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Book Review: "A Queen of Unrest" by Harry Tighe

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Book Review: "A Queen of Unrest" by Harry Tighe

Post  Susan Abernethy on Thu Dec 17, 2015 7:30 pm

This book is subtitled: “The story of Juana of Castile, mother of Charles V., born 1479, died 1555” and is a reprint of a 1905 edition that was in the library of the University of Michigan. I’ve mentioned before I enjoy reading older history books and we are lucky some publishers are reprinting some of them or publishing them digitally so we can read them. In doing research on Juana, I found this book completely by accident as it came up as a recommendation on Barnes and Noble.

I’m just going to disclose up front I found this book to be a very weird. I can’t seem to find much information about the author but from what I did find, he was a playwright and a novelist. He may have written other historical books but it’s hard to determine the subjects of some of his titles as there is no information listed about them. This volume is a curious mixture of historical biography and descriptions of historical events mixed with elements of fiction. His list of sources is not very detailed and includes the “Encyclopedia Britannica” and ‘A Spanish book entitled “Juana of Castile”’ with no author given. This is not very promising.

From the early chapters, he says Juana was sickly, unattractive and not very bright. And he fervently insists that she was insane! From what I’ve read so far, Juana was at the very least attractive if not beautiful. I can’t see Philip the Handsome being instantly sexually drawn to a woman who was considered ugly. I also find it hard to believe a sickly woman gave birth to five healthy children. She was highly educated and spoke and read Latin so she must have had at the very least a modest intellect. As for her being insane, the jury is still out on that one.

Tighe gives a nice description of Juana’s childhood in Castile. He doesn’t waste much time on her life in Burgundy. There is some good information on her tours of Spain to be recognized by the Cortes as her mother and father’s successor. He spends a lot of time on Philip. There is a large chapter with a complete description of Philip’s visit with King Henry VII at Windsor which is a reprint of a chronicler’s record of the event. While this is of great interest, it doesn’t really have much to do with Juana. He only gives a passing reference to the fact that Juana was imprisoned for most of her life.

There is no explanation for the origin of the title of the book. It is unclear if he means that Juana was full of unrest or her kingdom was in disarray or a combination of both. The book is very short at 228 pages so I’m afraid there is not a lot of detailed and useful information on Juana. She is a woman about whom volumes could be written. That being said, I did get one huge insight from reading this book. Some of the descriptions of Juana’s behavior reminded me of a family member who suffered from depression. This has given me a great deal of food for thought and I’m going to do some further research on this illness.
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Susan Abernethy

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