Abigail Connell ’18

Project Title: Juana I of Castile and Maria Pacheco: Leadership and Power in Early Modern Spain
Mentor: Glenda Nieto-Cuebas

This presentation will discuss the relationship between Queen Juana of Castile and Maria Pacheco and their involvement in the War of the Comuneros. The War of the Comuneros was a Spanish insurrection in the early 1520s led by Maria Pacheco’s husband, Juan de Padillas. They fought against King Charles V, Juana’s son, who took her throne because she was supposedly mentally unfit to rule. I will argue that the Spanish queen, better known as “Juana the Mad,” had a dual relationship both with Maria Pacheco and the Comuneros in general. I will use both early modern period writing and recently written historical text to examine the war and its impacts on women in two different levels of power in early modern Spain.

I find that Juana had a sister-like relationship with Maria Pacheco, a self-proclaimed orphan of the state. Juana saw herself as Maria’s protector and largely entered the war on her behalf. Maria, however, saw her relationship with Juana additionally as a chance to use her to achieve her political goals as one of the leaders of the Comuneros.

Juana’s relationship with the Comuneros in general was similarly two-sided. Juana was the symbol of their goals, the restoration of the “true” Spanish monarchy by her return to the queenship. She became a leader where she was a prisoner before and truly acted as the queen for the first time. However, she was still a woman, still considered unstable, and still being used by this group as a symbolic figure and propaganda technique. Juana was unable to realize her power fully, and I argue that a combination of her actual mental health issues and her perceived incompetence because of her gender combined to limit her role in this war and prevent her from continuing to exercise power when it ended.

Contact Info


Merrick Hall
65 S. Sandusky St.
Delaware, OH 43015
P 740-368-3880
E ddmarkwa@owu.edu

David Markwardt, Associate Dean of the OWU Connection