King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain of the 15th century were important figures in history. Sister Queens tells the story of two of their daughters, Katherine and Juana. Born Spanish princesses, both women became queens - Katherine was the wife of Henry VIII, King of England, and Juana married Phillip of Burgundy before becoming heir to her parent's kingdoms of Castile and Aragon. Both women were raised to fill the role of queen to further the goals of their country of birth and produce heirs. It seemed this was well underway with the politically advantageous marriages they had secured, but things began to turn for the worse quickly, especially in Juana's case.
Juana's marriage started out well, but she was soon forced into submission by her husband, Phillip. Developing her own method of retaliation to this treatment she would throw tantrums and refuse to eat or go to church for days. These acts fueled her adversaries' claims that she was psychologically unsound. After Phillip died, she had an opportunity to escape this tyranny but only for a short time, for soon after, her father had her confined in Tordesillas. Once her father had died her captor swiftly became her own son. Portrayed throughout history as "Juana the Mad", author Julia Fox sheds new light on the ways Juana fought against her oppression. The figure history has passed down to us seems to be very different from the actual person Juana was.
Katherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII also went through ups and downs, as those who have even a slight idea of how Henry VIII lived probably know! Much more extant information survives about Katherine than Juana, and through her letters and actions readers get the impression that she was a very strong and determined woman, one which did not obey the notion that the world in this time should be controlled by men. Leading England in battle, negotiating marriages for herself and other young women, for many years being the primary confidant and partner of her powerful husband…she was resilient and independent. She had learned the art of politicking from her mother, which she had all but mastered. But the tides began to turn for her after a number of failed pregnancies, her later life destined to be much different from her earlier years.
This book gives readers very interesting insight into the world of the 15th and 16th century European leaders. Author Julia Fox uses great primary references to help us understand what may have been going through the minds of the characters found within the pages of her book. The subtitle to the book is "The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile". Their lives were indeed tragic, but noble as well. Fox does a great job of intertwining the lives of the sisters. She is also very good at showing the development of the characters throughout the story. Readers can see how the events in their lives changed the characters' personalities and how specific individual characteristics became more dominate with time. This double biography has been a read I have thoroughly enjoyed!
Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile