Ferdinand II “the Catholic” of Aragon, born 10th March 1452 in Sos, Aragon; died 23rd January 1516 in Madrigalejo, Spain.
Our first Dead Political Theory Cameo unified most of Spain. In 1479, he inherited the kingdom of Aragon from his father, and acquired the kingdom of Castille as a result of his marriage to Isabella of Castille (and a bit of fighting with the Portuguese). Granada followed in 1492, just in time to see Columbus unhindered passage to the New World. Following some particularly zealous Inquisiting, Jew expulsion, and intervention in Italy, Ferdinand assumed the Papally-awarded sobriquet “the Catholic” in 1496, going on to invade Navarre in support of Rome in 1512.
Machiavelli has his own admiring take on the reign of “the foremost king in Christendom”, but it is Rousseau in the Social Contract (I, 9) who playfully toyed with the possibilities.
In September 1513, Vasco Nunez de Balboa had stood on the sea-shore of the Gulf of San Miguel and taken “possession of the South Seas and the whole of South America in the name of the crown of Castille.” A century and a half later, Rousseau interrogated the event with dripping cynicism: “was that enough to dispossess all their actual inhabitants, and to shut out from them all the princes of the world?” Clearly not, and out of history he summoned in aid a hypothesised Ferdinand: “On such a showing, these ceremonies are idly multiplied, and the Catholic King need only take possession all at once, from his apartment, of the whole universe, merely making a subsequent reservation about what was already in the possession of other princes.”
So maybe the unification of Spain wasn’t so impressive after all.