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Ferdinand II of Aragon

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Ferdinand II of Aragon

Under Ferdinand II of Aragon's reign in the 15th and 16th centuries, Spain began its progression from loosely connected European houses to a true nation set to become a world superpower. Ferdinand II solidified his country, strengthening its power and wealth considerably through policies exemplary of a New Monarch. Perhaps most significant of Ferdinand II's actions was his endorsement of Christopher Columbus's voyage across the Atlantic, a voyage that would shape the rest of human history.

Ferdinand II of Aragon Biography

Ferdinand II of Aragon was born in 1452 in the Spanish kingdom of Aragon. Raised in a royal court, Ferdinand was recognized for his knightly skills and intelligence, even at a young age. Ferdinand II's skills would be put to the test in a war for Aragon succession between his father John II and his half-brother Charles. By the age of 17, Ferdinand II had secured for himself the inheritance of Aragon's throne as well as a multitude of military victories.

Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile

At the same young age of 17, Ferdinand II married Isabella I of Castile, and the two agreed to share their united power equally. When Ferdinand II of Aragon inherited his kingdom in 1479 following the death of his father, the combined rule of Ferdinand and Isabella created the most unified Spain to date.

Ferdinand II of Aragon Ferdinand and Isabella Study SmarterPortrait of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Tanto monta, monta tanto, Isabel como Fernando:

The above phrase is in Spanish; tanto monta, monta tanto translates to "They amount to the same, the same they amount to", referring to Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. It is a famous (if not historically disputed) phrase used to refer to the joint and equal co-rulership that Ferdinand shared with his wife, Queen Isabella.

Ferdinand II's Reconquista

Between 1482 and 1492, Ferdinand II of Aragon sought to complete the task that his ancestors had set upon in the Reconquista: expelling the Islamic Moors from the Iberian Peninsula. Military campaigns set upon the Emirate of Granada, the last Moorish bastion in modern-day southern Spain. After a decade of fighting, Granada was successfully sieged and the Moors defeated.


The Spanish term for "reconquest"; an almost 8-century-long struggle between the Catholic and Muslim kingdoms for control of the Iberian Peninsula.

Ferdinand II of Aragon and Catholicism:

Ferdinand II, also known as The Catholic, or the Catholic Monarch, ruled in the name of his faith. His efforts and success in the Reconquista were recognized by the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Julius II. Throughout his reign, Ferdinand II often aligned himself politically with the wills of the powerful Catholic Church, joining various alliances and war efforts. In 1495, Ferdinand II allied himself with England and the Catholic church against Charles VIII of France in the Holy Leagues of 1495 and 1511.

Wishing to establish a strong and unified Catholic nation, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile issued the Alhambra Decree, an order that required all non-Catholics (initially Jews then extended to Muslims) to either leave Spain or convert to Catholicism. Naturally, this led to some suspicion of whether the new converts were truly Catholic or not. Suspicion led to the Spanish Inquisition.

Ferdinand II and the Spanish Inquisition

In 1478, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile established the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, an organization that employed inquisitors from the Catholic Church to hunt and interrogate dissenters of the faith. Often, this took the form of brutal torture. Those Moors and Jews who had chosen to convert and stay in Spain instead of leaving had their converted faith put to the test.

Ferdinand II of Aragon Spanish Inquisition Study SmarterThe Spanish Inquisition torturing a man. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Enemies of the state and false converters were tortured and often burned at the stake. The reigning Catholic Pope of the time, Pope Sixtus IV, wrote a letter to Ferdinand II of Aragon requesting that the standard judicial procedures be enforced to assure justice in his kingdom. Ferdinand II of Aragon ignored the Pope, continuing the brutally effective trials of the inquisition.

In Aragon, Valencia, Mallorca, and Catalonia the Inquisition has for some time been moved not by zeal for the faith and the salvation of souls but by lust for wealth.

-Pope Sixtus IV

Ferdinand II and Christopher Columbus

In 1492, Italian navigator Christopher Columbus appealed to Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, the rulers of Spain, for sponsorship for his mission across the Atlantic. Columbus believed that he could discover a new trade route to India by sailing west, and promised the resulting wealth of discovery to those who funded his expedition. Empowered by the success of Reconquista and the Spanish Inquisition, Ferdinand II of Aragon accepted Columbus's proposal.

Ferdinand II of Aragon Christopher Columbus Study SmarterFerdinand and Isabella receiving Christopher Columbus in court. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Christopher Columbus did not discover a new trade route to India. Instead, he discovered the Americas for Spain. Upon his return to Spain, Columbus was hailed as a hero by the Spanish people. Through Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand II of Aragon had been given a head start in the coming centuries of European colonialism in the Americas. Without Ferdinand II, Christopher Columbus may have never discovered the Americas for Europe.

Ferdinand II of Aragon Cause of Death

Ferdinand II of Aragon died in 1516, twelve years after the death of his wife, Isabella of Castile. While traveling through Granada, Ferdinand's health became progressively worse and it became progressively clear that the 64-year-old monarch was going to die of illness induced by his old age. Upon his deathbed, Ferdinand II of Aragon signed his parting will and named his successor, his grandson Charles, who would later become Charles V as a Holy Roman Emperor).

Ferdinand II of Aragon Accomplishments

Ferdinand II of Aragon Army Study SmarterFerdinand II of Aragon at the head of his army. Source: TheLastTrastamara, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Ferdinand II of Aragon established much of Spain as a unified country with centralized rule capable of conquering new lands across the Atlantic Ocean. He unified Spain under Catholicism, at the expense of the Moors and Jews through Reconquista and the Alhambra Decree. Successful conquests and leadership yielded great wealth, allowing Ferdinand II of Aragon to finance Christopher Columbus's initial voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. Empowering and stabilizing his nation, Ferdinand II's reign as a New Monarch was full of accomplishments.

Ferdinand II of Aragon - Key takeaways

  • Ferdinand II of Aragon co-ruled with his wife, Queen Isabella of Castile as New Monarchs, unifying and stabilizing Spain as a nation and soon-to-be global empire.
  • Ferdinand II of Aragon finished the Reconquista, the Catholic Spanish effort to defeat the Moors and push them out of Spain.
  • To enforce the exile and forced conversion of all non-Catholics in Spain, Ferdinand II of Aragon established the Spanish Inquisition, a brutal and feared organization that tortured and often murdered its victims.
  • Ferdinand II of Aragon financed Christopher Columbus's voyage and discovery of the New World, opening a new chapter in European history.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ferdinand II of Aragon

Ferdinand II of Aragon died of illness or old age at the age of 64. 

The wife of Ferdinand II of Aragon was Isabella of Castile, a monarch in her own right. 

Ferdinand II was known for his reign alongside Isabella of Castile, the successful completion of Reconquista, the creation of the Spanish Inquisition, and the funding of Christopher Columbus's voyage to America. 

Ferdinand II of Aragon represented a new class of monarchy, a New Monarch, who endeavored to unify and centralize the power of his nation. During his reign, Spain was set on its track to become a global superpower. 

Historically, Ferdinand II of Aragon engaged in multiple alliances with with England, uniting the two countries against common foes. 

Final Ferdinand II of Aragon Quiz


What was the name of Ferdinand II of Aragon's wife? 

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Isabella of Castile 

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What best describes the dynamics of Ferdinand and Isabella's rule? 

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They ruled jointly, sharing the authority and responsibilities of the crown. 

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What was the Spanish Reconquista? 

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The Spanish term for "reconquest"; an almost 8-century-long struggle between the Catholic and Muslim kingdoms for control of the Iberian Peninsula.  

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How did Ferdinand II of Aragon's efforts in the Reconquista fair? 

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Ferdinand finished the Reconquista, defeating the Moors at Granada and expelling them from the Iberian Peninsula. 

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What was the Alhambra Decree? 

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It was an order that required all non-Catholics, specifically Jews, to either leave Spain or convert to Catholicism 

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Why was the Spanish Inquisition created? 

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To interrogate recent converts to Catholicism (former Muslims and Jews) and crush their influence in Spain. 

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When the Catholic Pope pleaded for Ferdinand II of Aragon to restructure the nature of the Spanish Inquisition, how did the Spanish Monarch react? 

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Ferdinand II of Aragon ignored the Pope's letters and continued the tortures and interrogations of the Inquisition. 

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What famous Italian navigator did Ferdinand II of Aragon sponsor in his planned voyage across the Atlantic Ocean?

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Christopher Columbus 

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What was significant about Columbus's voyage for Spain?

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The success of finding the New World promised wealth and power for Spain in the years to come. 

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Who did Ferdinand II of Aragon name as his successor? 

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His grandson Charles, who would later become Charles V as a Holy Roman Emperor). 

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