Isabella of Castile – Europe’s First Great Queen by Giles Tremlett Book Review

A major biography of the queen who transformed Spain into a principal global power, and sponsored the voyage that would open the New World.

In 1474, when Castile was the largest, strongest, and most populous kingdom in Hispania (present day Spain and Portugal), a twenty-three-year-old woman named Isabella ascended the throne. At a time when successful queens regnant were few and far between, Isabella faced not only the considerable challenge of being a young, female ruler in an overwhelmingly male-dominated world, but also of reforming a major European kingdom riddled with crime, debt, corruption, and religious factionism. Her marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon united two kingdoms, a royal partnership in which Isabella more than held her own. Their pivotal reign was long and transformative, uniting Spain and setting the stage for its golden era of global dominance.

Acclaimed historian Giles Tremlett chronicles the life of Isabella of Castile as she led her country out of the murky Middle Ages and harnessed the newest ideas and tools of the early Renaissance to turn her ill-disciplined, quarrelsome nation into a sharper, truly modern state with a powerful, clear-minded, and ambitious monarch at its center. With authority and insight he relates the story of this legendary, if controversial, first initiate in a small club of great European queens that includes Elizabeth I of England, Russia’s Catherine the Great, and Britain’s Queen Victoria.

Isabella of Castile‘s path to the crown was not an easy one. She was first and foremost, a woman and in her way stood not only her younger brother, who preceded her in the line of succession but also Joanna la Beltraneja, who may or not have been her niece. Her brother’s early death pushed her centre stage and Isabella became a firm believer in her right to rule. She succeeded in having herself named heiress to her brother, Henry IV of Castile. She allied herself with the most powerful Prince she could find and together they built an empire.

Giles Tremlett’s Isabella of Castile – Europe’s First Great Queen is a magnificent volume on the life of, indeed, Europe’s first great Queen, a worthy title. It is well-researched and has numerous notes to my great content. Isabella of Castile snakes through the pages as a thriving and ruthless Queen until the disasters later in life take their toll on the once invisible Isabella. Giles Tremlett makes it all come to life. Don’t be daunted be the sheer size of this book, you’ll be too emerged in Isabella’s life to notice.

Isabella of Castile – Europe’s First Great Queen by Giles Tremlett is available now in both the US and the UK.

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My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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