The Year of Isabella I of Castile – The attempted alliance with King Afonso V of Portugal




isabella of castile
The scene as portrayed in Isabel (2011) (Screenshot/Fair Use)

By 1463, the future Queen Isabella was 12 years old and of marriageable age. At the time, both her brothers were still alive, but even then, any man who would marry her would become one of the most powerful men in the country.

Her half-brother, King Henry IV, sought the support of Portugal while the nobles of Castile leaned towards Aragon. Sometime in April 1464, Isabella found herself on the way to the Portuguese border to meet with the 31-year-old King Afonso V of Portugal. He had been widowed in 1455 and was also the brother of King Henry’s wife, Joanna.

During their meeting, Isabella spoke with him in Portuguese, which she would have learned from her mother and Queen Joanna’s ladies. One observer wrote, “Her beauty so captivated him that he immediately wanted to make her his wife.”1 Afonso was the perfect where King Henry was concerned. It would remove Isabella from Castile, and Afonso already had a son, which meant their children would play a limited role in the scheme of things.

According to one author, Isabella replied, “with her strange unchildlike caution, that she could not be betrothed save with the consent of the National Cortes, an appeal to Caesar that postponed the matter for the time being. Perhaps she knew her brother well enough to doubt his continued insistence that ‘she should marry none save the King of Portugal’, or she may thus early have formed a shrewd and not altogether flattering estimate of the volatile and uncertain Afonso.”2

  1. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s first great queen by Giles Tremlett p.35
  2. Isabel of Castile and the Spanish nation, 1451-1504 by Ierne Plunkett p.53






About Moniek Bloks 2732 Articles
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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