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?