Childhood & Early Life
Ferdinand II was born on March 10, 1452, in Sada Palace, Sos del Rey Católico in the Kingdom of Aragon to John II of Aragon and his second wife, Juana Enríquez. On October 19, 1469 Ferdinand, who hailed from a cadet branch of the House of Trastámara, was married off to Infanta Isabella of the royal House of Trastámara, in Valladolid, Kingdom of Castile and Leon. Ferdinand and Isabella were cousins by descent from John I of Castile. Isabella was half-sister and heiress of Henry IV of Castile.
Marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella included a premarital agreement on sharing of power with the joint motto ‘tanto monta, monta tanto’. After Isabella’s brother King Henry IV died in 1474, she became Queen Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand the jure uxoris King of Castile.
Following his father’s death, Ferdinand ascended to the throne of Aragon on January 20, 1479. This led to unification of different territories of the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile in a personal union. Although under the same Crown, the various states were administered as separate political units.
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In 1478, Ferdinand and Isabella, jointly known as the Catholic Monarchs, established the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, generally called the Spanish Inquisition. Its objective was to maintain orthodoxy of Catholicism in their kingdoms replacing the Medieval Inquisition.
Early years of joint reign of Ferdinand and Isabella witnessed a series of military campaigns, better known as the Granada War, between 1482 and 1491 against the Nasrid dynasty's Emirate of Granada. The war ended on January 2, 1492 with victory of the Catholic Monarchs marking not only annexation of Granada by Castile but also end of all Islamic rules on the Iberian Peninsula.
On March 31, 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella issued an edict called the Alhambra Decree, also referred as Edict of Expulsion ordering expulsion of Jews from the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon if they do not baptise and convert to Christianity. The edict permitted converso Marrano Jews and Mudéjar Moors (Islamic) to stay in the kingdoms.
The first European expedition of Christopher Columbus that started on August 3, 1492, was sponsored by Ferdinand and Isabella. Thus the Catholic Monarchs played an instrumental role in initiating the first European encounters in the future Americas.
On June 7, 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed at Tordesillas that saw division of the newly discovered lands beyond Europe between the Crown of Castile and the Portuguese Empire.
Although the Treaty of Granada (1491) formally assured religious independence of Mudéjar Muslims, Ferdinand violated it by compelling all Muslims in the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon to either convert to Catholicism or face expulsion. He also burnt and destroyed more than 10,000 Arabic manuscripts in Granada.
He remained involved in a series of Renaissance conflicts, better known as the Italian Wars that commenced in 1494. By 1496 Ferdinand made alliances with several Italian princes and Emperor Maximilian I to install Ferdinand II, on the Neapolitan throne. Ferdinand II was the son of Ferdinand's first cousin Alfonso II who was expelled after Charles VIII of France invaded Italy in 1494.
After Ferdinand II of Naples died and his uncle Frederick succeeded the throne, Ferdinand signed an agreement with Louis XII, successor of Charles VIII in 1501 that led Ferdinand take Apulia and Calabria while the French took Naples, Campania and the Abruzzi. However the agreement fell apart and after a war with France, in 1504, Ferdinand became King of Naples Ferdinand III and reunited Naples with Sicily for the first time since 1458 and for good.
According to Isabella’s will dated October 12, 1504, following her death on November 26 that year, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, Joanna became Queen of Castile while Ferdinand became governor (gobernador) of the kingdom. As per the will after Joanna, her son Charles would succeed the crown of Castile.
Not pleased with policies of Joanna’s husband Philip the Handsome and to restrict the latter from garnering Aragon through Joanna, Ferdinand considered re-marriage for a new heir. He negotiated with King Louis XII of France and married Louis’ niece Germaine of Foix in July 1505.
In June 1506, Ferdinand and Philip signed the Treaty of Villafáfila that recognised incapacity of mentally unstable Joanna to rule Castile on her own. Ferdinand ceded all power of the government of Castile to Philip who was proclaimed Philip jure uxoris King of Castile. Ferdinand also renounced lordship of the Indies just keeping half of the income of the kingdoms of the Indies. However, Philip died on September 25, 1506 and Ferdinand returned as regent of Castile and as "lord the Indies".
On May 3, 1509, Ferdinand’s son with Germaine, John, Prince of Girona was born, however died within hours. If John survived then he would have succeeded the crown of Aragon instead of Ferdinand’s grandson Charles, and the crown of Aragon and that of Castile would have separated.
Meanwhile a major conflict in the Italian Wars, the War of the League of Cambrai began in 1508. The main war participants were the Republic of Venice, France and the Papal States. Almost all significant powers in Western Europe joined the war at some point or the other. Pope Julius II formed an anti-Venetian alliance, the League of Cambrai with the objective of curbing Venetian influence in northern Italy. It included Julius along with Ferdinand, Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor and Louis. The alliance however collapsed by 1510 due to disagreement between Julius and Louis. The War of the League of Cambrai ended in 1516 with a French and Venetian victory and meanwhile Ferdinand became King of Navarre by conquest in 1512.
Family, Personal Life, Death & Succession
Ferdinand had seven children with his first wife Isabella including Isabella, Queen of Portugal; John, Prince of Asturias; Joanna, Queen of Spain; Maria, Queen of Portugal; and Catherine, Queen of England.
His only child with second wife Germaine, John, Prince of Girona, died within hours of his birth. Ferdinand also had many illegitimate children including Alonso de Aragón, who became Archbishop of Zaragoza and Viceroy of Aragon.
Ferdinand died on January 23, 1516, in Madrigalejo, Extremadura, and was buried at the Royal Chapel of Granada. Ferdinand's grandson, Charles inherited the Crown of Castile and the Crown of Aragon and emerged as the first king to rule the two kingdoms Suo jure and simultaneously as a united Spain, for which he is generally referred as the first king of Spain.