Joanna of Castile didn’t become known as “Juana La Loca” for her sound rule. Yet to what extent was this “mad” queen a victim of greed and betrayal? From rumors of her “undead” passion for her late beau to her iconic beef against nuns, the legend of this wickedly jealous ruler just won’t die. Here’s the deranged story of Spain’s “Mad” Queen.
1. Her Dad Had Issues
Born on November 6, 1479, Joanna was the daughter of two powerhouse monarchs: Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Her parents’ marriage would unify Spain, but during Joanna’s lifetime, Castile and Aragon had more of an icy truce than a hunky dory partnership. Joanna’s dad had to rely on his bride to rule Castile—and trust me when I say that Ferdinand was not into powerful women.
He was determined to rule both territories, and he’d do anything to get his way, including abusing his own daughter. Spoiler: Ferdinand is one of the many awful men in Joanna’s story.
2. She Was Whip-Smart
Trained in languages, music, literature, philosophy, and even law, the princess Joanna received one of the finest humanist educations in 15th century Europe. Alongside her sisters, she was prepped to act as a wise consort for her future husband and diplomat for her parents’ foreign interests. Let’s see how well that turns out…
3. She Was A Rebel
Joanna was not particularly pious for a girl whose parents were literally called “The Catholic Monarchs.” According to some sources, she even experimented with—gasp!—skepticism in her teens! Since mommy dearest was a hardcore Catholic, you can probably guess that she wasn’t thrilled with Joanna’s rebellious streak. But buckle up: Her efforts to get Joanna to see the light were full-on psycho.
4. Her Mother Was Deranged
I imagine it’s hard to catch a break when your mom literally engineered the Spanish Inquisition. According to some sources, Queen Isabella was deeply enraged by Princess Joanna’s insufficient piety. It’s been suggested that Isabella “corrected” her daughter’s religious disposition with literal torture methods such as “La cuerda,” where Joanna was hung in the air by ropes and weighted down by her feet.
We can’t imagine that felt great—either for Joanna’s body or her faith in authority.
5. She Was A Teenage Bride
When she was just 16 years old, Joanna was formally engaged to Philip of Flanders (future Duke Philip I of Burgundy), who was the son of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian I. Most noblewomen had very little say in their husbands—but luckily for Joanna, her fiancé was only a year older than her and already known as “Philip the Handsome” for his so-called “hot” looks.
6. Her Husband Was Cruel
Joanna almost didn’t survive her bridal voyage to meet her Prince Not-So-Charming. On the ship ride to Flanders, Joanna suffered from severe seasickness and even caught a near-fatal fever. Then, setting the tone for their marriage, Philip wasn’t even there to meet his recovering bride upon her arrival. He sent his sister, Princess Margaret of Austria, in his place. Romantic! Unfortunately for Joanna, Philip’s douchey behavior was a major sign of things to come.
7. She Had A Scandalous Marriage
Joanna of Castile was a beauty of her day, inheriting the House of Trastamara’s fair skin, blue eyes, and strawberry-blonde to auburn hair. Her husband Philip was mutually pleased with his stunning bride—though his passion had scandalous consequences. According to legend, Joanna and Philip ordered their priest to marry them immediately upon their first meeting—even though the formal wedding ceremony was already staged for the next day.
Yes, this very likely means Philip wanted to get it on with Joanna in the bedroom—with the Church’s blessing—as soon as he possibly could.
8. Her Husband Betrayed Her
Joanna’s marriage to Philip was one of mutual but lopsided passion. Joanna worshipped him; Philip found Joanna beautiful and charming, but not worth staying faithful to. Her Burgundian beau quickly began to see other ladies on the side. His infidelities often sent Joanna into jealous rages and depressive tailspins—and as we’ll see, they were the least of his betrayals.
9. Dark Rumors Spread
The roots of Joanna’s “crazy woman” reputation took hold during her marriage to Philip. Because she didn’t like it when her husband kept cheating on her, Joanna got branded as insane. Yeah… the 1400s weren’t the best for the ladies.
10. She Turned To The Occult
Joanna was ready to fight for her man—at any cost. According to some legends, she even indulged in “love potions,” witchcraft, and other supernatural snake oils to pique her husband’s interests. Unfortunately for Joanna, her Goth kid methods did not work on Philip. Her husband continued to bang anyone with a pulse. Oh, and by the way, Joanna was pregnant for pretty much their entire marriage so not only was Philip cheating on his wife, he was cheating on his pregnant wife. What a catch.
11. She Suffered A Horrible Loss
Marrying a playboy was far from the only tragedy in Joanna’s life. Shortly after tying the knot with Philip, a series of catastrophes pushed Joanna to the front of the line for the Spanish throne. In 1497, her brother John died unexpectedly at 18. Officially, the cause was tuberculosis, but rumors insisted that he’d passed doing what he loved: John may have perished of, and I quote, “sexual exertion.”
As a sign of the King’s bedroom prowess, when he passed, his wife Margaret was heavily pregnant. Sadly, a few months after becoming a widow, she gave birth to a stillborn daughter. And so, with John and his potential heirs out of the picture, Joanna inched closer to the throne. But she wouldn’t get the crown until another tragedy struck.
12. Her Husband Was Heartless
After Prince John died, how do you think Philip responded? Did he grieve alongside his wife, perhaps? Sympathetically listen as she reminisced about the good old days? Heck no! Before John’s body was even cold, Philip started prancing around town and calling himself by John’s old title “The Prince of Aragon” because that’s not sinister at all.
13. She Endured Another Tragedy
After John, the next person in line to the Spanish throne was Joanna’s oldest sister, Isabella. She and her husband seized the crown—only for Isabella to go into labour, give birth to a son, then immediately perish. Her tiny baby Miguel would have been the new King, but he passed away before turning two. At this point, after losing two siblings, a niece, and a nephew, Joanna was suddenly heiress to the Kingdom of Spain.
14. Her Power Was A Double-Edged Sword
Even though Joanna was now one of the most powerful women in the world, she still had to deal with her tool of a husband. According to historians, Philip’s cruelty went way beyond affairs. He also isolated Joanna and held her hostage in her own castle. He replaced her courtiers with his own men, then refused to give Joanna money to pay her ladies-in-waiting. One by one, they left Flanders, abandoning Joanna to her cruel husband and his henchmen.
15. Her Husband Was Evil
Oh, but Joanna and Philip’s marriage got so much worse. When Joanna gave birth to a daughter in November of 1498, Philip responded by telling Joanna that the child was a “failure” and that he wouldn’t pay for anything to support the baby. He’d only help raise a son. Jeeeeesus.
16. She Was Trapped
According to some sources, Philip cut Joanna off from her fortune and left her so poor that she couldn’t even afford to feed herself. Around this time, Joanna’s father also accused Philip of going so far as to imprison Joanna. Ferdinand acted all torn up about how poorly Philip was treating his daughter, but keep his faux-outrage in mind: It’ll be a big “pot, meet kettle” moment down the road.
17. She Had A Twisted Family
By 1501, Joanna had given birth to three of Philip’s babies—Eleanor, Charles, and Isabella—leading Philip to give his wife one heck of a push present. He coldly removed the children from Joanna and sent them to be raised by his sister Margaret in the Netherlands. This betrayal broke Joanna’s heart, but she didn’t ask her parents for help for a deeply sad reason: Joanna felt too broken. She said she couldn’t even think of her mother without “shedding tears.”
18. Her Mother Knew Something Was Wrong
Even if Joanna didn’t write to her parents and explicitly say, “Help my husband is a monster, please get me out of Flanders,” her mom could tell that something was wrong. Queen Isabella forcefully suggested (read: demanded) that Joanna and Philip come visit her and the King in Castile. The royal couple dutifully headed over and lived out a much less charming version of Meet the Parents.
19. Her Husband Humiliated Her
Philip began making his in-laws raise their eyebrows with his actions on the road to Castile. When the royal couple stopped in Toledo so that the Spanish courts could officially declare Joanna as the new heir to the throne, Philip had a disturbing demand. He insisted that his horse trot in first, even though that was Joanna’s honor. Compensating for something, are we?
20. She Was Fierce
Meanwhile, Joanna was kind of a badass during her road trip back home. When Philip made the royal couple travel through France (Spain’s long-time enemy), Joanna refused to play down her Spanish pride. While attending dinner and a ball with the French king, Joanna dressed in a traditional Spanish gown and performed a Spanish dance. Philip thought she “embarrassed” him but, as usual, he was wrong. Joanna’s devil-may-care attitude was just plain cool.
21. Her Parents Hated Her Husband
When Philip and Joanna finally arrived in Castile, they quickly realized that Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand hated their new son-in-law. Philip was arrogant, selfish, and flighty. When the family went to a tournament, the king and queen were repulsed by how Philip threw his scraps into the crowd of peasants and laughed as they competed for the left-over food. Unfortunately for Joanna, over the course of Philip’s visit, things only got worse.
22. There Was Endless Drama
During Joanna and Philip’s time with the King and Queen of Spain, a lot of stuff happened. 1) In 1502, Joanna levelled up to the “Princess of Asturias.” 2) Philip couldn’t handle that his wife was a bigger deal than him (what’s new?). 3) Philip and Joanna fought viciously (see 2). And finally, 4) Joanna became pregnant with her fourth child. You’d think that Philip would stick around and support his pregnant wife, but you’d be wrong. Philip was bored of his in-laws and mad at his wife, so he abandoned Joanna and went back to Flanders on his own.
23. Her Husband Abandoned Her
Philip’s excuse for returning to his territory was that he’d promised his people he’d be back within the year, so to be a good, honest ruler, he had to fulfill his word. But there was just one problem with this apparent reason: Philip didn’t exactly stick to his story. He delayed his return by partying in France for months on end, making it clear that he had left just because he didn’t want to deal with his pregnant wife. This was a huge insult to Joanna and her family.
24. She Went Mad
As you might expect, Joanna did not take Philip’s abandonment very well at all. In a dark omen of things to come, she fell mentally and physically apart when he left. The heiress indulged in the rather unroyal conduct of crying herself to sleep every night, refusing lavish meals, and flinging her royal body against the walls of her castle.
25. Her Mother Locked Her Up
Joanna frantically wished to follow her husband, who had retreated to his home in Flanders. Unfortunately, her mother Queen Isabella strictly forbade it, making the very reasonable point that a heavily pregnant Joanna would have to go through a literal war zone to catch up to a man who was The Worst. But Joanna didn’t care. She headed to the stables and planned to grab her horse…only to find that her mother had locked up the buildings. As you can probably guess, Joanna did not respond well.
26. She Had A Breakdown
When Joanna saw that her horses were locked in the stables, she pounded on the doors and shook the bars. Furious, she screamed all night and refused to go inside to sleep. Instead, she stayed outside and refused blankets. This was concerning behavior for anyone, never mind a pregnant woman, so Queen Isabella did what she felt was necessary: She locked her daughter in the Castle La Mota at Medina del Campo. It was there that Joanna continued her mental breakdown—and things took an even darker turn. She began pacing all day, babbling in tongues, and refused to eat or sleep.
27. She Made A Horrific Discovery
During Joanna’s period of abandonment with Philip, she gave birth to her second son, Ferdinand, and seems to have recovered enough to please her mother. When the baby was one year old, Joanna travelled to Flanders and arrived home to the worst possible sight: Philip had taken an in-house mistress. Not one to be usurped without a fight, Joanna allegedly started hacking off her rival’s hair with scissors. When this act of violence failed to heal Joanna’s heart, she simply stabbed the woman in the face.
28. Her Husband Struck Back
Joanna’s, um, unique gesture of devotion did not impress Philip. He reciprocated Joanna’s passion by beating her and then locking her in her bedroom. As a protest against this treatment, Joanna went on a hunger strike until Philip finally let her out. Look, I understand that a degree of conflict is normal in any relationship, but let’s all agree that #Philanna needs to break up stat.
29. Her Mother Was Vicious
Philip’s incredibly mean treatment of Joanna wasn’t a secret. Joanna’s mom, Isabella, had specifically made sure than her daughter got a hefty allowance in her marriage contract. So by keeping Joanna poor, Philip wasn’t just being a bad husband—he was also defying the King and Queen of Spain. As a sign of how much Isabella hated her new son-in-law, she made sure that her will gave power to Joanna and her son. As for Philip? In an iconic historical burn, Isabella’s will pretends he doesn’t even exist.
30. She Took The Throne
In November 1504, Queen Isabella passed on, making Joanna the new Queen of Castile. Her husband Philip, meanwhile, received a lesser honor. He became king jure uxoris, which means he could only have power if Joanna was declared unfit to rule. Something tells us that power-hungry Philip wasn’t happy with this designation…
31. She Was The Last To Know
Here’s a messed up detail about Isabella’s death. Joanna was one of the last people to find out that her own mother had passed on. By this point, Philip had thoroughly isolated her and surrounded her with men who were only loyal to him. Philip knew about Isabella’s demise a full week before Joanna. While she was in the dark, Philip was busy, get this, preparing for his ascent to the throne.
32. Her Father Betrayed Her
Because Joanna was always surrounded by terrible men, it turned out that Philip wasn’t the only one who wanted to take her power for himself. Nuh uh, another betrayal was in store for poor Joanna. Her own dad, Ferdinand, was also ticked at being passed over. In the Queen’s will, she specifically passed power down to Joanna’s son and, since he was a child, said that Joanna would reign until the boy came of age.
Evidently, sitting on the sidelines wasn’t good enough for Ferdinand, so he made the pettiest power-grab of all time. He minted coins that read “Ferdinand and Joanna, King and Queen of Castile, León, and Aragon.” Philip, also petty, then released his own set of coins saying that actually, he and Joanna were the true rulers. Some men go to war. Other men…do this.
33. He Spread Cruel Lies
Ferdinand’s dicey moves just kept coming. Now that he had the opportunity to get power, he raised an army of supporters and went to town spreading mean rumors about Joanna’s crumbling sanity. In early 1505, he declared to the court that Joanna was so ill that she could never govern in her own right. To help his demented daughter out, Ferdinand just had to be appointed as the realm’s administrator. But this was far from Ferdinand’s only manipulative move.
34. Her Father Met His Match
He also married a French woman named Germaine de Foix who was, no lie, “the granddaughter of his half sister” (love those royal family trees!). Ferdinand said he was tying the knot to somehow help Spain, but in reality, he just wanted to father a son who’d usurp Joanna’s inheritance of Aragon. Unfortunately for Ferdinand, his plan went very wrong.
35. The People Hated Her Step-Mom
Castilians absolutely loved Queen Isabella, so when they heard that her widower was rebounding with a French lady (and remember, France and Spain did not get along), they were furious. Ferdinand’s wedding had the exact opposite effect he wanted. Instead of drawing people to his cause, it actually pushed more people to favor Joanna. With the people on her side, Joanna finally felt safe to return to her birthright in Castile.
36. She Changed History
In 1505, Joanna and her husband went to claim Castile, only to get shipwrecked along the way. After a storm washed them on the shores of Dorset, the couple found themselves guests-come-hostages of England. It wasn’t all bad: Joanna got to reunite with her sister, Catherine of Aragon, and also meet her husband, the future Henry VII. Some historians actually think that Philip, with all his buff, philandering ways, was a major inspiration for King Henry’s future womanizing. Dang it,Philip, can you not screw up Europe for one single second?
37. She Went Into Mourning
After their shipwreck shenanigans, Philip and Joanna entered Castile to great fanfare. The nobles immediately sided with the young royal couple, making it clear that they’d rather have Joanna than Ferdinand. But their support felt like a consolation prize to Joanna. Her father’s betrayal hurt her so deeply that she responded with a vicious gesture. Joanna began to dress only in black as a sign that her father was symbolically dead to her. Call the burn unit. Man down.
38. She Made An Impossible Choice
I feel that this next tidbit crystallizes just how f’d up Joanna’s family was. Even after her father betrayed her, she still trusted Ferdinand more than Philip. As such, she refused to support Philip taking her throne—even though Philip had already gotten himself crowned in Brussels. Seeing no other option, Joanna reached out to her dad and urged him not to let Philip take over Castile. Unfortunately, Philip discovered the message—and his reaction was not pretty.
39. Her Husband Was Furious
Not only did Philip throw the messenger into jail, he also had him tortured. While he couldn’t do the same to Joanna (after all, she was still his meal ticket [throne… ticket?]), he made sure that Joanna could never send another message without his permission. Philip isolated Joanna yet again, snooped through all her mail, and even forged letters by her. Literally anything she said or wrote went through him.
40. She Was Pressured
Philip’s men wrote up a note for Joanna to sign. It said she was happy to give up her reign to her hubby because she just loved him so much. As a sign of how well her marriage was going, Joanna point blank refused to sign the note. In an even more hostile move, Philip’s henchmen forged Joanna’s signature and sent the message along anyway.
41. Her Father Betrayed Her
At this point, it was clear that Castile wanted Joanna and Philip to rule. Any other father would just step aside and let their daughter reign, but not Ferdinand! He decided to betray Joanna yet again. Her dad had a top secret meeting with Philip where the men plotted to spread rumors that Joanna was insane, then lock her up, and take her power for themselves.
And because that’s not slimy enough, Ferdinand also drafted alternative documents saying that everything he did was coerced by Philip when he was prob just covering himself for all outcomes. What a guy!
42. Her Husband Tried To Imprison Her
Philip has done a lot of shady stuff, but believe me when I say that his worst moment was yet to come. In 1506, Philip tried hit darndest to lock up his wife. He told everyone that Joanna was crazy and insisted that he had no choice but to imprison her. But despite Philip’s best efforts to lock up his wife, the people of Castile wouldn’t do it for one chilling reason. Based on their meetings with Joanna, they all agreed that she wasn’t crazy. Her husband, on the other hand…well, I leave that up to you, dear reader.
43. A Monster Took The Throne
And so, after steamrolling his wife and in-laws, Philip finally got what he wanted: The crown. Upon ascending to the throne, he got to work and replaced everyone in court with his own henchmen. But then, something strange happened. Philip attended a banquet, drank a big glass of water, and suddenly fell terribly ill. He died on September 25, 1506 at just 28 years old.
44. She Said Goodbye
Apparently, as Philip fought for his life, Joanna stayed by her husband’s bedside. However, when he passed, she didn’t shed a single tear. Um, can you blame her? People usually say that Joanna stayed at Philip’s sickbed to give him moral support, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she just wanted to watch this monster finally kick the bucket.
45. His Demise Was Mysterious
If you think Philip’s sudden demise is a little suspicious, you’re not alone. The official cause was typhoid fever, but a lot of people believe that he was poisoned (see: drinking that glass of water just before suddenly becoming ill). Officially, no one knows who would have poisoned Philip, but unofficially, it was Ferdinand. Totally, completely, 100% Ferdinand.
46. She Had An Extreme Reaction
When her beloved (and traitorous) husband Philip died, Queen Joanna didn’t just grieve in the normal way. In fact, the loss sent her into her worst emotional tailspin yet. For a considerable period, Joanna simply refused to leave her husband’s already-embalmed body. During this time, she was six months pregnant with their final child, Catherine.
47. She Struggled To Move On
But it gets worse: the widowed Joanna couldn’t even accept Philip’s mortality after he was buried and in the ground (at her father’s insistence). Shortly after his death, she reportedly ordered his body exhumed, had the casket opened, jumped to his side once again, and kissed his dearly departed feet. From this point, wherever Joanna went, so did Philip’s casket.
48. She Was Deranged
Joanna’s jealousy over Philip’s love also continued after his death. While “accompanied” by her late husband’s casket, it’s rumored Joanna would only travel at night; she didn’t want other women tempting Philip of Burgundy’s corpse during those sexy daytime hours. Her entourage avoided nunneries for this reason—you can never be too careful, even around holy sisters.
49. She Laid Him To Rest
For the most part, Joanna had the sense to keep her husband’s casket closed. It was simply transported to be with her at meals and her bedside. She only occasionally opened it to gaze upon her beloved’s pretty (and rapidly decomposing) face. Only years later was Philip finally laid to rest again. Of course, this was apparently right outside of Joanna’s window, where his notorious eye could wander no more.
50. Her Family Was Strange
Joanna’s loony reaction to Philip’s death may have run in the family. After all, her great-great-great grandpa went on a similarly nutty corpse-parade. Two years after his mistress Inez de Castro passed away, he decided to get their illegitimate children levelled up to legitimate children. In order to do this, he went through a disturbing event. Dude held a coronation for Inez’s dead body (dressed in the finest royal clothing, naturally) and then made everyone at court kiss her rotting hands.
51. She Had Dicey Suitors
Okay, but in defence of Joanna’s obsession with Philip’s remains, historians have a lot of theories for why Joanna paraded his body around town and lots of them don’t conclude with “She was crazy!” You see, being a single rich woman in the Medieval period basically meant that the second you were back on the market, men would try to abduct you and force you to marry them. By playing up her status as a widow, Joanna may have been rebuffing potential suitors like Henry VII who romantically built up an army to marry her “by force.”
52. She Didn’t Know What To Do
Here’s another reason for Joanna to cart Philip’s body around: It bought her time. Because Joanna was the third daughter, she hadn’t been raised to take the throne. She wasn’t ready to be a queen and by all accounts, she didn’t want to be one either. With this in mind, Joanna’s extended Weekend-At-Bernie’s-come-Crossroads road trip was a way to let her think about what to do next.
53. She Was Clever
But here’s my favorite theory: Joanna was travelling around with Philip’s coffin as a political act. It was her way of reminding Castile that her father Ferdinand was NOT the true king. Instead, the rightful rulers were Joanna and her son Charles.
54. Her Father Lashed Out
After travelling through Spain, Joanna’s first act as Queen Regnant was to undo Philip’s appointments. His henchmen were fired, and the people they’d replaced came back to their original jobs. But just as Joanna started leading Spain, guess who pops back into the picture? Ugh, it’s Ferdinand. He seized Castile by saying he was the new governor and administrator—but he didn’t stop there. He confined Joanna to the Royal Palace in Tordesillas, all but imprisoning his own daughter.
55. He Locked Her Up
Joanna’s time in Tordesillas was a waking nightmare. To keep her trapped, Ferdinand’s men would tell Joanna that there were plagues and other dangers waiting outside. In total, Joanna’s father kept her in jail for eleven years. It’s reported Ferdinand made no more than two personal visits to his daughter during the entire ordeal.
56. She Refused To Give In
Joanna’s life was unimaginably painful. But even with her dad pressuring her to give up her power, Joanna refused to sign the documents that would give up her royalty. Her relatives tried everything to break Joanna’s spirit and they never completely succeeded.
57. Her Son Took Over
In 1516, after a lifetime of being a huge pain to literally everyone, Ferdinand II of Aragon passed away. He had failed to get another male heir off his second wife, so the crown of Aragon passed into a co-rulership agreement between Joanna and her son, King Charles. At least, that was the theory. In practice, Joanna continued to be confined, leaving the ruling to Charles. Even worse, it turned out that Joanna’s son was even crueller than her father.
58. He Made Her Life Even Worse
Under Charles’s control, Joanna’s life in Tordesillas went from bad to worse. 12 or more nuns watched her 24/7. She wasn’t even allowed to look out the windows “for fear that she might be seen by a passer by or call him to her assistance.” For weeks, Joanna would be forced into windowless cells and allowed only candles for illumination. At these times, she wasn’t even allowed to feel the warmth of daylight.
59. She Was Miserable
On paper, Joanna may have been a queen, but in reality, she had nothing. She lived like a beggar. While her father used to send little gifts to Joanna to cheer her up, her son Charles cruelly put an end to her only pleasure. He even took the few items that Joanna had away from her and re-gifted them to his sisters when they got married. But Charles’s cruellest act was yet to come.
60. Her Son Was Cruel
Joanna at least had the pleasure of raising her youngest daughter Catherine, albeit during her unending royal confinement. But even this small happiness was endangered. In 1519, when her son, Charles V, ascended to the throne, he cruelly removed Catherine from their mom’s custody. Are you surprised to learn that this threw Joanna into another tailspin?
61. She Was Alone
Desperate at the thought of losing her daughter—and already pushed to the brink by her sadistic AF family—Joanna fought back in the only way that she could. She went on a gruelling hunger strike, insisting that she would only eat if the family brought Catherine back to her. It was an extreme tactic—but it worked. Mother and daughter had six more years together. Then, in 1625, Charles took Catherine away for good. She was sent off to marry the King of Portugal, leaving Joanna horribly alone.
62. She Couldn’t Give In
During Joanna’s confinement, her OG days as a religious rebel came back to haunt her. Her son Charles forcibly tried to make his mother go to mass. Even though Joanna didn’t want to, she managed to get through most of the ceremony. But at a certain point, she refused to play along. This led Charles to a far more brutal course of action.
63. She Was Pushed To The Brink
Some sources believe Charles may have tacitly encouraged the guards to torture his mother as a way to get her to convert to Catholicism. Despite these ordeals, Joanna never gave in.
64. She Became Eccentric
In her final years, Joanna began to exhibit strange behavior. She dressed in monk’s robes, claimed that a jungle cat had eaten her mother, and accused nuns of trying to poison her. As the queen’s mental and physical state continued to deteriorate, her son King Charles simply told her keepers to limit his mother’s conversations with other people, “for no good could come from it.” Or at least, that’s his side of the story…
65. A Rebellion Emerged
In 1520, Joanna almost dethroned her son…but not of her own accord. The so-called Revolt of Comuneros briefly freed Joanna and tried to put her back on the throne in an ill-fated attempt to push Charles off. Before she could legitimize the rebel’s efforts, however, Joanna backed out. Her confessors and advisors convinced her not to jeopardize Charles’s inheritance.
While Charles defeated the rebels, he would continue to sequester Joanna—just in case—for the rest of her life.
66. Her Son Lied
Here’s yet another sad detail from Joanna’s time in the madhouse. It turned out that Charles never told his mother that Ferdinand passed on. Joanna only learned that her father was dead when the Comuneros rebels mentioned it, assuming that she already knew. Even worse, Charles hadn’t just lied about Ferdinand. He actively encouraged Joanna to think her dad was alive. He made her write to her father and had his henchmen forge responses.
67. Historians Wonder About The Truth
Throughout Joanna’s captivity, Charles took great pains to keep his mother hidden. But one day, he went too far. When Joanna became horribly ill with fevers, he didn’t allow her to see any doctors. This action in particular has made historians pause. What was Charles trying to hide? It couldn’t be that Joanna was crazy—Ferdinand and Charles had already spread that message far and wide.
The likelier story is far darker. Joanna wasn’t insane—she was a prisoner. Her family took her power away and made her out to be a lunatic so that they could have her crown.
68. Her Family Had Much To Gain
Both Joanna’s father and later her son, Charles V, had personal incentive to uphold the rumors of Joanna the Mad; her inheritance was just too tempting, and “crazy woman” rumors were a common way to discredit a female rival at the time. The same goes for Joanna’s husband Philip. He was certainly insecure about his role in Joanna’s regime and looked to usurp her authority.
69. She Had A Tragic Life
However, this doesn’t mean that Joanna was perfectly sane either. She did have a family disposition to mental illness, like grandmother Isabella’s bouts of paranoia, her mother’s religious fervor, and her great-great-great grandpa’s OG corpse parade. Plus, if Joanna did have some struggles, we can hardly blame her. She spent most her life locked up by people she should have been able to trust, had her children ripped away from her, and endured an abusive relationship.
If that doesn’t push a person to the brink, I don’t know what does.
70. She Was Laid To Rest
Joanna hardly lived a charmed life, but she lived a long one by the standards of her day. At the age of 75, “Joanna the Mad” passed away in confinement (where she had been for decades) at the Royal Palace at Tordesillas on April 12, 1555. She was buried alongside her parents and (at last) her beloved traitorous husband, Philip of Burgundy.
Note: A major source that isn’t easily linked online is Kirstin Downey’s book about Joanna’s mother, Isabella: The Warrior Queen.