ISABELLA I of CASTILE (1451-1504). Document signed "I the Queen" (yo la reyna). Dated at Grenada, Spain, on 18 March 1501

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ISABELLA I of CASTILE (1451-1504). Document signed "I the Queen" (yo la reyna), addressed to her steward, Pancho de Paredes, ordering additions to her personal wardrobe. Dated at Grenada, Spain, on 18 March 1501.


One page, 4to., (12 4/8 x 9 2/8 inches), written on both sides, with six line endorsement signed by the royal secretary Pedro Almazan. Dated at Grenada, Spain, on 18 March 1501. Housed in a red cloth chemise inside quarter red morocco slipcase.  

Isabella I, Queen and unifier of the Spanish kingdoms, patroness of Christopher Columbus, and her husband Ferdinand were noted for the magnificence of their royal court. The queen was particularly fond of fine clothing and jewels and was famous throughout Europe for her superb wardrobe. She and her ladies in waiting set fashions for several decades. In this unique documented she orders a new supply of linen to be worn with various court dresses which are described in detail, showing the great personal interest the Queen took in her wardrobe and giving an unusual glimpse into the private life of a celebrated European monarch. At the time of writing, 1501, Isabella was fifty years old and had been on the Spanish throne for twenty-six years. Her characteristic state attire at the time has been described as a "gown with a tight bodice and a girdle tied in a looped knot at the front (which) feel over the ankles to the ground.over this cloak was drawn across the figure from the left and caught under the right arm" (William T. Walsh: Isabella of Spain: The Last Crusader, New York, 1930, page 283). Here she orders her steward, Pancho de Paredes to have her dressmaker, Dona Catalina de Ribera, make for her "four linen chemises (camisas de olanda, i.e. of fine Dutch linen, or cambric). They are to be worn with overskirts (slashed with cloth of gold and fine scarlet cloth." This style was typical of Isabella's fashion; she is described by her biographers as being especially fond of dresses and cloaks slashed so as to reveal a fine fabric such as cloth of gold underneath. This was the medieval and Renaissance style. With such costumes she wore fabulous jewels including a famous ruby "the size of a tennis ball" (I.L. Plunket, Isabel of Castile, New York, 1915, pages 322-323). Particular orders are give to the dressmaker, Dona Catalina, that the Queen's clothing be "embroidered or covered with lace," and it is several times repeated that the linen by "finely pleated."

Pedro de Almazan, who countersigns the royal order, was the principal confidential secretary to the Queen. He was a Jew who had converted to Christianity and acted as an advisor as well as secretary. He is said to have introduced the art of writing secret documents in code into Spain and played an important part in the brilliant political maneuvers of Ferdinand and Isabella. At the time of the writing of this document Isabella and her consort were at the peak of their fortunes and power. They had established themselves and their splendid court in the city of Grenada, which was the former Moorish capital, captured from the last Moorish rulers the same year that Columbus discovered the New World. Queen s of Spain always signed, as Isabella I signed this document, merely "I the Queen", without the use of their Christian names. Any document signed by Isabella is rare but especially unusual is this document dealing with her wardrobe which affords a rare view of the personal taste of one of histories most celebrated queens.