History time! Joanna the Mad

Ah yes, it is that time again. TIME FOR ANOTHER HISTORY POST! Today we are diving into Joanna the mad or Juana La loca. Have you heard of her? No? Well, let’s dive in to the story of Joanna of Castile.

Joanna was born November 6 1479 to Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. Joanna is the older sister of The Catherine of Aragon, yeah.That Catherine, the future Queen of England.

Joanna was the third child and second daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand. She had a fair complexion with auburn hair much like her sister Catherine as well as brown eyes. She was said to be quite intelligent and was highly educated. Oh, Her siblings were Isabella, Queen of Portugal, John prince of Asturias, Maria Queen of Portugal, and Catherine, Queen of England. The education she received is one where as a member of royal court curtailed to being in a significant marriage. A marriage that would extend the kingdom’s power and security. She was originally not expected to be an heiress to the throne of either Castile or Aragon. However with a series of deaths that is certainly what happened. 

The rest of the academics were civil law, canon educations, genealogy, and heraldry, grammar, and history. She learned many languages, including Latin and French. She could read and write, as well as read philosophy. Her being as educated as she was however, made things quite difficult in the religious sector of her life. 

It is quite easy to asses that for many the more educated the more they start to question things. Things like, religion for instance, is questioned . And for Joanna that is basically what happened. The more education she received the more she questioned religion. I guess perhaps she was becoming an atheist or agnostic.Which being the daughter of Isabella I of Castile, who was one of the creators of the Spanish Inquisition in 1478, is not a good thing. Isabella could not have a non believer in her house. So, in around 1495 Joanna was showing more and more scepticism in religion and worship as well as the Catholic Church of the Holy Roman Empire. 

Not good for Joanna. Things were about to get really bad for her here. 

Letters if Mosen Luis Ferrer, gentleman of the bed chamber of Ferdinand, referred to her punishment as ” La Cuerda” or the rope. This bit of torture, yes Isabella and sub-Prior Friar Tomas de Matienzo and Friar Andreas, tortured this poor girl for not believing in religion. or not to their standards anyways, as  Isabella declared she would rather let the country be depopulated than to have it polluted by heresy. Even by her own kids, I guess. Defiance would not be tolerated and Joanna was very much that. Defiant. 

So, what was the rope? OK, so here goes, the person would be suspended by a rope(duh) with weights attached to the feet. This was a very dangerous thing for anyone, let alone a child. They would keep adding weights, they would also drop a person and then do it all over again. The suspension could rip the arms out of sockets and dislocate shoulders. the weights doing damage to ankles and legs as well. They did this to a member of the royal court. NO ONE was safe. I am wondering if this is when Joanna’s “insanity started” Because she never confessed, which infuriated the ones doing the torture. SO they made up lies that she was easily influenced by stupid monks from Paris. 


Remember history is written by the victors.

Joanna was eventually let down, but she was terrified of her mother. She was before that incident, and for good reason. Now even more so, I bet there was some PTSD. 

But this incident behind her she was betrothed at age 16 in 1496 to Phillip of Flanders, he was eighteen and was also called “Phillip the handsome.” His father was Maximillian 1, the Holy Roman Emperor and Duchess Mary of Burgundy. This was to strengthen the houses against the French. 

Her marriage was a proxy marriage at first, and in 1506 was she last saw Catherine. She then made her way to Flanders. This is Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and Germany. The formal marriage was on October 20, 1496. Between 1498 and 1507 they had 6 kids!!! All of the children grew up to be emperors or queens. Awesome right? We liking Joanna yet? I like her, I do. 

She was never meant to hold higher titles, but that would all change when Joanna’s brother died as did his child. Her older sister Isabella and her son Miguel died. This made Joanna heiress to the Spanish Kingdoms. Then in 1504 her mother died, she became queen Regent of Castile. Her father then lost his monarchical status. Ferdinand made coins anyways with him and Joanna. And then Phillip did the same. All this time it was said that Joanna was grieving heavily at the loss of her mother. Joanna was kept in confinement. Which is something that seemed to happen a lot. People stating her illness, like her illness this and her illness that. She was stuck between her spouse and her father. They said she was also ill mentally. Because one reason being she did not like leaving her husband around other women, as he had allegedly many many affairs and mistresses. 

On September 25, 1506 Phillip lost the fight against an illness, possibly Typhoid, although many suspected that it was Ferdinand II who poisoned him. Joanna at this time was pregnant with their 6th child and took the death really really hard. She tried to rule alone, but it seemed one bad thing after another kept happening. Plague and famine was destroying country and she was unable to secure funds to protect her reign.

She was once again constrained to hand power of Castile over to her father. She did not endorse and made it constantly clear this was not her choice. She was queen in name only. Ferdinand dismissed all her servants except a handful he himself selected.At this time it was claimed she was “mad” And that she took her husband’s corpse with her to Tordesillas to keep it near her. 

Then when her son Charles ensured domination and throne he had his mother confined again in the now demolished Royal Palace at Tordesillas, Castile. Joanna deteriorated more. So, lets get into the mental illness. 

Now it is disputed that she suffered from Melancholia, psychosis, schizophrenia. She was also possibly considered mad by her husband to Phillip the Handsome and her father because they had so much to gain by her being considered mentally sick or infirm, or incompetent to rule. 

When her mother died she didn’t eat or drink. She didn’t sleep well either. Perhaps reliving trauma, perhaps depressed and mourning. The most noted bit of her “mental illness” was when she was talked about kissing and caressing her spouse’s dead corpse while traveling with it to his final resting place. She also attacked at some point a mistress of his when he was alive, damn right. At that time the jerk was spreading rumors about his wife already being insane and crazy. Her dragging his stupid body around didn’t help that after he died. 

She was sent to a convent by her son, allowed no visitors and only the nuns to take care of her until her death on April 12, 1555.

Was she crazy, or did she just have some massive power hungry toxic family members . It seemed that she was smart, she understood things that they didn’t like, religion for example. She wouldn’t sign over her rights. She wanted to rule, but there was a lot wrong at the time, PLAGUE. Her father was a dick, her husband was a dick, her mother was a dick. Her own son, sheesh. IT is no wonder she was the way she was, and maybe the whole “nuns are going to kill me” was really dementia? 

I feel sorry for her, I am not sure she was as crazy as they say. Just like with other rulers, history is written by the victors. Who should I talk about next?




Tudor Society https://www.tudorsociety.com/madness-juana-castile/

Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joanna_of_Castile

Britannica https://www.britannica.com/biography/Joan-queen-of-Castile-and-Aragon



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