Juana I pp 279-303 | Cite as

The Politics of Penitence (1521–1539)

  • Gillian B. Fleming
Part of the Queenship and Power book series (QAP)


Following the tumultuous events outlined in the previous two chapters, I demonstrate how these events, and the fear of future political and religious upheaval, ensured that Juana would be kept out of sight and, as far as possible, out of mind. The emperor and marquis of Denia are shown as directors of a theatre of illusion, designed to entirely isolate the queen from the outside world. This in turn impacted seriously on Juana’s mental state. In this context, attitudes to ‘madness’ and the difference between ‘madness’ and the ‘melancholy’ widely attributed to Juana, are discussed. As conflict continued both inside and outside the palace of Tordesillas many, including Charles himself, linked comunero agitation to the influence of the converso community and, by extension, to Lutheranism, which was spreading fast throughout Europe. In Spain, Lutheranism was associated with illuminism and related spiritual trends, and the post-comunero period saw the development of what has been termed a ‘generational phenomenon’ of spiritual self-questioning among members of the nobility. Although the troubled religious situation in Castile in the second half of the 1520 and 1530s can only be explored here very briefly, it provides the background against which the empress Isabel—who governed Castile for much of this time—tried repeatedly to persuade the proprietary queen of Castile and Aragon to confess her sins and conduct herself in a suitably pious manner. I re-examine the question of the queen’s resistance to the rite of penitence as she struggled with her ‘melancholy’ and bouts of despair. I argue against the influential notion that Juana deliberately ‘retired’ to carry out a form of spiritual withdrawal or recogimiento, and conclude by suggesting that Juana’s resistance to the rites of penitence cannot be disassociated from her situation as a political prisoner.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gillian B. Fleming
    • 1
  1. 1.BrightonUK

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