Birthday: November 6, 1479
Died At Age: 75
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Joanna
Born Country: Spain
Born in: Toledo, Spain
Famous as: Queen
Empresses & Queens
Spouse/Ex-: Philip I of Castile (m. 1496)
father: Ferdinand II of Aragon
mother: Isabella I of Castile
siblings: Alonso de Aragón, Catherine of Aragon, Isabella of Aragon - Queen of Portugal, John - Prince of Asturias, John - Prince of Girona, Maria of Aragon - Queen of Portugal
children: Catherine of Austria - Queen of Portugal, Charles V - Holy Roman Emperor, Eleanor of Austria, Ferdinand I - Holy Roman Emperor, Isabella of Austria, Mary of Hungary
Died on: April 12, 1555
place of death: Tordesillas, Spain
Joanna of Castile, also known as “Joanna, the Mad” (or “Juana La Loca” in Spanish), was the queen of Castile and Aragon. She was not the only monarch in history to suffer from madness, but her story was really tragic. Although she had not been raised to be a monarch, she ended up with the throne after a series of deaths in the royal family left her as the successor. Although she was the queen of Castile for more than 50 years, she spent most of those years confined due to her insanity. She had an arranged marriage to Philip the Handsome, Archduke of the House of Habsburg, and was so in love with him that when she found out about his infidelities, she turned outrageous. She may have been the ruling monarch but had no real influence on the political or administrative decisions of her kingdom.
Childhood & Early Life
Joanna of Castile was born on November 6, 1479, in Toledo, the capital of the kingdom of Castile, to Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon of the royal house of Trast¬ámara. She had four siblings: Isabella, Queen of Portugal; John, Prince of Asturias; Maria, Queen of Portugal; and Catherine, Queen of England. John died at 19. Isabella died in 1498, just after giving birth to her son.
She was described as an intelligent young woman and received a good education. She loved to read and could speak the main languages of the Iberian Peninsula (Castilian, Leonese, Galician–Portuguese, and Catalan), along with Latin and French. She was never meant to be a sovereign, so her education was aimed mainly at turning her into a suitable wife. Her future marriage was supposed to create a royal alliance, extend the kingdom’s strength, and keep peaceful relations with other powers.
As a result, she studied canon and civil law, heraldry, grammar, history, mathematics, and philosophy. She also read a lot of classical literature. She was taught by Dominican priest Andr¬és de Miranda, educator Beatriz Galindo, and her mother. She also took lessons for good manners, etiquette, dancing, drawing, embroidery, needlepoint, and sewing. She was said to be a talented musician. She was also trained in hawking and hunting.
Although her mother, Queen Isabella, had established the Spanish Inquisition in 1478, Joanna seemed to be a skeptic and had no interest in Catholic rites. This infuriated her mother and led to a series of punishments meant to correct her behavior. She was suspended by a rope while weights were attached to her feet. This was a cruel punishment, but rather easy, considering many other women were burned for heresy.
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Joanna became an heiress to the Spanish kingdoms after the deaths of her brother John, her sister Isabella, her son Miguel, and the stillbirth of John’s daughter. Her other sisters survived but were younger than her. In 1502, she was recognized as the heiress to the Castilian throne and to the throne of Aragon, with Philip as her consort.
In 1504, her mother died, too, leaving Joanna as the Queen regnant of Castile and her husband as the “jure uxoris” king. This meant, her father, Ferdinand II, would lose his monarchical status. However, the Queen’s will stated that he could govern if Joanna was absent or did not want to rule until she was 20.
Both Joanna’s father and her husband could not come to terms with the fact that she was the queen and wanted the power for themselves instead. Ferdinand II stated that she was too sick to govern and was appointed her guardian as well as administrator and governor of the kingdom. This infuriated Joanna’s husband, who reacted by minting coins that presented them as the king and the queen. Philip actually tried to usurp her power many times, but that did not affect her huge affection toward him.
Philip died from typhoid fever on September 25, 1506, in Burgos in Castile. However, there were rumors that he had actually been poisoned by his father-in-law. At that time, Joanna was pregnant with their last child and was trying to exercise her rights to rule by herself, but the country was going through a serious crisis. Ferdinand II profited from the situation and took her power again, confining her at the royal palace in Tordesillas. He also got rid of all her loyal servants. That was not exactly a bad decision, because by then, Joanna was completely unstable and was by no means fit to be the queen.
She was known as “Joanna, the Mad” and not without good reasons. She had started to show signs of mental instability since 1504, when her mother suffered from a fever and later died. Some believe that her mental instability began after her marriage and worsened in 1502 because of her husband’s infidelities. Every time her mother fell sick, Joanna refused to eat or rest and just paced around nervously. However, the most famous and relevant proof of her mental disorder was revealed when her husband died in 1506. She refused to let go of his embalmed body for a really long time. At some point, she accepted his burial, only to exhume the body later and keep it in her quarters. She would often open his casket so she could embrace and kiss him. In the end, she agreed to have him buried just outside her window.
Family & Personal Life
When she was only 17, Joanna was betrothed to Philip “The Handsome” of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, the only son of Emperor Maximilian I. He was known as “The Handsome” because of his steel grey–blue eyes and fair hair. They got married in Lier, and although it was an arranged marriage meant to unite the Habsburgs and the Trast¬ámaras, apparently, they had a passionate relationship. Although Philip’s passion soon dissipated, and he found other love interests, Joanna remained dedicated to her husband throughout her life. In fact, she loved him so much that the news of his infidelities drove her into depression and insanity. They had six children: two boys and four girls. All of them became emperors or queens.
Joanna of Castile died on April 12, 1555, aged 75, well exceeding the life expectancy of those times. Although it is clear that she suffered from a variety of mental disorders, it seems that the men in her family took advantage of those weaknesses, aggravated by the deaths of her loved ones, to use her as a pawn in their fight for power.