Joanna of Castile
Joanna of Castile
Joanna, known as Joanna the Mad, was the first queen regnant to reign over both the Kingdoms of Castile (1504–55) and of Aragon (1516–55), a union which evolved into modern Spain. Besides the kingdoms of Spain, she also ruled the kingdoms of Sardinia, Sicily, and Naples in Italy; a vast colonial empire in the Americas and the Philippines; and the prosperous Burgundian Netherlands, initiating Spanish interests there.
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  • 1555
    Joanna died on Good Friday, 12 April 1555 at the age of 75 in the Convent of Santa Clara at Tordesillas.
    More Details Hide Details She is entombed in the Royal Chapel of Granada (la Capilla Real) in Spain alongside her parents Isabella I and Ferdinand II, her husband Philip I and her nephew Miguel da Paz, Prince of Asturias. A statue of her stands in Tordesillas and the convent in which she was confined for fifty years can be visited. As a young woman, she was known to be highly intelligent. It was only after her marriage that the first suspicions of mental illness arose. One reason for this may be due to the sympathy she showed for Martin Luther's ideas. Some historians comment that she may have suffered from melancholia, a depressive disorder, a psychosis, or a case of inherited schizophrenia. There is debate about the diagnosis that she was mentally ill. Joanna's symptoms were perhaps aggravated by her non-consensual confinement and control by others who had assumed her royal powers to legitimise the claims of her husband, father, and son to the throne. Joanna was nominalised as Queen regnant of Castile, León, and Aragon until her death. It is possible that she inherited mental illness from her mother's family: her maternal grandmother Isabella of Portugal, Queen of Castile suffered from this condition in widowhood after her stepson exiled her to the castle of Arévalo in Ávila, Castile.
  • 1520
    In 1520, the Revolt of the Comuneros broke out in response to the perceived foreign Habsburg influence over Castile through Charles V. The rebel leaders demanded that Castile be governed in accordance with the supposed practices of the Catholic Monarchs.
    More Details Hide Details In an attempt to legitimise their rebellion, the Comuneros turned to Joanna. As the 'on record' sovereign monarch, had she given written approval to the rebellion, it would have been legalised and would have triumphed. In an attempt to prevent this, Don Antonio de Rojas, Bishop of Mallorca, led a delegation of royal councillors to Tordesillas, asking Joanna to sign a document denouncing the Comuneros. She demurred, requesting that he present her specific provisions. Before this could be done the Comuneros in turn stormed the virtually undefended city and requested her support. The request prompted Adrian of Utrecht, the regent appointed by Charles V, to declare that Charles would lose Castile if she granted her support. Although she was sympathetic to the Comuneros, she was persuaded by Ochoa de Landa and her confessor Fray John of Avila that supporting the revolt would irreparably damage the country and her son's kingship and she therefore refused to sign a document granting her support. The Battle of Villalar confirmed that Charles would prevail over the revolt.
  • 1519
    In 1519 Charles I now ruled the Kingdom of Aragon and its territories and the Kingdom of Castile and León and its territories, in personal union.
    More Details Hide Details In addition, that same year Charles was elected Holy Roman Emperor. The kingdoms of Castile and Aragon (and Navarre) remained in personal union until their jurisdictional unification in the early 18th century by the Bourbons while Charles eventually abdicated as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in favour of his brother Ferdinand and the personal union with the Spanish kingdoms was dissolved.
  • 1516
    When Ferdinand II died in 1516, the Kingdoms of Castile and León, and Aragon and their associated crowns and territories/colonies would pass to Joanna I and Charles I. With Charles I still in Flanders, Aragon was being governed after Ferdinand II's death by his bastard son, Alonso de Aragón.
    More Details Hide Details Meanwhile, Castile and León, already subjects of Joanna, were governed by Archbishop Cisneros as regent. A group of nobles, led by the Duke of Infantado, attempted to proclaim the Infante Ferdinand as King of Castile but the attempt failed. In October 1517, seventeen-year-old Charles I arrived in Asturias at the Bay of Biscay. On 4 November, he and his sister Eleanor met their mother Joanna at Tordesillas – there they secured from her the necessary authorisation to allow Charles to rule as her co-King of Castile and León and of Aragon. Despite her acquiescence to his wishes her confinement would continue. The Castilian Cortes, meeting in Valladolid, spited Charles by addressing him only as Su Alteza ("Your Highness") and reserving Majestad ("Majesty") for Joanna. However, no one seriously considered rule by Joanna a realistic proposition.
  • 1509
    He had Joanna confined in the Santa Clara convent in Tordesillas, near Valladolid in Castile, in February 1509 after having dismissed all of her faithful servants and having appointed a small retinue accountable to him alone.
    More Details Hide Details At this time, some accounts claim that she was insane or "mad", and that she took her husband's corpse with her to Tordesillas to keep it close to her. Ferdinand II ended his days embittered: his second marriage had failed to produce a surviving male heir leaving his daughter Joanna as his heiress-presumptive. Ferdinand resented that, upon his death, Castile and Aragon would effectively pass to his foreign-born-and-raised grandson Charles I, to whom he had transferred his hatred of Philip I. He had hoped that his younger grandson and namesake, Ferdinand I, who was Charles I's brother and had been born and raised in Castile, would succeed him. Ferdinand II had named Ferdinand as his heir in his will before being persuaded to revoke this bequest and rename Joanna and Charles I as his heirs-presumptive instead.
  • 1507
    On 17 August 1507 she summoned three members of the royal council and ordered them to inform the grandees, in her name, of her father Ferdinand II's return to power: "That they should go to receive his highness and serve him as they would her person and more."
    More Details Hide Details She refused to sign the instructions – a last gesture of defiance – and issued a statement that she did not, as queen regnant, endorse the surrender of her own royal power. Nonetheless, she was thereafter queen in name only and all documents, though issued in her name, were signed with Ferdinand's signature, "I the King". He was named administrator of the kingdom by the Cortes of Castile in 1510, and entrusted the government mainly to Archbishop Cisneros.
    Ferdinand II and Joanna met at Hornillos, Castile on 30 July 1507.
    More Details Hide Details Ferdinand then constrained her to yield up her power over the Kingdom of Castile and León to himself.
    In the face of this, Ferdinand II returned to Castile in July 1507.
    More Details Hide Details His arrival coincided with a remission of the plague and famine, a development which quieted the instability and left an impression that his return had restored the health of the kingdom.
  • 1506
    By 20 December 1506 Joanna was in the village of Torquemada in Castile, attempting to exercise her rights to rule alone in her own name as Queen of Castile.
    More Details Hide Details The country fell into disorder. Her son and heir-apparent, Charles, later Charles I, was a six-year-old child being raised in his aunt's care in northern European Flanders; her father, Ferdinand II, remained in Aragon, allowing the crisis to grow. A regency council under Archbishop Cisneros was set up against the queen's orders but it was unable to manage the growing public disorder; plague and famine devastated the kingdom with supposedly half the population perishing of one or the other. The queen was unable to secure the funds required to assist her to protect her power.
    On 25 September 1506 Philip died suddenly of typhoid fever in the city of Burgos in Castile.
    More Details Hide Details Some suspected that he had been poisoned by his father-in-law Ferdinand II who had always disliked his foreign Habsburg origins and with whom he never wanted to share power. Joanna was pregnant with their sixth child, a daughter named Catherine (1507–1578), who later became Queen of Portugal.
    By virtue of the agreement of Villafáfila, the procurators of the Cortes met in Valladolid, Castile on 9 July 1506.
    More Details Hide Details On 12 July, they swore allegiance to Philip I and Joanna together as King and Queen of Castile and León and to their son Charles, later Charles I of Castile, Leon and Aragon and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, as their heir-apparent. This arrangement only lasted for a few months.
    Ferdinand met Philip at Villafáfila on 20 June 1506 and handed over the government of Castile to his "most beloved children", promising to retire to Aragon.
    More Details Hide Details Philip and Ferdinand then signed a second treaty, agreeing that Joanna's mental instability made her incapable of ruling and promising to exclude her from government. Ferdinand then proceeded to repudiate the agreement the same afternoon, declaring that Joanna should never be deprived of her rights as Queen Proprietress of Castile. A fortnight later, having come to no fresh agreement with Philip and thus effectively retaining his right to interfere if he considered his daughter's rights to have been infringed upon, he abandoned Castile for Aragon, leaving Philip to govern in Joanna's stead.
  • 1505
    Ferdinand's remarriage merely strengthened support for Philip and Joanna in Castile, and in late 1505, the pair decided to travel to Castile.
    More Details Hide Details Leaving Flanders on 10 January 1506, their ships were wrecked on the English coast and the couple were guests of Henry, Prince of Wales, later Henry VIII and Joanna's sister Catherine of Aragon at Windsor Castle. They weren't able to leave until 21 April by which time civil war was looming in Castile. Philip apparently considered landing in Andalusia and summoning the nobles to take up arms against Ferdinand in Aragon. Instead, he and Joanna landed at A Coruña on 26 April, whereupon the Castilian nobility abandoned Ferdinand en masse.
    Ferdinand refused to accept this: he minted Castilian coins in the name of "Ferdinand and Joanna, King and Queen of Castile, León and Aragon," and, in early 1505, persuaded the Cortes that Joanna's "illness is such that the said Queen Doña Joanna our Lady cannot govern".
    More Details Hide Details The Cortes then appointed Ferdinand as Joanna's guardian and the kingdom's administrator and governor. However, her husband Philip the Handsome was unwilling to accept any threat to his chances of ruling Castile and also minted coins in the name of "Philip and Joanna, King and Queen of Castile, Léon and Archdukes of Austria, etc." In response, Ferdinand embarked upon a pro-French policy, marrying Germaine de Foix, niece of Louis XII of France (and his own great-niece), in the hope that she would produce a son to inherit Aragon and perhaps Castile.
  • 1504
    Upon the death of her mother in November 1504, Joanna became Queen regnant of Castile and her husband jure uxoris its king.
    More Details Hide Details Joanna's father, Ferdinand II, lost his monarchical status in Castile although his wife's will permitted him to govern in Joanna's absence or, if Joanna was unwilling to rule herself, until Joanna's heir reached the age of 20.
  • 1502
    In 1502, Philip, Joanna and a large part of the Burgundian court travelled to Spain for Joanna to receive fealty from the Cortes of Castile as Princess of Asturias, heiress to the Castilian throne, a journey chronicled in great detail by Antoon I van Lalaing.
    More Details Hide Details Philip and the majority of the court returned to the Low Countries in the following year, leaving a pregnant Joanna in Madrid where she gave birth to her and Philip's fourth child, Ferdinand, later a central European monarch and Holy Roman Emperor as Ferdinand I.
    In 1502, the Castilian Cortes of Toro recognised Joanna as heiress to the Castilian throne and Philip as her consort.
    More Details Hide Details She was named Princess of Asturias, the title traditionally given to the heir of Castile. Also in 1502, the Aragonese Cortes gathered in Zaragoza to swear an oath to Joanna as heiress; however, the Archbishop of Saragossa expressed firmly that this oath could only establish jurisprudence by way of a formal agreement on the succession between the Cortes and the king.
  • 1498
    Between 1498 and 1507, she gave birth to six children: two emperors and four queens.
    More Details Hide Details The death of Joanna's brother John, the stillbirth of John's daughter and the deaths of Joanna's older sister Isabella and Isabella's son Miguel made Joanna heiress to the Spanish kingdoms. Her remaining siblings were Maria (1482–1517) and Catherine (1485–1536), younger than Joanna by three and six years, respectively.
  • 1496
    Joanna married Philip the Handsome on October 20, 1496.
    More Details Hide Details Philip was crowned King of Castile in 1506, initiating the rule of the Habsburgs in Spain. After Philip's death that same year, Joanna was deemed mentally ill and was confined to a nunnery for the rest of her life. Though she remained the legal queen of Castile throughout this time, her father, Ferdinand II of Aragon, was regent until his death, when she inherited his kingdom as well. From 1517, her son, Charles, ruled as king, while she nominally remained co-monarch. Joanna was born in the city of Toledo, the capital of the Kingdom of Castile. She was the third child and second daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon of the royal House of Trastámara. Joanna had been a clever and diligent child and an excellent student. Queen Isabella came to ensure that Joanna along with her three sisters Isabella, Maria, and Catherine received a fine education. Her academic education consisted of canon and civil law, genealogy and heraldry, grammar, history, languages, mathematics, philosophy, reading, spelling, and writing. She read an impressive list of authors of classical literature that included the Christian poets Juvencus and Prudentius, Church fathers Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Saint Gregory, and Saint Jerome, and the Roman statesman Seneca. In the Castilian court her main tutors were the Dominican priest Andrés de Miranda, the respected educator Beatriz Galindo who was a member of the queen's court, and her mother the queen.
    Joanna began her journey to Flanders in the Low Countries, which consisted of parts of the present day Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and Germany, on 22 August 1496. The formal marriage took place on 20 October 1496 in Lier, north of present-day Brussels.
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  • 1479
    Born on November 6, 1479.
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