The Year of Isabella I of Castile – Conquering Granada




isabel granada
The scene as portrayed in Isabel (2012) (Screenshot/Fair use)

At the end of the Reconquista, the Emirate of Granada was the last land left for Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon to conquer. The Reconquista is a term used for the military campaigns that the various Christian kingdoms waged against the Muslim kingdoms following the Umayyad conquest of Hispania, which was the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula by the Umayyad Caliphate in the 8th century.

The Muslim Nasrid dynasty had held the Emirate since the 13th century and long withstood the Reconquista. On 1 February 1482, Medina del Campo was reached, which is ultimately considered the start of the Granada War. It would take ten long years to conquer Granada.

The siege of Granada began in the spring of 1491, and Sultan Muhammad XII of Granada, known in Europe as Boabdil, surrendered. On 2 January 1492, Isabella and Ferdinand triumphantly entered the city. Isabella, who had always liked the Arab style of dress but had kept it private until then, deliberately chose to dress in the Moorish style for the occasion. She chose a silk and brocade aljuba with a tight, buttoned-up top, long sleeves and a knee-length skirt. Her husband and children were dressed in a similar style.1

Sultan Muhammad rode out of the magnificent Alhambra palace on a mule, accompanied by fifty retainers. When they met, he played the defeated king and Isabella the magnanimous victor, as previously arranged. Around 400 imprisoned Christians, who had been held inside the Alhambra, appeared in chains, and Isabella ordered that they be taken to the fortress at Santa Fe. As part of the deal, Isabella handed back the Sultan’s young son Ahmed, who had been their captive.2

isabel granada
The scene as portrayed in Isabel (2012) (Screenshot/Fair use)

As a cross was raised on one of the towers of the Alhambra, the members of Isabella’s chapel began to sing the Te Deum Laudamus. “The Joy was such that everyone wept”, wrote one chronicler.3 The keys to the city were now formally handed over and passed through to the hands of Isabella’s only son, Juan. The Sultan and his family then began their travels to the lands in the Alpujarra, which had been given to him. According to one tale, as he looked over at the land he was leaving, his mother admonished him with the words, “You do well to weep as a woman over what you could not defend as a man.”4

isabel granada
The scene as portrayed in Isabel (2012) (Screenshot/Fair use)

The terms of the following treaty were generous and agreed that “No Moor or Mooress will be forced to convert.” However, some saw this as a way of keeping the Moors quiet while other measures were taken to persuade them to leave. The letter-writer Cifuentes wrote, “The agreement is very beneficial to the Moors, but when things have reached such an honourable and beneficial end, it is right to finish them off by what-ever means. Now that the monarchs have Granada, which is what they wanted, they can apply cunning to the remaining task and, the Moors being as they are, make them leave the city without breaking the agreements.”5

  1. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s first great queen by Giles Tremlett p.249
  2. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s first great queen by Giles Tremlett p.249-250
  3. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s first great queen by Giles Tremlett p.250-251
  4. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s first great queen by Giles Tremlett p.251
  5. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s first great queen by Giles Tremlett p.259






About Moniek Bloks 2749 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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