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Queen Juana of Castille Part One

Updated on February 17, 2011
Juana of Castille
Juana of Castille

The Beginnings of The Madness of Juana

When Juana was born to Isabella of Castille and her husband Ferdinand of Aragon nobody expected that she would succeed her mother as Queen.   Juana was born on November 6th 1479 and was the third child of the ‘Catholic Monarchs’ as her parents were collectively called.


Juana had an older sister Isabella and an older brother Juan.   When Juana was three her mother gave birth to another sister, Maria and two years later their family was complete with the birth of yet another girl – Catherine.  


Juana was quite an introverted child by all accounts and her mother had her primed to make a good political marriage.   She was well educated, speaking several languages and also learnt how to play music and dance (both of these skills were thought to be important for her future marriage).


Philip the Handsome
Philip the Handsome

Isabella arranged a marriage with Philip of Flanders who was the only son and heir to Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor. Isabella was sent by ship to the Low Countries in 1496, a journey that was by all accounts not very smooth sailing. When she arrived Isabella was not feeling well having suffered from sea sickness for much of the journey and her future husband was nowhere to be seen.

Philip was the only son in his family and reading between the lines I think he would be best described as a spoilt brat! He had no intention of putting himself out by welcoming his bride to be when there was partying to be had so he sent his sister Margaret in his place.

Philip appears to be quite a lazy person who spent most of his time chasing women, drinking and feasting, at age 18 he was already sovereign of the Low Counties and had been indulged his whole life. Philip agreed to marry Juana believing it to be like signing a treaty, it was a political move, but it wouldn’t change his lifestyle.

When they first clapped eyes on each other however it was instant ‘Lust at First Sight’ and they made their way in much haste to the bedchamber! Philip had the nickname of Philip the Handsome and was seen as the 1400s version of Robert Pattinson.   Juana was also a beautiful girl taking after her maternal grandmother in looks.

Juana saw their marriage in a different light to Philip. Her mother Isabella was a strong Queen in her own right. Isabella and Ferdinand’s marriage had been a political one, but they appear to have been happy and had an apparently equal relationship for the time. Juana was only 17 and was not experienced enough to realize that Philip and her shared different visions of their future.

Juana was a very passionate woman and one of those passions was jealousy. She had fallen in love with Philip and expected that as her husband he would be faithful. Philip believed that he had every right to sleep with whoever he wanted whenever he wanted.

Juana and Philip had three children between 1496 and 1501 and during this time Juana also became her mother’s heir. In a tragic turn of events Juana’s eldest sister and her son both died as well as her brother and following her brother’s death his widow gave birth to a stillborn child.

Juana and Philip traveled to Spain where Isabella hoped to ‘train’ Juana for her future role as Queen of Castille.   Philip was not happy in Spain, his in-laws devout court was in direct contrast to what he was used to, at the same time Juana conceived again.   Finally after a large quarrel Philip left to go back to the Low Countries leaving Juana alone.   Juana was 6 months pregnant so her mother wanted her to stay, unfortunately Juana knew her husband well and tormented herself by imagining him cheating on her and her jealousy combined with her pregnancy hormones caused her to become on edge.


After the birth of her son, Juana wanted to leave and be with her husband, but her mother kept her in Spain, even imprisoning her for a while.   It is possible that combined with the extreme feelings of jealousy that Juana was also suffering from post-partum depression, but we’ll never know for sure.   Eventually Isabella and Ferdinand let their daughter return to her husband, but the seeds for Juana’s ‘madness’ had already been sewn.


The picture of Juana of Castille used on this page can be brought as a Giclee print from AllPosters


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