Isabella, The Ruler of All

“Glory is more rewarding when gained through much suffering”. Isabella I of Castile, after the conquest of Granada in 1492

The crowd cheered in exultation as the procession passed. Orange blossoms and wild poppies effused their delicate aroma to the weary troops that accompanied the monarchs on their way to the entrance of Granada. A long campaign, the longest reconquest in history, was coming to an end…

Isabella looked at each one, still praying for relief. She had been praying from the moment she heard the cannon shots that confirmed the success of the negotiations. Granada was at last Christian.

They had already come through the gates. The people continued to cheer, with the joy and relief that only a people seeing the end of a war can express. How many of them had lost brothers, fathers and friends in the long campaign? With what hopefulness would they now look to the liberator, eager that peace would mean the return of their prisoners; and with them their splendor of yesteryear, their caravans of trade, their activity…

A city that was naturally open to the world, closed for too long due to the conflict. But starting today, businesses would reopen; the commoners would go back to work. The potter would rebuild the broken-down walls, the tailor would knit his clothes again, the merchant would once again dare to send his caravans to his new compatriots.

Spain was now a unified kingdom for the first time since the 8th century, and the desire of Isabella and Ferdinand was for them to flourish as a people… and as a key player among the Christian kingdoms. But through diplomatic channels…

She did not yet know if she would ever get over the impact, the anguish, the intense pain of her days, weeks, months in the field hospital. She had put a halt to Fernando’s intentions: Isabella, as queen of Castile, would not leave the rearguard of the army. She would support and encourage her wounded soldiers throughout the many long days of the war against Granada. She was the queen, and they were her brave defenders: She could not leave them.

No monarch should start a war without imagining peace. That is why she demanded the utmost respect for the defeated. Muhammad XII would not be humiliated, and the integrity of the people of Granada would be respected. Conduct is important. Respect for the adversary is a sign of greatness.

They had just reached the courtyard of the Alhambra, and all her thoughts vanished instantly. She could only focus on what she was taking in with her eyes and ears… could something so beautiful exist? What desire for glory, what human aspiration could produce such creativity? None…

All around her, in the Court of the Lions, she could see the magnificent creations of anonymous workers, who clearly were inspired by the desire to capture beauty, and to make it last… Behold, thought Isabella at that moment, a starting point that we can build from. We are inspired by the same thing, the vast majority of her subjects have the same desire for beauty in their hearts. The beauty of a temple, the beauty of a palace; the beauty of an undertaking as ambitious as that of her friend Christopher Columbus; the beauty of a unified kingdom where everyone works for the common good. The beauty of Christianity that seeks to build peace on the Old Continent…

Would this be the achievement that her feminine soul would leave for posterity? Or would it go down in history as a fleeting moment, buried perhaps a few years after her death by the ambition of those who would come after her? She didn’t know. She only knew that she had the inspiration of that legacy, and the sense of responsibility for the role in history that she had been graced with. So, she continued steadily onward, with a generous heart, toward the throne.

Some thoughts that come to mind when we reflect on Isabella I of Castile:

  • Having respect for those who are different enables you to learn and appreciate their achievements.
  • Ideologies and interests divide, values unite.
  • Beauty, goodness and truth have overlapping borders. They are the other names of God.
  • Inspiration activates spiritual energies and a sense of purpose that make it possible to transcend personal interests and synergize them with those of others.
  • The everyday feeling of gratitude dissipates fears.

Prof. Luis Huete