Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Renaissance Europe - Juana la Loca IV

Falmouth Bay
Hostages in England

Philip and Juana did not set sail for Spain until January 1506 when they travelled with virtually the whole Burgundian court in attendance. Juana created a huge fuss about the women due to travel on the royal vessel, under the belief that they would sleep with her husband.

The journey was a royal progress at sea and the beginning of the journey went well passing;

‘Calais by night, shooting guns, having great torches lit…..trumpets and minstrels playing and singing.’[i]

Bishop Foxe
The fleet was suddenly becalmed and then hit by a furious storm that scattered the fleet before it, driving the ships onto the English shore. During the storm Juana sat entwined between Philips’ legs so that death would not part them. Most of the fleet put in at Falmouth, in Cornwall, but Philip and Juana landed at Melcombe Regis[ii].

The royal party was drawn inland on the pretext that supplies were more plentiful there and Philip sent his secretary to request a meeting with Henry VII, who was more than pleased to meet what were, in essence, his hostages who were lavishly entertained.

Sir Thomas Brandon, the Master of the Horse, was sent to escort Philip to London. En route the party stopped at Winchester where Philip was entertained by the bishop, Richard Foxe[iii]. The party were joined there by Henry, the Prince of Wales; he then escorted the party to Windsor to meet his father on 31st January.

An Infamous Treaty

Princess Mary
In the castle Philip stayed in the king’s own apartments and the entertainment proffered, ranging from horse baiting to dancing, was interspersed with sessions of hard bargaining. A treaty was sealed on 9th February.

On 10th February Juana arrived at the castle to be met on the privy stairs by Henry VII, her sister Caterina and Princess Mary. Juana and Philip remained at Windsor until the weekend when Philip went to Richmond for the hunting and hawking while Juana returned to join the fleet. It is very possible that Philip arranged to separate Juana from Caterina fearing that Juana might be encouraged into independence over the matter of Juana’s inheritance.

At Richmond Philip joined in a tennis match, playing against the Marquess of Dorset. On Sunday 15th February Philip paid his bill, undertaking publicly to hand over Edmund de la Pole, a pretender to the English crown[iv]. Philip agreed to the handover with the proviso that Edmund not be killed. Philip and Henry made their farewells before a formal dinner on 2nd March. Henry accompanied Philip on his first leg of the journey, but immediately after leaving Windsor Philip became feverish;

‘Partly because of the Lenten fare and partly because of the weather, which was severe.’[v]

He lay sick at Reading Abbey for eight or nine days before resuming his journey and meeting Juana at Falmouth on 26th March. The fleet was unable to sail for three weeks due to adverse winds.

Return to Spain

Castillo de San Anton, Coruna
Philip and Juana did not arrive in Spain until April 1506, landing at Coruňa. Philip was determined to cut Juana out of the equation and rule as sole monarch of Castile. 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.

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 recommended that Philip;

‘Cultivate a better understanding with the Queen, his wife….[her health depended] upon gentle measures being used.’[vi]

Philip & Juana as rulers of Castile
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, Ferdinand abandoned Castile for Aragon, without having met with his daughter and leaving Philip to govern in Juana's stead.

But Philip did not enjoy being king of Castile for long; on 19th September he caught a chill after a strenuous ball game in Burgos, the chill turned to fever and he died on 25th at the age of twenty-eight.

The Death March

Rumours of assassination and poison were rife at the time, despite sickness being rife in the area during the period in question; it is possible that Juana believed the rumours. There is no doubt that, emotionally drained and in the throes of pregnancy, Juana was very badly affected by Philip’s death.

Rumours abounded; Juana had had Philip’s body embalmed and refused to allow him to be buried, his coffin went wherever she travelled, she opened his coffin and kissed the corpse’s feet and would allow no woman other than herself near the corpse. The rumours only helped to add to Juana’s reputation as ‘la Loca.’ Her secretary, Juan Lopez, always maintained that Juana was;

‘More sane than her mother.’[vii]

Archbishop Cisneros (as cardinal)
Juana wanted Philip to be buried at Granada, to be buried close to her mother. Philip had apparently also intimated that he be buried there. The journey from Burgos to Granada commenced in the depths of winter and the heavily pregnant Juana chose to travel with the cortège. The journey was halted in Torquemada where Juana’s last child, Caterina, was born on 14th January 1507.

A regency council under Archbishop Cisneros was set up, against the queen's orders, the day before Philip’s death. But the council was unable to manage the problems besetting the kingdom. Castile was suffering from growing public disorder; plague and famine devastated the kingdom with supposedly half the population perishing of one or the other.

Juana was unable to secure the funds required to assist her to protect her power. She revoked all of Philip’s grants of lands, monies and offices to his cronies on 18th December 1506. The revocations were ignored.

Thoughts of Marriage

Painting believed to be Caterina d'Aragona 
In January 1507 that arch-schemer the King of England conceived the idea of marrying the Queen of Castile, the widowed Juana. This idea was more attractive than marrying Caterina to Prince Henry, but to keep Ferdinand sweet Henry did not want to break off that engagement. Henry VII had found Juana sultry and oriental and knew, more to the point, capable of bearing healthy children as he informed Caterina.

Caterina was in favour of the marriage as it would bring her into closer contact with her sister. But this was not a marriage that Ferdinand would ever assent to, having no intention of letting that sly fox Henry anywhere near the throne of Castile. To keep his ally sweet he told Caterina to inform the sly fox that it was;

‘Not yet known whether Queen Juana be inclined to marry again….[if so] it shall be with no other person than the King of England.’[viii]

The marriage of course never happened, but it is highly likely that Henry VII was well aware that the rumours of Juana’s madness were just that; rumours.

‘The story of her “madness” was never, until perhaps the end of her long life, more than very successful propaganda put out by her ruthless and unscrupulous father and son. It is probable that Henry VII knew or suspected the truth.’[ix]


In the face of the troubles plaguing the kingdom and sensing an opportunity to regain power, Ferdinand II returned to Castile in July 1507. 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.

Ferdinand II and Juana met at Hornillos, Castile on 30 July 1507. Ferdinand then forced her to yield up her power over the Kingdom of Castile and León to himself. On 17 August 1507 Juana 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.’[x]

Juana refused to sign the instructions, issuing a statement that she did not endorse the surrender of her own royal power. Eventually Ferdinand, as regent, had Juana locked away in the fortress at Tordesillas. Philip’s coffin was handed to the nuns of the adjacent Santa Clara convent.


Henry VII – SB Chrimes, Eyre Methuen 1987

Sister Queens – Julia Fox, Ballantine Books 2011

Ferdinand and Isabella – Melveena McKendrick, Cassell 1969

Henry – David Starkey, Harper Press 2008

Six Wives – David Starkey, Chatto & Windus 2003

Catherine of Aragon – Giles Tremlett, Faber & Faber 2010

The Wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir, Pimlico 1992

The Hapsburgs – Andrew Wheatcroft, Folio Society 2004

[i] Henry - Starkey
[ii] In the lee of the Isle of Portland
[iii] Lord Privy Seal and Henry’s principal minister
[iv] Killed in the Tower of London in 1513, Henry VIII considering himself not bound by a treaty signed by his father.
[v] Henry - Starkey
[vi] Sister Queens - Fox
[vii] Ibid
[viii] The Wives of Henry VIII - Weir
[ix] Henry VII - Chrimes

1 comment:

  1. One of those points on which to speculate, what might have happened if Henry VII had managed to marry her; if he had further sons, Henry VIII would not have had so weighty a 'great matter'.
    I wove a plot around Edmund de la Pole - not of his making - for a later Felicia and Robin plot, leading to his execution over its existence ...