Juana, daughter of Queen Isabel & King Ferdinand of Spain was raised to be a pawn. She was betrothed as a toddler to Philip of Flanders, heir to the Hapsburg throne, to improve political alliances with Spain.
At 16 she was sent with her attendants to Flanders, to marry Philip. She did not want to go but knew it was her duty. Once she met Philip and saw how handsome he was, she fell in love with him. Their first years together were romantic and happy one's. Juana had a daughter and then a son, which made Philip very happy.
Juana was given an education, as a child she was raised to be a good wife and to gently persuade her husband to agree with Spain on issues that may arise. However, after a few year of wedded bliss, Juana's brother and the sister and nephew died. She was next in succession to the Spanish throne.
Though she was not raised to be Queen, she knew it was her duty. However, this created a power struggle with her husband. She also had to struggle with other men of power to take her rightful place as Queen.
This is an enthralling story of greed, lust, power, loyalty, and friendship. C.W. Gorther keeps the story going in perfect pitch! His vivid re-telling of the last Queen of Spain is quite believable and you can tell he really did his research to keep historical facts accurate.
I could not put this book down and it kept me up into the wee hours of the morning. I highly recommend this wonderful book. If you love historical fiction, you must read this book!
As much as I love reading historical fiction that is set in England, every now and again I really appreciate a change of location and characters. If that sounds a bit like you, then you can't really go wrong with The Last Queen by C W Gortner.
Whilst a lot of historical fiction fans will be familiar with the life and times of Catherine of Aragon, I must confess that I knew very little about any of her other family members. In this book, the author focuses on the life of Juana, Catherine's older sister who married into the Hapsberg family, to Phillip of Flanders (known as Phillip the Handsome). What started out as an arranged marriage quickly turned into a passionate, loving marriage but just as quickly turns into a passionate marriage of what can be a far stronger emotion - loathing and hate.
Due to a series of tragedies that hit the Aragonese royal family, Juana becomes the rightful heir to the Castilian throne. She is however forced to fight for her birthright against not only against her husband who was determined to claim the throne for himself, but also against the church, her own remaining family members, and against the distrust of the idea of a queen reigning.
As husband and wife engage in political power plays to try and gain the upper hand, as family members betray each other, and as mother becomes separated both physically and emotionally from her children, we are left with a portrayal of a woman who many would have envied as having everything, but who is left with nothing. Some of the choices that Juana did make seem somewhat foolhardy and yes, slightly mad, and the author does not shy away from these events. The portrayal of Juana is handled with sensitivity and perceptiveness, and yet as a reader, it is quite easy to be swept up in the drama and the emotion of the story.
I am glad to have been introduced to this fascinating character who in some ways is a footnote in history for many non-Europeans. I will definitely be looking forward to reading more from C W Gortner.