sea with the Santa María, La Niña and La Pinta, Columbus initiates contact between Europeans and indigenous Americans.”

This movie was directed by Ridley Scott and Isabel is played by Sigourney Weaver. With these notable people you would expect great things; however it didn’t do that well in the box office. Again, the focal point of the film is not Isabel, but Columbus and his quest to explore the shorter route to the East by going west. All the video clips I could find didn’t feature Isabel for more than 30 seconds, so I can’t really gauge her ability to evoke Isabel. It is now on my Netflix list, but have any of you seen this movie and if so, what did you think of Weaver’s performance?

Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992)

“Dreaming of finding a new route to the Indies, Christopher Columbus (George Corraface) asks for backing from Queen Isabella (Rachel Ward) and King Ferdinand (Tom Selleck) -- who agree to fund him after subjecting him to a grueling interrogation by the head of the Spanish Inquisition (Marlon Brando). Once Columbus sets sail, he faces sabotage and mutiny as he journeys to discover a new world in this bracing historical saga.”

This film features some big named actors: Tom Selleck as King Ferdinand, Rachel Ward as Queen Isabella, and Marlon Brando as Tomas de Torquemada. Catherine Zeta Jones and Benicio de Toro also have roles in the film as well. This was another film that was released on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ expedition, and the market must not have been ready for it as this one didn’t do well either. However, I have known these actors to put on great performances so I’m willing to give this one a chance. Rachel Ward makes a convincing looking Isabella. The character was originally to be played by Isabella Rossilini who I think would have been great.

I am unable to embed the video here, but you can watch the trailer featuring Rachel Ward here.

The Royal Diaries: Isabel – Jewel of Castille (2000)

“Isabel, Jewel of Castilla” dramatizes the turbulent teen years of the future queen of Spain (Lisa Jakub), whose brothers were at war against each other and whose desire to have a say in choosing her marriage partner caused further unrest.”

This episode of the HBO Mini Series is based on the book of the same name from the Royal Diaries series. Aimed at a young adult audience, this episode focuses on a short period of time in the life of Infanta Isabel while her brother Enrique is on the throne. Lisa Jakub who plays Isabel looks like what I would envision Isabel to look like and she plays the feisty, inquisitive young woman who is portrayed in the recently released novel, The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner. If you have the chance to check this out or to share it with you children, I would recommend it. Review is forthcoming at a future date.

I unfortunately don’t have a clip for this one – I had previously watched this on Youtube however the videos have been taken down since then. However, this is available on a DVD collection with the stories of Elizabeth I and Cleopatra.

Royal Diaries Isabel

Juana la Loca (AKA Mad Love) (2001)

“The true story of Juana de Castilla (Pilar Lopez de Ayala), daughter of Queen Isabella of Spain, who married (and fell passionately in love with) Archduke Fernando of Austria. When Juana's mother and older brothers die in 1504, Juana becomes queen, but her discovery of her husband's many lovers leads to erratic behavior. It's the perfect opportunity for her cheating husband to declare Juana insane and himself king.”

The heart of this film is about the life of Isabella’s daughter, Juana, and her relationship with her husband. I highly recommend this film; it was very well acted and an enjoyable representation of Juana’s life. You can read my full review here. However, at the beginning of this film we do get to see some of Queen Isabella – although at first glance you might not know it is her. If you start watching this clip at around the 6 minute mark you will see a woman clad in a white cap and veil – this is Isabella. In the short scene she is in she evokes caring for her daughter as she sets off on her new life. She is portrayed by Susi Sanchez.

Have you seen any of the above films or any others? What did you think?


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I've seen them all except for the Royal Diaries one. I loved Mad Love! That was the film that got me so interested in Juana of Castile and led me to discovering one of my favorite books, The Last Queen by Gortner. I have seen it several times and really could watch it over and over again. It is an excellent film.

    1. I was very impressed with Mad Love myself. I thought overall they did a great job with it. I haven't yet had the chance to read The Last Queen but it is sitting on my shelf!

  2. Great post, Heather! I haven't seen any of these but I will have to check them out now! I loved The Queen's Vow!

    1. I have only seen two of these, but now I have to see a few more!


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