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The Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian World: From Mad Queen to Martyred Saint: The Case of Juana La Loca Revisited in History and Art on the Occasion of the 450th Anniversary of Her Death

Salvatore Poeta
Hispania
Vol. 90, No. 1 (Mar., 2007), pp. 165-172
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20063477
Page Count: 8
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The Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian World: From Mad Queen to Martyred Saint: The Case of Juana La Loca Revisited in History and Art on the Occasion of the 450th Anniversary of Her Death
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Abstract

In seeking a sense of the enigmas surrounding Juana la Loca's historical circumstances, one is faced with three different theories: Michael Prawdin's, which rejects any sort of mental illness from which Juana may have been suffering, Ludwig Pfandl's heredity theory which traces a direct genetic link of mental illness beginning with Juana's grandmother, Isabella of Portugal, and ending with Juana's great-gradson the Prince Don Carlos, and Townson Miller's more balanced theory which on the one hand does not rule out a mild or latent precocious dementia or schizophrenia Juana may have inherited or, on the other, the physical and mental mistreatment suffered by the Queen of Castile at the hands of her husband, Philip the Handsome, followed by her father Ferdinand, the Catholic, and ending with her son Charles V, of the Holy Roman Empire. This mistreatment which Juana endured for over half her lifetime proved much more consequential, according to Miller, in pushing her over the edge. Artistic portrayals of Juana follow a similar divergence of perspectives, ranging from a woman consumed with jealous rages, paranoia, suicidal urges and a tendency toward necrophilia to "Santa Juana, la mártir" elevated to near-mystical status. Regardless of which theory one prefers, in the face of a virtual labyrinth of speculation, open-ended questions and contradiction, one reality remains forever cemented in history and in art: Juana's absolute resilience of spirit and steadfastness of moral character which even in recent years continue to propel her legacy beyond the web of material greed and political intrigue in which, ironically, her captors and abusers themselves became entangled.

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