Isabella of Castile, Duchess of York

Isabella of Castile, Duchess of York (1355 – 23 December 1392) was the daughter of King Peter and his mistress María de Padilla (d. 1361). She accompanied her elder sister, Constance, to England after Constance's marriage to John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and married Gaunt's younger brother, Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York.

Isabella of Castile
Duchess of York
Died(1392-12-23)23 December 1392
Burial13 January 1393
SpouseEdmund, 1st Duke of York
IssueEdward, 2nd Duke of York
Constance of York
Richard, 3rd Earl of Cambridge
HouseCastilian House of Ivrea
FatherPeter of Castile
MotherMaría de Padilla
ReligionRoman Catholicism


Isabella was the youngest of the three daughters of King Peter of Castile by his favourite mistress, María de Padilla (d.1361).[1] Isabella, as a descendant of Zaida of Seville, is cited by some genealogists as a descendant of Muhammed, Prophet of Islam and the means by which his line can be subsequently traced in some British nobility and royalty, through her Plantagenet children.[2][3]

On 21 September 1371 Edward III's fourth son, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, married Isabella's elder sister, Constance (d. 1394), who after the death of their father in 1369 claimed the throne of Castile. Isabella accompanied her sister to England, and on 11 July 1372, at about the age of 17, married John of Gaunt's younger brother, Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, fifth son of King Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, at Wallingford, Oxfordshire, as part of a dynastic alliance in furtherance of the Plantagenet claim to the crown of Castile.[4] According to Pugh, Isabella and Edmund of Langley were 'an ill-matched pair'.[5]

As a result of her indiscretions, including an affair with King Richard II's half-brother, John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter (d. 1400), whom Pugh terms 'violent and lawless', Isabella left behind a tarnished reputation, her loose morals being noted by the chronicler Thomas Walsingham. According to Pugh, the possibility that Holland was the father of Isabella's favourite son, Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, 'cannot be ignored'.[6]

In her will Isabel named King Richard as her heir, requesting him to grant her younger son, Richard, an annuity of 500 marks. The King complied. However, further largesse which might have been expected when Richard came of age was not to be, as King Richard II was deposed in 1399, and according to Harriss, Isabella's younger son, Richard, 'received no favours from the new King, Henry IV'.[7]

Isabella died 23 December 1392, aged about 37, and was buried 14 January 1393 at the church of the Dominicans at Kings Langley.[8] After Isabella's death, Edmund of Langley married Joan Holland, sister and co-heir of Edmund Holland, 4th Earl of Kent (9 January 1382 15 September 1408), with whom his daughter, Constance, had lived as his mistress (see above).[9]

Isabella was appointed a Lady of the Garter in 1379.[10]


Isabella and Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, had three children:

Shakespeare and Isabella of Castile

Isabella is depicted, ahistorically, as living in late December 1399 at the time of the Epiphany Rising in Act V of Shakespeare's Richard II.



  1. Richardson II 2011, pp. 75–7; Pugh 1988, p. 89.
  2. How England's royals descend from Andalus at World Bulletin. Retrieved 13 Nov 2019.
  3. Is Queen Elizabeth II Really Related to Prophet Muhammad? at The Culture Trip. Retrieved 13 Nov 2019.
  4. Tuck 2004; Pugh 1988, pp. 89–90.
  5. Pugh 1988, p. 89.
  6. Pugh 1988, pp. 90–1; Harriss 2004; Tuck 2004.
  7. Pugh 1988, pp. 90–2; Harriss 2004.
  8. Cokayne 1959, p. 898; Pugh 1988, p. 91.
  9. Cokayne 1959, pp. 898–9; Pugh 1988, p. 91; Richardson II 2011, pp. 496–500.
  10. Weir 2011, pp. 111
  11. Pinches, John Harvey; Pinches, Rosemary (1974), The Royal Heraldry of England, Heraldry Today, Slough, Buckinghamshire: Hollen Street Press, ISBN 0-900455-25-X
  12. Anthony Emery, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales, 1300-1500: East Anglia, Central England and Wales, Vol. 2, (Cambridge University Press, 2000), 240.
  13. Richardson II 2011, pp. 75–8.
  14. Richardson II 2011, pp. 75–8, 500–1; Pugh 1988, p. 79.


  • For the tombs of Edmund of Langley and Isabella of Castile, see 'Friaries: King's Langley priory', A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 4 (1971), pp. 446–451. Date accessed: 21 October 2012

Further reading

  • Reston, James, Dogs of God, New York: Doubleday, 2005.
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