Ferdinand of Aragon
(1452-1516)
   King of Aragon as Ferdinand II (1479-1516). His marriage to Princess Isabella of Castile in 1469 made him king consort of Castile after she became queen of that country in 1474, and his inheritance of Aragon in 1479 was the decisive step that made Ferdinand and Isabella the first king and queen of a united Spain. For many purposes the two kingdoms remained separate, but the royal marriage ensured that their descendants would rule both kingdoms. The Spanish Inquisition, founded in Castile in 1478 and extended to Aragon in 1483, was the only institution (except for the persons of the king and queen) common to both kingdoms. After Isabella's death in 1504, Ferdinand's authority in Castile came to an end, and the crown passed to their daughter, Juana, and her husband Philip the Handsome of Burgundy, a member of the Habsburg dynasty. But Ferdinand soon regained control of Castile as regent because of the death of Philip in 1506 and the mental illness of Juana, who was set aside in favor of her young son Charles of Ghent, born in 1500. Ferdinand acted as regent for the child, who grew up at the court of his Burgundian ancestors in the Netherlands while Ferdinand retained control of both Castile and Aragon.
   Like his wife Isabella, Ferdinand was a ruler of great ability, though their interests were very different. While Isabella was deeply religious and gave great attention to issues of church reform and Castilian domestic policy, Ferdinand was a secular politician mainly interested in foreign policy and military affairs. He consolidated his control of Spain and in 1492 successfully completed the conquest of the last Islamic principality left in Spain, the kingdom of Granada. Aragon had long functioned as a Mediterranean power with special interests in Italy because its king had direct rule over Sicily and Sardinia and also because an illegitimate branch of its royal family ruled the kingdom of Naples. Ferdinand responded to the French invasion of Italy in 1494 by coming to the aid of his cousin King Alfonso in 1495 and forcing the French out of Naples. From that time until the definitive establishment of Spanish hegemony in Italy in 1559, Spain was the principal rival of France for control of the peninsula.
   When the French throne passed in 1498 to King Louis XII, who had a hereditary claim to Milan as well as Naples, Ferdinand negotiated a secret treaty with Louis, agreeing to permit French seizure of Milan and to join the French in dethroning his cousin King Federico of Naples and dividing the kingdom between France and Spain. He then picked a quarrel with the French occupying force and in 1503 sent an army that crushed the French. This time Ferdinand kept the whole Neapolitan kingdom for himself. It remained under Spanish rule until the 18th century. In 1512 during another war with France,
   Ferdinand conquered most of the small kingdom of Navarre, including all of the region lying south of the Pyrenees mountains. Thus Ferdinand showed himself a ruthless but effective expansionist, adding Granada and Navarre to the Castilian lands and annexing all of Naples in 1503. He became a major figure in European politics and won the grudging admiration of the Florentine political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli. Ferdinand shares some responsibility for the establishment of the Inquisition and its systematic use to destroy the large Jewish community in Spain, but this action was probably more the work of the queen, who dominated religious policy.
   The enterprise of transatlantic exploration and the beginnings of Spanish colonialism in the Americas seem to have resulted from the initiative of Isabella rather than Ferdinand. Geography dictated that Castile would play the leading role in the new American colonies. In the long run, Ferdinand's greatest accomplishment was his dynastic diplomacy, expressed not only in military action but also in the advantageous marriages he negotiated for his children. His marriage of Juana to the Habsburg heir to Burgundy and the Netherlands was the act that brought his grandson Charles to the throne of Spain, Naples, Burgundy, and the Netherlands and prepared the way for his election as Holy Roman Emperor (Charles V) in 1519. Ferdinand's last great act was his careful preparation for Charles to succeed him in 1516 as the universally acknowledged sole heir to Spain and its dependencies.
   Although Ferdinand's connection with Sicily and Naples made him aware of Renaissance art and humanistic learning and led him to become a patron of the artists and scholars who introduced the new culture into Spain, he is not a major figure in the emergence of the native Spanish Renaissance. His fame rests on his military, political, and dynastic exploits, not on his cultural policies.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

Look at other dictionaries:

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