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Joanna I, "the Mad" (Spain) (1479–1555)

JOANNA I, "THE MAD" (SPAIN) (14791555)

JOANNA I, "THE MAD" (SPAIN) (14791555), third child and second daughter of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragón, and mother of the Emperor Charles V. The marriage agreement of Isabella and Ferdinand had stipulated that Ferdinand could not inherit the crown of Castile if Isabella died before him. It would pass instead to their legitimate heirs, who could include their daughters since in Castile women were allowed to exercise sovereign power. Intelligent and well educated, Joanna also showed signs of rebelliousness and mental instability that troubled her parents. Nonetheless, in 1502 Isabella and Ferdinand secured the cooperation of the Castilian Cortes in recognizing Joanna as proprietary heiress of Castile (her older siblings Isabel and Juan had both already died) and her husband, the Habsburg Philip the Handsome, as her legitimate consort.

When Isabella died in 1504, Joanna and Philip were not in Castile. This allowed Ferdinand to engage in political machinations that portrayed Joanna as mentally unsound and convinced the Cortes to appoint him in her place. A power struggle emerged between Ferdinand and Philip. Philip died in 1496, plunging Joanna into a period of profound mourning (which only exacerbated her tendency toward mental instability). By 1509 Ferdinand had "exiled" his daughter to Tordesillas, where she lived until her death in 1555.

Some recent scholarship has attempted to separate Joanna's image from the unfortunate appellation of "the Mad," seeking to demonstrate that she was the victim of the political ambitions of both her father and husband. Despite her exclusion from power, Joanna remained the queen of Castile, reigning jointly after 1516 with her son Charles I (Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire).

See also Charles V (Holy Roman Empire) ; Ferdinand of Aragón ; Isabella of Castile .


Altayó, Isabel. Juana I: La reina cautiva. Madrid, 1985.

Aram, Bethany. "Joanna 'the Mad's' Signature: The Problem of Invoking Royal Authority, 15051507." Sixteenth Century Journal 29: 2 (1998), 331358. The revisionist view.

Fernández Alvarez, Manuel. Juana la Loca: La cautiva de Tordesillas. Madrid, 2000.

Elizabeth A. Lehfeldt

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