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Joanna I of Castile - Historical Figures

Joanna I of Castile
Image Joanna I of Castile

Toledo 1479 - Tordesillas 1555

Historically known as Joanna the Mad, she was daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand (the Catholich Monarchs). Her mental state is one of the enigmas in Spanish history.

She was born in Toledo on 6 November 1479. She was a cultured and intelligent woman. Not only did she learn to read and write but also she could read and speak French and Latin correctly when she was fifteen since her teacher was Beatriz Galindo "the latin woman". She also stood out because of her musical skills.

According to Catholic Monarchs marriage alliance policy, which aim was to surround the French kingdom, she was wedded to Philip the Handsome, only son of Maximilian, the German emperor. Philip already reigned in Flanders and Burgundy as his mother’s heir.

At the same time, it was agreed her brother's wedding (Prince John), with Philip's the handsome sister, Margaret of Austria.

The first couple's meeting takes place on October 18 in Lierre, near Amberes. Both of them felt a mutual attraction that led them to bring their marriage forward. It was performed in a private manner by Joanna's chaplain that blessed the union. It was carried out immediately. However, the official ceremony was not carried out till two days later, on October 20, 1496.

The mutual attraction mentioned above made foresee a good relationship. However, things would change earlier. The main problem was the relationship that Flandes Court gave Joanna, in such a way that after a few months, Philip the handsome; had expelled the great majority of people who made up Joanna's entourage and came with her from Spain. Besides, Philip's conquering attitude, that Joanna was not willing to consent, will make jealous and confrontations between both spouses appear. In spite of everything, Joanna and Philip had six children:

· Eleanor (1498). She was a queen of Portugal. She got married for the second time and she was a queen of France.
· Charles (1500). Emperor Charles I of Spain and V of Germany.
· Isabella (1501). Queen of Denmark.
· Ferdinand (1503). Emperor of Germany.
· Mary (1505). Queen of Hungary and Bohemia.
· Catherine (1507). Queen and regent of Portugal.

The death of her brother, the prince John (the heir to the throne of Castile), her sister Isabella and Michael, her son, turned Joanna into Asturias Crown Princess (1502), therefore.

In 1504, when Isabella the Catholic died, Joanna was proclaimed Queen of Castile. It was agreed that Joanna, Philip and her father Ferdinand, governed together in "La Concordia de Salamanca" (Concord of Salamanca) in 1505. However, when Philip died whe was declared unfit for reigning.

She travelled over the Castilian high moorland with Philip's corpse and on February 18, 1509, the funeral procession stopped in Tordesillas. The queen, together with her daughter Catherine, were settled into the Palace where the queen stayed for 46 years up to her death in 1555, whereas Philip's coffin was taken to the church of Santa Clara Royal Monastery until 1525, when it was moved to Granada.

Obviously, her purpose of leaving the Royal Palace was hindered by all means, because it doesn't change the fact that she was the sovereing. Besides, it was afraid that her subjects rebelled, above all, against her son Charles I, as it happened in the uprising of old towns in Castile.

That's why not only Ferdinand the Catholic but also his son Charles chose men they trusted so that they were at the head of Joanna's house. However, they were authentic jailers more than governors in most cases. The short period Hernán Duque de Estrada was at the head of the Queen's house (two years), was the only one the Queen could live as such.

Among others, her son Charles I of Spain and V of Germany, her grandson Philip II and Castilian Communities Party followers, who proclaimed her legitimacy as Queen, paid her a visit in Tordesillas.

On the Holy Friday on April 12, 1555 Joanna dies at the age of 75. Her corpse is taken to the church of Santa Clara Royal Monastery until it is moved to Granada in 1574 where her mortal remains rest together with her husband's.

She was a cultured and intelligent woman, but was unable to avoid being used by kings, noblemen and plebeians in their disputes for power. Therefore, her mental state is still an enigma.