Isabella of Aragon, Queen of Portugal

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For other people named Isabella of Aragon, see Isabella of Aragon (disambiguation).
Isabella of Aragon
Isabel das Asturias.jpg
Queen consort of Portugal and the Algarves
Tenure 30 September 1497 – 23 August 1498
Spouse Afonso, Prince of Portugal
Manuel I of Portugal
Issue Miguel, Prince of Portugal and Asturias
House House of Trastámara (by birth)
House of Aviz (by marriage)
Father Ferdinand II of Aragon
Mother Isabella I of Castile
Born Dueñas, Palencia
Died 23 August 1498(1498-08-23) (aged 27)
Zaragoza, Spain
Burial Convent of Santa Isabel, Toledo, Spain
Religion Roman Catholicism

Isabella, Princess of Asturias (2 October 1470 – 23 August 1498) was a Queen consort of Portugal and heiress presumptive of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, as their eldest daughter. Her younger sisters were Catherine, Queen of England, Queen Joanna I of Castile, and Maria, Queen of Portugal.

Early life[edit]

Isabella was the eldest child of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. Born during the reign of her uncle, Henry IV of Castile, the early years of her life were defined by the tension between him and her mother, as her uncle would not forgive her mother for marrying Ferdinand without his permission. Upon the death of Henry IV in 1474, Isabella's mother claimed the throne of Castile, and the young Isabella was swiftly sworn as the heiress to the throne.[1] She remained so until the birth of her younger brother, John, in June 1478.

The early years of the reign of Isabella I were spent embroiled in a war of succession, as Henry IV had not specifically named a successor. A struggle ensued between Isabella I and her niece, Joanna of Castile, who was known as "la Beltraneja" due to the rumors that she was the illegitimate child of Henry IV's queen Joan of Portugal and his favourite, Beltrán de La Cueva. Afonso V of Portugal, who was Henry IV's brother-in-law and young Joanna's uncle, intervened on Joanna's behalf and Ferdinand and Isabella were forced into a war with Portugal.[2]

During the war, young Isabella witnessed some of the chaos for herself. While her parents were fighting the Portuguese, the princess was left in Segovia while the city was placed under the control of Andrés de Cabrera and his wife, Beatriz de Bobadilla. The city's residents, unhappy with this new administration, rose up and seized control of the city. The then-seven-year-old princess was trapped in a tower of the Alcázar for some time until her mother returned to Segovia and took control of the situation.[3]

The war ended in 1479, with the Treaty of Alcáçovas. Among the terms were that Princess Isabella would marry the grandson of Afonso V, Don Afonso, who was five years younger than the princess. The treaty also provided that Ferdinand and Isabella would pay a large dowry for their daughter, and that the princess would reside in Portugal as a guarantee that her parents would abide by the treaty terms. Princess Isabella spent three years in Portugal before returning home.[4]

Isabella also spent a considerable part of her youth on campaign with her parents as they conquered the remaining Muslim states in southern Spain. For example, she accompanied her mother in accepting the surrender of the city of Baza.[5]


In 1490, Isabella married Afonso, the Prince of Portugal and heir of John II of Portugal. Though the marriage had been arranged by the Treaty of Alcáçovas, the marriage quickly became a love match. Isabella also proved a popular figure with the Portuguese royal family, due to her knowledge of their language and customs brought about by the years she had spent in Portugal as a child. Isabella's happy life in Portugal came to an abrupt end in July 1491, however, when Afonso was killed in a riding accident. She was heartbroken, and later became convinced that he had died because God was angry that Portugal had provided a refuge for the Jews that her parents had expelled from Spain.[6]

She was eventually sent back to Spain at the request of her parents, and Isabella returned to them devoutly religious and undergoing efforts to starve and scourge herself, something she would do for much of the rest of her life as part of her mourning for Afonso. She also declared that she would never marry again. Her parents seemed to have humored her declaration, but after the death of John II of Portugal in 1495, he was succeeded by Manuel I of Portugal, who immediately sought Isabella's hand. Ferdinand and Isabella, perhaps trying to respect their daughter's wishes, offered him the hand of one of their younger daughters, Maria, but he refused.[7] There remained a stalemate between them until Princess Isabella agreed to marry Manuel on the condition that he expel all Jews who would not convert to Christianity from Portugal. He agreed to her ultimatum and they married in 1497.[8]

In the same year as her second marriage, Isabella became Princess of Asturias and the heiress of Castile following the sudden death of her only brother, John, and the stillbirth of his daughter. She was pregnant when she returned home to be sworn in, something that was viewed with great excitement. Although female succession was permitted in Castile (as evidenced by the princess' own mother's rule), Ferdinand II's kingdom of Aragon hesitated to accept a woman as their future ruler. If she were to give birth to a son, then the child could inherit everything, something much preferred to being ruled by a woman.[9]


In Zaragoza on 23 August 1498, Isabella gave birth to her only child, Miguel da Paz, who became heir to the thrones of Castile, Aragon, and Portugal until his death in 1500. Because of her constant fasting and self-denial, she died within an hour of her son's birth. Isabella asked to be buried dressed as a nun and to be interred at the Convent of Santa Isabel in Toledo.[10] Manuel's chance to become King of Castile ended with Isabella's death, and the primary hope of uniting all of the Iberian kingdoms vanished with Miguel's death.

When Isabella's mother died in 1504, she requested that Isabella's body be moved to rest by her side in Granada, but this was never done.[11]

Manuel later married Isabella's younger sister, Maria of Aragon, who bore him his son and heir, John III. Portugal and Spain were finally united between 1580 and 1640, after Philip II of Spain, Isabella's great-nephew via her sister, Joanna, successfully claimed the throne of Portugal as a son Isabella of Portugal, the daughter of Maria and Manuel.


Titles from birth to death[edit]

  • 2 October 1470 – 30 June 1478: Her Royal Highness The Princess of Asturias
  • 30 June 1478 – 1490: Her Royal Highness Infanta Isabella of Aragon and Castile
  • 1490 – 13 July 1491: Her Royal Highness The Princess of Portugal
  • 13 July 1491 – 30 September 1497: Her Royal Highness The Dowager Princess of Portugal
  • 30 September 1497 – 23 August 1498: Her Majesty The Queen of Portugal


  1. ^ Downey, Kirstin, Isabella: The Warrior Queen, Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, New York, New York, 2014, p. 132.
  2. ^ Downey, Kirstin, Isabella: The Warrior Queen, p. 144.
  3. ^ Downey, Kirstin, Isabella: The Warrior Queen, p. 304.
  4. ^ Downey, Kirstin, Isabella: The Warrior Queen, p. 305.
  5. ^ Downey, Kirstin, Isabella: The Warrior Queen, p. 304.
  6. ^ Downey, Kirstin, Isabella: The Warrior Queen, p.314-315.
  7. ^ Downey, Kirstin, Isabella: The Warrior Queen, p. 316.
  8. ^ Downey, Kirstin, Isabella: The Warrior Queen, p. 369-370.
  9. ^ Downey, Kirstin, Isabella: The Warrior Queen, p. 331.
  10. ^ Downey, Kirstin, Isabella: The Warrior Queen, p. 331.
  11. ^ Downey, Kirstin, Isabella: The Warrior Queen, p. 409.
  12. ^ She was the daughter John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster to his first wife Blanche of Lancaster, making her half-sister of Katherine of Aragon's maternal great-grandmother Katherine of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster to his second wife Constance of Castile.
Isabella of Aragon, Queen of Portugal
Born: 2 October 1470 Died: 24 August 1498
Portuguese royalty
Preceded by
Eleanor of Viseu
Queen consort of Portugal
Succeeded by
Maria of Aragon
Spanish nobility
Preceded by
Princess of Asturias
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Princess of Asturias
Succeeded by