This is a fabulous story about Juana. I have read a lot about her sister, Catherine of Aragon, but was fascinated by her story. The book details many of her relationships and shows why she might have gone "mad" as she is supposed to have been.
The book is captivating leaving you falling in love with the main heroine Juana and her hand maidens. You follow her through an arranged marriage, love, abuse, royal intrigue, conspiracies, and honor. The book is written so well that you honestly believe it for the whole truth. I screamed at and despised her enemies with her. I cried and celebrated her triumphs. And prayed for this Queen's happy ending. But the sad part is it is historical fiction and the book stays true to the ending. I could not put this book down.
In telling the story of the legendary Juana the Mad and her husband, Philip the Fair, Christopher Gortner has brilliantly recreated fifteenth century Spain at the height of its grandeur and woven a vibrant tapestry of love and hate in a court rife with intrigue. As the story opens, thirteen-year old Juana, the future Queen of Spain, witnesses her parents, the warrior monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand expel the Moors and unite Castile and Aragon. Soon afterwards she reaches marriageable age and is betrothed against her will to the Hapsburg prince Philip the Fair. From there, The Last Queen moves between the courts of Flanders and Spain to unfold an intricate tale of royal intrigue laced with love and cruelty. But while Juana may flee one court for the other, she cannot flee her destiny. Gortner writes with masterful skill of the love-and-hate relationship that produced the Emperor Charles V and Juana's grandson, Phillip II of Spain and brings to life an extraordinary queen in an exotic land at an unforgettable time in history.
I don't know why it took me so long to read this book it has been on my shelf for at least 2 years. I saw the accolades about C.W. Gortner The Last Queen. Several of my favorite authors had said it was a lovely book, beautifully written, about a Queen little known in the U.S. I just have to say that I didn't pick it up for a number of reasons. The main reason I just don't have much interest in the history of Spain. The second being that the time period the rise of the Tudors, hell the Tudors themselves have just been done to death and not always well.
So I was surprised just how much I like getting to know Juana, and her story is not a happy one. Any student of history knows no royal princess it seems had a life to envy. They were just another weapon in their family's royal arsenal. Juana was the third child of Isabel and Ferdinand of Spain, never expected to rule. She just hoped to find a husband that would value her and perhaps one she could find affection for.
The archduke Philip of Flanders was the man chosen for her, and at first she had found love, she felt that her husband valued her for herself. But Philip was a man of his time he was had mistresses and wanted power. He was after all the heir to the Holy Roman Empire, and unfortunately his father was in good health. He was ambitious and easily lead, and when Juana's brother Juan dies, as did her sister Isabella who dies in child birth. Her son lives but the baby soon dies, leaving Juana heir to Spain, Philip was not content to stand by and let Juana rule, leaving him as just her consort. Her parents didn't trust the Hapsburg's, and Philip is courted by the French just cemented their beliefs.
Juana is betrayed by everyone she loves and trusted, she is perhaps the most tragic figure of this great age of discovery.
Gortner's research took 6 years and that shows. He is a fine writer in that way good authors flesh out their characters. But I wanted more. 3 1/2 stars.