Renaissance and Reformation Juana the Mad/Juana, Queen of Castile
Bethany Aram
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0524


The second daughter and third offspring of the Catholic Monarchs, Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, Juana I, entered the world in Toledo in 1479. Raised in her parents’ itinerant court, she received early Latin instruction from fray Andrés de Miranda, from the Dominican monastery of San Pablo of Burgos. In 1495, Juana’s parents married her to the Duke of Burgundy, Philip, as part of a double alliance that also joined her brother, Juan, heir to their realms, to Philip’s sister, Margaret. Juana sailed to the Low Countries with an important escort, much of which returned to Castile with Margaret, in 1496. The assignment of Juana’s dowry in her husband’s lands gave Philip and his councilors effective control of her household after their marriage in Lier. As duchess of Burgundy and archduchess of Austria, Juana performed a series of entries into her husband’s cities and towns, before giving birth to a daughter, Leonor, in 1498, and a son, Charles, in 1500. The successive deaths of Juana’s brother, older sister, and sister’s son made the archduchess of Austria heir to her parents’ kingdoms by 1501. However, another pregnancy and the birth of a daughter, Isabel, delayed her departure for Castile, where the representatives of the cities and towns would confirm her succession to the throne and Philip’s position as prince consort. Hastening back to his realms through France, Philip left Juana, pregnant again, in Castile. After giving birth to a second son, Ferdinand, Juana upset her mother by rejoining Philip in the Low Countries. Queen Isabel’s death in 1504 made Juana her lawful successor. After the birth of another daughter, María, Juana and Philip departed for Castile by sea, with an accidental stop in England, in order to claim Juana’s inheritance. Unsuccessfully, Juana sought a reunion with her father who, instead, pacted with Philip and left Castile. Philip then attempted to isolate Juana and to rule without her, although the representative assembly of Castile and Leon refused to sanction the queen’s confinement. Philip’s death in September 1506 enabled Juana to flee the court and to revoke his grants and appointments before giving birth to her last child, Catalina. Upon returning to Castile in 1507, King Ferdinand resumed the regency in Juana’s name, and, by 1509, he persuaded her to settle in the town of Tordesillas, in a place contiguous to its Royal Monastery of Saint Clare. Following Ferdinand’s death in 1516, the advisors of Juana’s son, Charles, declared him king. In 1520 the queen received the captains of the Comunero rebellion against Habsburg rule and the “Holy Assembly” they represented, yet she refused to sanction measures against her son. Juana also received visits from members of her family and their representatives in Tordesillas, with a brief absence due to plague in 1534, until her death in April 1555.


Recent studies of Queen Juana have featured increasingly diverse and nuanced views of the queen, as reflected in Fernández Alvarez, et al. 2006. Some biographers, most recently in Fleming 2018, consider Juana I a victim of her husband, father, and son. Other scholars, in works including Brans 1962, Zalama 2000, and Fernández Álvarez 2004, emphasize the queen’s captivity and attributed her inability or unwillingness to rule the territories she inherited to psychological limitations. In the nineteenth century, a surge in archival research regarding the queen responded to the suggestion in Bergenroth 1868 that Juana had harbored Protestant inclinations, refuted in Gachard 1869 and Rodríguez Villa 1892, which emphasize the queen’s devotion to her husband, Philip I. Aram 1998 and Aram 2005 examine Juana’s conflicting obligations as a daughter and mother and support for the Habsburg succession, drawing upon unedited documentation from the Vatican as well as Burgundian and other archives.

  • Aram, Bethany. “Juana ‘the Mad’s’ Signature: The Problem of Invoking Royal Authority, 1505–1507.” The Sixteenth Century Journal 29.2 (1998): 333–361.

    DOI: 10.2307/2544520

    This article signaled new directions for research on Juana I by unmasking a 16th-century forgery and documenting the queen’s exercise of authority after her husband’s death.

  • Aram, Bethany. Juana the Mad: Sovereignty and Dynasty in Renaissance Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.56021/9780801880728

    A revised edition of La Reina Juana: Goblierno, Piedad, y Dinastía (Madrid: Marcial Pons Historia, 2001), based, in turn, on the author’s PhD thesis defended at the Johns Hopkins University in 1999. This study approached Juana’s inheritance and succession as a transnational, dynastic problem, drawing upon source material preserved within and beyond Spain’s frontiers.

  • Bergenroth, G. A., ed. Calendar of State Papers, Spanish, Supplement to Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 of Letters, Despatches and State Papers Relating to the Negociations between England and Spain, Preserved in the Archives of Simancas and Elsewhere. London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1868.

    Includes transcriptions and English-language summaries of important documents in the Archivo General de Simancas. Bergenroth’s suggestion that the queen may have harbored Protestant inclinations catalyzed further research by L. P. Gachard and Antonio Rodríguez Villa.

  • Brans, Jan. De Gevangene van Tordesillas. Leuven, Belgium: Davidsfonds, 1962.

    The idea of Queen Juana as “a prisoner of Tordesillas” for over forty years has proven influential in recent accounts.

  • Fernández Álvarez, Manuel. Juana la Loca: La Cautiva de Tordesillas. Madrid: Espasa, 2004.

    This biography, published by a member of Spain’s Royal Academy of History, drew upon the author’s extensive command of archival material regarding Charles V published in the two-volume Corpus Documental de Carlos V and emphasized the queen’s long captivity in Tordesillas.

  • Fernández Alvarez, Manuel, Miguel-Ángel Ladero Quedada, Luis Suárez Fernández, Julio Valdeón Baruque, Joseph Pérez, and Bethany Aram. Doña Juana, Reina de Castilla. Madrid: Marcial Pons Historia, 2006.

    Spain’s Royal Academy of History organized a series of conferences five hundred years after Juana’s succession. The contributions from six specialists, addressing different periods of the queen’s life, subsequently appeared in this collective volume.

  • Fleming, Gillian. Juana I: Legitimacy and Conflict in Sixteenth-Century Castile. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-74347-9

    This volume revisits Aram’s research, largely affirming her conclusions, with the exception of the queen’s recogimiento, or obligatory and often voluntary reclusion.

  • Gachard, Louis-Prosper. “Jeanne la Folle défendue contre l’imputation d’hérésie.” Extrait des Bulletins de l’Académie Royale de Belgique 27.6, 2d series (1869).

    In response to Bergenroth’s suspicions, the director of the Royal Archives in Brussels drew upon extensive material that he transcribed and assembled regarding Queen Juana, preserved in the Royal Archive’s Papiers Gachard (pp. 611–615).

  • Rodríguez Villa, Antonio. La Reina Doña Juana la Loca: Estudio histórico. Madrid: Murillo, 1892.

    This well-documented study followed the same author’s Bosquejo Bibliográfico de la Reina Juana (Madrid: Imprenta y Esteriotipia de Aribau, 1874). Both works emphasized the queen’s “mad love,” based upon a signature subsequently shown to have been forged.

  • Zalama, Miguel Ángel. Vida cotidiana y Arte en el Palacio de la Reina Juana I en Tordesillas. Valladolid, Spain: Universidad de Valladolid, 2000.

    This study, augmented and revised in 2003, draws upon source material conserved at the General Archive of Simancas, particularly regarding the queen’s household after 1509.

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