Juana “The Mad”: Queen of a World Empire
By Linda Andrean
University of Minnesota Center for Austrian Studies, 2012
Introduction: Juana (also known as Joanna and Joan) of Castile was born in Toledo, Spain on 6 November 1479, the third child of Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. Not long after her marriage to Philippe “The Handsome,” Duke of Burgundy, people of the court began referring to her as Juana “The Mad” (la loca). The following article reviews her life and the circumstances that led the daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, who inherited the throne of Castile and the Indies, and who through marriage, united Europe’s greatest powers, to be called la loca.
Juana’s life became far more complex than her parents or her contemporaries could have anticipated. As a young woman she was described by ambassadors to the Spanish court as beautiful and highly educated. She spoke six languages, was accomplished in religious studies, court etiquette, dance, and music. She was a capable equestrian. Then, in a twist of fate, through her inheritance and marriage she became the foundation of what was to be the most powerful kingdom in the world of the sixteenth century, and the most extensive the world has known.
Juana was the base upon which the Austrian and Spanish Habsburg dynasties grew over the next sev- eral centuries. She inherited the Spanish crown, married the heir to the Lowland countries and the Habsburg Empire, and was mother to the rulers that brought these together to establish the dynasty that created a world-wide empire.