C.W. Gortner Interview
June 13, 2012
the author of The Queen's Vow
It was great to have C.W. Gortner visit the blog on June 13, 2012, to talk about his latest novel The Queen's Vow, about Isabella of Castile.
Some of the court scenes with Isabella's half-brother King Enrique show why Castilians were so eager for Isabella to take over. Did your research turn up anything praiseworthy in him?
My book depicts his love of animals - a rarity in those times - as well as his aversion to cruelty. I believe he was a good man, just not a good king. The Queen’s Vow shows how Isabella may have seen Enrique, not how I see him. Yes, he was ruled by favorites and had a disastrous marriage; however, to be fair to his memory, he inherited a bad situation that he was ill-equipped to handle. Personally, I like him a lot. I think he would have been happy as an ordinary man.
It could be argued that Isabella's ferocious campaign against the Moors still reverberates in tensions between Islamic and Christian peoples today. Given the circumstances, do you think she could have chosen a path that would have been less destructive?
There’s always a less destructive path. But, would it have achieved the result Isabella desired? Again, I don’t share her beliefs; particularly her unwillingness to compromise. I’ve found it interesting to read reviews that claim I shift the responsibility for her actions on Fernando; that isn’t my intention. My research revealed that while she was more cautious and Fernando spurred her to action - he, in fact, pushed for the crusade before she was ready - when Isabella made a decision, she never wavered. She believed in one faith. To her, destructiveness was required, if it meant salvation of her subjects’ souls.
As a schoolchild, I was taught to admire Isabella because she sponsored Columbus; now we know his arrival in the Americas was disastrous for many native peoples. For those of us disillusioned about Columbus, what can we still admire about Isabella?
She was visionary in her approach to women’s rights, and, for better or worse, safeguarded her realm. She also never intended the enslavement of the Americas; in her testament, she exhorted her successors to treat the native people gently and “guide them to Christ.” Again, she imposes her faith but so did every ruler of her time. I believe that though she wasn’t given to compromise, Isabella would have been horrified by the rapine of the New World. As a historian, I try not to judge people who lived 600 years ago by today’s standards. Otherwise, I’ll never understand how they saw their world.
Review of The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner
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