Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella

Isabella of Castile was known as a powerful ruler in Europe. She sat on the throne from 1474 till 1505. She was married to King Ferdinand II of Aragon, both jointly ruled over Spain for more than thirty years. She was a devout Catholic Christian and oversaw the fall of Granada from the Muslims and the reestablishment of Christianity (Isaacs, L 2005). She was always in search finding ways to spread the religion and to convert people to faraway lands to increase the catholic rule. It was partly due to this aspect that decided to sponsor Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the west. Ferdinand was a full partner in the rule over the estates of Spain. The union between the two had stabilized the authority of the monarchy over the lands. The fall of Granada to the Catholic armies of Isabella and Ferdinand II inspired the initiation of the inquisition of Spain.

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Muslims and Jews were expelled from the regions under the monarch’s control. Isabella wanted a unified region for the Christian population. Around the same time, she also granted permission and authorized the voyage of Christopher Columbus to the west (Isabella & Ferdinand: Consolidating their power. 1997).

Christopher Columbus was born in Italy. He spent his early years on the sea with sailors and at an early age set about learning astronomy and geography through his trips on the sea. He was married to Felipa who came from an honorable family. After the birth of his son Diego, Felipa died and it was only then that he occupied himself with long voyages in the ocean and the thought that he could somehow reach India by sailing to the west. (Christopher Columbus in Spain 2002).

In those times, it was necessary to receive the patronage of the monarchy for any journey and Christopher Columbus’s intended voyage was no different. He used the connections he had with the royal courts to request sponsorship and patronage for such a journey, from the John II of Portugal, but he was refused. Similarly, he applied for requests from the kings of England as well as from France but was refused. Therefore, he moved to Spain with his son. He was a devout Christian and therefore quickly made connections in the church and the courts of Spain. In 1486, he went to the courts bearing a letter to Fernando de Talvera, a confessor to the queen. When nothing came of that request, he befriended the controller of finances of Castile, a proponent of Columbus’s idea. Through him, he found access to royal personage. He argued the logistics of his voyage but was turned away yet again. After repeated rejections, from the Spanish courts and from others, Columbus was about to travel to France when he went one last time to Father Marchea (the confessor to the queen Isabella).

He was impressed by the determination of the voyager and after consultations with friends, arranged a meeting of Columbus with Queen Isabella. At their first meeting, the Queen was impressed with the honest nature of the man before him (Christopher Columbus in Spain 2002). When he was introduced to the king and demanded the titles and riches from the countries that he might discover, King Ferdinand turned him away. Later Ferdinand argued that war had depleted the treasury and they could not afford to support the voyage. Queen Isabella saw in the journey, a means to spread her empire and Christianity. She defended the voyage, to the extent of pledging her jewels for the money, and recalled Columbus (Nostro, R. 2008). At the audience, Columbus spoke of providing Spain with the discoveries and profits from the voyage in order to sustain the struggle to recapture Jerusalem. This was the key factor in Isabella’s decision. As soon as Columbus attached his voyage to religion and showed it as a means to support the battle the recapture of the holy land, the Queen rejoiced at the idea, and Ferdinand, although not impressed agreed to sponsor the voyage. The queen was so influenced by Columbus’s idea that all his demands were accepted. She even made Diego, the son of Columbus, page to her majesty’s son (Christopher Columbus in Spain 2002).

After the first journey, Columbus at the audience with the monarchs displayed the discoveries and the riches he had found. He was granted all the titles and the riches promised to him. The queen was delighted and fascinated at the same time. The king although pleased at the success was not a big supporter of Columbus. After two further voyages to the west, he realized that the colonies were not prospering. The people had started rebelling against Columbus’s ways. Ferdinand was never a great supporter of the man. In 1499, he ordered Columbus to give up his charge. The queen’s friendliness could no longer support and defend Columbus. He was demoted. To regain the catholic majesty’s favor, he took the 4th and his last voyage westwards. During his stay, he suffered much from the rebellion of his subordinates and natives. He became very ill. He died back in Spain from the same illnesses that he contracted when in the Americas.


Isaacs, L. 2005. “Queen Isabella I of Spain”. Kings college. Web.

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“Isabella & Ferdinand: Consolidating their power”. 1997. The University of Calgary. Web.

Christopher Columbus in Spain. 2002. Our country. Vol 1. Web.

Nostro, R. 2008. Christopher Columbus. Web.

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