Isabel the Catholic. A Great Woman.
Below are listed seven qualities of Queen Isabel. For a person to have one or two of these qualities would mark them as rare, as quite outstanding. To have any three or four of these qualities makes a towering historic figure. But to have all seven! This shows a Divine touch through Queen Isabel’s life. As far as we can tell, the explanation for her virtue and her accomplishments is that she gave herself to God from her earliest years and stayed constant throughout. So—to paraphrase St Paul—it was not Isabel who lived, but Christ who lived in her.
(When we talk here of greatness, we specifically mean impact on history, and we judge this by the fruit borne. We do not mean ‘holiness’, for while Isabel certainly lead a saintly life, the question of who, after the Mother of God, is the holiest woman in history, is one we cannot even begin to answer. The field is very crowded!)
Seven outstanding qualities and achievements of Queen Isabel:
- Holy reform of the Church. In the 16th century the Church underwent savage doctrinal and personal attacks. Across Europe Christendom was divided and shattered. But in Spain the Church remained intact—undivided and loyal to Rome—even until today. Fundamental to this strength and purity were the exacting religious and ecclesial reforms initiated by Queen Isabel. more >
- Discovery and evangelisation of the Americas. Christopher Columbus was rejected by many monarchs, financiers and scientific experts in Europe as he sought backing for his proposed voyage westwards. But Queen Isabel recognised his vision and determination and against advice she sponsored him. Thus in 1492 America was discovered. As soon as Isabel learnt of new lands her priority was evangelisation. Consequently about half the Catholics in the world today live in lands discovered and evangelised by Spain. more >
- Decisive defence of Christendom. Queen Isabel won the longest war in history, ending 770 years of Islamic invasion and occupation by re-conquering Granada, the last kingdom in Spain to be won back to Christendom. Isabel also gave crucial support for the defence of the Pontifical States, saving the Vatican from potential destruction. And so great was Isabel’s good influence on Jerusalem and the Holy Land that Sultan Kayt Bey (who then controlled the area) and Pope Innocent VIII jointly named Isabel and her husband Ferdinand “Protectors of the Holy Sepulchre”. more >
- Inspired piety. Isabel prayed the Divine Office daily and assisted at Holy Mass daily. She promoted reverence to Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Her devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary was fervent. 365 years before the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was declared, Isabel wrote Pope Alexander VI saying: “I entreat your Holiness to see that no one, whatever law or government he may live under, should dare to contradict the teaching about the Immaculate Conception, since from it so much good comes for the service of the Lord.” And Pope Alexander VI gave her the title Isabel the Catholic for her service to the Church. Queen Isabel’s Last Will and Codicil ordered a total of 40,000 Masses be said for her and for those who had died in her service. more >
- Devoted wife and mother. Isabel was devoted to her husband Ferdinand throughout their 35-year marriage. Ferdinand himself was not always faithful. Isabel carried the hurt and forgave him. Isabel was also a devoted mother to their five children, taking great care that the children received a strong education. When her five-year-old daughter fell into danger, being imprisoned in 1476 by rebels in the Alcázar of Segovia, Queen Isabel rode right through the hostile mob outside to secure the safety of her child. Isabel’s grandson Charles became the Holy Roman Emperor, father of Phillip II of Spain, who between them continued her great work of defence and zealous propagation of the Catholic Faith, without which Europe may have been stripped of her greatest treasure, and America might hardly have known it. more >
- Incorruptible commitment to justice. When Queen Isabel acceded to the throne in 1474 her country was in disorder and the royal court was despised as corrupt across Europe. In the cities and in the countryside groaned countless victims of violent crime or corruption of the civil powers. By Isabel’s implacable campaign for justice—showing no favours whatsoever even to the exceedingly rich and powerful—peace and order descended with astonishing rapidity. Powerful people respected her; common people adored her; rogues feared her. Thus Queen Isabel unified 27 separate kingdoms into one strong nation, then brought Spain to the beginning of a Golden Age. The foundation for this was justice. more >
- Codified universal human rights. Queen Isabel promoted women and opposed slavery. Having studied assiduously herself, Isabel ensured a good education was available to other women in Spain and the Americas. She appointed Beatrice Gallando (b.1475) as Professor of Latin for the Royal Court. Isabel legislated for future women’s right to rule. Isabel liberated untold numbers of slaves in the Canary Islands and the Americas. On her deathbed she dictated her Last Will and Codicil, saying: “…no consent nor place is given for the mistreatment of the Indian natives and inhabitants of said Indies and Mainland, already gotten and still to gain, to their persons or their possessions, but it is so ordered that they be well and justly treated and if they receive any grievance that it be remedied, and that it be provided for…” Building on her foundation, Isabel’s successors created a corpus of legislation—the Laws of the Indies—comprising some 6,000 articles which strongly underlined the dignity, rights and defence of American Indians. more >
Who is greater than Isabel?
Article from Isabel issue 63