Isabelline (colour)

Isabelline, or Isabella Palomino, is a term applied to very pale palomino horses whose coat colour is cream, pale yellow or almost white. It is sometimes also applied to cremellos of a more creamy type colour.


According to popular legend, the name comes from Isabella, Archduchess of Austria (15661633), daughter of Philip II of Spain (15271598). Her husband, Albert VII, Archduke of Austria (15591621) laid siege to Ostend in July 1601 and Isabella, expecting a quick victory, vowed not to change her underwear until the city was taken. The siege lasted a little over three years (ending in September 1604) and her underwear understandably became discoloured in the interval.

This origin is demonstrably false, as the word was in use before 1601. In 1600, Queen Elizabeth I of England's wardrobe inventory included "one rounde gowne of Isabella-colour satten [...] set with silver bangles". A more plausible, though probably still false, version refers to the much earlier Isabella I of Castile, the Catholic (14511504) and the eight-month siege of Granada by Ferdinand II of Aragon (14521516). This siege ended in January 1492 and again resulted in overworn underwear belonging to Isabella.

In French ("isabelle") and German ("Isabella"), the colour refers to a cremello or palomino horse. The name may derived from the Arabic word "izah" meaning "lion" and, by extension, "lion-coloured".

The term is also found in ornithology: Isabelline Wheatear and Isabelline Shrike.

In Popular Culture

* An isabella palomino stallion called Thowra and his descendants starred in the series The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell

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