Crazy Jane, the Queen of Spain

It isn’t always a picnic, being a member of a royal family. Consider the case of Juana la Loca–meaning “Crazy Joanna” or “Crazy Jane”–the first rightful queen of what was to become modern Spain.  She died in 1555 after being kept under close confinement for going on 40 years ( . ).

Juana was among the most cultured and well-educated women of her time, mastering philosophy, classical languages, and music. She was also beautiful, and a royal heiress–all in all, a fine catch for any ambitious prince.

So why was she diagnosed as mentally ill, given that “Crazy Jane” nickname that’s lasted some 450 years, and locked up for most of her life?

First her father put her away, so he could continue to rule as a king in Aragon. That didn’t work out too well. Then her husband died, and the Hapsburg dynasty had her locked up so they could keep Spain for her infant son, the future Emperor Charles V. It seems everyone who had anything to gain in `16th century European politics was out to keep poor Juana locked up in a nunnery. And in every event the explanation given was her supposed mental illness–a diagnosis which is met with strong skepticism by today’s historians.

But of course Juana’s great exhibition of craziness was her reading and studying the work of Martin Luther, her defense of him and of his doctrine, and the suspicion that she had become a secret Protestant. With that to be held against her, there was no help for her.

And so she comes down to us as Crazy Jane–just as Richard III has come down to us as a hunchbacked monster who murdered the poor little princes in the Tower, his own nephews. The case against Richard is weak, and the case against Queen Juana even weaker.

I guess you can’t believe everything you read in the history books.

6 comments on “Crazy Jane, the Queen of Spain

  1. Like Laura, I hadn’t heard this story either, although I’ve heard the expression ‘Crazy Jane’. And I agree – how sad. It sounds as though she might have actually made a wonderful queen.

    History seems to have a way of being rewritten. Doesn’t it make you wonder how much of what we’ve been taught is the truth? And now we’ve allowed propaganda by our government to be legal by the repeal of the Smith-Mundt Act – thus the inundation of ‘fake news’. Confusion/Babel.

  2. Studying history really helps in being grateful for America and our right to freedom of religious expression. Reading about the founding of America is especially interesting reading.

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