The Year of Isabella I of Castile – Joan of Portugal, A Queen in an impossible situation (Part four)




Joan as portrayed in Isabel
Joan as portrayed in Isabel (2011) (Screenshot/Fair Use)

Read part three here.

While at Alaejos, Joan fell in love with Archbishop Alonso de Fonseca y Ulloa’s nephew, Pedro de Castilla y Fonseca. Pedro was a descendant of King Peter of Castile through his illegitimate son, Diego. He was ten years younger than her, and Joan became pregnant. However, her pregnancy, or at least the timing of it, has been debated. Joan managed to hide her (supposed) pregnancy during the first few months, and Henry, who visited her several times, did not notice. During this time, Joan’s brother-in-law, Alfonso, died at the age of 14, leaving Isabella as the head of the rebellion.

Joan meets Pedro as portrayed in Isabel (2011) (Screenshot/Fair Use)

Joan was around six months pregnant, when Henry ordered her to be taken to Madrid for discussions regarding Isabella, and their daughter Joanna. At this point, hiding the pregnancy was no longer an option, and Joan contemplated escaping. According to an anonymous chronicle, Joan “slid down the embankment and was met by her lover D. Pedro, who, as agreed, was waiting for her by the gate of the lower wall, which at the time was lined with stones that were not connected with whitewash. They promptly pushed them aside, crossed it, and following the path of the cellar on which the huts were built, went out into the countryside, where Pedro de Castilla and Luis Hurtado, son of Rodrigo Diaz de Mendoza, rode with horse as well as mules.[…]And went by order of the Queen to Cuéllar in search of Dom Beltran.”1 Reportedly, Henry only learned she was pregnant, following her escape from Alaejos.

Joan travelled to Buitrago, where she arrived in early September. She would have been around seven months pregnant, but even if the timing of this pregnancy is not correct, she did end up having at least two sons by Pedro de Castilla y Fonseca, and their existence is not disputed. Both sons were raised at the Monastery of Santo Domingo de Toledo. This liason was not only dangerous but also added fuel to the fire for her daughter, Joanna. How could she be “the King’s daughter, given the dissolute lifestyle of her mother, the Queen?”2 The agreement settled at Toros de Guisando between King Henry and Isabella made Isabella the Princess of Asturias rather than Joan’s daughter, Joanna. Joan, “as soon as she heard how the infanta Isabella had been sworn in as princess, she was very sad, both because of the dishonour it brought her and because of the loss of her daughter to such vituperation. For which, to speak without affection or passion, she bears great guilt and responsibility because if she had lived more honestly, she would not have been treated with such vituperation.”3 Joan protested to Isabella being made Princess of Asturias, but it does appear she was briefly reunited with her daughter at Buitrago.

While there, the main topic of conversation – besides protesting the agreement – seemed to have been a possible marriage between Joanna and her cousin John, the heir to the Portuguese throne. However, Joan may have feared that if Joanna was removed to Portugal, she might have been forced to go too, and Joanna’s claim would be forgotten. In the same negotiations, another marriage was discussed – that of Isabella and Joan’s brother, King Afonso V of Portugal. In any case, neither marriage would take place, and Isabella already had her heart set on Ferdinand of Aragon, whom she would marry in October 1469.

This marriage, which went against the agreement made at Toros de Guisando, gave Joan hope again. The following year, Joan and Joanna were taken to Guadalajara, the main seat of the Mendoza family, where they could be better guarded. Not much later, Henry indeed changed his mind in the face of Isabella’s marriage and reinstated Joanna as Princess of Asturias. Joan swore an oath that Joanna was “the legitimate and natural daughter of the said lord king and mine.”4 Husband and wife were briefly reunited with their common goal – their daughter Joanna. Joanna continued to promote an alliance with Portugal.

By the end of 1471, Joan was living in Segovia. Rumours continued to circulate about her “dissolute” lifestyle, and Pedro likely held a high position in her household.5 However, in early 1472, Joan was moved to Escalona with her daughter. Pedro likely moved with them. At the end of 1472, they were in Madrid and in March 1473, Joan was back in Escalona.

In February 1474, Joanna turned 12 years old, which meant she could now enter into a marriage. Joan had continually promoted a match with Portugal, but John, the heir to the throne, had already married. Joanna would now marry John’s father, her own uncle – King Afonso V. When news reached Joan that her brother had accepted the marriage, she and Joanna were back in Madrid. However, Henry had reportedly avoided the city because he “hated” Joan.6 By then, Henry’s health was already declining and he died on 12 December 1474 and he reportedly stated, “I declare my daughter to be the heir to the kingdoms.”7 This is contested.

Isabella was quick to declare herself the new Queen, while Joanna’s guardians were slow to react. Mother and daughter were split up- Joan remained in Madrid, while Joanna was taken to Trujillo. There, Joanna was publicly proclaimed as Queen on 20 March 1475. Joanna was married to her maternal uncle, King Afonso V of Portugal, on 29 May 1475. King Afonso invaded Castile to support Joanna’s claim shortly after their betrothal ceremony on 1 May. Joan had not been present for her daughter’s wedding.

Joan prepares her daughter for the wedding night as portrayed in Isabel (2011) (Screenshot/Fair Use)
Joan bids her daughter farewell as portrayed in Isabel (2011) (Screenshot/Fair Use)

Shortly after the wedding, Joan drew up her last will and testament, which may mean she had fallen ill or was pregnant again. She reportedly “spent the last six months of her life in a simple dwelling adjoining the convent of San Francisco.”8 Although this may be unlikely given the number of servants mentioned in her will.

Joan died on 13 June 1475 at the age of 36.

The scene as portrayed in Isabel (2011) (Screenshot/Fair Use)
  1. A Rainha Adúltera by Marsilio Cassotti p.340-341
  2. Isabella of Castile by Giles Tremlett p.86
  3. A Rainha Adúltera by Marsilio Cassotti p.347-348
  4. A Rainha Adúltera by Marsilio Cassotti p.384
  5. A Rainha Adúltera by Marsilio Cassotti p.399
  6. A Rainha Adúltera by Marsilio Cassotti p.423
  7. A Rainha Adúltera by Marsilio Cassotti p.429
  8. A Rainha Adúltera by Marsilio Cassotti p.441






About Moniek Bloks 2732 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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