Joanna of Castile, aka Juana la loca, was Queen of Castile (in central Spain) from 1504 and Aragon (ditto) from 1516. She became heir to the thrones of her parents, Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, after the deaths of her elder brother and sister. She married Philip “the Handsome,” Archduke, Duke of Burgundy, and famously went “mad” or crazy after her marriage, in part due to jealousy over Philip. Now, whether she was actually mentally ill is still up for debate — she may have suffered from depression, schizophrenia, or something else real, or her mental illness may have been played up by those who stood to gain by removing her from power (her father, her husband, and her son, Charles V, all of whom ruled in her stead due to her supposed insanity). She was forcibly confined from 1520 until her death in 1555.
She’s a fascinating character, and I’ve always wished there were more film portrayals of her. After popping up as she did in The Spanish Princess, I had to track down more, most of which are Spanish productions. Let’s take a look!
Locura de amor (1948)
“Madness for Love” or “The Mad Queen” in English, it’s based on a mid-19th century play about Juana and her famous madness. Juana is played by Aurora Bautista.
Mujeres insólitas (1977)
Aka “Unusual Women,” it’s a Spanish TV series about various historical women. One episode is about Juana, played by Julia Gutiérrez Caba.
Estudio 1: Los Comuneros (1978)
Another Spanish TV series, each episode was a televised version of a play. “The Comuneros” is about the 1520 rebellion against her son, Charles V, that ended with Juana’s imprisonment. Juana is played by Lola Herrera.
Cristóbal Colón, de oficio … descubridor (1982)
A comedic take on the Christopher Columbus story, which would spawn later movies like the next film, Juana la loca… de vez en cuando. Juana was played by Beatriz Elorrieta, although I am unclear if that is she in these photos or the actress playing Isabella of Castile, Fiorella Faltoyano.
Juana la loca … de vez en cuando (1983)
Every time I do a “happy birthday Juana!” post on Facebook, I post this photo, and every time someone says “WTF with the popsicle?” and I just go “you tell me!” All I’ve got is it’s a comedy inspired by the previous film, and Juana is played again by Beatriz Elorrieta.
Mad Love aka Juana la loca (2001)
Probably the most well-known film about Juana, it’s loosely inspired by that mid-19th century play. Pilar López de Ayala plays Juana. I don’t know if I hated this as much as Sarah, but then I didn’t know much about 16th-century Spanish costume when I saw it. I was unsatisfied with its limited exploration of Juana’s madness.
Yep, this French-German-Czech-Italian TV series about the rise of the originally-Spanish Borgia family in Italy features Juana in one episode, where she’s played by Miriam Stein.
I tried to watch this series about Queen Isabella of Castile (and briefly snarked it mid-way through this post), but noped out due to the deeply shitty costumes (someday I hope to get Trystan or Sarah to do a real review). The third season focuses on the marriage of Juana and Philip and the later life of Isabella and Ferdinand and their children. Juana is played by Irene Escolar.
Carlos Rey Emperador (2015-16)
Another Spanish TV series that’s basically a successor to Isabel, this time focused on Juana’s son Charles V. The older Juana is played by Laia Marull.
La corona partida (2016)
Aka “The Broken Crown,” this was a feature film that focused on Juana’s life with Irene Escolar from Isabel reprising her role.
The Spanish Princess (2019)
Yep, the recent Starz TV series adaptation of the Philippa Fucking Gregory book about the young Catherine of Aragon. As really happened, Juana and Philip ended up in England briefly (their ship was blown off course); in the TV version, Juana (Alba Galocha) is randomly bitchy and slutty (and wears 40-years-out-of-date costumes).
Who’s your favorite Juana?
My favorite adaptation is a historical fantasy AU novel, very loosely inspired by Isabella and Juana. Names, countries, plot are all changed around, and Ista (Juana) and Iselle (Isabella) are flipped as mother and daughter. But it’s brilliantly written, and explores how women in power can be controlled or ruined by accusations of madness, deserved or not. The Curse of Chalion is the first book, focuses on Iselle/Isabella, and the second is Paladin of Souls and focuses on Ista/Juana, by Lois McMaster Bujold.
Aaaaa! I LOVE that series! I just finished the second book and omgggggg….I’m still squeeing over it! Hello fellow fan! waves
Yay!! Yes, they’re two of my favorite books ever, I’ve read them so many times my paperbacks fell apart and I had to buy Kindle copies!
MOAR BUJOLD!!! <3
That sounds very interesting, I’ll have to check it out.
I’ve seen Mad Love. A great book about Juana is The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner
I loved the Former novel. He’s done one on Isabella, her mom and several other queens/empresses. The last was Dagmar of Denmark, sister to Alexandra Princess of Wales and Edward VII’s Queen.
The Spanish, I feel, or at least those descendants of the Isabella and Ferdinand (them too) have been poorly tested on film except Annette Crosbie in the Six Wives.
I was just going to mention this book! He’s an excellent writer and I wish it was someone like this that would be picked for source material for shows and movies.
I liked what I saw of Isobel. I thought for once, they really nailed the casting of Ferdinand and Isabella. The first time I saw Ferdinand, I went, “YES. YES, THAT IS WHAT HE SHOULD LOOK LIKE.” Shitty costumes or not!
I think Juana got a bad rep and was basically treated by garbage by the men in her life. :P
Actually, Ferdinand didn’t have a beard so Rodolfo Sancho (actor) doesn’t resemble him at all. Michelle Jenner (Isabel) looks more like the historical character and I think she was well cast. Anyway, both are too pretty for the role (look up portraits of them) but that is the usual thing in historical flicks…
On the other hand, I completely agree that Juana was treated like shit by her father, husband etc.
I think his portrayal (personality, sense of humor, cavalier attitude about his affairs, etc) was perfect, as was the difference in size between him and Isabella (she was small, as were her daughters), so I didn’t mind the beard. Neither do I mind the eye candy. ;)
Ferdinand and Philip both used Juana to wield power, and then Ferdinand got her thrown over so he could rule Spain on his own. Nice dad. :P
You’d think if your mother was known as Juana la Loca you would have more sense than to marry your son and heir to his double first cousin, but not if you’re Charles V. The result was the notorious Don Carlos. Philip II’s daughters by Elisabeth de Valois were normal and intelligent but he failled to draw the painfully obvious conclusion and chose his sister’s daughter by their first cousin as his fourth wife resulting in the dim if otherwise normal Philip IV and accelerating the genetic destruction of the Spanish Hapsburgs.
I like the use of the heraldric mantle in La Corona Partida, looks like the picture of Anne Neville with a similar get up. I think this is a style for coronations? Is that scene in the movie her coronation or shortly thereafter?
The version of Queen Juana in Locura de amor (1948) is just amaze-balls. It’s so … queenlike. She oozes authority and femininity at the same time.
Also, ‘Aurora Batista’ is a fantastic name.
I personally wonder where the atheism in the Spanish Princess came from. From what I’ve seen all we know of her is that she was skeptical of some Catholic believes and rites, but I highly doubt she went around telling people that “God is dead” with a smug expression on her face, otherwise I think that would have been exploited by those around her and declared part of her mental illness.
I just read “The Curse of Chalion” and am half way through “Paladin of Souls” bc of the recommendations in these comments, obviously great reads!