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Isabella of Castile: Spain’s Controversial Queen

Written by Nancy Rubin Stuart

Narrated by Lee Ann Howlett

Duration 1 hour and 52 minutes

Originally published in 1991 as a Book of the Month Club Featured dividend and awarded the Best Nonfiction Book by the American Society of Journalists and Authors, this authoritatively researched portrait of Queen Isabella brings to life one of the most controversial figures in European history–a woman who was passionate lover to Ferdinand of Aragon, conquered the Moors (Muslims) of Spain, funded Columbus on his famous journey, brought the Renaissance to Spain, and was hated for introducing the Spanish Inquisition. Like many modern career women, Isabella was torn between her workaday obligations, her marriage, and child-rearing. Which was she–a visionary, a saint, or a she-devil? Listen to Isabella of Castile and decide for yourself.

Who then, was the real Isabella?

Was she, as some people still believe, an unrecognized saint who deserved beatification because of her charitable acts to her subjects, her special concern for widows and orphans, and insistence upon cleansing the church of corruption?

Or was she a heartless bigot–a religious fanatic who forced conversions of Spanish Moors and Jews to Christianity on pain of death through the instruments of the Spanish Inquisition?

Was she, as history suggests, a brilliant woman–the only European monarch who understood the implications of a successful transatlantic crossing–and consequently sponsored Christopher Columbus’ famous journey across the ocean to the New World.

Who, then, was the flesh-and-blood Isabella? As her dramatic biography reveals, the queen was a very human blend of these three historical images.

Isabella of Castile describes the complex social and psychological forces that drove the queen to become one of history’s most famous and quixotic monarchs, a monumental figure who is alternately revered and despised to this very day.

About the author:

Nancy Rubin Stuart is an award-winning author and journalist who specializes in women, biography, and social history. Her books include Poor Richard’s Women: Deborah Read Franklin and the Other Women Behind the Founding Father, published in 2022. Earlier books include Defiant Brides, named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the best five books on Revolutionary-era women, the acclaimed The Muse of The Revolution, and the national best seller American Empress.

As a journalist, Nancy’s work has appeared in the New York Times, Huffington Post, The Washington Post, The New England Quarterly, and national magazines. She serves as executive director of the Cape Cod Writers Center.

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