Ferdinand of Aragon 1452–1516 Spanish King

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Ferdinand of Aragon 1452–1516
Spanish king

During the 1400s Spain consisted of three separate Christian kingdoms—Aragon, Navarre, and Castile—and the Muslim kingdom of Granada. The marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon to Isabella of Castile in 1469 brought two of these kingdoms together. Ferdinand and Isabella consolidated power in their lands and acquired foreign territory.

After Ferdinand became king of Aragon in 1479, he and Isabella cooperated in a "union of crowns." Their plan was to keep various rival groups under control through a series of wars. They joined in the struggle to drive the Moors* from Granada, the last Muslim possession in Europe. Granada fell in 1492, and the Moors who remained had to convert to Christianity. That same year, under pressure from the Spanish Inquisition*, Ferdinand and Isabella ordered the Jews in their realm to convert or leave.

The monarchs brought Italian lands under their control when they took Naples from France in 1503. Ferdinand became a major player in Italian politics. Isabella's death the following year ended the union of crowns. The throne of Castile went to their daughter Juana and her husband Philip (Philip I of Spain). After Philip's death in 1507, Ferdinand returned to claim the crown. Within a few years he had incorporated Navarre into Castile.

Before his death, Ferdinand prepared the way for his grandson to rule Spain (as Charles I) and the Holy Roman Empire* (as Charles V). That succession* created a united and powerful Spain, a kingdom that controlled part of Italy and the beginnings of an empire in the Americas. However, Ferdinand also left behind military conflicts that drained the country financially and a fierce Catholicism that divided society. On the positive side, Ferdinand's legacy includes his support for the arts, for humanism*, and for the historic voyages of Christopher Columbus. The people of Spain admired Ferdinand because he was the last Spanish ruler before their land passed to foreign dynasties.

(See alsoHoly Roman Empire; Inquisition; Moriscos. )

* Moor

Muslim from North Africa; Moorish invaders conquered much of Spain during the Middle Ages

* Spanish Inquisition

court established by the Spanish monarchs that investigated Christians accused of straying from the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, particularly during the period 1480–1530

* Holy Roman Empire

political body in central Europe composed of several states; existed until 1806

* succession

determination of person who will inherit the throne

* humanism

Renaissance cultural movement promoting the study of the humanities (the languages, literature, and history of ancient Greece and Rome) as a guide to living

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