Joanna was the eldest daughter of Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon, the monarchs whose marriage created a dynastically unified Spain. The subject may seem somewhat Tudor-adjacent, but this post will look at it through the Tudor lens…
Specifically, Isabella and Ferdinand actually had four daughters, and they used all of them to strengthen alliances. Joanna married Philip the Fair, son of Maximilian of Austria – and their son Charles was born in 1500 (thus inserting Hapsburg blood into the Spanish succession!). Joanna’s younger sister, Catherine, was sent off to England in 1501 to marry Henry VII’s heir, Prince Arthur. From the English side, this was an amazing match as it legitimized the Tudor reign (which only arose in 1485!) – so when Arthur died after only six months of marriage, Catherine was betrothed to his younger brother, Henry, to maintain the alliance. Of course, circumstances change – and when Isabella of Castile died in 1504, her crown of Castille went to Joanna. With Spanish unity lost, and his throne more secure, Henry VII reconsidered the match.
[Fun fact: this is why we call Joanna “Joanna of Castille” while her sister is “Catherine of Aragon”…Joanna started off as Joanna of Aragon! Anyway…]
Still, Joanna’s accession merely delayed Catherine’s marriage until the new Henry VIII came to the throne and rescued his Spanish princess. By that time, Philip the Fair had died – and Joanna’s grief was such that Ferdinand had her declared insane….which allowed him to rule in her name. This resulted in an unofficially reunited Spain that past whole cloth to Joanna’s son when Ferdinand himself shuffled off the mortal coil in 1516. The new Charles V, thanks to his Hapsburg blood, also quickly added the Holy Roman Empire to his holdings, such that Catherine of Aragon’s nephew became the most powerful monarch in Europe. That made quite the difference when Henry VIII turned around and tried to annul his marriage…
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