Isabella the Catholic: Spain’s Joan of Arc

May 20, 2013

Statue of the Queen Isabelle the Catholic, in hallway inside the Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace) in Madrid.

Statue of the Queen Isabelle the Catholic, in hallway inside the Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace) in Madrid.

Instead of marching to seize Isabel[la], Alfonso V proceeded to Arévalo…. [I]t gave Isabella the one thing she needed—time.

Queen Isabel of Castile

She pounced upon her advantage with all the energy of an awakening genius. Tireless, seemingly ubiquitous, she was almost constantly on horseback, going from one end of the kingdom to the other, making speeches, holding conferences, sitting up all night dictating letters to her secretaries, holding court all morning to sentence a few thieves and murderers to be hanged, riding a hundred miles or two, over cold mountain passes to plead with some lukewarm nobleman for five hundred soldiers. She knew and understood the word NECESSITY. She did not yet know the meaning of the word IMPOSSIBLE. All things were possible to God, and God was on her side. If she suffered from certain physical miseries, that was only to be expected; the work had to be done, it was necessary. Wherever she went the common people cheered her….

Queen Isabella of Castile

Moved to tears by her exhortations, the people believed her words, because it was obvious that she herself believed them with the irresistible sincerity of a child. Thanks to her skill…the end of June saw a considerable mobilization of hidalgos and the proletariat at several points. Isabel herself took command of several thousand men at Toledo, rode among them in armor, like Jeanne d’Arc; gave commands, organized, exhorted.

Isabella of Castile

It was little better than a rabble, some on horses, some on mules, more on foot; but it was a rabble animated by a religious confidence in the powers of the young Queen. At their head she marched to Valladolid, to make a junction with the troops Fernando was bringing from the mountains of the north…. [A] host of 42,000 men seemed to have sprung up by some miracle at Valladolid….

While Isabel struggled with the commissariat, Fernando quickly whipped the recruits into thirty-five battalions….


William Thomas Walsh, Isabella of Spain: The Last Crusader (New York: Robert M. McBride & Co., 1930), 110-12.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 283


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