As the end of the 15th century was approaching, King Henry IV, ruler of Castille passed away, leaving his kingdom in the hands of his sister Isabella. When she married Ferdinand, King of Aragon, they united the Spanish nation, and were about to be remembered as the most famous and significant rulers of Spain. This unity reduced the power of the nobles, who before this time had held so much power that they were almost independent from the Crown. As soon as Isabella came into power she established the Holy Brotherhood (military force) to secure her power and influence, thereby weakening the traditional aristocracy.
She had a vision of Spain that she was determined to see carried out, and she used absolute feudalism to expand her royal authority and influence the nation. Wealth although, was not the only goal of the Queen, she wished to see a unity of the Christian faith in her nation, with no other bad religions to desecrate her strong belief in the power of the Christian religion. She mainly saw the Jewish people as a threat to her, both politically and economically, and fabricated a plan to rid her of this problem.
Through her desideratum for the highest possible political power and her notion of religious obligation, she devised a system to legitimise and achieve her objectives and completely annihilate all Non-Christians. Thus, she established the Spanish Inquisition. Isabella was raised and taught by her mother to always believe strongly in the Christian faith so that she could live a virtuous Christian life. When she was growing up the idea of pure blood was enforced, which excluded people of Jewish and Moorish descent (Fernandez-Urmesto 168).
She had always believed in the Biblical book the Apocalypse that explained the prophecy of the Second Coming, and imagined herself or one her descendants in the position of ruler at that time. However, she presumed that that empirical ruler would only be able to emerge when all Jews would disappear as a race. Devoutly religious, Isabella believed that it was the duty of Christian rulers to implement Gods will on Earth (Commire, Women 713). She concluded that the only way to fulfil that duty would be to impose her authority through religion, to either convert or eliminate all non-Christians.
She felt that it was the Queens royal and sacred duty to do so. Ferdinand and Isabella consequently acted to bring religious uniformity throughout Castille and Aragon. Isabella saw herself in a position where she was servicing both God and herself and doing what was needed for the realm, the faith, and the Crown (Liss 277). Isabella felt that not only did the Jews pose a threat religiously, but they also posed a danger to the independence and security of the nation (Mariejol 40).
Not only did she wish for her religion to be the same with the Spanish people, but she and her husband also wished to have total control of the kingdoms political and social structure. In order to have total control Isabella complied with the theory, He who is not with me, is against me (Walshe 224). Isabella devised a plan parallel to royal purpose and strategy that besides enforcing religious conformity, would also enhance popular adhesion and internal control, and would bring in funds (Liss165).
By ridding the nation of all non-Christians, the idea of patriotism and political conformity would be strongly enforced. By the time Isabella and Ferdinand came into power, some Jews had begun to convert because they felt discriminated against, but still, together with the remaining Jews they managed to control many assets in the country and pose a threat to the Queens power. There was no doubt that they were at the height of prosperity, with the capital and commerce of the country in the palms of their hands.
By the time Isabella came into power, the Jews were a power, almost a state within a state (Walsh 261). Wherever Jews would be situated, their individuality would strongly influence both the people and environment around them. Isabella fathomed that if nothing were to be done about the Jews, The government would gradually be passed into Jewish hands (Walsh 261). Castille had a significant Jewish population whose members had much influence as physicians, bankers, and tax collectors. People were intimidated by them for their intelligence and financial ability and were jealous of the power they had.
Isabella said, Each day, it is found that the Jews increasingly continue their evil and harm (Liss 263). She convinced both herself and her people that the only rational solution would be to abolish these enemies from the domain. On March 30, 1942, Isabella and Ferdinand conquered Granada, the land of the Islamic people and put their Visigothic code into effect (Mariejol 52). They decided that their country and its Christian beliefs were in danger as long as the Jewish people were working and influencing their communities.
Religion was so intimately linked to the idea of the state that it seemed unthinkable for a prince to allow adherents of Moses and Mohamed to live side by side with the Christian folk (Mariejol 40). To protect the unity of Spain and to allow for the golden age of progress to arrive, Isabella and Ferdinand obtained authorisation from Pope Sixtus IV to grant a bull for the establishment of the Inquisition. They were then allowed to choose the priests who were to investigate and discover all heretics and apostates (Llorente 32).
The courts of Spain were then put under royal control as opposed to papal or episcopal control as they were in the past (Commire, Women 715). All non-Christians were faced with two choices, either convert and adhere to the Christian faith or be removed from the country. Many people chose to flee the country and others chose to convert but still tried to keep the Jewish culture whenever possible. With the all the non-Christians taken care of, Isabella sustained that her kingdom would now be able to become more powerful and capable.
Conversion, Inquisitions and expulsion brought religious uniformity, and control over the Spanish church, which strengthened Ferdinands and Isabellas royal power (Commire, Historic 656). The inquisition was first established in Seville, and then spread throughout Castille and Aragon, and was considered one of the earliest institutions in Spain. The inquisition was an ecclesiastical court charged with achieving an objective to both religion and the state (Mariejol 39). Inquisitors were sent out to find any one person who had converted to the Christian religion but still practised the Jewish ways, otherwise known as Judaizers.
Heresy became more than just a religious question; it became both a political and national issue to be examined. The idea of heresy greatly troubled Isabella because she believed conformity within her nation was essential for the new order of monarchical centralisation (Commire, Women 715). People were questioned and tortured under extreme circumstances so that they would reveal whatever the Inquisitor wished to hear, even if it was not true. All people found guilty of heresy were either executed or sent to prison to serve as a lesson to all other conversos: follow the Christian ways or else.
The aim of the inquisition, Isabella explained, was to not only punish and persecute for the sake of intolerance, but was to protect the faithful Christians from unjust scepticism and subjugation (Walshe 271). As long as the Spanish religion and nationality was protected from the spread of heretical principles, Isabella felt her objectives were being met. Queen Isabella was and is still seen as one of the most influential people in Spanish history. Her reasons for introducing the Spanish Inquisition, which seemed rational at the time, created an atrocity against humanity all for the vision of a pure nation.
Politically, she desired power, and anything that posed a threat to her was to be eliminated. Through strong influence and careful planning, she demonstrated the capability she had to stop at no means to get what she wanted. Isabella also, felt that it was her duty, to cleanse the nation and prepare it for bigger and better things. The position that the Jews had at that time, combined with the new-Christians, who still faithfully believed in the Jewish religion, advocated the Queen to rid her nation of these impurities, to ready her nation for the golden age of progress.
Isabella had the opportunity to be a great Queen for all Spaniards, however, her shortsighted vision of the world, supported by the intolerance of the time, lead her to relentless cruelty against those who did not share her beliefs. As much as she will be remembered as one of the most important leaders of the Spanish world, she will also be remembered as the instigator of one of the major social crimes in history.