Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Juana la Loca

Juana, before the mad
I am so glad I live in a time of modern psychiatric medicine. All throughout royal family trees you see weird family members with weird epithets like "the bewitched", "the crazy", or in this case "the mad." Nowadays, a psychiatrist would just throw a handful of pills at them and who knows how different we would be now. The reason for all of this was to keep power in the family. A great way to do that? Inbreeding! The ancient Egyptians took goddess Isis and her brother/husband Osiris as prime examples. In Europe the relationship was not that close, but many times first cousins married without a word being said. Today inter-familial marriages would garner town names like Cousin-wood for example. Anyhow, mental instability was rampant in royal families. Here is the tale of just that Juana of Castile.   
       Born in 1479 to King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile, Juana grew up expecting nothing more but to grow up and expand her parent's power and wealth. Her sedate childhood was no indication of the passionate person she would become. She was one of the most educated women of her tine speaking Castilian, Leonese. Galician-Portuguese, Catalan, French, and Latin; also, all accounts of her attest to her beauty. Juana was said to have had auburn hair and blue eyes, a trait she share with her sister-queen, Catherine of Aragon, future wife of King Henry VIII.
Phillip the "Handsome(?)"
       Unlike many other royal maidens at the time Juana lucked up. At the age of sixteen Juana was betrothed to Phillip the Handsome, Duke of Burgundy. Phillip was the son of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. The marriage of Phillip to Juana was to unite to lands so they could stand up to growing French power. Phillip's epithet must have been true, at first sight Juana fell madly in love with her husband to-be. The couple begged to married the night they met, both were so fond of each other. They started out in uncommon marital bliss.
      It's just to bad that Phillip didn't only have eyes for Juana. Phillip had many mistress' during his marriage to Juana, including one unfortunate lady-in-waiting who got a haircut straight from the duchess herself due to a little fling with the duke. Juana left the discarded the hair as a friendly reminder on Phillip's pillow. Despite the affairs Juana gave birth to five children in rapid succession. Juana also practiced witchcraft making love spells.
     Even after her marriage to Phillip, Juana kept loyalty to all things Spanish. Unfortunately Queen Isabella died and left Juana Queen of Castile. King Ferdinand did not like this, so he used Juana's mad behavior to try to grab Castile from her. Juana protested, she wanted to be queen. Then came the psychotic breakdown. Phillip died. Juana was pregnant with their sixth child at the time. She embraced the corpse as if it was still living. She accompanied it on the funeral procession, but insisted that they travel at night so no women would be tempted by him. Occasionally, she would even open the coffin and greet the dead body as if he still lived. 
The convent Juana was kept  at
for fifty years.
     Obviously, King Ferdinand milked this for all it was worth-after all countries were worth more than daughters. The king declared Juana insane and locked her inside a chamber in a convent in Tordesilles for the rest of her life.After her father died and her son came to rule he didn't have much mercy on his mother either. Juana died in 1555 at the age of seventy-five, she had been imprisoned for nearly fifty years.


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