Mad Monarchs: Juana I of Castile

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Mad Monarchs: Juana I of Castile

Post  Mira W. on Wed Nov 12, 2014 10:31 pm

Otherwise known as, "Joan the Mad", Juana I of Castile had certainly lived up to her nickname. Born on November 6th, 1479, Juana was daughter of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I. Indeed, she was the sister of Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Whether madness was passed down through the family or not is a question that still remains, however the fact that her grandmother, Isabel of Portugal, had also gone insane cannot be ignored. It was known that during her childhood she was often aloof and preferred solitude, while being educated by famous Humanists. She was rather quiet, but intelligent, fluent in French and Latin, known to immerse herself in books. Juana had grown into a beautiful woman without any major signs of madness -- it had, after all, started when she first met her husband.

In 1496, at the fairly old age of 16, Juana was due to marry "Philip the Handsome" of Austria. As a result of their lust at first sigh experience, they were married not a week after her arrival, and produced six children over the span of nine short years. Unfortunately for Juana, she soon fell in love with her irresponsible, flirtatious husband. Although their marriage had been arranged, she desired to have a real relationship with a man who's personality clashed horribly with her own. Philip's association with other women enraged Juana and threw her into jealous, anxious fits. Nevertheless, she remained deeply in love with the unfaithful man who not only committed adultery once, but did so repeatedly.

Juana fell into depression and excluded herself from politics. When her brother Juan and sister Isabel died, they were obliged to return to Spain. In 1502 they did so, however when Phillip fell ill, he decided he had enough. Once recovered, Philip left Spain, leaving Juana behind. Her parents  chose to take control and locked her in Castle La Mota.

During this time she had been pregnant as well, and many had high hopes that her intense mood swings and hysterical out-lashes were only a result of her condition. On the contrary, after giving birth she deteriorated further and became worse. Soon her parents came to realize they could not continue having their third daughter locked in a castle, and released her. Returning to Flanders in 1504, Juana found Philip enjoying life with a mistress. Her jealous rage included grabbing the woman he was having an affair with and cutting off all her hair. It is told Juana would lash out with a stick during her rages, which increased in frequency throughout her years.

Once again Juana found herself in Spain, and upon realization that her husband and her father had debated the government of Castile - the area under her rule - she was livid. It came to her attention that they were trying to have her declared too unstable to rule. Soon after, Philip died at the age of 28. It was then that the craziest stories spread: Juana had her dead husband's coffin opened each day, so she could kiss his feet. Indeed, she would keep doing so until three years after his death, when she finally allowed him to be buried. Juana hugged and worshiped her husband's corpse when it was far past simply rotting. Within these three years she traveled, taking the coffin with her. Juana also forbade women of going near his corpse, for she had been so furious about his infidelity.

It was then that King Ferdinand, her father, decided to lock her up once again. He did so in the Castle of Tordesillas. She often slept on the floor, refused to eat, and didn't change clothes. For almost 50 years, Juana lived without her handsome husband in pain. She died on April 13, 1555.

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Mira W.
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