The Queen's Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile
by C.W. Gortner
"I had read enough of our history to know that if female succession was not forbidden in Castile as it was in Aragon, no one actually believed a woman capable of ruling. The few who succeeded had encountered relentless opposition, sacrificing everything to retain their tenuous power. In the end, none had lived a happy life; all had paid a price for the right to call themselves queen. Was this what God required of me?"What I quickly discovered while reading this book is how little I know about Spain's colorful history. And all I really knew about Isabella of Castile is that she was the queen who supported Christopher Columbus's journey to America. But she was so much more than that.
Her early life was not easy; her mother was high strung and often suicidal. At thirteen, Isabella had to learn to navigate the intrigues of the Castilian court all while her beloved younger brother, Alfonso, challenged her older half-brother, Enrique, for the crown. Then, at sixteen, when she was declared the official heir to her brother's crown, she had to stand up against the many powerful men around her who wanted to decide her future for her. She refused to give in to them, and somehow even got the king to agree that she could choose for herself whom she would marry.
She chose her cousin, Ferdinand of Aragon. They had five children. And together they united their two realms and drove the Moors from Spain. Isabella valued education and made sure her four daughters were as well-taught as her son. Sadly, she also allowed Torquemada to carry out the Spanish Inquisition. Throughout her life, Isabella drew on her faith in God for guidance and strength. For her, duty to God and to Castile were paramount.
This novel is a fascinating account of Isabella's life; it's well-researched and well-written. I love it when historical fiction is both engaging and informative. And Isabella is such a complex character; Gortner does an excellent job of showing her courage and tenacity, her mistakes and imperfections, and the many struggles she endured over the course of her life. Not only did I enjoy reading this one, but I learned a lot, too.