Mad queen or abused wife

Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen is a big lush historical novel about Juana de Castile, the third child of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain. (This is the same Isabella who gave Columbus ships to discover the New World.) 

Cullen’s clever book explores the question of Juana’s sanity. Was she mad, as history would have her, or was she simply painted that way by her greedy and spoiled husband Philip the Handsome, Duke of Burgundy. Philippe desperately longed for the glory of Juana’s royal prestige when she inherited her parents’s kingdom of Castile and Aragon (now present day Spain).

There is evidence that he cut her off from her parents by hiding their letters to each other. He also may have isolated her from her children, turning them against her.
 
Isabella and Ferdinand were known for their romantic marriage. They ruled together as two of the most powerful monarchs of their time. Juana was never expected to rule. She inherited the crown only as a result of the unexpected deaths of several siblings. As a result, she was unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with the vicious intrigue that ruled the European courts at the time.
 
Reign of Madness is a fascinating, well-researched picture of how women were viewed in the 1600s, as the “new world” was discovered. It poses an interesting question as to whether Juana was mentally ill or a victim of greed and manipulation.
 
 
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