Juana Queen of Castile, Aragon, Sicily and Naples


Sometimes, something or someone catches my attention and I would want to know more, much more. Don’t ask me why this particular lady caught my attention, but she did. She wasn’t English, although she visited England once. She was the third child and second daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, the Catholic Monarchs of Spain and the sister of Catherine of Aragon. She died in 1555 in a windowless room in the castle of Tordesillas. Her name was Juana.

Google Juana and you will find that she is known as Juana la Loca, the insane queen of Castile. I would refute that, and assert that she was the victim of powerful and ambitious men: her husband, Philip the Handsome, her father Ferdinand, and her son, Charles V Holy Roman Emperor.

Juana was born in 1479 in Toledo. Little is known of Juana’s childhood, she was too far removed from the throne to be given much importance. One chronicler said she was the only one of the family who lacked physical charm, whilst another said that she was the beauty of the family. They all noted her precocity and were unanimous in their praise of her intelligence. She outshone her siblings being especially gifted in languages and music. Isabella and Ferdinand delighted to show her talents to visitors, but it was obvious that she did not like such attention. She was, it is claimed, aloof, subject to moods, melancholia and drawn to solitude. Unlike the rest of her family who were prolific writers, none of Juana’s letters, if she wrote any, have survived.  However, most of her recorded comments show a sharp-wit tinged with scepticism and an independence of mind.

Juana was sixteen when she married Philip, known as the Handsome. He was the son of Maximilian Hapsburg the Holy Roman Emperor and was, by the time he married, the titular head of the Netherlands.

Romance, or more probably, lust took over for a brief period. At their first meeting the couple, unwilling to wait for the formal wedding the following day, summoned a chaplain to marry them immediately.  Juana never lost her passion for Philip, but unfortunately for her he had had many mistresses before his marriage and saw no reason to change his ways.

The ruling council of  Flanders had been alarmed at the prospect of a Spanish-Hapsburg alliance. As a small buffer state on the borders of France they had no wish to be forced into a political alliance with France’s greatest enemy, Spain.  Unable to thwart the match, they determined to minimise its impact. To that end they were aided by Philip, whose greatest fault seems to have been laziness. He was not interested in ruling, being content to let the council rule in his name.

Juana, like all her sisters who married into foreign dynasties, was expected to promote Spanish interests. She had been accompanied by a huge contingent of Spanish grandees who expected material benefits from Juana’s new country. They were sadly disappointed, and it is claimed that 9,000 of the 15,000 people who accompanied her perished due to the lack of elementary comforts. Slowly, her Spanish attendants were replaced by the Flemish council, and she was not allowed to handle even the expenses for her household.  Powerless to influence either the council or her husband, Juana did not answer her mother’s letters.

By 1498, Isabella, having heard nothing from her daughter, sent an envoy. All his reports speak of Juana suffering from strain and emotional distress held rigidly under control. His final comment was that Juana ‘is so cowed she cannot hold her head up.’

Philip the Handsome

By 1500, Juana’s only brother had died and her elder sister and her child had also died. Juana was now heir to the thrones of Castile and Aragon.  Philip promptly styled himself ‘Prince of Castile’, and received a drubbing from Isabella. It was essential that Juana  returned to Spain to receive the approval and homage of the Cortes. Philip knew that he needed to make the journey or he would have no claim to any power in Spain.

To further antagonise Isabella, Philip planned an over-land journey through France, where King Louis endeavoured to turn both Philip and Juana into vassals of the French Crown. For the first time, Juana had an ally – the  Bishop of Corbova had been sent by Isabella to accompany the couple on their journey. With his help and advice, Juana refused to allow Louis to belittle her position or to assert lordship over her.  She is reported to have acted with great dignity and finally ‘persuaded’ Philip to continue the journey by donning Spanish dress.

In 1502, both Philip and Juana received the homage of the Cortes. Isabella and Ferdinand tried to use Juana’s third pregancy to encourage Philip to remain in Spain to learn about his future kingdom, but Philip was having none of it – he left. Isabella’s reaction was immediate. She laid a law before the Cortes which declared that Juana was to rule, not Philip, and should Juana be unwilling to rule or absent then her father, Ferdinand, was to rule in her stead.

What occurred next, I believe, was of great significance in the way one should interpret Juana’s future actions. The Castillo de la Mota was given to Juana for a residence. But, it became increasingly clear that Isabella had no intention of allowing her to leave Spain.  Juana refused to eat and finally had her belongings packed. Isabella ordered that Juana be restrained, by force if necessary. When Juana realised that the drawbridge had been raised and the portcullis lowered to bar her exit, she lost control. After exhausting herself she remained crouched by the portcullis, refusing to move until the following day. A relentless struggle between mother and daughter then ensued, but finally in March the following year, nearly eighteen months later, Juana won her battle against her iron-willed mother and returned to the Netherlands.
It is said that Juana’s insanity dates from this scene at la Mota, but apart from that one outburst she seems to have used passive resistance to win her freedom.

By the time Juana returned to the Netherlands, Philip had found himself a permanent mistress. It was expected that Queens closed their eyes to such matters. Juana did not. She personally cut the woman’s hair to the roots. The marriage deteriorated into a cycle of physical violence, imprisonment, reconciliation, followed by outbursts against Philip’s numerous mistresses, and around and around. It soon became the gossip of other European courts. Philip, determined to justify himself, ordered a diary to be kept of Juana’s behaviour which he sent to the her parents.  The diary had not been found when I researched this, but it seems fairly clear that Philip would not have sent anything that did other than paint Juana in an unfavourable light – and indeed was later used against her.

By 1504, Isabella was dying. When she died, Castile would pass to Juana.  Prior to her death, Isabella added a codicil to her will making Ferdinand regent should Juana be absent, or unwilling or unable to rule. The codicil was to prove fatal to Juana despite Isabella making Ferdinand swear ‘not to rob Juana of her crown’.

On the afternoon of the 26th of November 1504, Ferdinand formally renounced his title of ‘King of Castile’. He was convinced that by renouncing his title, the Cortes would grant him power. He was mistaken. Without Castilian money, Aragon would be a penniless state, and Ferdinand was not going to accept that. He drew the Cortes’ attention to Isabella’s codicil and said that Isabella had ‘become aware of the malady and passion with which Donna Juana had become afflicted’. He then read Philip’s diary to them to prove that Juana was unfit to rule. The Cortes appointed Ferdinand Curator, but increasingly began looking to Philip who they thought would rule with a far lighter hand than Ferdinand.

Ferdinand knew full well that were Juana to be declared sane he would lose his position. He wrote to Juana requesting that she authorise him to rule in her absence. She did, but Philip intercepted her letter and forced her write a new one stating that it was never her intention to stand in the way of Philip’s rights (although he had none under Isabella’s will) and that she and Philip would be arriving in Spain shortly.

The letter runs counter to all that is known about Juana at this time. It is clear that her first thoughts were for Spain – she had no intention of Spain or her American colonies becoming merely part of the Hapsburg possessions. She became ever more rebellious, and Philip tried to move her to an isolated castle. Ever mindful of la Mota, Juana refused. Philip dared not make a public display of force, but he isolated her completely by posting soldiers in her antechamber.

Ferdinand of Aragon

Ferdinand needed Juana to be declared insane to retain control of Castile, Philip needed her to be declared sane long enough for him to gain control of Castile.

There followed a brief interlude before the final reckoning in Spain. The Flemish fleet set sail for Spain on the 8th of January 1506. On the 13th a gale sprang up, and on the 17th the royal ship limped into Milcombe Regis. Henry VII was delighted – he inveigled Philip into staying for three months and into entering treaties of friendship. Juana visited her sister, Catherine, but Catherine was persona non grata at the English court and it seems that they had little to say to each other.

When the ships docked at Coruna, Juana rode through the streets in silence without any attendants, thus emphasising her captive status. The couple were greeted with wild enthusiasm. Philip swore the traditional oaths; Juana refused saying that she would wait to see her father. This was open revolt, and Philip could do nothing about it.

Philip was no match for the wily Ferdinand, who promptly changed tactics and suggested a meeting. Philip arrived, clad for war with a full military guard; Ferdinand arrived with a few unarmed men, dressed in a plain black cloak and bonnet. Two treaties were signed. In the first, Ferdinand renounced the government of Castile and promised to leave, the second was an agreement that Juana should never rule.

Philip was jubilant. He believed he could proceed openly against Juana, but he had overestimated his position and had seriously underestimated his wife. The couple moved to Valladolid, where Philip summoned a Cortes. Juana was kept under close guard. Accompanied by Juana, Philip entered the assemble hall to receive the oath of allegiance but before this could be done Juana intervened and asked the assembly whether they recognised her as the legitimate daughter of the late queen. After they affirmed that they did, she ordered them to Toledo where she would be acclaimed Queen of Castile and where she would swear to abide by their laws and rights. She then left the hall, leaving a furious Philip who could do nothing.

The procurators of the Cortes sought an audience with Juana, where she declared that she did not wish her kingdom to be ruled by Flamencos and the proper course would be for her father to rule until her son, Charles, came of age.  The country was divided. Even those who supported Philip had doubts about his insistence that Juana was mad. The Admiral of Spain spent twelve solid hours with her, and pronounced her sane. He warned Philip that the populace were already incensed at her imprisonment and it had become an open secret that he planned to incarcerate her for the rest of her life.

On the journey to Toledo, Philip fell sick. Forgetting all that she had suffered Juana nursed him day and night. Six days later, Philip died. Juana was twenty-seven, mother of five children and in her sixth pregnancy.

Most historians claim that Philip’s death sent Juana ‘over the edge’. There is no doubt that she was distraught – why not? Legends have grown up concerning her wandering all over Spain at night following her husband’s coffin. It was asserted that she constantly opened the coffin to kiss the corpse, and that she fled from a convent in the middle of the night out of jealousy of the nuns.

Juana did not ‘wander’ all over Spain. For reasons best known to himself, Philip wanted to be buried in Granada. It was a long journey, the season was hot and it was customary to travel at night. Philip’s followers had stolen most of his belongings following his death, and it was rumoured that they had also stolen his body to take back to the Netherlands. Other, more friendly sources, state that she opened the coffin first to check that the rumours were untrue and again after leaving the coffin with the monks of Miraflores. Juana frequently left the coffin in monasteries over night. She simply refused ever to enter anywhere that she might not be able to leave.

After a period of mourning, Juana burst into action. She revoked all Philip’s grants and appointments and set out for Granada immediately. She was delayed by the birth of her final child, Catalina, but as soon as she recovered she continued her journey. During all this time she had no word from her father.

When Ferdinand arrived in Castile a year after Philip’s death, Juana was delighted to see him. They talked privately and there seems little doubt that she envisaged some form of joint rule. But Ferdinand had no intention of sharing power with his daughter. He continued the process of isolation by surrounding her with his own people. It did not take long for her to realise that she had been duped by the man she trusted most and within a few months letters were being sent to Ferdinand warning him of her rising rebellion.

It was at about this time that Henry VII asked for her hand in marriage.

Ferdinand tried to put Juana in an isolated castle, but she steadfastly refused to move. On the morning of the 14th of February 1509 she was summarily awakened by her father’s men and taken by force to the castle in Tordesilla. She was to remain there for the next forty-five years.

Juana’s first jailer was Luis Ferrer, an Aragonese nobleman who had spied on her after Philip’s death. He obviously had instructions on how to deal with his charge and there are intimations that she was subject to torture to break her spirit.  Ferdinand  visited unexpectedly with members of the Cortes during a time when she refused to eat or bathe. Naturally, they confirmed Ferdinand’s opinion that she was quite insane.

On the 22nd of January 1515 Ferdinand died. His death left Juana queen of Aragon, Sicily and Naples as well as of Castile, but she did not know. One of Ferdinand’s last vicious acts was to send orders to Tordesilla that she shold be kept in ignorance of his death. But that was easier said than done. The citizens of Tordesillas, long angered by her treatment rebelled and tried to storm the castle. They failed, but her jailer was replaced by a kindlier man.

Charles V

The Flemish council immediately proclaimed Charles King of Spain. Although few knew of her state of mind, many Spaniards were enraged at the flagrant insult  afforded to Juana and even more angered at the rate that Spanish money flowed to Flanders and the speed with which foreigners streamed in to take high offices.  The country was in uproar, Charles must have his mother’s permission to rule. By a series of devious ruses, and without telling Juana that Ferdinand was dead, Charles obtained that permission.

If Juana hoped that her son might alleviate her situation, she was soon to be disillusioned. Her new jailer was the Marques de Denia who was given control not only of the castle but of the whole town.  Tordesilla  was removed from civil jurisdiction.

For over three and a half centuries the Spanish Archives hid the secrets of Tordesillas. It was only at the end of the 19th C that the letters between Denia and Charles were decoded. The letters are full of the details of Juana’s days. They reveal a Juana who did not sit apathetically, or run riot through the castle as her adversaries claim she did. She tried to find ways not to be isolated – refusing to hear mass in her own room, she questioned Denia extensively on the details of government, and Denia complained that he had trouble trying to maintain his web of lies that he built to confuse her  – she was too intelligent. He stated that she knew she had been duped and hada burning desire to rule herself. Charles’ letters show a determination to hold on to power and money that the rich American colonies were bringing to Spain. His unstated, but broadly hinted at, wish was for Denia to push his mother over the brink and into insanity.  That Denia did not succeed immediately says much for Juana’s determination and strength of will.

In 1519, Charles’ grandfather, Maximilian, died. Charles sought and acquired his grandfather’s title of Holy Roman Emperor. It cost Charles  a fortune to bribe the electors – a fortune that came from Spain. Rebellion broke out in 1519, and by late June fifteen cities had formed a confederation – among their aims was the desire to see Juana rule in her own right.

On the 25th of August 1520, Charles’ representatives in Spain requested an audience with Juana. She was confused – for it was at this meeting that she was finally told of the death of her father, of Maximilian’s death and the fact that her son was ruling in her name.  The leaders of the rebellion also sought an audience. Her words “Had I known of my father’s death I should long ago have taken action to avert these ills’ spread throughout the kingdom and for a few brief weeks Juana was in control.

But, distrust of lower class rebellions, and insecurity left her hesitating too long. Royalist forces dispelled the rebellion, and despite the Spanish nobles’ request that Juana be treated with respect, they preferred an absent, male ruler to a female resident monarch. Once again, Juana was sacrificed to political expediency. Charles ensured that Juana was once more placed under the guardianship of a vengeful Denia and never allowed to escape.

The days, months and years followed in monotonous succession. The letters from first Denia and later his son were increasingly filled with trivia. Their work was done and it is clear that eventually Juana was completely insane.

In February 1555, suffering from dropsy and nearly seventy-seven, it was decided to give Juana warm baths. One was too hot and it scalded her back. The blisters festered and in mid-April it was decided to cauterise them. It was too late, gangrene had set in and on the 12th of April 1555, she died.

By the time of Juana’s death, Charles was worn out and had decided to abdicate in favour of his son and brother. He was unable to dispose of the Spanish possessions because they were never his to give. Within a month of Juana’s death he abdicated saying ‘God has recalled the Queen, my mother, to Himself and my son is old enough to reign and better fitted than I to bear the burden of a crown.’ He retired to a monastery and died six months later. Legend has it that during that time he heard his mother summoning him.

Was Juana’s insanity inevitable? Certainly she was highly strung, but she was definitely not insane in 1520. But the determination of her husband, her father and her son to ‘rob her of her crown’ ensured that, in the end, she became what they wanted her to be – Juana la Loca.

53 thoughts on “Juana Queen of Castile, Aragon, Sicily and Naples”

  1. Faascinating tale, Boadicea. Do keep these coming, I love to read them even though I don’t know enough about the period to comment. Well, that’s why I love to read them, innit?

  2. imagine being stuck in your house all of your life without TV, electricity, no radio, the only correspondence with others, by letter. a terrible fate 😦

  3. Nonsense Brendano, the story needs top be told in its entirety. Bo’s audience are not all half wits.

    Bo, what do you think was wrong with the blood line? I don’t think in all reason you could call any of them ‘normal’ even for the times. Her niece Mary had the same obsession for her errant and non present husband. All strike me as somewhat unbalanced. Inbreeding, too many families marrying each other or do you know of any specific genetic defect that afflicted them?

    Absolutely brilliant blog.

  4. Many people make a point about inbreeding in royal families, blaming the habit on genetic disabilities. I strongly suspect that a) it was not as common amongst aristocrats as it was amongst common folk and b) the consequences were not as dire as people might imagine. Let me explain my theory.
    In days of yore, before the arrival of the railway, people generally did not travel more than a few miles from their home. Thus they tended to marry their neighbours who also happened to be their cousins. This was especially true in small rural communities, which, lets face it was what most of Europe was until the Industrial Revolution. The wealthier classes however, went further afield in search of their spouses. Because of their wealth, they were able to have a wider circle of acquaintances.

    Inevitably there was a degree of inbreeding in both rich and poor communities. However, unless it was very close and very sustained, the negative consequences were often outweighed by the positive ones. There is plenty of evidence that shows that marrying one’s cousin can have a beneficial effect. There is an article here on the subject. http://discovermagazine.com/2003/aug/featkiss

    As it states, the Rothschild family has been inbreeding for generations, with out obvious ill-effects and plenty of benefits. Of the 21 marriages involving descendants of Mayer Rothschild between the years 1824 and 1877, no fewer than 15 were between his direct descendants. (Niall Fergusin, The Ascent of Money). The Du Pont family (American chemical dynasty) also tended to marry cousins with the same positive results. Darwin himself, married his first cousin. In nature, animals often breed with fist and second cousins.

  5. Thanks for another marvellous blog, Boadicea. I read somewhere that the tendency to depression came through Juana’s grandmother, Isabella’s own mother. Something that can never be proved.

  6. Boa,

    A really interesting blog, thank you for taking the time to write it and publish it here. Looking forward to the next one.


    Thanks for the laugh.


    The words of the song “you daddy s not your daddy, but your daddy don’t know” could well have played a part in the strengthening of the family gene pool?

  7. Sipu, not sure what the your point is with this: “In nature, animals often breed with fist and second cousins”.

  8. Janus, my point is that nature is pretty good at providing solutions to overcome potential problems. If breeding with a cousin was likely to cause severe birth defects, nature would find a way of preventing it from happening. I believe that we can gain a great deal by looking at nature for many explanations to human problems and their solutions. Despite our intellectual and cultural sophistication, we are still animals and we still have to follow natures laws of survival. There are many parallels between human and animal behaviour – in my opinion.

  9. Toncino, the song may have got it right, but the chances are daddy was cuckolded by his brother, or his dad!

  10. Vice is nice, but incest is best. Actually, there was and may still be a custom in the Manica people of Zimbabwe and Mozambique where following his son’s marriage, the father had first crack at the cherry, so to speak; a sort of ‘droit du père’. I don’t think Mozart ever wrote an opera about the custom though.

  11. Boadicea – It is a period of history of which my knowledge is woefully inadequate. Thank you for this fascinating blog which has inspired me to read more. Keep ’em coming and just ignore the self-appointed Irish mega-ego. Please do dob him in to Bearsy, though, and before he has his first cuppa. 😀


  12. Boadicea: try as I might, I cannot come up with anything to refute your conclusions about the so called Madness of Juana, so I think your version is persuasive.

    I think it most likely that she was, how do you say this, stitched up! It was necessary, and expedient for her to be “mad”. If she was not so in the first place her long incarceration would possibly have made this true. Her daughter was shared much of this, I understand, which is interesting.

  13. Wow! I’m stunned. I didn’t expect so many people to read this. Thank you and thank you for the comments.

    I did realise that it was rather longer than the normal post, and wasn’t entirely sure that too many people would be that interested… no insults to anyone’s attention span I assure you!

    I’m a bit limited on time this morning so I will have to return with answers to questions later.

    However, I will deal with one issue here and now. And that is that I will not under any circumstances tolerate any sniping remarks on my posts. Most especially I will not allow anyone to even suggest that another author would not be missed.

    Oz, I hope you read this – you most certainly would be missed, and I hope that your last comment does not mean that you will be leaving this site.

  14. As regards cousin marrying cousin, in certain ethnic minority communities in Britain there is a growing number of birth defects appearing in babies born of such marriages. Doctors have been trying to spread the word that such inter-marrying is not a good idea, but it is a very entrenched tradition, consolidating family ties, keeping property in the family and so on. Any medical advice is considered as an attack on the religion and is disregarded. Didn’t some of the royal families of Europe have problems too? Wasn’t there even said to be a vestigial tail on some Hapsburgs, as well as the lip? Do you know, Boadicea?

  15. I’d never heard of her, Boadicea. She and her husband do look very alike don’t they.
    Interesting, and a reminder how difficult it was for women who were pawns in the power politics and marriages of the time. What a ghastly way to die. Where is she buried?

  16. Boa; brilliant blog, as ever. I was saving this one to read after doing all my jobs! I know so very little about this era, and about foreign history, so I find this very enlightening.
    I tend to agree with Ara; it sounds very much to me like the poor woman was stitched up, mad woman in the attic style. Horrible and fascinating at the same time…
    Can I ask, do you know much about the period of the English Civil War?

  17. I didn’t realise that moderating one’s own post would be so hard.

    I’ve been quite ruthless in removing comments, for the simple reason that while I’m quite happy with the odd snipe, gripe, grumble and moan in the middle of a comment, I really do not want comments whose sole purpose is to snipe, gripe, grumble and moan.

    To that end, I have removed every comment that is in any way concerned with my earlier removals, even those which were supportive – for which thanks. 🙂

    Let me make it quite clear that I have no problems with comments about the length, style, or content of any of my posts. Having faced some fairly ferocious academics, I’m not sure that anyone could say much here to upset me greatly. And I am always interested in further input.

    My decision as to what appears on my posts is final and I will not enter into a discussion about those decisions.

    Now to the interesting bit of answering some questions…

  18. Some Trivia – Latinos are known to drink wine from a giant bottle. It is called the “Juana” in her honor. There is an even bigger bottle called the Marijuana but that’s a different story.

    (No Kidding) 🙂

  19. Christina

    Re: Juana, Mary and errant husbands. They really didn’t have much choice but to put up with errant husbands. Certainly Juana’s treatment of Philip’s mistresses was quite different from the way Isabella dealt with Ferdinand’s ‘indiscretions’ – she had accepted his illegitimate offspring into the Royal nursery.

    I tend to think the way both Juana and Mary ‘fell madly and passionately in love’ was a sign that they were both desperately seeking love. Juana’s mother was rarely around in her childhood, being busy expelling the Muslims from Spain, and Juana seemed to be quite different from her siblings. Mary, after a very happy childhood, lost, in effect, both of her parents.

    I don’t know of any specific genetic defect in the families. I tend to think (no proof!) that the royal families were not quite so inbred at this time. Of course Philip had the famous Hapsburg chin, which his son Charles V clearly inherited. Five generations and a lot of inbreeding later his descendent, Charles II of Spain found it almost impossible to eat – he wasn’t very bright either!

  20. Sheona

    It is indeed alleged that Juana’s ‘insanity’ was inherited from her grandmother… I don’t know too much about her. Maybe it’s time to take a look and get back to you.

    I’m a little suspicious about these ‘insane’ women. Henry II was noted for throwing himself on the floor in a rage and chewing the rushes (bit like Juana’s exhibition in la Mota) I don’t think anyone ever considered him to be insane… just extremely quick-tempered!

  21. Araminta
    For fairly obvious reasons, I had to leave quite a lot out! You are quite right. Juana’s youngest daughter, Catalina (1507-1578), shared her mother’s imprisonment for a long time.

    When she was eleven she managed to get a plea for help out of Tordesilla. Her own situation improved somewhat, but not that of her mother.

    It wasn’t until about 1525 that she left Tordesilla to marry.

  22. Isobel: She was buried in the Royal Chapel, Andalucia.

    Claire: I know very little about the Civil War. There is someone on this site who does, maybe if we ask her very nicely she will share her knowledge… 🙂

  23. The question of inbreeding is interesting.

    The Catholic Church had a whole raft of relationships within which it was ‘prohibited’ to marry. Those relationships did not just include blood relations (consanguinity) but also the husbands / wives of blood relations (affinity). Of course, it was always possible to ‘obtain’ a dispensation from the Church – as happened in the case Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

    The idea that in ‘days of yore’ people did not travel is a bit of a myth. Very few villages were sufficiently large to support a market, many were not even big enough to support a full-time smith, carpenter or other artisan. People had to take produce to a market, and markets tended to serve a group of villages within an eight mile radius. Looking at peasants’ surnames in the early middle ages (before surnames became hereditary) reveals that quite a few people had moved from their birth-place and were living elsewhere.

    I’ll certainly take the point that inbreeding can produce good-results – Cleopatra was the product of inbreeding – but there were a lot of not-so-good Pharaohs before she was born.

    The article shows that if the ‘founder stock’ is physically sound then there is less chance of genetic disasters – however the continual interbreeding among the Hapsburgs exacerbated the problem of their chin… and the same was the case for many other royal houses.

  24. It seems odd that Juana was buried with her less than loving parents in Granada. Still, you can’t expel the Moors and be a “yummy mummy” at the same time!

  25. “The idea that in ‘days of yore’ people did not travel is a bit of a myth.”. I am not sure that ‘myth’ is the right word to use here. Of course people traveled to some extent, but these things are relative specifically with regards to distances, frequency and destination. By destination I mean that walking 10 miles to the market may be significant if the market is in a large city, but less so if it is just another village. During the middle ages, the roads were for the most part dirt tracks susceptible to flooding. Few peasants could stretch to a horse let alone a cart. There is only so far one would be prepared to travel on Shanks’s Pony. Apart from the lack of transport, there was the question of safety, accommodation and money. If you are walking, you are not working. Travel of any sort was a major undertaking. The arrival of regular coach services and eventually the railroad greatly transformed Europe, but even today one comes across people in the UK who have rarely strayed outside of their own county. I think my point is best demonstrated by the very wide range of accents and dialects found in the UK, which is after all a relatively small country. If people were traipsing all over Britain throughout the last millennium, everybody would now be speaking Estuary English.

    As for the rules of Consanguinity, I imagine that these were more closely adhered to by the wealthy gentry than by peasant folk.

  26. Boadicea @ 25 – Good-looking and interesting blog, now, and well done you. 🙂 I’m off to start some research on Juana.


  27. Sheona

    One can afford to be generous to the dead…

    What I find so exceptionally hypocritical is that Charles took the high moral ground in regards to his aunt’s marriage to Henry VIII – or was he trying to salve his conscience? Maybe I’m just cynical….

  28. Boadicea, what I can’t forgive Charles for is sticking that blasted palace, totally out of keeping with its surroundings, in the grounds of the Alhambra. I can understand why he did it, but really …

  29. Sipu :

    There is only so far one would be prepared to travel on Shanks’s Pony.

    In that regard, Sipu, it is often interesting to look at the siting of old Pubs in the country, (or buildings that used to be Pubs, the rate they’re closing these days.)

  30. Don’t tell me Sheona – I didn’t know – and I’m not sure I really want to know now. Visiting the Alhambra has been one of my dreams…

  31. Sipu

    I gave the distance as 8 miles… that is walking for approximately two hours there and two hours back – no accommodation needed. If one had to walk to a large town for a market, one would have to walk a deal farther than 10 miles. You have obviously never looked at a map of medieval markets – nor realised how many “New” Markets or “New” Ports (Port=Market) were established during the middle ages.

    Roads – many roads in the middle ages were better than they were later after carts had replaced mules and horses.

    As for walking and not working, walking to market to sell produce was working.

    but even today one comes across people in the UK who have rarely strayed outside of their own county.

    We are not talking about straying out of one’s county (although plenty did) but out of one’s birth village.

    You have totally ignored my comment regarding locative surnames.

    The peasantry were just as constrained by Church laws as the gentry, nobility and royalty – the only difference was that the peasantry did not have the money to buy themselves ‘dispensations’…

  32. Boadicea, I genuinely expected a fair crack of the whip from you, and am still somewhat stunned by what has happened here.

  33. Just a thought. I wonder why Shakespeare didn’t write a play about Henry VII? Too democratic for Henry VIII? Or Elizabeth? We are left hanging, a bit, on Bosworth Filed at the end of Richard III?

  34. Additional info on situation of market towns, or what were market towns in the middle ages.
    They are roughly 20+ miles apart in most parts of lowland Britain. the subject has had some intensive study by the mathematical geographers using locational analysis.
    Obviously modified by geogaphical features such as rivers and mountains. Most people could walk to market and return within the day.
    There are today still so many pubs called the ‘Halfway’ in Wales, I can think of 3 in N Carmarthenshire alone. One wonders sometimes halfway between where? I have actually been moved to measure these halfways, and some are quite obvious, but others are not, quite gone.
    One I know used to be a tannery village of 600 souls, there is now a mad evangelical chapel, and about 6 houses max. Absolutely no sign of previous habitations.
    To study such networks entails quite a lot of historical digging.

    Just to complicate matters, the old drover trails (used up to 1900) are a completely different network superimposed on top of the market towns network. They frequently used the remains of the old Roman road system.

    As I said, just additional info.

  35. Bravo, I don’t suppose Elizabeth would have been too impressed about a play about her grandfather!
    Sounds like a one way ticket to the tower to me!

  36. Boadicea, I have not ignored your comment on locative surnames, I merely chose not to refer to it. In and of itself, it does not say a great deal. What does ‘quite a few’ mean? .01%, 1%, 50%? On the contrary, you have chosen to ignore my observation that the extent to which people from that period traveled is relative – relative to the amount we travel today. My whole premise is based on the fact that modern Europeans have, as a result of greater ease of travel, far wider access to a choice of spouses. While we meet and get to ‘know’ several thousands of people during the course of our lives, people from the middle ages only got to know, at most, a few hundred. Those from smaller communities, even fewer. A high proportion of those were likely to be blood relatives. In considering the degree of in-breeding during the Middle Ages, we should take into account the fact that travel restrictions, and therefore the size of the breeding pool, will surely have played a part. The wealthy were better able to travel than the poor. Queen Juana of Castile found her husband in Bruges. I doubt too many rosy cheeked milkmaids of the time went to quite those lengths.

  37. CO. Well, he wrote one about her Dad, didn’t he? Now that I come to think of it, I’ve never read that one – must make up for that.

  38. bravo22c :

    Just a thought. I wonder why Shakespeare didn’t write a play about Henry VII? Too democratic for Henry VIII? Or Elizabeth? We are left hanging, a bit, on Bosworth Filed at the end of Richard III?

    christinaosborne :
    Just a point. Many of Shakespeare’s plays were written during the reign of James i. The one about Henry VIII was written during Elizabeth’s reign. Macbeth was written during James’ reign. Banquo was one of James’ ancestors, hence the good guy characterisation.

    Bravo, I don’t suppose Elizabeth would have been too impressed about a play about her grandfather!
    Sounds like a one way ticket to the tower to me!

  39. Odd. I wanted to quote both bravo and Co and add my comment, but only the quotes have been published.
    So, many of Shakespeare’s plays were written during the reign of James I .Henry VIII was published during Elizabeth’s reign. When it was performed at the Globe a canon that was fired during the performance set the thatch alight and the theatre burned down. It is on the programme at the Globe this year…
    Shakespeare knew which side his bread was buttered and aimed entertain and not for historical accuracy. Macbeth was written during the reign of James I. Banquo was one of James’ ancestors. Hence the good guy characterisation.

  40. Henry VIII is a crap play to curry favour. A ‘life’ of Henry that neatly ends with the birth of Elizabeth! Real brown nosing stuff!
    Isobel, save your money! Not one to bother with, read it first!

    I can well see why Shakespear dodged Henry VII, a long lived monarch who was a gloomy sod for decades after his wife died, all he seemed to do in later years was write laws and invent taxes with which to stuff his treasury, no real juicy scandals, would have been a pretty boring play! I would have thought that it would have been a political hot potato still. The Lancashire/Yorkshire thing was only just about laid to rest with rebellions still breaking out here and there throughout EI’s reign. The Lord Chamberlain’s Office would have been down on him like a ton of bricks! They were very hot on closing down anything they didn’t fancy at the time.

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