cover image Isabella: The Warrior Queen

Isabella: The Warrior Queen

Kirstin Downey. Doubleday/Talese, $35 (544p) ISBN 978-0-385-53411-6

The reserved, devoutly Catholic Isabella seized the Castilian throne in 1474, when she was just 23 years old. Having relegated her unwise husband Ferdinand to consort status, Isabella enjoyed major military successes, popularity with both her advisors and her subjects, and significant territorial acquisitions in the New World. Downey (The Woman Behind the New Deal) argues that Isabella served as a true paragon of Machiavelli’s good prince; from her demonstrations of political and battlefield strength in quelling the Ottoman Empire’s efforts at expansion to negotiating treaties and her offspring’s politically fraught marriage contracts. Downey shows how Isabella’s reign prepared Renaissance Spain’s rise to superpower status by consolidating multiple, often ineffectually led, kingdoms into one, all the while patronizing exploration and art. Perfect for both historical novices and experts in European history, this solidly-researched, engaging description of Isabella’s achievements also humanizes her through discussion of her intricate relationships with combative family members and allows readers to see Isabella’s fingerprints on Renaissance culture and religion. [em](Nov.) [/em]