Isabella of Portugal Biography

(Former Holy Roman Empress (1530 - 1539))

Birthday: October 24, 1503 (Scorpio)

Born In: Lisbon, Portugal

The Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, the Duchess of Burgundy, and the Queen of Germany, Italy, Spain, Naples, and Sicily, Isabella of Portugal was a symbol of power and wisdom. The beautiful queen with a massive empire married Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1526. Although they were first cousins, the love of Emperor Charles and Isabella blossomed as beautifully as a red rose. Isabella also served as a regent in her husband’s absence, from 1529 to 1532, from 1535 to 1536, and from 1538 to 1539. She had six children with Charles. Of them, only three survived to reach adulthood. In 1539, she gave birth to a stillborn child, after which her health deteriorated. Two weeks later, on May 1, 1539, Isabella died of chronic tertian fevers and a hemorrhage. Her death affected Emperor Charles deeply. He never remarried. He introduced the red carnation to Spain as a token of his love for his queen. Isabella came to be known as the ‘Empress of the Carnation’ because of this gesture of the emperor.
Quick Facts

German Celebrities Born In October, Spanish Celebrities Born In October

Also Known As: Isabella, Empress of the Carnation

Died At Age: 35


Spouse/Ex-: Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (m. 1526–1539)

father: Manuel I of Portugal

mother: Maria of Aragon, Queen of Portugal

siblings: Cardinal-Infante Afonso of Portugal, Duarte of Portugal; 4th Duke of Guimarães, Duchess of Savoy, Ferdinand of Portugal; Duke of Guarda, Henry; King of Portugal, John III of Portugal; Beatrice of Portugal, Luís of Portugal; Duke of Beja, Maria of Portugal; Duchess of Viseu, Miguel da Paz; Prince of Portugal

children: Holy Roman Empress, Joanna of Austria, Maria of Austria, Philip II of Spain, Princess of Portugal

Born Country: Portugal

Empresses & Queens German Women

Died on: May 1, 1539

place of death: Toledo, Spain

Ancestry: Spanish Portuguese

Cause of Death: Childbirth Fever

City: Lisbon, Portugal

Childhood & Early Life
Isabella of Portugal was born on October 24, 1503, in Lisbon, Portugal to King Manuel I of Portugal and his second wife, Maria of Argon. She was the second child and the eldest daughter of the king.
Isabella was the granddaughter of the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella I of Castile and Fernando II of Argon. She was named after her maternal grandmother and her aunt Isabella, Princess of Asturias, who was also her father’s first wife.
Isabella had a happy childhood with her wealthy family. She spent her young life at the Ribeira Palace which was later destroyed by an earthquake.
Isabella loved learning new languages and was also a lover of literature. She owned a vast library. She learned Latin, Spanish, and French, before she became old enough to get married.
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Marriage to Emperor Charles
Charles of Habsburg was considered to be the best match for Isabella. Moreover, her mother, Maria, had clearly mentioned in her will that her daughter must consider only a king or a legitimate son of a king for marriage.
Charles was the son of Maria’s sister Joanna of Castile and Philip the Handsome, the Duke of Burgundy. That made him Isabella’s first cousin.
The marriage of Charles and Isabella was to be of great importance to Portugal and Spain. Since Portugal was the wealthiest kingdom and Charles was elected as the ‘Holy Roman Emperor,’ their alliance was to become the strongest in Europe.
The alliance of the two kingdoms would have ensured stability, peace, and safety in Europe. However, Charles was advised by William de Croy, one his advisors, to marry Mary Tudor, Charles’s other first cousin and daughter of Henry VIII of England and Catherine of Aragon.
Marrying Mary Tudor would have meant establishing an alliance with Europe and rejecting Isabella. However, this supposed and initial rejection did not affect Isabella’s determination to marry him, as she had made it clear that she would either marry him or enter a convent.
Mary Tudor was 16 years younger than Charles. Charles got engaged to her in 1521. However, he dropped the idea of getting married to her by 1525, since Mary was still a child then, and Charles did not want to wait anymore.
He reconsidered marrying Isabella of Portugal, since she was only three years younger to him. She was also willing to bring a dowry of 900,000 Portuguese cruzados with her that he believed would improve the economic condition of his kingdom, which was suffering after the Italian War of 1521–1526
Isabella’s ability to speak Spanish fluently became another reason for Charles to marry her. Finally, he decided to marry Isabella, while his youngest sister, Catherine of Austria, agreed to marry Isabella’s brother, John III of Portugal.
In 1526, Isabella traveled to Spain, where she met the ‘Duke of Calabria,’ the Archbishop of Toledo,’ and the ‘Duke of Béjar,’ before she left for Seville. She was supposed to meet Emperor Charles at Seville for a political meeting.
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She reached Seville in March and was joined by Emperor Charles a week later. He instantly fell in love with Isabella and decided to marry her the very day he met her.
They got married on March 11, 1526, at the ‘Palace of Alcázar of Seville’ They were so in much in love that on their honeymoon, they did not notice anyone around and were busy laughing and talking to each other.
After spending their honeymoon at the ‘Alhambra’ in Granada, they were separated because of Charles’s responsibility toward his kingdom. Isabella served as a regent of Spain while he was away.
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She served as a regent from 1529 to 1532, from 1535 to 1536, and from 1538 to 1539. She was an able woman who was determined to solve the kingdom’s problems with ease and grace.
Isabella was both beautiful and intelligent. She was clearly born to be a royal power and not just a wife and mother.
When Charles was away, she wrote letters to her husband, sharing the news of their kingdom and asking about his well-being. Charles often wrote back, but when he could not write for more than a few days, Isabella always checked on him.
Isabella even scolded him once for not keeping her aware of his whereabouts and told him that she would write to him every 20 days. On Emperor Charles’s return to his kingdom, Isabella welcomed him with a grand party.
Personal Life & Legacy
Although she threw Charles a big reception, Isabella lived a very simple life. She was clearly a very loving wife.
Apart from being a good wife, Isabella was also a devoted mother. She had six children, of which only three survived. However, she nurtured her remaining children with a lot of love and cared a lot about their education.
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Apart from being a good wife, Isabella was also a devoted mother. She had six children, of which only three survived. However, she nurtured her remaining children with a lot of love and cared a lot about their education.
Isabella had a total of seven pregnancies and suffered two miscarriages. It is said that the pain of losing her children had devastated her.
Her seventh pregnancy turned fatal. On April 21, 1539, she gave birth to a stillborn son. After two weeks of giving birth, Isabella died of fevers and hemorrhage.
She died on May 1, 1539, at the age of 35. Her death affected Emperor Charles terribly. He refused to remarry and remained single for the rest of his life.
He dressed in black for the rest of his life, mourning his wife’s death. Her death had affected him badly, and he could not bring himself to be with her during her burial.
Isabella was buried by her son Philip at the ‘Royal Chapel of Granada,’ while Charles locked himself up in a monastery for two long months in order to mourn and cope with the loss of his wife.
He honored his wife in incredible ways. He paid her several tributes through art and music.
In 1540, he hired composer Thomas CrecQuillon to make new music in the honor of his late wife. In 1543, he hired a painter named Titian to paint Isabella.
Titian painted several portraits of Isabella, including ‘Portrait of the Empress Isabel of Portugal’ and ‘La Gloria.’ Charles kept the paintings with him even while he retired to the ‘Monastery of Yuste.’
Isabella was known as the ‘Empress of the Carnation’ after Charles introduced a flower, the red carnation, to his kingdom. This was a token of his love for her. This was the flower that eventually became the floral emblem of Spain.
In 1574, after Charles’s death, Charles and Isabella were placed side by side at the ‘Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial,’ according to Charles’s last wish. In 1654, they were transferred to the ‘Royal Pantheon of Kings’ by their great-grandson Philip IV. This was considered by many as a sign of disrespect to the royal couple.

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