|Marriage contract between Juana and Philip of Burgundy|
Ferdinand and Isabella looked to strengthen the newly united Spain with a series of alliances fortified by marriage and guard against the growing influence of France. Isabella’s marriage with Alfonso of Portugal was an attempt to create a guard against incursions from the rear.
On 22nd August 1496 Juana set sail from Laredo surrounded by a great fleet commanded by the Great Admiral of Castile. The destination was the Netherlands where Juana was to marry Duke Philip of Burgundy, the eldest son of Maximilian, the King of the Romans[i] and Mary of Burgundy. When he saw Juana for the first time Philip demanded that the bishop marry them that very afternoon so that the couple could consummate the marriage without delay. The marriage took place on 20 October in Lier.
On its return journey the fleet brought back to Spain Philip’s sister Margaret[ii] as Juan’s bride-to-be. The alliance with Maximilian would help counter France and reduce the possibility of French incursions into Aragon.
|Manuel of Portugal|
Isabella was sent back to Portugal, this time to marry Manuel[iii], Alfonso’s cousin. He had succeeded to the throne after the death of John II of Portugal in 1495, and immediately sought Isabella's hand. Ferdinand and Isabella, offered him Maria, but he refused. There remained a stalemate between them until Princess Isabella agreed to marry Manuel on the condition that he expel all Jews, who would not convert to Christianity, from Portugal. He agreed to her ultimatum.
An alliance with England was first mooted in 1488 when the three year old Caterina was proposed as the bride of one of Henry VII of England’s sons, Arthur. But Caterina was not to marry Arthur until 1501[iv] when she was sixteen. When she arrived in England one of her gentlemen wrote to Isabella to say;
‘[Caterina] could not have been received with greater joy than if she had been the saviour of the world.’[v]
Once married, Arthur was sent to Ludlow Castle on the borders of Wales to preside over the Council of Wales and the Marches, as was his duty as Prince of Wales, and his bride accompanied him.
The couple stayed at Castle Lodge, Ludlow. A few months later, they both became ill, possibly with the sweating sickness which was sweeping the area. Arthur died on 2 April 1502; C
Caterina recovered to find herself a widow. Desperate to keep Caterina’s dowry Henry kept her in England with a promise of marrying his younger son Henry, a wedding that did not take place until 14 years later
Death of a Prince
|Margaret of Austria|
Margaret and Juan were well suited and married within a month of Margaret’s arrival. The couple spent every minute they could together and the physical side of their relationship was so intense that Juan’s doctor’s feared for his health. Isabella was dismissive;
‘Whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.’[vii]
Margaret and Juan were left in Valladolid as Margaret had conceived; Ferdinand, Isabella, Caterina and Maria escorted the Infanta Isabella to Douro on the Portuguese border. Ferdinand and Isabella were alerted that Juan had fallen ill. Ferdinand rode furiously back to Valladolid where he found Juan on his deathbed. The cause of death is not known; he died on 4th October 1497.
In public Isabella was stoic about her son’s death, quoting the scriptures. Juan had been well liked by his parents’ subjects and the country mourned;
Never was there a death that occasioned such deep and general lamentation throughout the land.’[viii]
Briefly the country focussed on Margaret’s baby, but she miscarried and Juan’s eldest sister Isabella was left as heir to the throne. Margaret returned home to Burgundy[ix].
Love and Marriage
Juana was volatile and she fell madly in love with her new husband who was nicknamed Philip the Handsome. Juana was very possessive and could not bear to let her husband out of her sight, a trait Philip soon tired of and he took mistresses. Philip flaunted his indifference to his wife provoking Juana to fall into terrible rages. The marriage became a public scandal in both Flanders and Spain.
Moreover many of Philip’s advisers were pro-French and hostile to Juana and her entourage. Philip insisted on controlling Juana’s household which, according to royal protocol, should have been Juana’s responsibility. But Philip took advantage of Juana’s youth and disempowered her.
Philip also took control of her finances, refusing to give Juana the annual sum allocated for her household according to the marriage treaty. Eventually Isabella became so concerned about Juana she sent her envoy Friar Tomás de Matienzo, sub-Prior of the Convent of Santa Cruz, to find out what was happening. De Matienzo wrote to Isabella, reporting that;
Juana could not pay her Spanish servants and so many left; within six months of arriving in Burgundy 80 of her 98 male servants had left her employ. Philip was more than happy to fill these posts with his own people and isolating Juana. According to Matienzo the servants Philip appointed intimidated Juana. Philip’s former governess Madame de Hallewin was appointed as one of Juana’s ladies-in-waiting instead of Dona Marina Manuel whom Juana desired be given the post.
|Charles, Eleanor and Isabella|
‘She could never think of how far she was from your Highness without feeling the desire to cry, because she was so far from your Highness for ever.’[xi]
Any crying Juana did was done in private; in public she played the part of the gracious Archduchess while Philip played the part of the affable Archduke and loving husband. He showered his wife with jewels, elaborate saddles for her horses, pictures and religious gifts including an image of St Margaret[xii]. The couple lived in the ducal palace at Coudenberg.
Juana had her first child Eleanor in November 1498. Philip was disgusted that his first child was a girl and required Juana to pay for the cost of the nursemaids and attendants;
The Archduchess may provide for the places in the household of this child because it is a girl. When God grants us a son I shall provide for his household.’[xiii]
In March 1500 God did provide and Juana gave birth to Charles[xiv]; Philip had fireworks light up the sky, the church bells rang and Juana was given a magnificent emerald. Isabella was born in July 1501.
Disaster Upon Disaster
Following Juan’s death Isabella was made Princess of Asturias and the heiress of the Crown of Castile Juana’s husband Philip claimed the crown, although Isabella, being the eldest daughter enjoyed greater rights.
Ferdinand and Isabella took steps to counter the pretensions of their son-in-law who, immediately after Juan’s death, started calling himself Prince of the Asturias. They held court in the city of Toledo in 1498 to have Isabella and her husband Manuel sworn as the legitimate heirs of the crowns of Spain, and then the royal family went to Zaragoza, to convene the courts of Aragón for the same purpose.
Isabella was pregnant at the time of the swearing-in and she gave birth, while in Zaragoza with her family, on 23rd August 1498 to Miguel da Paz. Perhaps because of her constant fasting and self-denial, or the constant travelling at her advanced stage of pregnancy, she died within an hour of her son's birth.
Isabella’s son Miguel was later sworn heir by the courts of Portugal, Castile, and Aragon, as the heir to these crowns. Miguel died on 19th July 1500 not yet two. Now Ferdinand and Isabella’s heir was Juana. Manuel then asked for a dispensation from Pope Alexander VI to marry Maria, the last of the Spanish Infantas. Manuel and Maria were married in Alcácer do Sal on 30 October 1500[xv].
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 2004www.wikipedia.en
[iv] Through her mother Caterina had a stronger claim to the English throne than Henry Tudor
[v] The Wives of Henry VIII - Weir
[vii] Six Wives - Starkey
[viii] Sister Queens - Fox
[x] Sister Queens - Fox
[xii] The patron saint of childbirth
[xiii] Sister Queens - Fox
[xiv] Later Holy Roman Emperor and married to Isabella of Portugal, see footnote ix