Cover of the book 'The Last Queen' by C.W. Gortner

Joanna the Mad

Joanna of Castile (1479 - 1555) was the third child of the Catholic Kings Isabelle and Ferdinand of Spain. Her marriage with the ruler of the Netherlands Philip the Fair only served as a strategic move bij her parents to strengthen their political position in Europe.

The early death of her elder brother, her elder sister and her sister's husband made her heir apparent to the throne of Spain and the Netherlands. She never came into power. After years of struggle and intrigue her son Charles V became ruler in Spain and the Netherlands.

Her marriage in 1496 in Lier was a grand occasion. She arrived from Spain with 130 ships and a following of 20.000 people: ladies in waiting, footboys, chamber ladies, valets, treasurers, grand-mistresses. The pomp and circumstance of Spain was demonstrated by the luxurious outfit of the ships with ample stores for all abroad: 90.000 pounds of smoked meat, 50.000 herrings, 1000 chickens, 6000 eggs and 400 caskets of wine.

Rumour has it that it was love on first sight between Joanna and Philip. When he died an early death in 1506 her mental instability became apparent. She had his body balmed and checked daily to see whether he had come back to life. For years she had his coffin follow her on her travels.

In her attempts to gain the Spanish throne she was obstructed by her father and others. In the end they had her confined on the grounds that she woud be mad: hence her nickname: Joanna the Mad.

With 'the Last Queen' C.W. Gortner has written a fine novel about this fascinating woman who, by her marriage, caused the 80 year war of the Netherlands with Spain.

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