1902 Encyclopedia > Ferdinand II of Aragon

Ferdinand II of Aragon
(also known as: Ferdinand V of Castile; Ferdinand II of Sicily; Ferdinand the Catholic)
Spanish King
(1452-1516)




FERDINAND V of Castile, III. of Naples, II. of Aragon and Sicily, surnamed el Catolico (1452-1516), the younger son of John II of Navarre and Aragon by his second wife Juana Henriquez of Castile, was born at Sos in Aragon on the 10th of March 1452.

On the death of his elder brother Carlos in 1461, he was recognized by the Aragonese as heir-apparent to the crown, but the Catalans, rendered indignant by the cruelty and perfidy with which Carlos had been treated, refused to recognize any further claim on their allegiance, and rose in rebellion against King John.

Ferdinand accompanied his father in the campaigns which followed, and gave early promise of distinction. In 1466 his father formally associated him with himself in the govertment of Aragon, and in 1458 declared him king of Sicily.

In October 1469 he was married at Valladolid, in circumstances of unusual secrecy, to Isabella, sister of Henry IV. of Castile, and heiress to that throne. On the death of Henry IV in 1474, Ferdinand and Isabella were recognized by the nobles in the junta of Segovia as joint-sovereigns of Castile; but a powerful party, including the marquis of Villena, the grand-master of Calatrava, the archbishop of Toledo, and numerous other notables, as well as some of the burghs, declared in favour of Juana "la Beltraneja" (i.e., daughter of Beltran), whom Henry had shortly before his death recognized as his own child, and by his will designated as his successor. Juana had also the support of Alphonso V. of Portugal (to whom she was betrothed in 1470) and of Louis XI of France. The result was a civil war which continued with varying fortunes until victory finally declared for the Catholic sovereigns, and the peace of Lisbon was signed in 1479.

In the same year, a few months previously, Ferdinand had succeeded his father on the throne of Aragon, though not on that of Navarre, which went to his sister Leonora de Foix. The union of Castile and Aragon, together with the prosperous termination of the civil war, gave the Catholic sovereigns leisure and opportunity for the development of a vigorous domestic policy. On their accession they had found themselves face to face with an almost anarchical condition of affairs: bitter feuds were raging in Andalucia between the great houses of Cadiz and Medina Sidonia; Galicia and other provinces were rent with hostile factions; robbery and outrage were paralysing commerce and agriculture throughout the kingdom.

One of their earliest measures for restoring the much-needed order was the reorganization and development (1476) of the ancient hermandad (brotherhood), a league which had been originally formed by some of the cities for mutual protection against the aggression of the nobles and of the crown, and which had already more than once, by means of its cortes extraordinary," made its power to be felt. It was now augmented and mobilized as a body of military police for the detection and repression of all crimes against person or property committed on the highways or in the open country. For these ends it proved very useful; and also for another purpose, which is believed to have been aimed at in its constitution, that of checking the arrogance and rapacity of the feudal aristocracy.

The next step for the avowed purpose of securing orderly government was the institution of the famous Inquisition as a tribunal for the repression of heresy (and, as some historians do not hesitate to add, for the extortion of money). The necessary bull was obtained from Sixtus IV. in 1478; the court was instituted at Seville in 1480, where the first auto de fe took place in the following year. The arrangement was extended to Aragon in 1483, Torquemada being appointed first inquisitor-general.





Among other measures taken by Ferdinand and Isabella for the consolidation of their power were the assumption of the grand-masterships of the three great military orders of knighthood, and the vindication from papal usurpation of their ancient rights of ecclesiastical patronage. One result of their firm and on the whole wise policy was that between the years 1477 and 1482 the revenue of the country had been augmented nearly six-fold, and that in 1481 they were free to resume the long-suspended war against the Moors. From the capture of Alhama to the fall of Granada in 1492 (1st January), the Christian arms had met with a series of uninterrupted successes which resulted in the final extinction of the Mahometan power in Spain, -- the Moors, however, being permitted the enjoyment of certain stipulated privileges, that of the free exercise of their religion being one. In March 1492 the edict for the expulsion of the Jews was signed at Granada, and it was on the 3rd of August in the same year that Columbus sailed from Palos in Andalucia, landing on the island of San Salvador on the I 2th of October.

In 1493 Ferdinand began to look abroad and take a practical interest in European affairs. By the treaty of Senlis he secured from Charles VIII. the restoration of Roussillon (now the department of Pyrénées Orientales) and of Cerdagne (now part of Catalonia), which had been mortgaged by John II of Aragon to Louis XI. In 1494 Charles VIII having undertaken his great Italian expedition, Ferdinand entered into an alliance with the emperor, the pope, and the states of Milan and Venice, and thus gained a footing in Italy for the Spanish troops which, under Gonsalvo de Cordova, succeeded in expelling Charles from Naples in 1496. By the peace of 1498, however, the throne of that kingdom was left in possession of Frederick.

In 1499 the liberty of worship which had been guaranteed to the Moors of Granada was treacherously withdrawn; serious risings in the Alpujarras (Sierra Nevada) were the consequence (1501); a decree was issued in 1502 offering to the conquered insurrectionists the alternatives of baptism or exile ; and, the latter being usually chosen, Spain had to suffer a second time the loss of many of her most useful subjects.

The Neapolitan war again broke out in 1500, and an alliance was formed between Ferdinand and Louis XII on the basis of a partition of their conquests. This pact was broken by Ferdinand, who by the battles of Cerignola and Garigliano became sovereign of Naples (Ferdinand III) in 1504.

The death of Isabella took place on November 23d of the same year; and in accordance with her will Ferdinand immediately caused his daughter Juana to be proclaimed queen and himself regent, Philip archduke of Austria, the husband of Juana, having disputed the rights of his father-in-law and threatened an appeal to arms, the latter in disgust, with the view of again separating the crowns of Aragon and Castile, entered into negotiations with Louis XII, married Germaine de Foix, the niece of Louis (1505), and shortly afterwards resigned the regency of Castile. On the death of Philip in 1506 he resumed the administration, though not without opposition, and retained it till his death.

In 1508 he joined the league of Cambray for the partition of Venice, and thus without any trouble became master of five important Neapolitan cities. In the following year (1509) the African expedition of Cardinal Ximenez was undertaken, which resulted in the conquest of Oran. In 1511 Ferdinand joined Venice and Pope Julius II in a "holy league" for the expulsion of the French from Italy. This gave a pretext for invading Navarre, which had entered into alliance with France, and been laid under papal interdict in consequence. Aided by his son-in-law Henry VIII of England, who sent a squadron under the marquis of Dorset to co-operate in the descent on Guienne, Ferdinand became master of Navarre in 1513 and on the 15th of June 1515, by a solemn act in cortes held at Burgos, he incorporated it with the kingdom of Castile.

He died at Madrigalejo (Estremadura) early in the following year, 23rd January 1516. It is said that his death was accelerated by a potion which in his desire for posterity he had taken in order to reinvigorate his exhausted constitution. He was succeeded by his grandson Charles I of Spain, more generally known by his European title as the emperor Charles V.

Though by no means a great general, Ferdinand possessed undoubted military capacity; though not a great statesman, he had abundant political skill. The largeness of his ambition was somewhat incongruously associated with a narrowness of view which showed itself very unfortunately for Spain in many instances, particularly in his treatment of the Moors and Jews, and with a smallness of nature which suffered him to treat with neglect his most faithful servants and greatest benefactors, such as Columbus, Navarro, and Ximenez himself. Yet his name is inseparably associated with the most splendid of all periods in the annals of Spain. It was under his guidance that the kingdom was consolidated and grew into its position of highest prosperity and greatest influence as a European power. And this must be admitted even when it is remembered that few sovereigns have been associated with such consorts as Isabella was, or surrounded by a band of men so distinguished as were Mendoza, Talavera, Ximenez, Gonsalvo de Cordova, and Pedro Navarro.

See Zurita, Anales, tom. v. and vi.; Mariana, Hist. Gen., xxiii.-xxx.; and Prescott’s brilliant History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella. (--)







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