Joanna of Castile: Wikis


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Portrait by Juan de Flandes, ~1500
Queen of Castile and León
Reign 26 November 1504 – 12 April 1555
Predecessors Isabella I & Ferdinand V
Successor Charles I
Co-sovereign Philip I
Charles I
Queen of Aragon
Reign 23 January 1516 – 12 April 1555
Predecessor Ferdinand II
Successor Charles I
Co-sovereign Charles I
Spouse Philip I of Castile
Eleanor, Queen of France
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Isabella, Queen of Denmark
Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor
Mary, Queen of Bohemia
Catherine, Queen of Portugal
House House of Trastámara
Father Ferdinand II of Aragon
Mother Isabella I of Castile
Born 6 November 1479(1479-11-06)
Toledo, Spain
Died 12 April 1555 (aged 75)
Tordesillas, Spain
Burial Capilla Real, Granada, Spain

Joanna (Spanish: Juana I) (6 November 1479 – 12 April 1555), called Joanna the Mad (Juana La Loca) reigned as Queen of Castile jointly with her husband Philip the Handsome and later also as Queen of Aragon jointly with her son the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.[1] She is most famous for having been obsessed with her husband, never recovering from his loss. She was the last monarch of the House of Trastámara and her marriage to Philip initiated the Habsburg dynasty in Spain.

The Castilian version of her name is Juana. In the English-speaking world, she is usually known by the Latin form of her name, Joanna, however many do refer to her by her Spanish name as well. English equivalents of the name include Jane and Joan.


Early life

Joanna was born in the ancient Visigothic city of Toledo. She was the third child and second daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, probably two of the world's most powerful people at the time. She, like her sisters, was groomed from an early age to marry and expand her parents' influence. As an infanta, she was not expected to rule her parents' countries. Ever since she was a child Joanna was bright, and she received a careful, yet strong, education. Her childhood was sedate and overall passive, although there is reason to believe, due to letters written by her mother, that she showed signs of mental instability as an adolescent. In the famously strict Castilian court of her era, Joanna, as a student, always excelled in religious behavior, good manners, and in the art of dance and music. She was a skilled horse rider. Joanna mastered all of the Iberian Romance languages and also became fluent in French and Latin. Among her main tutors were the Dominican priest, Andrés de Miranda, her mother's good friend and prestigious educator, Beatriz Galindo, and the queen herself, Isabella. The queen tried to involve herself in her children's education as much as possible, but overall, her political duties kept her from doing so at times.

Joanna's environment was completely controlled by her parents, especially her mother. The household in which she lived included religious personnel (a confessor, a sexton, an almoner and chaplains), administrative officials (superintendents, waiters, a bookkeeper, a treasurer, and a secretary), personnel responsible for food (cooks, baker, confectioner, waiters, and tasters), personnel in charge of health and protection, and personnel of service (maids and Canarian slaves), meticulously selected by her parents. However, Joanna's brother was completely in charge of his own household.


Joanna did not protest when, in 1496 at the age of sixteen, she was sent off by her parents to marry the Archduke Philip the Handsome, Duke of Burgundy, son of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and his first wife, Mary of Burgundy. Juana was married off by proxy in the city of Valladolid, where her parents were married. In August of that year, Joanna said farewell to her family in the port town of Laredo, never to see her siblings again with the exception of Catalina, future queen of England. She would, however, see her father again, although she did not know it as she didn't have plans to return to Spain. Joanna's older sister, Isabella, had been married off six years prior to Alfonso of Portugal.

Joanna began her journey to Flanders on 22 August. She and Philip met in Lier, just north of Brussels. It turned out that Philip's nickname was accurate, and with Joanna herself being quite a beauty, the two fell irrevocably in love with one another at first sight. They begged to be married the night of their first meeting, so they could consummate their marriage without any delay. Between 1498 and 1507 she gave birth to six children: two emperors and four queens. Arguably the most important one was Charles V in 1500.

The marriage contract of Joanna and Philip (1496).

Obsession with her husband

The early stages of Joanna and Philip's relationship were quite passionate, and the feeling was mutual. However, as time passed, the two began to realize how different their personalities were.[citation needed] Philip was threatened by his wife's loyalty to all things Spanish — especially her parents' politics. Juana did not like the way Philip bossed her around, and his dishonesty bothered her above all.[citation needed] Philip began looking to bed other women, which infuriated Joanna. She would throw temper tantrums over his fondness for other women.[citation needed] One lady-in-waiting had her long hair shorn by Joanna herself after she discovered she had been bedded by her husband; Joanna deposited the beautiful tresses on Philip's pillow as a kind of warning. She also indulged in love potions and spells to keep her husband faithful.[citation needed] Eventually, Joanna replaced all of her ladies-in-waiting, because they were too pretty, with less attractive ones.[citation needed]It was at this point that Joanna truly began to exhibit insanity, which ran in her family; her maternal grandmother, Isabel, was declared insane and locked away in Arévalo.

This portrait of Joanna was done in Flanders, ca 1500: it is a detail from the wings of the Last Judgement Triptych of Zierikzee, by the Master of Afflighem (Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium)

Princess of Asturias

The deaths of her brother John, Prince of Asturias, eldest sister Isabella of Asturias, Queen of Portugal, and then Isabella's infant son Miguel, Prince of Asturias, made Joanna the heiress of the Spanish kingdoms. Her remaining siblings were Maria of Aragon and Catherine of Aragon, three and six years younger than Joanna. In 1502, the Castilian Cortes of Toro [2][3] recognized Joanna as legitimate heiress to the Castilian throne, and Philip as her legitimate consort. She was named Princess of Asturias, the title traditionally given to the heir of Castile.[4] Also in 1502, the Aragonese Cortes gathered in Zaragoza, alleged oath to Joanna as heiress, but the Archbishop of Saragossa expressed firmly that this oath could not establish jurisprudence, that is to say, without modifying the right of the succession, but by virtue of a formal agreement between the Cortes and the King.[5][6]

Joanna was said to pine day and night for her husband while he was overseas, and when she eventually joined Philip in Flanders, her passionate jealousy and constant suspicion of him made her notorious, if not necessarily beloved, in the local court. In 1503, Joanna and Philip traveled to Spain for Joanna's swearing-in as heir to Castile. Expecting her fourth child, Joanna despaired when Philip suddenly decided to return to his own kingdom. She refused to eat and wept continuously, and was not comforted by the birth of a healthy son. One night, she ran out of the castle, and refused to come back inside despite the freezing weather. After spending thirty-six hours by the castle gates screaming, she was known as "Juana la Loca" by her people.[7]

Queen of Castile


Struggle for the crown

Upon the death of her mother, Isabella of Castile, in November 1504, Joanna became Queen regnant of Castile, and her husband de jure uxoris King. Joanna's father, Ferdinand, lost his title of 'King of Castile', although his wife's will permitted him to govern in Joanna's absence, or, if Joanna was unwilling to rule herself, until Charles reached the age of 20. Ferdinand refused to accept this: he minted Castilian coins in the name of "Ferdinand and Joanna, King and Queen of Castile, Léon and Aragon," and in early 1505, persuaded the Cortes that Joanna's " such that the said Queen Doña Juana our Lady cannot govern"; the Cortes then appointed Ferdinand as Joanna's guardian, and administrator and governor of the kingdom. However, Philip the Handsome was unwilling to accept any threat to his own chances of ruling Castile, and this way, he also coined coins in name of "Philip and Joanna, King and Queen of Castile, Léon and Archdukes of Austria, etc."[8] In response, Ferdinand embarked upon a pro-French policy, marrying Germaine de Foix, niece of Louis XII of France (and his own great-niece), in the hope that she would produce a son to inherit Aragon, and perhaps Castile.[9]

Ferdinand's remarriage merely strengthened support for Philip and Joanna in Castile, and in late 1505, the pair decided to travel to Castile. Leaving Flanders on 10 January 1506, their ships were wrecked on the English coast and the couple were guests of Henry VII at Windsor Castle. They were only able to leave on 21 April, by which time civil war was looming in Castile: Philip apparently considered landing in Andalusia and summoning the nobles to take up arms against Ferdinand. Instead, he and Joanna landed at La Coruña on 26 April, upon which the Castilian nobility abandoned Ferdinand en masse. Ferdinand met Philip at Villafáfila on 20 June, 1506, and handed over the government of Castile to his "most beloved children", promising to retire to Aragon. Philip and Ferdinand then signed a second treaty, agreeing Joanna's mental instability made her incapable of ruling, and promising to exclude her from government. Ferdinand then proceeded to repudiate the agreement the same afternoon, declaring Joanna should never be deprived of her rights as Queen Proprietress of Castile. A fortnight later, having come to no fresh agreement with Philip, and thus effectively retaining his right to interfere if he considered his daughter's rights to be infringed, he abandoned Castile, leaving Philip to govern in Joanna's stead.[10]

Joanna and her husband with their Spanish subjects

Philip's death

By virtue of the agreement of Villafáfila, the procurators of the Cortes met in Valladolid on 9 July. On 12 July[11], they swore Philip and Juana together as kings, and their son Charles as their inheritor. [12] This arrangement did not last long. On 25 September 1506 Philip died suddenly of typhus fever in the city of Burgos; at the time, some suspected he was poisoned by his father-in-law, Ferdinand, who was never too fond of him and never really wanted to share power with him. Joanna was pregnant with her sixth child. She made attempts to secure her rights to rule alone, in her own name; however her arrogance and coldness made some of the important people in the realm resent her, which along with the rumours of her mental instability and the unwillingness of the men around her to accept her rights doomed the endeavour. By 20 December 1506, she had quietly abandoned Burgos, heading for the village of Torquemada. By now, she was being characterized as "lost, without any sense", although among others her Secretary, Juan Lopez, declared her "more sane than her mother". She refused to trust Spanish women, even going so far as sending for a midwife from Flanders to assist in her delivery, and was characterised as refusing to abandon her dead husband's corpse. She would periodically have Philip's casket opened so that she might embrace his decaying body. The funeral train had to travel during the night only because Joanna said, " a widow who has lost the sun of her own soul should never expose herself to the light of day." One night, the procession came to rest at a convent, but Joanna didn't let any woman near her husband - even if they were nuns. She ordered the coffin be taken from the monastery and out to the open fields, where she slept beside it all night. Meanwhile, the country fell into disorder. Her heir, Charles, was a six-year old child being raised in his aunt's care in far-off Flanders; her father, Ferdinand, remained in his own dominions, allowing the crisis to reach a head. A regency council under Archbishop Cisneros was set up (against the Queen's orders) but it was unable to manage the growing public disorder; plague and famine devastated the kingdom, with supposedly half the population perishing of one or the other; and the Queen was unable to secure the funds she required to shore up her power. In the face of this, Ferdinand returned to Castile in July 1507: a coincidental remission of the plague and famine quieted the instability, but left an impression that the health of the Kingdom had been restored by the return of Ferdinand.[13]

Father's regency

Ferdinand and Joanna met at Hornillos on 30 July 1507; Ferdinand then constrained her to yield up power to himself. On 17 August she summoned three members of the royal council and ordered them to inform the grandees, in her name, of Ferdinand's return: "That they should go to receive his highness and serve him as [they would] her person and more." She refused to sign the instructions: a last gesture of defiance, and a statement that she did not as Queen regnant endorse the surrender of her own royal power. Nonetheless, she was thereafter Queen only in name, and all documents, though issued in her name, were signed with Ferdinand's signature, "I the King". He would be named administrator of the kingdom by the Cortes of Castile in 1510, although he would entrust the government mainly to Cisneros. He had Joanna confined in Tordesillas, near Valladolid, in February 1509, after having dismissed all of her faithful servants and appointing a small retinue faithful to him alone.[4] By this time, she would appear to have been almost completely mad: some accounts claim that she took her husband's corpse with her to Tordesillas, to keep it close to her.[10]

Co-reign with son

Joanna with two of her children (one of them being Charles V)

Ferdinand died in 1516, an embittered man: his second marriage had failed to produce a male heir, leaving his daughter as his heiress. Ferdinand resented that Aragon and — in theory on the death of Joanna, in reality upon his own death — Castile would pass to this foreign grandchild, to whom he had transferred his hatred of Philip; instead, he nurtured hopes that his younger grandson and namesake, Ferdinand, who had been born and raised in Spain, could succeed, even naming Ferdinand as his heir in his will before being persuaded to revoke it and name Charles as his heir instead. When he died, Aragon and its associated crowns passed to Joanna,[14] being governed in his absence by Ferdinand's bastard son, Alonso de Aragon. Castile, still nominally subject to Joanna, continued to be governed by Cisneros due to the queen's continuing insanity, although a group of nobles, led by the Duke of Infantado, attempted to proclaim the Infante Ferdinand as King of Castile. The attempt failed, and in October 1517, Charles arrived in Asturias. On 4 November, he and his sister Eleanor met Joanna at Tordesillas – there they secured from her the necessary authorization to allow Charles to rule as her co-King in Castile. Despite her acquiescence to his wishes, her imprisonment would continue; although the Castilian Cortes, meeting in Valladolid, would spite Charles by addressing him only as Su Alteza ("Your Highness") and reserving Majestad ("Majesty") for Joanna[15], no-one seriously considered rule by Joanna a real proposition.[16]

In 1520, the Revolt of the Comuneros against Charles and perceived foreign influence over Castile broke out. The rebel leaders demanded that Castile be governed in accordance with the supposed practices of the Catholic Kings; in an attempt to legitimize their rebellion, the rebels turned to Joanna. As theoretical sovereign monarch, if she gave written approval of the rebellion, it would be legalized and would triumph. In an attempt to prevent this, Don Antonio de Rojas, Bishop of Mallorca, led a delegation of royal councilors to Tordesillas, asking her to sign a document denouncing the Comuneros; she demurred, requesting that he present her specific provisions. Before this could be done, the Comuneros in turn stormed the city (which had been left practically undefended) and requested her support (prompting Adrian of Utrecht, the regent appointed by Charles, to declare that the emperor would lose Castile if she did so). Persuaded by Ochoa de Landa and her confessor, Fray Juan de Avila, she showed sympathy to the comuneros, but refused to sign: to do so, she was persuaded, would cause irreparable damage to her kingdom and to her son's rights. Since Charles inherited the Kingdom of Aragon, and its territories, and the Kingdom of Castile and Leon, and its territories, the two countries were officially unified into one: Spain. Charles was able to create the most powerful country in the world at the time by building on the achievements of his mother's parents, the Catholic Monarchs.


The Capilla Real in Granada, where Joanna is buried alongside her parents, her husband, and her nephew Miguel.

Charles repaid her wavering loyalty to him when he quelled the uprising, having her locked up for the rest of her life in a windowless room in the castle of Tordesillas. There, Joanna's condition degenerated further. She was convinced that the ladies of the household were plotting to kill her, and by willful preference was hungry and dirty. Her courtiers reported consistent difficulty getting her to eat, sleep, or change her clothes.[17] Charles wrote to her caretaker, "It seems to me that the best and most suitable thing for you to do is to make sure that no person speaks with Her Majesty, for no good could come from it."

Joanna kept hold of her youngest daughter, Catherine. Catherine was kept with her mother in her prison cell during Ferdinand II's time as regent. Nobody would dare take Catherine from her mad mother, so she had no choice but to stay with Joanna. Her older sister, Eleanor, brought about the creation of her own household within the castle their mother was virtually imprisoned in. In her final years, Joanna's physical state began to rapidly decline. Walking became more and more difficult for her. Joanna died on Good Friday, 12 April 1555 at age 75, after almost fifty years of imprisonment.[4] She is entombed in the Capilla Real of Granada, alongside her parents, her husband, and her nephew Miguel. Today, a statue of her stands in Tordesillas, and the quarters in which she was locked away can be viewed.


Most historians believe she suffered from schizophrenia and she was kept locked away and imprisoned. However, there is debate about her condition considering her symptoms were only apparent when she was being controlled or confined. Some historians argue she suffered from either manic depression or clinical depression, greatly worsened by the treatment she received from her husband, father, and son, all of whom wanted her out of the way in order to assume rulership for themselves. To legitimize the claims of her father and son to the throne, Joanna only nominally remained Queen regnant of Castile until her death.

Joanna in literature, art, music, film and other media

F. Pradilla Ortiz: Juana la Loca depicts Queen Joanna in vigil over her husband's coffin.

The figure of Queen Joanna attracted authors, composers, and artists of the romanticist movement, due to her characteristics of unrequited love, obsessive jealousy, and undying fidelity. Many later authors have followed this trend of portraying Joanna as a lovesick, and later griefstricken, woman, preferring to focus on her love for her husband than on her mental illness. An incomplete list of these works follows:


By Philip of Habsburg (22 July 1478 – 25 September 1506; married in 1496)

Name Birth Death Notes
Eleanor 15 November 1498 25 February 1558 married firstly in 1518, Manuel I of Portugal and had issue; married secondly in 1530, Francis I of France and had no issue.
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor 24 February 1500 21 September 1558 married in 1526, Isabella of Portugal and had issue.
Isabella 18 July 1501 19 January 1526 married in 1515, Christian II of Denmark and had issue.
Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor 10 March 1503 25 July 1564 married in 1521, Anna of Bohemia and Hungary and had issue.
Mary 18 September 1505 18 October 1558 married in 1522, Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia and had no issue.
Catherine 14 January 1507 12 February 1578 married in 1525, John III of Portugal and had issue.

See also: Descendants of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon



Castilian and Leonese royalty
House of Trastámara
Escudo Corona de Castilla.png

Henry II
Children include
   John I
   Eleanor, Queen of Navarre
John I
Children include
   Henry III
   Ferdinand I of Aragon, Valencia and Sicily
Henry III and II of Leon
Children include
   John II
   Maria, Queen of Aragon, Valencia, Sicily and Naples
John II
Children include
   Henry IV
   Isabella I
   Alfonso, Prince of Asturias
Henry IV and III of Leon
   Joan, Queen of Portugal
Isabella I with Ferdinand V
   Isabella, Queen of Portugal
   John, Prince of Asturias
   Joanna the Mad
   Maria, Queen of Portugal
   Catherine, Queen of England
  • W. H. Prescott, Hist. of Ferdinand and Isabella (1854)
  • Rosier, Johanna die Wahnsinnige'(1890)
  • H. Tighe, A Queen of Unrest (1907).
  • R. Villa, La Reina doña Juana la Loca (1892)
  • Bethany Aram, Juana the Mad: Sovereignty and Dynasty in Renaissance Europe" (2005)


  1. ^ Fueros, observancias y actos de corte del Reino de Aragón; Santiago Penén y Debesa, Pascual Savall y Dronda, Miguel Clemente (1866), page 64
  2. ^ Cortes de los antiguos reinos de León y de Castilla; Manuel Colmeiro (1883), Capítulo XXII
  3. ^ Estudio documental de la moneda castellana de Juana la Loca fabricada en los Países Bajos (1505-1506); José María de Francisco Olmos, page 303
  4. ^ a b c "Juana 'the Mad's' Signature", Bethany Aram, from Sixteenth Century Journal
  5. ^ Estudio documental de la moneda castellana de Carlos I fabricada en los Países Bajos (1517); José María de Francisco Olmos, page 137
  6. ^ Estudio documental de la moneda castellana de Juana la Loca fabricada en los Países Bajos (1505-1506); José María de Francisco Olmos, page 299
  7. ^ Farquhar, Michael (2001). A Treasure of Royal Scandals, p.56. Penguin Books, New York. ISBN 0739420259.
  8. ^ Estudio documental de la moneda castellana de Juana la Loca fabricada en los Países Bajos (1505-1506); José María de Francisco Olmos, page 315
  9. ^ Elliott, JH, Imperial Spain, p.138; "Juana 'the Mad's' Signature," Bethany Aram, from Sixteenth Century Journal.
  10. ^ a b Elliott, JH, Imperial Spain, p.139
  11. ^ Cortes de los antiguos reinos de León y de Castilla; Manuel Colmeiro (1883), Capítulo XXIII
  12. ^ Estudio documental de la moneda castellana de Carlos I fabricada en los Países Bajos (1517); José María de Francisco Olmos, page 135
  13. ^ Elliott, JH, Imperial Spain, p.139; "Juana 'the Mad's' Signature", Bethany Aram, from Sixteenth Century Journal
  14. ^ Estudio documental de la moneda castellana de Carlos I fabricada en los Países Bajos (1517); José María de Francisco Olmos, page 138
  15. ^ Estudio documental de la moneda castellana de Carlos I fabricada en los Países Bajos (1517); José María de Francisco Olmos, page 144
  16. ^ Elliott, JH, Imperial Spain, pp.143-146
  17. ^ Seaver, Henry Latimer (1966) [1928]. The Great Revolt in Castile: A study of the Comunero movement of 1520-1521. New York: Octagon Books. pp. 359. 
  18. ^ a b Lundy, Darryl, thePeerage,, retrieved 2007-10-25 
  19. ^ a b Lundy, Darryl, thePeerage,, retrieved 2007-10-25 
  20. ^ a b Lundy, Darryl, thePeerage,, retrieved 2007-10-25 
  21. ^ She was the daughter John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster to his first wife Blanche of Lancaster, making her half-sister of Katherine of Aragon's maternal great-grandmother Katherine of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster to his second wife Constance of Castile.
  22. ^ Lundy, Darryl, thePeerage,, retrieved 2007-10-25 
  23. ^ Lundy, Darryl, thePeerage,, retrieved 2007-10-25 


External links

Joanna of Castile
Born: 6 Nov 1479 Died: 12 April 1555
Title last held by
Isabella of Bourbon
Duchess consort of Brabant, Limburg and Lothier,
Duchess consort of Luxemburg, Margravine consort of Namur, Countess consort of Artois and Flanders,
Countess consort of Charolais,
Countess consort of Hainaut, Holland and Zeeland,
Countess consort of Burgundy

20 October 1496 – 25 September 1506
Succeeded by
Isabella of Portugal
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Isabella I and Ferdinand V
Queen of Castile and León
with Philip I (1504–1506)
Charles I (1516–1555)
Succeeded by
Charles I
Preceded by
Ferdinand II
Queen of Aragon, Sicily, Valencia, Majorca, Naples; Countess of Barcelona
with Charles I (1516–1555)
Spanish nobility
Title last held by
Infante Miguel de la Paz
Princess of Asturias
Succeeded by
Archduke Charles
Titles in pretence
Title last held by
Isabella of Bourbon
Duchess consort of Burgundy
20 October 1496 – 25 September 1506
Succeeded by
Isabella of Portugal


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