The Year of Isabella I of Castile – The rivalry with Joanna la Beltraneja (Part two)




joanna la belteneja
Joanna as portrayed in Isabel (2011) (Screenshot/Fair Use)

Read part one here.

The War of the Castilian succession would continue for four years. After the Battle of Toro in March 1476, Joanna and Afonso left Castile in June. However, troops remained stationed in Castile. Most of the time, Joanna was left in Portugal, and she often went long periods without seeing her husband. However, her exact whereabouts can not always be established.

They soon lost the support of Diego López de Pacheco, 2nd Duke of Escalona, and he “promised to serve them [Isabella and Ferdinand] in public and private from then on with complete faithfulness and loyalty, be it against the Portuguese King, his niece [Joanna], the French, their allies or anyone else.”1 Archbishop Carrillo also soon pledged his loyalty to Isabella. Another big blow came on 30 June 1478 when Isabella gave birth to a son named John. To some, the birth of a male heir was the proof that God had chosen Isabella as Queen.

It was Isabella’s aunt, Beatriz of Portugal, Duchess of Viseu (who was also King Afonso’s sister-in-law) who made the first approach for peace. Isabella agreed to meet her at the frontier town of Alcántara. They talked for three days, and Isabella insisted on Joanna being sent to a convent. She also refused to name Joanna as a Princess as “giving her that title is to confess that she is the daughter of a king and queen. And the queen [Isabella] thinks that… this in itself is sufficient reason to stop talking about peace.”2 Negotiations dragged on for another six months.

In the final agreement, Joanna was forced to choose between an engagement with Isabella’s newborn son, which he could renege on when he was 14, or taking a nun’s vows and entering a cloistered Portuguese convent. The 18-year-old Joanna chose to enter a convent.

One chronicler wrote, “She, with no less grief than her own sadness and with painful lamentations of her own and of all her people, left the title of Queen and took the name of Doña Juana. She stripped her body of the brocades and silks she wore, and they dressed her in the brown habits of St Clare, taking from her the royal crown of Castile and Portugal, with which she was titled, and cutting her hair off like a poor maiden.”3

Joanna first entered the monastery of Santa Clara in Santarém on 5 November 1479, and she completed the novitiate a year later. After the town was struck by plague, she was allowed to move to Coimbra, where she professed as a Poor Clare. Her profession was recorded, “I, Doña Juana, promise to God, and Saint Mary the Virgin, and Saint Francis, and to Saint Clare,, and to all the saints, to continue all the time of my life in obedience and chastity under this rule, given and granted to our order by Pope Urban IV.”4 The following year, her husband, King Afonso V, died at the age of 49.

It wasn’t until 1500 that there was some improvement in Joanna’s life. She was given the title of Excellent Lady, and she was allowed to leave the convent for Lisbon, where she lived in a house and received funds from the court. From King John III, she also received gifts of cloth and perfumes. Joanna survived her great rival Isabella, who died in 1504 at the age of 53. However, Joanna’s response has not been left to us. After her death, it was rumoured that Isabella’s widower wanted to marry Joanna, but this came to nothing.5

Joanna died on 28 July 1530. Lope Hurtado wrote to Emperor Charles V’s wife, Isabella of Portugal, that “the excellent lady died on the XXVIII of last [July], while she was still well, she had just given alms. She had an accident6, and then he took her without confessing. She was buried in Santa Clara.”7

To the end of her life, she signed her letter with “I, the Queen.”8

  1. Isabella of Castile by Giles Tremlett p.146
  2. Isabella of Castile by Giles Tremlett p.170
  3. Juana de Castilla, mal llamada La Beltraneja by Tarsicio de Azcona p.77
  4. Juana de Castilla, mal llamada La Beltraneja by Tarsicio de Azcona p.79
  5. Juana de Castilla, mal llamada La Beltraneja by Tarsicio de Azcona p.107
  6. This could simply mean that her death was sudden
  7. Juana de Castilla, mal llamada La Beltraneja by Tarsicio de Azcona p.131
  8. Isabella of Castile: The First Renaissance Queen by Nancy Rubin p.175






About Moniek Bloks 2698 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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