February 24, 2005
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v2.1 Reference

Juana the Mad

Sovereignty and Dynasty in Renaissance Europe

Born to Isabel and Ferdinand, the Catholic Monarchs whose marriage united the realms of Castile and Aragon, Juana "the Mad" (1479–1555) is one of the most infamous but least studied monarchs of the Renaissance. Conventional accounts of Juana portray her as a sullen woman prone to depression, a jealous wife insanely in love with her husband, and an incompetent queen who was deemed by her father, husband, and son, unable to govern herself much less her kingdoms.

But was Juana truly mad or the victim of manipulative family members who desired to rule in her stead? Drawing upon recent scholarship and years of archival research, author Bethany Aram offers a new vision of Juana's life. After the deaths of three relatives directly in line for the throne, Juana became heir to her parents' realms. As queen, Juana worked tirelessly to assure the succession of her son Charles V to the throne and thereby to establish the Habsburg dynasty in the kingdoms that others managed to govern in her name.

In this part biography, part study of royal authority, Aram rightly asserts that Juana was more complicated than her contemporaries and biographers have portrayed her. Not the frail and unstable woman usually depicted, Juana employed pious practices to defend her own interests as well as those of her children. She emerges as a woman of immense importance in Spanish and European history.

About the Author

Bethany Aram is professor of Spanish and European history at the Institute of International Studies, Seville, Spain.


"A welcome new perspective on the important role of a proprietary queen... We cannot but agree with Aram's assertion that 'madness, like gender, proved a flexible concept in the realm of sovereignty'."

- Times Literary Supplement

"This book gives us a fresh look at the poor queen, nicely illustrated with fresh archival records."

- Thomas Dandelet - Renaissance Quarterly

"This is a very good first book: it is thoroughly researched, well written, and full of new information and insights into the poorly understood life of one of Castile's most unfortunate queens."

- Sara T. Nalle - Sixteenth Century Journal

"The amount of scholarly work that Mrs. Aram has expended is amazing and exciting to read."

- Bibliotheque d'Humanisme et Renaissance

"An enlightening and indispensable book... For all who are interested in the themes of monarchical identity and European court customs, this study will prove a fascinating and rewarding work."

- William H. Clamurro - Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching


"Juana the Mad sheds light on attitudes toward female rulers and the Habsburg accession to power in the Spanish kingdoms, and can tell us a great deal about cultural attitudes toward madness in the sixteenth century. Aram's work provides a theoretically sophisticated new look at the queen, one that challenges long-accepted 'truths' about Juana. Aram's material is excellent—well presented, effectively and logically organized, detailed and compelling. The implications of her findings are far-reaching for both Spanish and European historians."

- Magdalena S. Sánchez, Gettysburg College
Johns Hopkins University Press
The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science
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9780801880728 : juana-the-mad-aram
280 Pages
$42.00 USD

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