Monday, January 12, 2009
# 87 - The Last Queen
Book No: 87
Title: The Last Queen
Author: C.W. Gortner
Genre: Historical Fiction
No. of Pages: N/A
Juana de Castile was the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabel of Spain. Under her parents rule Spain became a united Catholic Kingdom. Throughout history Juana has been known as Juana the Mad. Author C.W. Gortner tells this story in the form of Juana’s memoir and raises the possibility that she wasn’t mad at all.
Fourth in line to the throne, Juan’s real value to her family was through arranged marriage, creating ties with allies. A beautiful young woman she is sent to Flanders at the age of 16 to marry Archduke Philip, son of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian. Ever dutiful she was terrified at what she would find when she met her husband. To her great surprise she fell very much in love with Philip the Handsome, as he was known, and he apparently with her. They have several years of what appears to be a good marriage, with Juana bearing several children. However Juana had a jealous side, and her rages and attacks upon women whom she believed to be sleeping with her husband are the beginnings of talk that she is insane.
When both Juana’s older brother and sister, and her sister’s young son die over a period of years Juana becomes the heir to the Spanish throne. With this unexpected turn of events her marriage to Philip begins to turn sour as he begins to lay the groundwork to take over her throne. Her father Ferdinand also has plans that do not include Juana ascending the throne. A woman was little more than a pawn in her father and or husband’s life and Juana was no exception to this rule. As machinations from both the men in her life surround her Juana tries to assert her independence, while her husband spends more and more time laying the groundwork to have her declared insane.
I loved reading this novel because it felt very real to me. Although a work of fiction it appears to be very well researched and the writing brings Juana to life. The political maneuvering by everyone is fascinating and the descriptions of Flanders, France, England and Spain provide an absorbing background to one of history’s saddest stories.
Was Juana of Castile mad? After you read this book you may wonder.