Isabel Moctezuma – The last Empress of the Aztec Empire




Isabel Moctezuma
Elpidia Carrillo as Isabel in La otra conquista (1998) (Screenshot/Fair use)

Isabel Moctezuma was the last Empress of the Aztec Empire. She had six husbands, and she married three of them before she reached the age of twelve. Empress Isabel Moctezuma was the eldest daughter of Emperor Moctezuma II of the Aztec Empire. After the fall of the Aztec Empire, Empress Isabel Moctezuma began to ally herself with the Spanish conquistadors. She became the wealthiest landowner in Mexico. Her descendants would become part of the Spanish nobility. Isabel Moctezuma’s story shows how an Aztec Empress managed to successfully transition herself into Spanish society.

Empress Isabel Moctezuma was born on 11 July 1509 in Tenochtitlan.[1] Her parents were Emperor Moctezuma II and Empress Teotlalco.[2] Her original name was Tecuichpo Ixcaxochitzin.[3] She was the eldest and favourite of Emperor Moctezuma II’s daughters.[4] She had full siblings and half-siblings, many of which are still unknown.[5] Among her known half-siblings were Pedro Moctezuma, Mariana Moctezuma, and Francisca Moctezuma. Before Emperor Moctezuma II’s death on 30 June 1520, he entrusted Hernan Cortes to take care of Princess Tecuichpo Ixcaxochitzin and her siblings.[6] As a young child, Princess Tecuichpo Ixcaxochitzin married the Aztec warrior named Atlixcatzin (who historians have speculated may have been Emperor Moctezuma II’s heir).[7] On 22 May 1520, Atlixcatzin was killed by the Spanish conquistadors during the Massacre of the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan. Thus, Princess Tecuichpo Ixcaxochitzin became a widow for the first time.

On 1 July 1520, Princess Tecuichpo Ixcaxochitzin tried to flee Tenochtitlan with the Spanish during the Night of Sorrows.[8] Her mother, Empress Teotlalco, and her full brothers drowned in the Lake of Texcoco.[9] Thus, Princess Tecuichpo Ixcaxochitzin became an orphan. However, she was kidnapped by the Aztec forces and brought back to Tenochtitlan.[10] She married her uncle, Cuitlahuac (who succeeded Emperor Moctezuma II as Emperor of the Aztec Empire).[11] Therefore, Princess Tecuichpo Ixcaxochitzin became Empress. Emperor Cuitlahuac died sixty days later of smallpox.[12]

The death of Emperor Cuitlahuac left the eleven-year-old Empress Tecuichpo Ixcaxochitzin free to marry her cousin, Cuauhtémoc (the last Emperor of the Aztec Empire), in 1520.[13] Tecuichpo Ixcaxochitzin became Empress for the second time and was the last Empress of the Aztec Empire. Empress Tecuichpo Ixcaxochitzin remained married to him until he was executed on 28 February 1525 by Hernan Cortes.[14] Thus, the Aztec Empire was officially no more. In order to console Empress Tecuichpo Ixcaxochitzin over the death of her husband, Hernan Cortes gave her and her future heirs the town of Tacuba in June 1526.[15]

Empress Tecuichpo Ixcaxochitzin was baptised and christened Isabel Moctezuma.[16] Shortly afterwards, in 1526, Isabel Moctezuma married the Spanish conquistador and Hernan Cortes’s friend, Alonso de Grado.[17] However, he died two years later due to unknown causes.[18] Thus, Isabel Moctezuma became a widow for the fourth time at the age of nineteen.[19] Isabel Moctezuma became Hernan Cortes’s mistress.[20] She bore him an illegitimate daughter named Leonor Cortes Moctezuma.[21] Her daughter was immediately taken from her to be raised by Juan de Altamirano on behalf of Hernan Cortes.[22]

In 1530, Hernan Cortes arranged for Isabel Moctezuma to marry for the fifth time to a Spaniard named Pedro Gallego.[23] She gave birth to her first legitimate child named Juan de Andrada Moctezuma.[24] However, their happiness was short-lived. Two months after the birth of their son, Pedro Gallego died of unknown causes.[25] This left Isabel Moctezuma a widow for the fifth time at the age of twenty-one.[26]

In 1532, Hernan Cortes arranged for Isabel Moctezuma to marry for the sixth and final time to a Spaniard named Juan Cano de Saavedra.[27] Their marriage was very happy, and the couple loved each other.[28] They remained married for eighteen years until her death.[29] They had three sons: Gonzalo Cano Moctezuma, Pedro Cano Moctezuma, and Juan Cano Moctezuma.[30] She also had two daughters named Isabel Cano Moctezuma and Catalina Cano Moctezuma.[31]

In 1550, Isabel Moctezuma began to suffer from a terminal illness.[32] She made a will in which she freed her Aztec slaves.[33] She left her personal belongings to her daughters, Isabel and Catalina.[34] She died on 9 December 1550.[35] She was forty-one years old. However, her children from her fifth and sixth marriages would fight over her wealthy estate.[36]

Empress Isabel Moctezuma’s descendants from her illegitimate daughter, Leonor Cortes Moctezuma, would become part of the Spanish nobility with the title of Duke of Moctezuma de Tultengo.[37] Her other descendants from her son, Juan de Andrada Moctezuma, would also become part of the Spanish nobility as the Count of Miraville, the Duke of Abrantes, and the Duke of Linares.[38] Thus, Empress Isabel Moctezuma’s descendants successfully integrated themselves into the Spanish nobility.[39] In the end, Isabel Moctezuma (the last Aztec Empress) managed to assimilate into Spanish society.[40] She was the last symbol of the Aztec Empire.[41 Through her alliance with the Spanish, Empress Isabel Moctezuma managed to have a very wealthy estate that would become a problem among her descendants.[42] It is also because of her royal blood that her descendants eventually became part of the Spanish nobility that still exists today.[43]

Sources:

Chipman, D. E. (2010). Moctezuma’s Children: Aztec Royalty Under Spanish Rule, 1520–1700. (n.p.): University of Texas Press.

Chuchiak, J. (2008). Moctezuma, Isabel. In The Oxford Encyclopedia Women in World History. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 30 Jan. 2023, from https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195148909.001.0001/acref-9780195148909-e-707.


[1] Chuchiak, 2008

[2] Chipman, 2005

[3] Chuchiak, 2008

[4] Chuchiak, 2008; Chipman, 2005

[5] Chipman, 2005

[6] Chuchiak, 2008

[7] Chipman, 2005

[8] Chuchiak, 2008

[9] Chipman, 2005

[10] Chuchiak, 2008

[11] Chuchiak, 2008

[12] Chuchiak, 2008

[13] Chuchiak, 2008

[14] Chuchiak, 2008

[15] Chuchiak, 2008

[16] Chipman, 2005

[17] Chuchiak, 2008

[18] Chipman, 2005

[19] Chipman, 2005; Chuchiak, 2008

[20] Chuchiak, 2008

[21] Chuchiak, 2008

[22] Chuchiak, 2008

[23] Chuchiak, 2008

[24] Chuchiak, 2008

[25] Chipman, 2005

[26] Chipman, 2005; Chuchiak, 2008

[27] Chuchiak, 2008

[28] Chipman, 2005

[29] Chuchiak, 2008; Chipman, 2005

[30] Chuchiak, 2008

[31] Chuchiak, 2008

[32] Chuchiak, 2008

[33] Chuchiak, 2008

[34] Chuchiak, 2008

[35] Chuchiak, 2008

[36] Chuchiak, 2008

[37] Chipman, 2005

[38] Chipman, 2005

[39] Chipman, 2005

[40] Chuchiak, 2008

[41] Chuchiak, 2008

[42] Chuchiak, 2008

[43] Chipman, 2005






About Lauralee Jacks 174 Articles
I am a former elementary teacher in Tennessee. I have a bachelor’s degree in Liberal and Civic Studies from St. Mary’s College of California, a master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the College of Saint Mary. Because my family are from East Asia, I have a passion for historical Chinese and Korean television shows. I always wanted to separate fact from fiction in dramas. Writing articles from History of Royal Women gives me a chance to dig deeper and explore these royal women as they might have been in real life. Also, it gives me a chance to look at the history and culture of where my family originated. I love researching East Asian royalty because they rarely get enough attention in the West often being overshadowed by European royalty. I find these royal women to be just as fascinating and their stories deserve to be told. Thus, I am excited to write for History of Royal Women!

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