Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Renaissance Europe - Juana la Loca III

A Meeting in Blois

In April 1501 Philip sent ambassadors to Paris proposing the marriage between Charles and the Princess Claude, only child of Louis XII. The proposal was made without his mother’s agreement[i]. The marriage contract between Claude and Charles was signed at Lyon, on 10th August 1501, by Philip’s ambassadors François de Busleyden, Archbishop of Besançon, William de Croÿ, Nicolas de Rutter and Pierre Lesseman. A part of the contract promised Claude’s inheritance of Brittany to Charles. The first Treaty of Blois, signed in 1504, gave Claude an considerable dowry besides Brittany in the all too likely event of Louis XII's death without male heirs:.

In November Philip, Juana and a large part of the Burgundian court travelled to Spain for Juana to receive fealty from the Cortes of Castile as Princess of Asturias, heiress to the Castilian throne. The children stayed with their aunt the Archduchess Margaret at her court at Mechelen, where they were being brought up.

Philip insisted on travelling by land through France, the hated enemy of Spain, in part to annoy his father-in-law. But Philip’s main reason was to meet with Louis XII
at the Château de Blois. Louis greeted Philip

‘As his own brother and entertained him and his wife for five days with jousts, tournaments and other good cheer.’[ii]

The two princes ratified the Treaty of Trent Throughout the journey Juana insisted on wearing Spanish costume and refused to acknowledge the Queen of France, Anne of Brittany, as an equal[iii].

Princess of the Asturias

Philip, Duke of Burgundy
On the couple’s arrival in Spain Ferdinand and Isabella found themselves disappointed in their son-in-law. Philip was personally ambitious, greedy and very pro-French. He had no intention of being just Juana’s husband, sitting back while she ruled Spain. Philip had every intention of ruling Spain himself; Isabella doubted whether Juana would be able to assert herself to counter Philip’s intentions.

Accordingly Isabella pressed for Philip and Juana to stay in Spain for a longer period, to help mould the couple in the best interests of Spain. Isabella hoped to instill in Juana the rules of good governance and to introduce Philip to the customs of Spain.

Philip had no intention of staying in Spain one second longer than he had to. Ignoring the pleas of his wife and mother-in-law, Philip and the majority of the Burgundian court returned to the Low Countries late in the year, leaving a pregnant and distraught Juana behind, on the grounds that the journey would be too dangerous for her to undertake. Philip was bored, he disliked Spain and he disagreed with his father-in-law’s policy towards France.

Juana gave birth to her and Philip's fourth child, Ferdinand in Madrid on 10th March 1503. Ferdinand was to stay in Spain and was brought up by his grandparents, not meeting his elder brother until 1518.

The Madness

La Mota castle
Philip wanted his wife back under his control and Juana too wanted to return to Burgundy. Isabella hoped to delay Juana’s return to her domineering husband and claimed that travel back to Brussels was impossible as Spain was at war with France.

Juana lost control of herself and was hysterical and violent in an attempt to persuade her mother to let her return to Burgundy. One night she fled from the castle in Medina del Campo[iv] in her nightdress. She stayed outside for over 24 hours in the driving rain before her mother was able to persuade Juana to enter the palace.

Isabella was in her fifties and ailing; she could not stand against Jauna’s indomitable will. It was hastily agreed that Juana would return to Burgundy. But the damage was done; Juana’s reputation would never recover; following these antics from henceforth she was to be known as Juana la Loca.

By May Juana was back in Burgundy, but Philip was unwelcoming, having found consolation elsewhere. Juana responded with a repeat of the behaviour that had been rewarded by her mother. But Philip was not in his fifties and ill and was easily able to ignore Juana’s tantrums, which only played into Philip’s hands[v]. Juana physically attacked with scissors the woman she believed had supplanted herself in Philip’s affections, only adding to the detrimental rumours circulating about her.

As a young woman, Juana was known to be highly intelligent. It was only after her marriage to Philip 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. By now Philip and Juana were mostly living apart and Philip, with his eyes on the throne of Castile, had every reason to have his wife considered insane.

Death of a Queen

Isabella at prayer, Capilla Real
On 26th November 1504 Queen Isabella died, leaving Juana to rule in her place at her father’s side. Isabella had been concerned that Philip might exclude Juana from exercising her rights; Philip had no interest in governing Spain in the interests of the Spanish people[vi]. Ferdinand immediately announced that he was renouncing his title as King of Castile in favour of Juana and Philip and wrote to them asking;

‘’To come to Spain, in order to take upon themselves the government of Castile,’[vii]

which was the last thing he actually wanted. Juana attended requiem masses for her mother’s soul, unaware of the pitfalls that lay ahead. Her father was determined to keep control of her kingdom just as her husband was determined to wrest control from herself.

Philip was assiduously circulating rumours of Juana’s madness; he was not assisted by Juana’s public performances of the perfect Archduchess. After a visit by Maximilian in 1505 the Venetian Ambassador reported that;

‘Her bearing [was] that of a sensible and discreet woman.’[viii]

Philip & Juana's children
Mary, Juana and Philip’s penultimate child was born in Brussels on 15th September 1505. The birth was very difficult; Juana’s life was endangered and it took her a month to recover. On 20 September, Mary was baptized by Nicolas Le Ruistre, Bishop of Arras, and named after her paternal grandmother, Mary of Burgundy, who died in 1482. Her godfather was her paternal grandfather, Maximilian.

Political Shenanigans

Henry, Prince of Wales
In October 1505 Henry VII started negotiations with Philip to marry Prince Henry, still embroiled in the on-off betrothal with Caterina, to his daughter Eleanor, a far more attractive matrimonial prize than her aunt. Philip saw this as a way of revenging himself for his father-in-law’s interference with Castilian affairs. Henry saw it as a way of winkling the remainder of Caterina’s unpaid dowry out of Ferdinand[ix]. Ferdinand, perennially short of cash, managed to scrape the outstanding 100,000 gold crowns together in April 1509.

Meanwhile Juana’s father had been busy; In January 1506, at the Castes of Toro Ferdinand secured what amounted to a regency over the kingdom of Castile. He privately informed the councillors of the reasons for Juana’s inability to rule, saying that;

"[Her] illness is such that the said Queen Doña Joanna our Lady cannot govern"[x]

His authority was not secure as Ferdinand was not much liked in Castile. In the event it only took Philip and Juana’s arrival on Spanish shores for the Castilian grandees to desert Ferdinand and pay court to the young couple.

Germaine de Foix
To ensure that Philip would not win over the Castilian grandees Ferdinand had already done the unthinkable and allied himself with France. By the Treaty of Blois signed 12th October 1505 Ferdinand agreed to marry Germaine de Foix, the niece of Louis XII. The marriage took place on 19th October.

Ferdinand hoped to father a new heir for Aragon, separating it from Castile. A male heir would have stopped his son-in-law Philip I, and his grandson Charles I, from inheriting the crown and governance of Aragon. A son, John, Prince of Girona, was born on May 3, 1509, but died within hours. The child was buried in the convent of Saint Paul in Valladolid.


Louis XII – Frederic J Baumgartner, MacMillan Press Ltd 1996

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] Nor that of her parents; Charles was second in line for their throne after his mother
[ii] Louis XII - Baumgartner
[iii] See Anne of Brittany – part V
[iv] In Valladolid
[v] This behaviour led in great part to the rumors of her insanity due to reports of depressive or neurotic acts committed while she was being imprisoned or coerced by her husband; most historians now agree she was merely clinically depressed or schizophrenic at the time, not 'insane' as commonly believed.
[vi] The same could be said of Juana’s four year old son, Charles, being educated in Brussels, far from the people he would eventually rule
[vii] Sister Queens - Fox
[viii] Ibid
[ix] Due to be paid when Caterina’s marriage was consummated, which to date it had not. Caterina claimed throughout her life that she never had sexual intercourse with Arthur

1 comment:

  1. Poor Juana, tactical temper really was not the right way to go with the scheming and manipulative men in her life.