The Tudor Society

The Madness of Juana of Castile

Thank you to regular contributor Heather R. Darsie for this article on Juana of Castile who has gone down in history as "Juana la Loca".

Juana of Castile, known as Juana la Loca or Joanna the Mad, was the elder sister of Catherine of Aragon and sister-in-law to Henry VIII of England. Juana married Philip the Handsome in 1496, when she was 16. She went on to have six children with her husband, including Charles, who later became the Holy Roman Emperor. Juana was an intelligent young woman and, like her sisters, received a considerable education for the time-period. It was reported that Juana could speak the three main languages of the Iberian Peninsula, along with Latin and French.

Juana was never expected to be Princess of Asturias (the title of the heir apparent to the throne of Aragon), let alone Queen of Spain. Juana had two older siblings, her sister, Isabella, and a brother, Juan. Juan sadly died in 1497 at the age of 19 and his wife, Margaret of Austria, gave birth to a stillborn daughter two months after his death. Juana's sister, Isabella died in 1498, shortly after giving birth to her son Miguel. Miguel died in 1500 before his second birthday. This succession of deaths quickly catapulted Juana to her new position of Princess of Asturias, the title given to the heir to the throne of Castile. Juana's mother, the formidable Catholic monarch, Isabella I of Castile, passed away in 1504. This left the throne of Castile and Leon to Juana. She inherited the Kingdom of Aragon from her father upon his death in 1517.

Juana had started exhibiting signs of mental instability in 1504, when her mother was stricken with a fever. As was seen at other times during her lifetime, Juana was not eating or sleeping when her mother fell ill. After visiting with her mother, Juana wished to join her husband in Flanders, which would mean she would have to travel through France at a time when France and Castile were at war. When she was prevented from leaving for Flanders, twenty-four-year-old Juana flew into a rage.

Perhaps one of Juana’s most notorious, lurid displays of mental instability occurred when her husband died in September of 1506. Already known to fly into jealous rages over her husband's mistresses, even reportedly going so far as to attack at least one, Juana refused to part with her deceased husband's remains for a disturbingly long time. Quite pregnant, Juana travelled with her husband's body from Burgos to Granada, where he was to be buried. This is a distance of 668 kilometres, which would take around 6 1/2 hours to drive in a car today, so an extraordinary distance to cover in those days. Juana was said to have opened her husband's casket to embrace him and kiss him.

Unfortunately, Juana's husband Philip had spread rumours about her madness when he was still alive and her behaviour after his death may have reinforced these rumours. Juana's son, Charles, who became the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, eventually took over from Juana as regent, and then, monarch. In 1509 Juana was either placed in, or retired to, the Royal Monastery/Convent of Santa Clara in Tordesillas, Castile. Charles forbade Juana any visitors. She died there on 12th April 1555, Good Friday, at the age of 75. Juana was laid to rest in Granada's La Capilla Real, the resting place of her husband and parents.

So, was Juana mad? Was she undermined by her husband or son?

Juana's maternal grandmother, Isabella of Portugal, supposedly also suffered from mental illness and was sent to a convent. Juana's grandson Carlos and great-granddaughter Maria of Austria, Duchess of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, reportedly also went mad. It is thought that Juana may have suffered from a wide range of mental illness, including schizophrenia and depression. However, it does seem that her behaviour escalated in response to the deaths of her siblings, her nephew, her mother and her husband. Both Philip the Handsome and Charles V had a lot to gain from Juana being declared unfit to rule. She was also sent, or perhaps banished, to a convent by her son and not allowed any visitors for the rest of her life. So was Juana mad, or was she the victim of ruthless individuals in her life? What do you think?

Heather R. Darsie lives in the United States with her family and three parrots. She works in the legal field, with a focus on children. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in German Languages and Literature, then a Juris Doctorate in American jurisprudence, and studied abroad in Costa Rica and France. Heather has always loved history. She first became acquainted with Elizabeth I when she was in middle school and chose to write a book report about her. Since then, she has always held an interest in the Renaissance and its numerous enigmatic citizens, with particular focus on the history of England and Italy. She is currently working on a book on the heraldry of Tudor women and is also researching Anne of Cleves.

Sources & Suggested Reading

Pictures: Juana of Castile by the Master of the Legend of the Magdalen, Juana and Philip the Handsome with their subjects.

There are 78 comments Go To Comment

  1. C

    People did not know how to treat mental illness then and in parts of the world now,which is sad. My mother suffered thru life upto her death in 1986,they didn’t know how to treat her as with many unfortunate souls even at that time,it was a practice then and upto the 1990s to shut them away no visitors or family,there is medicine available, but not to everyone unfortunately,,so was her family right in shutting her away , probably not, but thehats how they treated mental illness at that time,

    1. M

      She wasn’t insane. She was her own woman, and that wouldn’t be tolerated.

      1. G

        You are correct, at the time nobody was able to be themselves, or it would be said that you were unstable with a mental problem that nobody could treat, particularly when you are of noble status. Only back in those days they did not know of paranoia or schizophrenia. Merely being upset, aggressive or slightly violent was reason enough to put you in a mental asylum.

  2. S

    I believe it was a combination of both. Juana may have suffered from a form of depression. But I see Bethany Aram’s book listed as a reference for this article. She makes some convincing arguments for verbal and mental abuse by Juana’s husband, father and to some extent her son. Aram also explains why Juana held on to Philip’s body for so long. Juana’s courage and diplomacy in the handling of the Communero rebellion shows she was very capable of rising to the occasion when necessary. It’s tempting to speculate on what kind of queen she would have been if she hadn’t been deposed.

    1. D

      From most of what I have read about Queen Joanna, it seems to me she may have suffered from bipolar disorder. Justbavthought.

      1. B

        Absolutely. Her symptoms are quite textbook and consistent with periods of lucidity.

      2. T

        Hello Dyarn. …Couldn’t agree with you more. All the way through what I’ve been reading i have been waiting for someone to use the words bi-polar disorder. Whilst I fully agree with all the other suggestions, I actually do have bi-polar and although I can say I am happily married….well, the poor guy has had his work cut out !! This is my very first post ever by the way so if I’ve done it wrong then I apologise. Terri Lee Veitch X

      3. C

        Bipolar disorder isn’t what most people think it doesn’t have much or anything to do with flying into rages, You’re either very happy (manic) or very sad borderline suicidal (depressed) thus, manic depression is called bi polar

    2. C

      An easy way for husbands, had been to declare that wives as mad.
      Wives the ushered into convent.

      1. M

        Though it wasn’t a convent: it was the fortified castle of Tordesillas, where, for the most part, she was shut into a small selection of rooms and deliberately kept as far away from the outside world as possible. Those who actually penetrated and spoke with her, testified that she was intelligent, lucid and eager for news.

  3. C

    I do not believe Juana was mad. In her biography of the sister queens, Juana and Katherine, Julia Fox convincingly argued that rumours of Juana’s insanity were put about by her male relatives to justify their control of her and their rule of Castile government. She undoubtedly experienced grief when her husband died, but don’t most spouses? Why should this be seen as evidence of madness? That she might have been mentally abused by her husband and father is likely, and Ferdinand’s shenanigans in the political sphere do not portray him in a favourable light.

    1. L

      I have actually read the original Spanish sources on Juana, and she definitely had issues, even Isabella herself recognized it, which does not mean she was completely out of her mind. As for KoA and Mary, can you explain why you think they were mentally ill? I have studied them extensively and I simply don’t see it.

      1. S

        As I recall her mother had her tortured when she began showing signs of religious skepticism as a child. Is Isabella the best judge of this? But Juana’s treatment could also have been the cause of her mental illness.

        1. M

          This is more than likely not true: the basis for this story is a letter written at least 2 decades after the possibility, by her jailor the Marquis of Denia to Charles V. It was an excuse to justify their own treatment of Juana. There is not domestic or international gossip about Isabel mistreating any of her children (international sources would have loved that kind of story). In addition, remember that a royal female body was a valuable commodity, the purpose of which was to bear heirs. It would have been risky to damage it. There is also evidence that Isabel was a concerned parent toward her children, who favored lectures and conversation when dealing with them. I do wish this story would stop making rounds. Isabel has a lot to answer for, but she should answer for what she’s guilty of, not for what she didn’t do.

    2. S

      I agree with Conor. She was a woman that is why men around her did not want to see her rule especially during that time period. Just like Queeb Mary of Scotland and Queen Elizabeth of England men tried to rule either through them or despised them. In the culture and history of Spain a woman ruler was never popular the only reason Isabel of Castile survived the men removing her from power is because they didnt like her half brother King Enrique (Henry) because he favored the various faith and did not stand for the Catholic faith of the time versus Isabel who stood by the Church and wanted to fight to gain Granada. Isabel wanted a unified Spain. But in 1890 when King Alfonsi XIII died his daughter Isabel II came into power and once again her advisors tried to rule over her and there were riots in the streets and people saw Spain as weak. This is just the history of a masculine society not willing to accept women.

      1. G

        Alfonso XIII was born in 1886 and died in 1931. Isabel II was daughter of King Ferdinand VII. Her father abolished the Salic Law that prevented women from being Queens. Her uncle did not accept the abolishment of the law, he wanted to continue the Borbon’s tradition and started a series of civil wars. Isabel inherited the kingdom at age 3, and her mother was Regent until Isabel was proclaimed Queen at age 13 in 1843. She was deposed in 1868 by the Glorious Revolution.
        Isabel I of Castille was Queen after her stepbrother Enrique IV died and the her brother Alfonso died too. She reigned as an absolutist monarch.

    3. M

      I do not believe she was mentally sick , probably she was passionate and emotional but who is not if relatives so close to her were dying and her husband was adulterous ? Probably she had a temper but that is not a sign of madness
      I would like to remove the description of loca Which is unfair and offensive there is not evidence of madness in her personality only a queen who behaved like a emotional woman!!!!!

      1. M

        I agree. I think she suffered from depression. Her mother did her in when she declared her unfit to rule as queen. Probably manipulated by Ferdinand.

        1. F

          Her mother was dead, and in her testament named her as heir

      2. F

        Was the story about travelling with her Husband’s corpse (and opening the casket to kiss and hold him) true? If it was, then she was definitely mentally ill.
        She may have been able to function, and she seems to have been brilliant and gifted, but she was mentally ill if the story is true

        1. J

          Or just very grief stricken.

          1. K

            I agree with Jodie.

            Emotions are not insanity. Yet even today people often struggle with this idea on a gut level.

            When someone has an emotional outburst, we tend to either empathise with them or call them “crazy” whether or not we actually mean the latter literally.

            But behaving “crazily” (aka showing extreme emotions) during a period of acute stress and/or grief is not the same thing as possessing a mental disorder.

            It’s actually a perfectly normal l, healthy part of human physiology often related to fight-or-flight (in case of anxiety and/or anger) or grief (in case of sadness and/or anger).

            To be mentally ill symptoms must persist in the *absence* of adverse life situations.
            Feeling depressed because you have lost your job is not “depression” nor any other mental disorder, it’s a natural response to an adverse situation and a normal stage of grief.
            Similarly, failing to eat or sleep when one’s mother is sick is not a symptom of mental illness but a natural manifestation anxiety for which there is a clear situational cause (worried about mom).

            Being unwilling to be parted from a deceased loved-one is fits with any of the first four stages of grief before the last (acceptance) and could also reflect natural urge to experience control by an individual who is regularly deprived of it.

            There is no reputed psychiatrist today who would diagnose anyone with a serious mental disorder because of non-hazardous aberrant behaviour exhibited solely during grief.

            (Side note: end of life facilities for children may have special cold rooms so that parents can spend time with their child after the child has passed. This is because the desire to not be immediately separated from the deceased loved-one is normal, not pathological, despite generally seeming odd to our society.)

        2. S

          Mentally ill for mourning your dead husband?? Come on! I promise you I’ll have to be torn away from my husband God forbid he leave this world before I do….I guess being in love is being mentally ill then. SM

        3. M

          Not true. She was planning on a couple of things:
          1. Taking Philip to Granada for burial near Isabel as per his own wishes.
          2. Using the opportunity to break away from Cisneros and others who were attempting to control her.
          3. Adhering to certain rituals and traditions pertaining to mourning, complicated by her pregnancy and her status.

          She opened the coffin a total of three times, twice in accordance with rituals of that time and once on suspicion that his body had been stolen. According to Pedro Martir, who was there, and, in the words of Townsend Miller in “Castles and the Crown” “disliked (Juana) but had the decency to tell the truth”, nothing unusual took place at any point.

      3. C

        Thank you. Plus she was hung from the rafters by her feet as a child because she voiced her difference of opinion. I.e. just her being a curious kid filled with questions. Back into those times one did not question elders especially on religion. But think of the effects that had on her to be treated that way. If she was emotional that is why.

        1. M

          This is not a detail I have come across in my research on Juana. Can you supply a source for this? Without a source, I have to doubt this information. Thanks.

      4. P

        She was a scorpio. We can fly into a rage. I also have issues with depression, but men who cannot handle rage in women will say the women are crazy.

    4. M

      Absolutely during that time women were submissive to men. Men plot against her Juana was a strong women
      Now days her supposed behavior would be Acceptable
      I would not put up with an adulterous husband she was suppose to ignore his tendencies I think this is a classic case of male rules and a plot in those days the royals
      Were told explicitly that displays of emotions was not acceptable so she was named mad or loca which is unfair considering that she went through a sequence of unfortunate events

      1. C - Post Author

        Have you read Julia Fox’s book on Juana and Catherine of Aragon? It’s excellent.

      2. F

        What about travelling with her husband’s corpse and embracing and kissing it in his casket? Was that story true? If so, then she was mentally ill, please see above

    5. S

      I agree. Also her mother, Isabella , had tortured her as a girl, by suspending her with weights on her feet as punishment for questioning the Catholic religion, and for not wanting to go along with the Catholic practices of the time.
      Her son later sought control and power by not only locking her up in exile, but also by ordering caretakers to not speak to Joanna. No one visited, no one spoke to her.
      She sat, immobile.
      Who would not be sad and depressed at such betrayals and such loneliness.
      Yes her husband and son undermined her horribly .
      Her own mother had done as well,in addition to abusing her badly physically. It was brutal.
      And the times were brutal.

      1. J

        Are you seriously stating the events on a TV show as actual historical fact? To my knowledge the whole torture thing was made up on for TV purposes. Can you cite an actual source? I’d love to read it if it is true. And if she was tortured for real then that would explain her madness because a certain amount of stress can literally push somebody into madness. I should know, I’ve had horrible events that would’ve seemed more fit for a movie horror screen then real life and I’d be lying if I said that I was in perfect mental health, far from it. If you’re subjected to enough pain that pain manifests as rage in the victim.

        1. S

          Here’s the source: Bergenroth, G A. Introduction, Part 1, Calendar of State Papers, Spain; vol. 1, 1485-1509, (London, 1862), p.xlvii. British History Online
          Yes, Isabella actually did this to her daughter.

          1. M

            No, Isabella did not torture Juana. Put some logic to your source. The letter mentioning torture was written in 1525, 21 years after Isabella’s death, by a nobleman who was every bit motivated to keep Juana out of power in favor of Charles. Remember Charles just faced the Comuneros Revolt, and Juana knew for a fact that getting power was possible.

            The intent of his letter was to ask Charles to give him permission to torture Juana, by saying “Oh her mother did that,” and Charles avoided the question entirely. So literally the son who usurped his mother’s power would never even consider it, literally we have 12 years of Ferdinand imprisoning Juana for political power and not once is torture is mentioned by this nobleman, but somehow Isabella who was politically solid would torture her daughter? At best it only indicates that Isabella physically punished her daughter, like most cultures when it comes to discipline. But torture that Juana would risk her limb and life? Here, Philip, marry a crippled princess.

            We also have Isabella literally empowering her daughter through her will. Juana is indisputable heiress. We have Juana taking her mother’s portrait when she was first confined—a clear indication of affection. Yep, I’m keeping my torturer’s portrait just because.

            Stop believing in crap. Protestants burned and tortured Catholics. So did Catholics to Protestants. Anyone with common sense—and Isabella had enough to run a kingdom larger than England—would be needlessly torturing royal children of all people in the world.

      2. F

        That’s not true, it’s a fake and an invent. That’s the anglosaxon version on TV

  4. G

    I think Juana was very disturbed by the conduct of her husband, as you write in your article. She was an over sexual woman, probably bipolar? In those days, that sexuality could be seen as a mental illness in itself. Add the jealousy, and the power of her father and son, and you have the reason for them toi vanish her to Tordesillas. But it is proved that she was always faithful to her father, as she was to her son when the comuneros went to offer her freedom in exchange for her to go against Charles, and she was known as the queen of Spain until her death. Charles was for very small amount of time king of Spain because he never took the title from her, when she lived.

  5. A

    I don’t believe she was mentally ill. Not the way they’d like to paint her. She was more than likely a strong willed woman who a) wasn’t going to take her husband’s philandering lightly, b) dealt with grief in a way that was twisted to suit other’s purposes. The one who I think probably was mentally ill was Katharine and later on Mary.

    1. L

      I have actually read the original Spanish sources on Juana, and she definitely had issues, even Isabella herself recognized it, which does not mean she was completely out of her mind. As for KoA and Mary, can you explain why you think they were mentally ill? I have studied them extensively and I simply don’t see it.

      1. M

        Is Isabella really a reliable source on whether she had issues?

        1. J

          Hahaha I love this reply. It’s exactly what I was thinking.

          1. M

            Isabel would be a more reliable source than people making assumptions more than 500 years later. It is obvious that she suffered from some form of mental instability.

    2. J

      I strongly agree with your statement with the exception of Catherine of Aragon. I haven’t seen anything suggesting she was mentally ill but
      I do believe her daughter Mary tutor was definitely mentally ill. Anyone that could burn people alive over religion definitely has a few screws loose. On one hand I felt sorry for Mary because she ended up witnessing her mother’s treatment by her father, the evil king Henry, Lost her governess lady Pole to execution by that same king and In the end I think she lost her mind.

      1. I

        Elizabeth I also beheaded and burnt people, Henry Vii and Vii did the same to anyone who disagreed with them. Throughout history people disposed of anyone who would not agree. Sign of the times. Slave owners tortured and murdered slaves. Fortunately in civilised countries things have hopefully changed but I doubt it

  6. A

    Thanks for the article. I understand Juana suffered from a BPD that ocasionally branched into delusion. Surely her mental state was aggravated by the stressful environment she endured, particularly from Philip’s behaviour, his death, and her forceful confinement. Perhaps even without modern treatment she could have led a fairly normal life if she had had more love and support.

    However, I think we’re being unfair to her son Carlos if we merely mention that he forbade all visitors, which I’m not sure is even accurate. Surely Carlos should have sought a better environment for his mother, but his reasons for keeping her under control are understandable. Witnesses state that, during her confinement at Tordesillas post Carlos’s (questionable) accession to the throne, Juana was often in deep depression, lacking nourishment and hygiene, or became very agitated. On the other hand, merely decades before, Castile had suffered a civil war of succession. There was a risk of repeating that experience with Juana playing a role, as she could name another regent, her Spanish-born son Fernando for example, to replace Carlos, who had proclaimed himself monarch alongside his mother doubtfully in order to discourage this possibility. With the comuneros uprising of 1520 this risk almost became a reality, as the rebels met Juana to ask her to challenge Carlos’s rule but she refused.

    I find the story of this family quite fascinating, though I wonder if some modern narratives are tainted by remnants of the Black Legend, plus, in the case of Juana, romatic views that are appealing but don’t harmonize with the accounts of her pitiful life under confinement.

    1. F

      I agree

  7. A

    I’d like to rectify my previous comment: I wrote “BPD” but I meant bipolar disorder, and it’s just my opinion, borrowed mostly from a paper in Spanish that I could try to find again if someone is interested. I also should have added paranoia to the occasional ramifications of this hypothetical bipolarity.

    I have just read the paper by Espi Forcen and see that he effectively believes BPD is the best diagnosis. To judge from his credentials and the authority of the journal, the author must be extremely competent in the medical aspects of the matter, but I’m afraid the historical sections of his paper make me doubt about the biographical basis he used.

    For example, it is stated there that Juana was confined at the monastery of Santa Clara, but she actually lived in a royal palace close to it, until her death. Romantic views of Juana suggest that this building started deteriorating rapidly when she passed away. In any case, by the 18th century it was in a sorry state and was demolished.

    Espi’s paper also states that Juana became Queen regnant after Philip’s death and that Ferdinand tried to “unseat” her. But Archbishop Cisneros assumed the regency temporarily after Philip, supported by a council of notables that were motivated by Juana’s evident incapacity, or at least by the strange behaviour and disinterest in state matters that she showed at the time. This council called Fernando to act as king regent from there on. There was no need to unseat Juana.

    I find other dubious parts in that brief narrative, like saying that Juana’s older brothers (plural) and sister passed while she lived in Flanders (but they were only Juan and Isabella, Miguel being her nephew), that Philip attempted to become King of Castile (he already was), or that Ferdinand was administrator of the kingdom while Juana was regent (but Ferdinand was King regent and Juana was Queen, or “reina propietaria”).

    By the way, when I commented on Carlos yesterday I meant it mostly as a reply to comments on Facebook without realizing that I was writing on this other platform. Those readers were speculating that the alleged prohibition to receive visitors proved that Carlos was hiding that Juana was not really mad. But he had less sinister reasons for keeping tight control, and Bethany Aram reports that at least her children visited her, many times, until her death. Moreover, her younger daughter, Catalina, lived with her until Carlos arranged that she become queen of Portugal, and it was reportedly quite difficult for the child due to her mother’s state of mind.

    Thanks again!

    1. D

      Bipolar disorder does not usually display with schizophrenia or para pia.

      1. D


        1. A

          Dyann, an untreated bipolar disorder as Juana apparently had, when it gets severed like after her husband’s death, can have psychotic features such as paranoid delusion events, which are consistent with testimony of episodes of erratic behaviour from her that earned her her unfortunate nickname. Schizophrenia is a different illness, but look up “delusional disorder”, “paranoid disorder” or “psychotic events” in relation to severe bipolar disorder. Luckily, most bipolar people that we meet today are either treated or leading a healthier and more lovingly life than Juana’s, which protects them from those extremes.

      2. a

        Actually, manic episodes can, and do, present with hallucinations and paranoia. Also, Schizoaffective Disorder is a disorder that is a combination of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

  8. R

    Joanne wasn’t mad, but she does seem to have had a psychotic break caused by the death of her husband. Her grief was extreme. She refused to allow his burial and locked herself in the room where his coffin lay, talking to him. There is also a possibility that she suffered extreme fear, distress, lack of self esteem, self blame, guilt and stress from the behaviour and abuse she suffered from her husband. Abused women often wrongly feel they are inadequate because their abuser makes them feel like this. Joanne may also have heard the rumours spread by Philip, whom she loved and become depressed. If she also had bipolar disorder she would also experience difficulties processing and controlling extreme emotional states like grief and her behaviour would reflect this. Today we would probably be more sensitive, but those around Joanna seem to have reacted in order to be practical and get on with what protocol dictated, rather than with any compassion towards a grieving widow. Men thought women were basically hysterical anyway, so they just didn’t understand if they had any kind of mental illness, even a temporary condition. Joanne may have had a condition from childhood, aggravated by the abuse of her husband and distress in the grief she felt at his death. If she had become dependent on him, then his loss would make her feel vulnerable, unable to function, static, catatonic even….not mad, but in need of guidance and support. Extreme grief can cause depression. Joanna was misunderstood by those who witnessed her grief and the rumours her abusive husband put about have sadly also misnamed her.

    1. M

      But I have to input here that this was not her behavior at the death of her husband:
      She planned to transport him to Granada for burial near her mother, as per his own wishes. In addition, she was planning a break form the people around her in order to gain freedom of movement and decision. In fact, she was taking political action, most specifically revoking the grants to Flemish nobles that Philip had made in Castile.

      She opened the coffin a total of three times, twice in accordance with religious practices at the time, once on suspicion that the body had been stolen. We have a witness in Pedro Martir, who travelled with her, and who says that the most she did on one of those occasions was to look at the body for a long time.

  9. M

    The blame of her being imprisoned cannot be only placed on her son Charles V. Her father Ferdinand had much to lose upon the death of his wife. He not only lost land but prestige on the international playing field. He was no longer King of Spain. He had many reasons to want his daughter to be seen as mad and himself as the ruler of Castile, still. As to Juana’a madness who knows. History is written by the victors perhaps she was merely a woman misunderstood by those around her. Mad or not it is impressive that the propaganda spread about by her husband, father and son continues to be related to this day.

  10. R

    I would venture that Juana suffered from mental illness inherited from her maternal grandmother. Unlike Juana, her mother, Isabella, showed iron fortitude in wresting power when her older brother, Enrique, King of Castle, died. But I think Isabella and Ferdinand prioritized political alliances over their daughter’s delicate mental constitution when they arranged her marriage to Philip, Archduke of Austria, and shipped her off to Flanders. Juana did not have the resources, either within herself, or accompanying her, to carve out her rightful spot as Philip’s wife. Ironically of all six of Isabella’s children, Juana was the only one who produced many children, 6 in all, none of whom she raised.

    1. A

      Hi Rozsa. Your raise an interesting point. Should Isabella and Ferdinand have known better? When single, Juana was considered moody, but apparently it wasn’t deemed too serious a problem, despite those being early signs of bipolarity most probably. Isabella worried excessively about the weather when she left for Flanders. Was she suspicious that something more than the weather was not right, yet sent Juana anyway? As you well mention, Isabella’s mother struggled with mental issues. Didn’t that experience inform Isabella?

      I see what you mean regarding Juana’s resources, but she was also intelligent and well educated, and her parents sent her to Flanders with a large entourage and stock in almost a hundred ships. She didn’t speak Flemish but learned it effortlessly. But Philip’s unfaithfulness and disdain towards her must have made her condition much worse, however talented she otherwise was.

      Just some trivial corrections on your last sentence. Juana was close to her five older kids only during their very early life; but with the youngest, Catherine, she remained until her middle adolescence. Isabella had five children in total, or more precisely five surviving ones and two stillborn. The second youngest, Maria of Aragon, had ten children herself, including two future kings of Portugal, one of whom married his first cousin, the aforementioned Catherine. Ouch!

    2. M

      Her younger sister Maria had about 10 children, most of whom survived. Maria herself died young at about age 36.

      Recent research has uncovered evidence that Juana was, for much of life before Tordesillas, about as sane as anyone else. There is evidence that Isabel and Fernando were involved parents who balanced political and familial responsibilities as best they could during the early years of the family (the story of Isabel torturing Juana is more than likely untrue, see various replies to this above).

      Juana’s lack of resources in Flanders was large a matter of broken promises regarding her income, which was arranged by the double marriage and then controlled completely by Philip. This left Juana without the resources to fund her household and build up a retinue loyal to her. She also represented Spanish interests in a place and with a husband whose advisors favored French alliances. There were a lot of cards stacked against her, and she may not have dealt with them to her advantage. But it’s notable that stories of her instability sprung up and spread after her change in status as heir to the Spanish kingdoms.

  11. i

    driven to mad ie furious with a husband who made love to mistresses in front of her -hoping she would have histerial anger so with medics waiting outside to witness this in order achieve his aim of through saying she was mad then he could take control of her powerful kingdom and his son copied his tactics-the dirtiest power game- so she was glad in the end for the peace of a convent– she should as queen have been strong and ordered his death but caught in tender trap -she loved him–the horrible bastard -the inquisition was too good for such a manipulative horror- as hapsburg decendant we left in 1700 but with strict rules on no more intermarriage my grandfather was not allowed to marry the princess he loved in 1900

    1. K

      Catherine was also treated very badly by her Tudor husband during the last decade or so of their marriage. The Hapsburgs women who were essentially traded in for world domination suffered greatly…

  12. J

    Juana is my 18th or so great grandmother. I think that there could be some truth to her being mad. My grandfather was a very angry person and he shot his head off. My father was a very angry person. There is some truth to a madness they have because my siblings are also very angry people and I am the youngest of 8 and my father was one of 13. The genes still spread into the 21st century so there is some truth to this.

  13. S

    It’s possible Juana may have had postpartum depression (possibly even psychosis depending on how severe her symptoms were) The more children you have, the worse it gets, and Juana had 6. Her last pregnancy coincided with Phillip’s death which may have tipped her over the edge.

    I also think it’s possible that Juana didn’t have any mental illnesses, but just had a strong personality and was mistreated by those close to her, mainly her parents and husband, which made her act out. (who can blame her?)

  14. L

    Innovative information.

  15. i

    my hapsburg spanish family are relater to Johanna–Mad= furious ,upset when unfaithful husband who wanted to get her power of throne and money -quite deliberatly upset her by bringing mistresses home into her own bed! As any women would she was upset and hopping mad -craftily having Docs waiting when she hit the roof as any wife would he had her commited to a nunnery and achieved goal of getting control –poor woman as later her son did same to get her power -again going to a convent this time never came out -power manipulations for money and power ! Coming unstuck later with to much intermarriage to keep money and power ending in 1700 and my proud Martinez De leyva family exile to Trier–Greta

    1. I

      Ingrid, do you refer to to the Martinez de Leyva family of La Rioja, Cantabria, (i.e. Sancho Martinez de Leyva b. 1310 d. 1384). If so, can you share historical references for me to study? I have interest in the family line as 3 of my paternal great grandparents were Spanish line Martinez (3-5 cousins) and have ancestry to Juan Martinez de Leyva III 1342-1384.

  16. I

    I believe Joanna experienced post partum depression induced psychosis. I have years of deep study in the root cause of this particular spectrum of schizophrenia, because two of my siblings experienced this in their late 20’s/early 30’s, upon acute emotional trauma, due to spousal infidelity. Genetic mutation, due to intermarriage of multiple generations of ancestors is a large factor. Environment stress is a trigger, particularly in any emotional areas dwelled upon during post partum depression periods. In my sisters case, drug use is a probable trigger as well as potential parasitic infection from her keeping too many cats.

  17. C

    I had maternal dna conducted including famous ancestors and found much to my surprise, I am related to Queen Victoria, Napoleon Bonaparte, Warren Buffett and empress Maria Theresa. I purchased European Royalty Family tree chart and from what I see it looks like Joanna the Mad Queen of Castile is the connection maternally to me. Thank you for this story!

  18. M

    I don’t think Juana was mad, not at all. Actually, I believe she was one of the smartest. From past experience and knowledge of my own family history, women were never deemed fit to rule, nonetheless, a kingdom. I personally believe the men during this time wanted control and to do that they had to get “rid of” Juana. She was already suffering with the loss of her mother and siblings, and on top of that, she had to deal with the emotional and mental abuse from both her father and husband. All of that adds up, and when she has to speak up for herself, she is not heard. Instead, the men surrounding her call her a “loon” or “mad” in order to get what they want, and most of the time, it’s either land, title, or wealth. Unfortunately in a patriarchal society, men intentionally drove women mad, as an effort to 1) get what they want and 2) lessen the barrier in the way. To me, it’s actually a corrupt and inconsiderate way to get what you want, but people are selfish and only care about themselves. What can we do? History repeats itself, in many different forms and ways, we just refuse to listen to it and improve. Remember, if you’ve read Shakespeare, the nurse, the one who was deemed the “crazy” one, was one of the most intelligent and in some ways, spoke facts.

  19. L

    1. Her mother declared her heir to Castile. Isabella clarified that if Juana could not or did not want to reign, it would be her father who would reign for her.
    2. She raised her sixth daughter alone: ​”​Catalina” who became one of the greatest queens in Portugal.
    4. Many of your most criticized behaviors have logical explanations.
    5. Keep in mind that in a few years she gave birth to 6 children and 2 of her brothers and her husband died. Also, her younger sister, Maria, died of giving to many sons in a short time. For her, being Queen meant, having more children.
    7. The romantic writers of the 19th century were the ones who turned her into a romantic heronine: ‘crazy for love’
    8. She always wanted to be queen but did not want to rule, at least by herself.

  20. E

    Money and fame always been the cause of problems in this world, This lady have to go true so much unnecessary,All this Royal fakers have to go to so much yust to control ,yes control ,control .what a world we live in. Sad.

  21. S

    Has anyone considered Juana wasn’t mentally ill at all? She may have just been more determined and uncompromisable compared to other women at the time? She was married to Phillip the “handsome”, has anyone google searched this guy? Handsome? People back then were playing fast and loose with physical identifiers if this Phillip is considered good looking then Juana definitely isn’t crazy. She had strong opinions and didn’t settle on no for an answer.

  22. W

    Things haven’t changed all that much. An intelligent woman that displays even justified anger is still too easily labeled as “ unbalanced “ Especially when someone close to them has something to gain. It happens in marriage, business, and in families every day still.

  23. A

    Things haven’t changed too a lot. An astute lady that presentations even supported indignation is still excessively effortlessly marked as ” lopsided ” Especially when somebody near them has something to acquire.

  24. M

    Immediately to me,
    Juana sounded like she was just reacting to stress. Like alot of women would react no in the present day. I feel bad for her.

  25. s

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  26. C

    I think she was a spoiled princess, who was apparently intelligent and entirely too free willed at the time for the times. Tragic, I only see guilt for unjustly locking his mother up in pursuit of power as the reason why her son never came to visit her, The fact that she was not allowed any visitors should lead anybody to draw the conclusion that there was something nefarious being covered up

  27. i

    Johanna the furious& v v hurt as she loved her womanising husband who set her up with men in white coats waiting outside when she caught him -with another woman–uks queens would have said off with his head and everything else 1st but women are caught out by loving the bastards like him &not so ruthless or violent .What normal woman would not react against adultery plus he wanted her crown&power &got it-then her son tried trickery to get her power sucessfully so she again went to a nunnery-poor woman after a tough childhood -her sister had a v tough time in uk married to Arthur who died -kept in rags until Henrys father died then happy then discarded -Tudors had a history of inherited probs from French royalty side -but the greedy Habsburgs intermarrying finished my De Leyva family in 1700 &war of sucession & arriving in spain 711 with their muslim friends as Levite Rh neg priests of the temple &1300 in Langedoc-Rousillon Chateau of the Levites 1st &1400 to Rioja &Leiva to Burgos 2 rabbi -one died on the rack-one converted so 1511 a descendant was a Pope for a record short time -see Conversos by Martinez-Davila&Armada in Devon by Paula Martin -re Don Alonso Martinez De leyva& Rosario here in Torquay – Greta

  28. J

    She is my 14th great-grandmother.

  29. M

    Juana’s youngest daughter Catharine, born 14th of january 1507, stayed with her mother till she turned 18 and married her cousin John III of Portugal. Is there any information of what this did to a young girl?

  30. G

    In today’s societies being angry and yelling at other people will label you as having a mental breakdown, depression and anxiety, and just isolating yourself from others makes you a person with mental health issues, this is not true, most of the ways we all act out our anger and frustration is not a mental health issue, that is justification for doctors to lock you away, and say you have a psychotic nature, so they can treat you with drugs that allow them to control you, and turn you into a lame lamb who follows their instructions without any problem. In other words, people are not allowed to be verbally abusive at others or themselves, as it would suggest to medical professionals that you have mental issues, like schizophrenia, paranoia or something else just so they can lock you away from society and watch you don’t try to harm yourself.

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The Madness of Juana of Castile