Isabella of Portugal, Queen of Castile

For other uses of this term, see Isabel of Portugal (disambiguation).
Isabella of Portugal
Queen consort of Castile and León
Tenure 17 August 1447 22 July 1454
Born 1428
Died 15 August 1496 (aged 6768)
Burial Miraflores Charterhouse
Spouse John II of Castile
Issue Isabella I of Castile
Alfonso, Prince of Asturias
House House of Aviz
Father John, Constable of Portugal
Mother Isabella of Barcelos
Religion Roman Catholicism

Isabella of Portugal (Isabel in Portuguese and Spanish) (1428 – 15 August 1496) was Queen consort of Castile and León. She was the mother of Queen Isabella I "the Catholic".

She was born as a scion of a collateral branch of the Aviz dynasty that had ruled Portugal since 1385. Her father was John, Constable of Portugal, the youngest surviving son of John I of Portugal, and her mother was Isabella of Barcelos, a high noblewoman of some royal blood, being daughter of the first Duke of Braganza, who was an illegitimate son of John I of Portugal. Isabella of Braganza was therefore a half-niece of her husband. Isabella's father held some lordships, but was not among the forefront of the Portuguese royal house, there being a multitude of powerful dukes ahead of him.


Isabella was married to king John II of Castile as his second wife. His first wife, Mary of Aragon, had given him four children, though only one, the future Henry IV of Castile, had survived. Henry had been joined to Blanche II of Navarre in an unconsummated marriage for seven years and was called "El Impotente." Because of this, John decided to seek another wife, and the eyes of his trusted adviser and dear friend Alvaro de Luna fell on the much younger Isabella. The two were wed on 22 July 1447 when John was 42 and Isabella only 19.

Conflict with de Luna

De Luna had dominated the king for years and doubtless expected this to continue after the marriage. De Luna tried to control the young queen as well, even going as far as to attempt to limit the couplings between the amorous king and his bride. Isabella took exception to de Luna's influence over her husband and attempted to persuade her husband to remove this favourite.

She had little success until after the 1451 birth of her daughter and namesake who would become Isabella I of Castile. The queen's confinement was long and difficult, and the new mother sank into a deep depression during which she refused to speak to anyone but her husband. Alternatively hysterical, paranoid and withdrawn, Isabella tired out the weak-willed John, finally convincing him that his trusted advisor was conspiring against him, leading him to agree to rid himself of de Luna. To do this, Isabella employed the help of a nobleman, Alfonso Pérez de Vivero, hoping that de Luna would kill Pérez and compromise himself even further. When de Luna discovered this, he murdered Pérez, just like Isabella had planned. When de Luna's crime was discovered, Isabella used it as an excuse to have him executed. The death of his favourite saddened the old king, and his health began to decline rapidly. On 15 November 1453, Isabella gave birth to a son, Alfonso, and nine months later, John came to his deathbed, expiring at last on 20 July 1454. Henry IV, newly divorced from Blanche, became king.

The dementia of Isabella of Portugal (In Spanish: La demencia de Isabel de Portugal). Portrait attributed to the painter Pelegrí Clavé, which shows the widowed queen of Castile, Isabella of Portugal and Braganza, in one of her fits of insanity. Beside her are her youngest son, Alfonso of Castile (left) and her eldest daughter, the future Queen Isabella (right), along with other individuals from the small circle that accompanied the family into exile.


Coat of arms of Isabella of Portugal as Queen of Castile.

After Henry ascended the throne, he sent his stepmother, who was three years younger than himself, and his two little half-siblings to the Castle of Arévalo. While there, the dowager queen and her two children lived austerely. There is no evidence that the widowed queen ever considered remarrying.

While at Arévalo, Isabella sank deeper into the melancholy and paranoia that had begun after the birth of her elder child. She became increasingly unhinged with every passing year. Despite this, her children were kept with her until about 1461, the year in which Henry's second queen, Joan of Portugal, became pregnant with Joanna, Princess of Asturias, supposedly by her alleged lover, Beltrán de La Cueva. Meanwhile, the dowager queen thought she was plagued by the ghosts, particularly de Luna's spirit, and would spend days wandering the castle calling his name, speaking alone and cursing imaginary enemies. After a while, she also forgot who everyone around was, and at times she could not even remember her own identity, becoming aggressive.

Relationship with daughter

Her daughter Isabella did not visit her (Alfonso had died under suspicious circumstances in 1468), though in 1469, she did tell her half-brother that Arévalo was her destination when in fact she was going to Valladolid to marry Infante Ferdinand of Aragon, the heir of John II of Aragon. When Henry IV died in 1474, Isabella bypassed the claims of her niece, who had never been considered legitimate, to become Queen of Castile. Together, she and Ferdinand spent their time uniting Spain by completing the reconquista. It was not until 1496, when the queen heard that her mother was dying, that she finally visited Isabella. The deranged and distraught old woman did not recognise her daughter. After her death, she was interred next to her husband and son at Miraflores Charterhouse.


Her children were:



Wikimedia Commons has media related to Isabella of Portugal.
    Isabella of Portugal
    Cadet branch of the House of Burgundy
    Born: circa 1428 Died: 15 August 1496
    Spanish royalty
    Preceded by
    Maria of Aragon
    Queen consort of Castile and León
    Succeeded by
    Joan of Portugal
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