This article reexamines ways in which Isabel I of Castile has been (re)performed in history and in Lope de Vega’s play, El niño inocente de la Guardia. Given the perception of piety, incorruptibility, and zeal that she contrived, confirmed by servile chroniclers, it is hardly surprising that medieval as well as modern students of her life and works have struggled to separate fact from fiction regarding her reign and persona. If Lope’s depiction acknowledges the hagiographical aspect of the queen’s person, it also shows how her manipulation of Catholic piety was driven by raison d’état. Skilled political and imperial maneuvering notwithstanding, the “pious cruelty” perpetuated in the reign of the Reyes Católicos, to invoke Machiavelli’s term, and the saintly hypocrisy manifested by Isabel la Católica herself, can hardly be ignored in any (re)performance of the queen’s legacy.

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