Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Juana la Loca

Well, my friends, today is the day! You guessed it: it's Philip I of Castile's 536th birthday! On July 22nd, 1478, in Bruges, Flanders (today: Belgium), Philip was born. He was the son of then-future Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and Mary of Burgundy. He was nicknamed “Philip the Handsome” because the courtiers were simply astonished at his sheer beauty: he had long, light hair, a prominent under-bite and chin (characteristic of the Habsburg family), a chubby face, a long, thin nose, and a skinny figure. (It's really just a posthumous nickname that stuck.) Later, Philip became one of the worst husbands the history of monarchy has ever known. (Fun fact: King Henry VIII, who definitely takes the crown of being the worst husband of monarchy, admired this man and was his brother-in-law!)

But Philip couldn't become King by himself; he was to get married! Infanta Juana of Castile was the oldest daughter of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon (she is also the older sister of Katharine of Aragon, King Henry VIII's first wife). A marriage between Philip and Juana would create a strong alliance between the Habsburgs, Philip's family, and the Trastámaras, Juana's family. Not only was the infanta pretty, but she was very bright and lavishly educated. She could understand all of the Romance languages. However, she was also quite emotional and dramatic. She enjoyed spending time alone, perhaps to read, which she did often.

In 1496, Juana arrived in Flanders to see her fiancé. Philip sent his sister, Margaret, to meet her, rather than himself. How romantic. When Philip finally met his fiancée for himself there was an immediate attraction between the two, and they ordered that they'd be married as soon as possible.

It wasn't a fairy-tale, happily-ever-after marriage. Philip was quite a ladies' man and Juana was very faithful and loyal to her husband. She was possessive over him, and he really did not enjoy that. Juana would throw jealous fits, and Philip would ignore and avoid his heart-broken wife.

The miserable couple arrived in Spain after both of the heirs to the Spanish throne, Juan and Isabel, had passed away. Juana therefore was the new heiress to the Spanish throne. Philip didn't like Spain at all. It was a very religious place, and it bored him to tears. The women were more modest here, and were not interested in coquetting with a married man. Not to mention Philip got very sick. Philip really wanted to go home, but his pregnant wife held him back. So, after a bad fight, he went back to Flanders by himself. Isn't he just a dream husband?

The depressed Juana wanted to run back to her husband, but her mother wanted her to be properly trained in being Queen. She was locked up in a castle after she really did try to go back to her husband. There she cried over her sleaze-ball husband, who probably didn't even care. He was home in Flanders with his three children, Eleanor, Charles (later becoming Holy Roman Emperor Charles V), and Isabella.

After the birth of her son, Ferdinand, in 1503, she was even more depressed. How can you blame her when her husband was absent during the birth of their child? The sad mother was bitter and sour. She returned to Flanders in 1504. Then she found out that he was now taking a mistress. She became so angry and so jealous that she cut the mistress's hair off. Then Philip hit his faithful, loving, yet jealous wife in the face. (What a jerk head! I hate you, Philip! It took me, like, 10 minutes to digest that terrible fact.) They made up, but they were still very on-and-off.

Queen Isabella passed away not too long after, and now Juana was Queen. The Royal couple, now in Spain, were unhappier than ever. Ferdinand, Juana's father, and Philip both believed Juana too unstable to rule, with her jealous rage and melancholic attitude—the two, of course, wanted some power for themselves, too. So they wrote a treaty behind her back which deemed her unfit to rule due to mental disability, thus alienating her from any sort of power.

The 28-year-old Philip got sick again in Burgos, Spain. His wife, pregnant again, stayed with him the whole time at his bed-side. Philip had a bad fever with chills, and constantly was sweating. It is speculated that Ferdinand poisoned him, therefore directing all the power towards himself. When her husband closed his eyes for the last time in 1506, you can imagine how grief-stricken she was. It is said that she stayed with the dead body and talked to it all day. I even read that, when it was time for his burial, she suggested that they go at night to make sure other women would not be tempted. They say that she would open the coffin and kiss the remains. Whether these bizarre, macabre stories are true or not, they prove to be what she is mainly famous for today.

Juana la Loca by Francisco Pradilla Ortiz

Juana was confined to a castle in Tordesillas by her father, who ruled as regent for her. She lived there with her youngest daughter, Catalina. Her other children, Eleanor, Charles, Isabella, Ferdinand, and Mary were home in Flanders, being cared for by their aunt, Margaret of Austria. Juana's father passed away in 1516, and that's when her son, Charles, comes into the picture.

Juana la Loca, imprisoned in Tordesillas by Francisco Pradilla Ortiz

Charles claimed his inheritance of the throne. He visited his mother and 10-year-old sister in the castle. His mother probably wouldn't be able to recognize him if it wasn't for his humongous Habsburg jaw; he was now a young man. The lonely site of his supposedly mentally unstable mother and his bored sister made him pity them. He wrote to their guardian,“It seems to me that the best and most suitable thing for you to do is to make sure that no person speaks with Her Majesty, for no good could come of it.” (Source)

In 1525 Catalina moved out to marry King John III of Portugal. The rest of Juana's days she spent alone, depressed and shunned by her entire family. In 1555 the rightful Queen passed away alone in the desolate castle. She outlived her husband by 47 years, being 75-years-old. She is now believed to have had either melancholia or severe clincal depression. Her loyalty is admirable, and I believe she would have been a great Queen if only selfish people didn't use her.


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