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Joanna the Mad

Updated on August 23, 2012
Juana La Loca
Juana La Loca

Early Life

Joanna of Castile, more commonly known as Juana la Loca or Joanna the mad was born in 1479 in Toledo, Spain. Her family is quite noteworthy in history, her parents Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon financed Columbus’ voyage across the Atlantic and her sister was Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII.

Her childhood was spent preparing her to one day be married to a man of great importance, thus she was very educated. Joanna spoke many languages, she was an accomplished equestrian and also known to be a good dancer. It was very important that Joanna attract a good husband as the house of Trastamara was the most prestigious in Europe at the time. A bad marriage could have really damaged the family’s reputation and scope of influence.

Philip The Handsome
Philip The Handsome


At the age of 16 Joanna was betrothed to the Duke of Burgundy, known as Philip the Handsome. Philip was not at all an ideal husband. He had a wandering eye and was known for being less than faithful. Their marriage caused a great deal of strain in the house of Trastamara.

In 1504 Joanna was crowned Queen of Castile, Ferdinand II absolutely hated the idea of sharing power with his son-in-law. He fought very hard to keep Philip from obtaining any real power and was successful until he lost public support after marrying Germaine de Foix. In July of 1506 an agreement was reached naming Joanna as Queen of Castile and Leon. Philip died shortly after of typhoid fever. Due to Joanna’s growing mental instability and unrest in the country her father took over around 1509.

Later Years & Death

In 1517 her son Charles I became her co-ruler, however due to his mother’s mental illness he effectively ruled alone and continued her confinement at Real Monasterio de Santa Clara de Tordesillas. Charles I was vigilant about allowing no one contact with his mother. He felt it would only cause harm to both his mother and the kingdom. She died in 1555 at the age of 76, an incredibly long life for that era.

Most psychologists now believe that Joanna suffered from psychosis, possibly schizophrenia and that forced confinement probably worsened her condition quite a bit.


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