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King Ferdinand V

"Ferdinand the Catholic", King of Aragon, 1474-1516

King Ferdinand V

Ferdinand was born at Sos in Aragon, on March 10, 1452. He was the son of John II of Aragon and his second wife, Joanna Henriquez, of the family of the hereditary grand admirals of Castile. In 1469 he was married to his cousin, Isabella of Castille (heiress of Henry IV of Castille), thus uniting Aragon and Castile into a single kingdom.

King John II died in 1479, raising Ferdinand to the throne of Aragon. He then presumed to proclaim himself king of Castille as well, but Isabella asserted her rights as lawful ruler and insisted on having a voice in the government of Castile. The two kingdoms were effectively governed separately (in matters of domestic affairs only) until Isabella's death.

Unification and Expansion of Spain

Ferdinand and Isabella's marriage had already united two of the most powerful kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula into one kingdom, but Ferdinand extended their kingdom to include most of what is now commonly known as Spain. Granada was conquered in 1492, and Cerda˝a and Rousillon were recovered from France in 1493. He also established Spain's power in Italy through a series of diplomatic and military victories over France between 1495 and 1512.

The addition of Granada to the Spanish realm provided enough money for Ferdinand and Isabella to fund Christopher Columbus's voyage of 1492. That voyage opened a vast new continent of opportunities for Spain to take advantage of. Before long Spain's empire stretched across the Atlantic Ocean, thanks in large part to the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, which divided the non-Christian world between Spain and Portugal. Spain just happened to get almost all of the Western Hemisphere as a result of the treaty, which gave it "license" to exploit Mexico, Central America, most of South America, and most of what is now the Southwestern United States.

"The Catholics"

Both Ferdinand and Isabella were known as "The Catholics" because they banned all religions other than Roman Catholicism from Spain, and, in 1480, established the Spanish Inquisition. Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, and the Moors were forced out of Granada in 1502.

Domestic Affairs

Although Ferdinand and Isabella extended royal authority over most of what is now Spain, they also reduced the power of the lower nobility and elevated the status of peasants. In 1496, in an effort to end constant struggles between serfs and feudal lords, Ferdinand arbitrarily chose to end serdom in Catalonia, which allowed some 50,000 peasants to become small landowners. Both sovereigns worked to suppress banditry and feudal lawlessness throughout their kingdoms, and to stimulate economic progress by issuing decrees designed to protect and develop native commerce and industry.

Children of Ferdinand and Isabella

Ferdinand and Isabella had five children: Isabella became the Queen of Portugal; John died in his youth; Joanna married Philip the Handsome, the son of Maximilian of Austria; Maria; and Catherine married Henry VIII of England.

Assumption of the Throne of Castille

When Queen Isabella died in 1504 Philip the Handsome assumed the crown of Castile on behalf of his wife, who had by then become mentally unstable. Although the crown rightfully belonged to Ferdinand by marriage, he chose not to oppose his son-in-law because Philip was supported by a strong faction of Castilian nobles. Philip died in 1506, and Ferdinand promptly claimed the Castilian crown on behalf of his daughter.

Annexation of Navarre

In 1506, Ferdinand married Germaine of Foix. He used that marriage to annex most of Navarre in 1512.

Death and Other Information

King Ferdinand V died at Madrigalejo in Estremadura on January 23, 1516. He was succeeded on the throne of Aragon by his grandson Charles (Charles I of Spain, Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire).

Niccol˛ Machiavelli believed Ferdinand to be the epitome of what every monarchy should aspire to, and used him as the model for his landmark work The Prince.

See Also

Queen Isabella
Christopher Columbus
Central America
South America
Henry VIII

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The Robinson Library >> Spain >> 1479-1516

This page was last updated on January 23, 2019.