Queen Isabella of Castile (1451-1504) is another complicated historical figure that I can’t say I have a crush on, but I do find interesting. She had a difficult childhood, with lots of jockeying for who would be the heir to the throne, various wars and rebellions occurred, and eventually she took the throne in 1474.
She married Ferdinand of Aragon, becoming queen consort of that country while ruling her own with her husband, had seven children (among them Catherine of Aragon and Juana la Loca), and most notably led the “Reconquista” which was war designed to conquer the parts of modern-day Spain that had been under Muslim control by the Nasrid dynasty for several centuries. She was also part of the ruling couple that financed Christopher Columbus’s voyages of discovery.
Thus, while a kick-ass queen ruling in her own right and a major power player in European/North African politics, she was also responsible for the death, expulsion, and forced conversion of many Muslims and Jews from Spain, and also played a key role in the Spanish conquest of Latin and South America. She has been considered both a hero and villain, and the reality is she’s a complex figure that is very much of her time and very much a symbol of much that was to come.
Let’s take a look at how this Spanish queen has been portrayed on screen!
Cristóbal Colón (1943)
A Mexican film, I assume based on the title it’s about Christopher Columbus. Mexican actress Consuelo Frank plays Isabella.
El Doncel de la Reina (1946)
According to a bad Google translate, “Hernando serves as a maiden to Queen Elizabeth from the site of Granada. By chance of life, he (she?) embarks on a caravel bound for the Indies.” Spanish actress Mary Carrillo plays the queen.
Christopher Columbus (1949)
English biopic, with American actress Florence Eldridge as Isabella. We’ve discussed both Isabella and Christopher’s hair.
Dawn of America (1951)
With a title like that, you just know this Spanish Columbus-centric film is going to be culturally sensitive! Spanish actress Amparo Rivelles wears the crown.
La Espada Negra (1976)
A Spanish film focused on Isabella and Ferdinand’s “love story,” with Spanish actress Maribel Martín as the queen.
Cristóbal Colón, de oficio … descubridor (1982)
A Spanish comedy musical about Columbus, with Spanish actress Fiorella Faltoyano as Isabella.
Juana la loca … de vez en cuando (1983)
I think this may be a sequel to the film above? It’s another comic take, this time more focused on Isabella (Spanish actress Lola Flores), Ferdinand, and daughter Juana.
Christopher Columbus (1985)
An American TV miniseries about Columbus, with Faye Dunaway as her maj.
Réquiem por Granada (1991)
A Spanish TV series that tries to tell the story of the 1492 fall of Granada from the Muslim perspective, with German actress Marita Marschall as the Castilian queen.
1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)
Gérard Depardieu as Columbus, on whom the film focuses, with Sigourney Weaver as Queen Isabella.
Carry on Columbus (1992)
One of the long-running English comedy “Carry On” films, this one focused on Columbus with June Whitfield (yes, Edina’s mum on Absolutely Fabulous) as the queen.
Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992)
Another “anniversary” production, this American film includes Marlon Brando as TORQUEMADA, TOM SELLECK as Ferdinand, and British actress Rachel Ward as Isabella. This sounds Snark Week-worthy!
True Adventures of Christopher Columbus (1992)
An English TV movie with Miranda Richardson as the queen.
Queen Isabel in Person (2000)
Isabel Ordaz is the only person credited for this Spanish film, so I guess the film must be just her?
Mad Love (2001)
A Spanish film focused on Isabella’s daughter and heir, Juana la Loca, with Spanish actress Susi Sánchez appearing briefly as mom.
A Spanish TV series focused on Isabella, beginning in her youth, with Spanish actress Michelle Jenner in the title role. Both Trystan and I tried to watch this, and we both thought it was crap. Contrary opinions?
Da Vinci’s Demons (2013)
Queen Isabella (British? actress Lydia Leonard) shows up in one episode of this baaaaad American TV show focused on a biker version of Leonardo da Vinci (allegedly). Why, I have NO idea.
El Ministerio del Tiempo (2015)
Michelle Jenner of Isabel appears in one episode of this Spanish time-traveling TV show.
Assassin’s Creed (2016)
Apparently Isabella (Marysia S. Peres) and Ferdinand show up in this American film based on the popular video game, but I didn’t make it that far.
The White Princess (2017)
Spanish actress Rossy de Palma appears as Isabella in one episode of this Elizabeth of York/Henry VII Philippa Fucking Gregory crap fiesta.
The Spanish Princess (2019-20)
Queen Isabella (Spanish actress Alicia Borrachero) appears in the first episode of this Philippa Fucking Gregory adaptation focused on daughter Catherine of Aragon. She’s implausibly armor-wearing and inaccurately badass.
Do any of these actresses/roles do Isabella of Castile justice?