Thursday, July 5, 2012

Isabella of Castile: History and Character

 Two interviews with author C.W. Gortner.

From Reading the Past:
Isabella requested that this Council investigate corruption in the church, as it was deemed, as well as reports of non-conformity among conversos – Jews who’d converted to Christianity, most of them under duress during an intense period of persecution in the medieval era. She was troubled by ongoing rumors that many conversos were practicing Christianity at face-value or combining Judaism with Christian practices. Some, it was said, hadn’t really converted at all. To Isabella, this would have been gravely disturbing. The souls of her subjects, the very spiritual health of her kingdom, were at risk. Yet again, at first caution overrode even her piety. It took her almost four years to implement the papal bull that granted her permission to authorize the Inquisition’s revival. She instituted a program of spiritual education, dispatching trained priests to guide her subjects back to the ‘proper’ way of worship; it failed, but I did not make this up. If I hadn’t seen those reports in Spanish, I wouldn’t have understood the complexity of what she faced. I’m not condoning her role in the Inquisition, of course; I think she made a horrifying mistake that unleashed a monstrous wave of terror and suffering, but I do believe she agonized over her decision. I think she believed she had done everything she could to avoid persecution. (Read entire post.)
From A Bloody Good Read:
Some people apparently are determined to see her as this ruthless fanatic without redeeming qualities. I even got an e-mail recently from someone accusing me of glorifying a mass murderer. They blame her for things she had no control over, such as the rapine of the Americas. However, if you read her testament, you’ll see that she never wanted the New World destroyed as it was; that occurred under her grandson, Charles V, and his son, Philip II. She was human and extremely fallible; I do not seek to excuse her mistakes, which were grave and caused much suffering, but to assume she was a monster because of them is simply misguided. Her outer strength concealed inner conflict; anyone who researches her in depth will see that while she could be obdurate, she was not innately cruel. I think she hid her vulnerability because she was a woman, ruling a kingdom; and that she privately worried over some of her more controversial deeds. Her hesitation of years in authorizing the Inquisition indicates as much. But Isabella wasn’t prone to displays of emotion; she comes across, especially in her later years— the years we’re most familiar with—as remote, extremely pious, cold. She suffered the losses of her children, of her health, and the fear of her leaving her kingdom without a capable ruler with stoicism; you never hear her complain. This paints a picture of someone detached, when in fact she was deeply engaged. (Read entire post.)

1 comment:

julygirl said...

There were powerful figures who went way beyond the scope of what Issabelle intended.