The Year of Isabella I of Castile – “She offered us a dead child”




Margaret in premature labour as portrayed in Isabel (2012)(Screenshot/Fair Use)

On 19 March 1497, Queen Isabella’s only son, John, married Margaret of Austria in person.

They had to wait two weeks to consummate the marriage as it was Lent. They took to each other immediately, and physicians began to worry about the time the couple spent in bed together. Margaret wrote home to her father how happy she was and that her tears “were not out of sadness.”1 Prince John was “a prisoner to his love for the lady, our young prince is once more too pale.”2 Physicians advised to separate the two from time to time, but Isabella told them that it was not right for man to separate what God has joined.3 And so, John’s health declined at an alarming rate.

On 29 September, Queen Isabella was informed that her son was dangerously ill, and King Ferdinand arrived just in time to say goodbye to his dying son. On 4 October 1497, John died at the age of 20 at the Bishop’s Palace in Salamanca. They had just learned of Margaret’s pregnancy. Isabella devoted herself to looking after Margaret. She and Ferdinand wrote, “Our devotion to the princess only grows, as she tries hard and so sensibly, just as [the person] she is, and we will work to console her and to make her happy as if she had lost nothing. She is healthy with her pregnancy, thank God, and we that – by his Mercy – the fruit that emerges from her will be consolation and repair for our woes. We care and will care for the princess just as if her husband were still alive, for we hold her in that place and love for ever.”4

After a pregnancy of seven months, Margaret went into premature labour. In April 1498, a stillborn daughter was born. One courtier bluntly wrote, “Instead of bearing the much-desired offspring, she offered us a dead child.”5 The chronicler of the Indies wrote, “The sovereigns showed great patience and, as prudent and spirited princes, consoled all [of Spain’s] peoples in writing.”6 Margaret arranged for a grand tomb for her husband and picked from 20 designs. She paid for it from the widow’s gift she received from Castile. The white marble design was eventually placed in Avila. Even decades later, Margaret still paid to have masses said for her late husband’s soul.

  1. Margareta van Oostenrijk by Johan de Cock p.30
  2. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s first great queen by Giles Tremlett p.399
  3. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s first great queen by Giles Tremlett p.399
  4. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s first great queen by Giles Tremlett p.403
  5. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s first great queen by Giles Tremlett p.404
  6. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s First Great Queen by Giles Tremlett p.404






About Moniek Bloks 2698 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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