The Last Queen: A Novel

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The Last Queen: A Novel

by C. W. Gortner

Random House Publishing Group | May 5, 2009 | Trade Paperback

The Last Queen: A Novel is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 5.
In this stunning novel, C. W. Gortner brings to life Juana of Castile, the third child of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, who would become the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country’s throne. Along the way, Gortner takes the reader from the somber majesty of Spain to the glittering and lethal courts of Flanders, France, and Tudor England.

Born amid her parents’ ruthless struggle to unify and strengthen their kingdom, Juana, at the age of sixteen, is sent to wed Philip, heir to the Habsburg Empire. Juana finds unexpected love and passion with her dashing young husband, and at first she is content with her children and her married life. But when tragedy strikes and she becomes heir to the Spanish throne, Juana finds herself plunged into a battle for power against her husband that grows to involve the major monarchs of Europe. Besieged by foes on all sides, Juana vows to secure her crown and save Spain from ruin, even if it costs her everything.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 400 pages, 8 × 5.23 × 0.83 in

Published: May 5, 2009

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345501853

ISBN - 13: 9780345501851

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow! This book was so good. The Last Queen / C.W. Gortner 4.75 stars History has portrayed Juana of Castile as “Juana the mad”. This novel has brought her to life. Juana is the daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabel of Castile, and sister to Katherine of Aragon (Henry VIII’s first wife). She was married to Philip, the archduke of Flanders. Initially they seemed to be in love, and had a wonderful marriage. But, Philip’s hunger for power overcame the love they may have had initially, and he desired to be King of Spain when the chance presented itself. When a series of deaths befell Juana’s family, it became a fight between them on who would rule Spain. Poor Juana never seemed to get a break. I didn’t know anything about Juana before reading this book, except that she was Katherine of Aragon’s sister, and that she was thought to be insane. Wow! This book was so good. What an interesting character Juana is, and I didn’t want to put the book down. When I did put it down, I wanted to get back to it. There are a lot of historical fiction novels I really like, but this one was one that gripped me from the start. There is also an afterward that fills us in on what happened after the novel ends, as well as a Q&A with the author, and a little bit about some of the events that really did happen. I’d love to read more by this author, as well as more about Juana.
Date published: 2010-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful book on Juana la Loca I had to say I loved this book. A lot. I liked how Juana stood out from the rest of her sisters and it was nice to see Catalina (afterwards becoming Catherine of Aragon) have a "cameo" appearence in the story. Juana is very headstrong, and despite what she goes through, she manages to be steadfast and it was as if nothing could break her. I admired Juana a lot in this book. I liked how the relationship between Juana and Philip started. It was lovely and reminded me a lot of the love between Catalina and Arthur in The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory. It was so sad to see it so short lived. When Philip shows his colors the reader realizes he's not such a great loving person after all. Perhaps because he did not have the right influences and not the most greatest of advisors, however it was sad to see his ambition get to his head. It was so surprising to see Juana so steady and steadfast and even stands up against Philip (although she's beaten back down to submission). I admire her bravery and courage to stand up to a court ruled by men, it seemed as if she was by herself the majority of the time. The story flowed flawlessly and there were no bumps or stops to inturrupt the fluidity of this book. If you want something with lots of court intrigue and plotting this is something for you. There is a lot of plotting behind every character's back in this book and when it's realized, there's explosive confrontations filled with emotion and sometimes violence. I really liked the little tidbits of Spanish in this book (small phrases) it added more realism to the story and it enhanced the reader's ability to actually feel like they were right there in Medieval Spain. I felt a lot of sympathy towards Juana. Although she's very strong, I knew she had her limits and she could only take so much. I realized then, it's not really that she's "crazy" moreso, because of the emotional, mental and sometimes physical abuse it's no wonder she went through a mental breakdown. Juana herself is a very emotional character. She's explosive and has a temper, she's filled with different feelings and is a very passionate person in this book. It's indeed a very sad story. Juana goes through one tragic event after another and she really has no one to trust. Amist the large court with very few people on her side, Juana is a very lonely character. Overall a wonderful book for those always curious or interested in Juana la Loca. The author's note at the end also provides very good information as to what happens afterwards to Juana. It's a very sad tragic tale, and paints Juana in a very different light It's actually a refreshing look on Juana and sheds off the myth of a "madwoman" who was probably not really that crazy after all.
Date published: 2009-10-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well Written Historical Fiction! A wonderful historical fiction based on the life of Juana of Castile (older sister to Catalina (Katherine) - 1st wife of Henry VIII). The novel follows Juana's life from being a young infanta in Spain to being the unexpected heir of Castile. This is a well written novel that any historical fiction fan will enjoy. I really enjoyed Gortner's take on Juana and some of the stranger circumstances she was involved in. Where many historians and authors interpret these circumstances a proof of Juana's insanity, Gortner shows a different side - that of a woman struggling to protect her family, her throne, and her dignity against difficult, if not impossible, odds. Although I very much enjoyed the way Juana was portrayed by Gortner, he didn't completely capture the female perspective - there were several passages where it was obvious to me that the author was male. Overall, he did a better job writing from a female point of view then most male authors but his male voice did come through at some points in the novel.
Date published: 2009-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great! This book is amazing. I loved every chapter!!
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Royalty, blessing or burden? Book Synopsis: Juana of Castile, the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country's throne, has been for centuries and enigmatic figure shrouded in lurid myth. Was she the berefet widow of legend who was driven mad by her loss, or has history misjudged a woman who was ahead of her time? In his stunning new novel, C.W. Gortner challenges the myths about Queen Juana, unraveling the mystery surrounding her to reveal a brave, determined woman we can only now begin to fully understand. The third child of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, Juana is born amid her parents' ruthless struggle to unify their kingdom, bearing witness to the fall of Granada and Columbus's discoveries. At the age of sixteen, she is sent to wed Philip, the archduke of Flanders, as part of her parents' strategy to strengthen Spain, just as her youngest sister, Catherine of Aragon, is sent to England to become the first wife of Henry VIII. Juana finds unexpected love and passion with her handsome young husband, the sole heir to the Habsburg Empire. At first she is content with her children and her life in Flanders. But when tragedy strikes and she inherits the Spanish throne, Juana finds herself plunged into a battle for power against her husband that grows to involve the major monarchs of Europe. Besieged by foes on all sides, her intelligence and pride used as weapons against her, Juana vows to secure her crown and save Spain from ruin, even if it could cost her everything. I admit it. I am a history snob. I don't know what it is, but ever since I was young I found history boring and it was always my worst subject in school. But, I have been fortunate to have seen the error of my ways, and this book is a prime example. To be totally honest, I have never heard of Juana of Castile. This book has truly compelled me to learn more. After being part of an arranged marriage, Juana is unsure what is to become of her life. Her mother, Isabel, Queen of Castile, and Father, Fernando, King of Aragon, have worked hard to make their two countries unite and will do anything to ensure that their people are safe. They have arranged the marriage as a way of securing power and freedom for their people. Even though Juana is less than thrilled about marrying a complete stranger, she has the same tenacity that is characteristic of her mother and agrees for the good of the country. She is pleasantly surprised when she finally meets her husband, Philip, the Archduke of Flanders. Their marriage is riddled with love and passion that most newlyweds wish for and things seem to be going exceptionally well. Until Juana catches him in bed with another woman while pregnant with her first child. Philip is flabbergasted and apologizes profusely, but this is just the start of a life of betrayal that is to be Juana's curse. Growing up, I think a lot of little girls (mine included) dream of being a princess. When you read a book like this, you realize that being royalty is not so much of a blessing as a burden. Everything you do is scrutinized and you are expected to act and carry yourself in a certain way. But we see, time and time again, that Juana was courageous and wouldn't change her beliefs for anyone. Even after tragedy strikes, Juana is prepared to take her rightful place as Queen, even if it means fighting those she is closest too. In the end it just wasn't enough. In a shocking turn of events she ends up a prisoner and is never allowed to fulfill her rightful place as Queen. Many historians have speculated that Juana was schizophrenic and that is what led to the imprisonment that she endures for most of her life. Mr. Gortner does and excellent job of portraying a vibrant woman whose sanity was stretched to its limits by the betrayal and cruelty that would likely break any "sane" person. I applaud his efforts to show us the other side of Juana la Loca and show that maybe she wasn't insane after all, but simply a victim of circumstances. About the author: C.W. GORTNER’s fascination with history, in particular the Renaissance, is a lifetime pursuit. He holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Writing with an emphasis on Renaissance Studies from the New College of California and has taught university seminars on the 16th century. In addition, he travels extensively to research his books. He has experienced life in a medieval Spanish castle and danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall; dug through library archives all over Europe; and tried to see and touch—or, at least, gaze at through impenetrable museum glass—as many artifacts of the era as he can find. He has served on the board of the Women's National Book Association/SF Chapter, an organization that promotes literacy, and he's a regular contributor to the Historical Novels Review and Solander, publications of the Historical Novel Society. He is also a passionate advocate for animal rights and environmental issues.
Date published: 2008-07-30

– More About This Product –

The Last Queen: A Novel

by C. W. Gortner

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 400 pages, 8 × 5.23 × 0.83 in

Published: May 5, 2009

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345501853

ISBN - 13: 9780345501851

About the Book

In this stunning novel, C. W. Gortner brings to life Juana of Castile, the third child of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, who would become the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country's throne. Along the way, Gortner takes the reader from the somber majesty of Spain to the glittering and lethal courts of Flanders, France, and Tudor England.
Born amid her parents' ruthless struggle to unify and strengthen their kingdom, Juana, at the age of sixteen, is sent to wed Philip, heir to the Habsburg Empire. Juana finds unexpected love and passion with her dashing young husband, and at first she is content with her children and her married life. But when tragedy strikes and she becomes heir to the Spanish throne, Juana finds herself plunged into a battle for power against her husband that grows to involve the major monarchs of Europe. Besieged by foes on all sides, Juana vows to secure her crown and save Spain from ruin, even if it costs her everything.

Read from the Book

I was thirteen years old when my parents conquered Granada. It was 1492, the year of miracles, when three hundred years of Moorish supremacy fell to the might of our armies, and the fractured kingdoms of Spain were united at last. I had been on crusade since my birth. Indeed, I’d often been told of how the pangs had overcome my mother as she prepared to join my father on siege, forcing her to take to her childbed in Toledo–an unseemly interruption she did not relish, for within hours she had entrusted me to a nursemaid and resumed her battles. Together with my brother, Juan, and my three sisters, I had always known the chaos of a peripatetic court, which shifted according to the demands of the Reconquest, the crusade against the Moors. I slept and awoke to the deafening clamor of thousands of souls in armor; to beasts of burden dragging catapults, siege towers, and primitive cannon; to endless carts piled with clothing, furnishings, supplies, and utensils. Rarely had I enjoyed the feel of marble underfoot or eaves overhead. Life consisted of a series of pavilions staked on stony ground, of anxious tutors gabbling lessons and cringing as flaming arrows whooshed overhead and crashing boulders decimated a stronghold in the distance. The conquest of Granada changed everything–for me and for Spain. That coveted mountain citadel was the most opulent jewel in the Moors’ vanishing world; and my parents, Isabel and Fernando, their Catholic Majesties of Ca
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From the Publisher

In this stunning novel, C. W. Gortner brings to life Juana of Castile, the third child of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, who would become the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country’s throne. Along the way, Gortner takes the reader from the somber majesty of Spain to the glittering and lethal courts of Flanders, France, and Tudor England.

Born amid her parents’ ruthless struggle to unify and strengthen their kingdom, Juana, at the age of sixteen, is sent to wed Philip, heir to the Habsburg Empire. Juana finds unexpected love and passion with her dashing young husband, and at first she is content with her children and her married life. But when tragedy strikes and she becomes heir to the Spanish throne, Juana finds herself plunged into a battle for power against her husband that grows to involve the major monarchs of Europe. Besieged by foes on all sides, Juana vows to secure her crown and save Spain from ruin, even if it costs her everything.

From the Jacket

“This moving tale of Juana la Loca (the Mad) vividly re-creates the passion, politics, and betrayals that drove a smart and spirited queen to the brink of insanity . . . or perhaps, as C. W. Gortner suggests, to the pretense of insanity–a pretense that baffled Juana’s enemies and led to triumph for her children and her country. The Last Queen is an absorbing account of one of history’s most fascinating women, from her never-before-told point of view.”—Donna Woolfolk Cross, author of Pope Joan

“I ached for this intelligent, one-of-a-kind queen. Her struggle and passion kept me up until the early hours of the morning. A page-turner, a nail-biter, an eye-opener: I loved being possessed by The Last Queen!”—Ki Longfellow, author of The Secret Magdalene

“A vibrant tapestry of love and hate . . . brings to life an extraordinary queen at an unforgettable time in history.”—Sandra Worth, author of Lady of the Roses

“An exquisite evocation of a dangerous era and of a forgotten queen.”—Holly Payne, author of The Virgin’s Knot

“Gripping and unforgettable . . . captures Juana of Castile’s electrifying drama.”—Judith Merkle Riley, author of The Water Devil


About the Author

C. W. Gortner, half-Spanish by birth, holds an M.F.A. in writing, with an emphasis on historical studies, from the New College of California and has taught university courses on women of power in the Renaissance. He was raised in Málaga, Spain, and now lives in California.

Editorial Reviews

“This moving tale of Juana la Loca (the Mad) vividly re-creates the passion, politics, and betrayals that drove a smart and spirited queen to the brink of insanity . . . or perhaps, as C. W. Gortner suggests, to the pretense of insanity–a pretense that baffled Juana’s enemies and led to triumph for her children and her country. The Last Queen is an absorbing account of one of history’s most fascinating women, from her never-before-told point of view.”—Donna Woolfolk Cross, author of Pope Joan

“I ached for this intelligent, one-of-a-kind queen. Her struggle and passion kept me up until the early hours of the morning. A page-turner, a nail-biter, an eye-opener: I loved being possessed by The Last Queen!”—Ki Longfellow, author of The Secret Magdalene

“A vibrant tapestry of love and hate . . . brings to life an extraordinary queen at an unforgettable time in history.”—Sandra Worth, author of Lady of the Roses

“An exquisite evocation of a dangerous era and of a forgotten queen.”—Holly Payne, author of The Virgin’s Knot

“Gripping and unforgettable . . . captures Juana of Castile’s electrifying drama.”—Judith Merkle Riley, author of The Water Devil


Bookclub Guide

1. This novel is told from the point of view of a woman. Do you think the male author does a convincing job of immersing the reader in Juana’s thoughts and emotions?

2. The Last Queen is set mainly in sixteenth-century Spain. What did you learn about life in Spain during this time? How does the Spanish court differ from other courts you may have read about? 

3. When Juana is told she must marry Philip, she begs to be released of her duty. How did you react to her mother, Queen Isabel, deciding to marry her off against her will? What do you think about Isabel’s notions of duty? 

4. Princesses did not often get to choose whom they would marry, nor were they allowed to leave or divorce their spouses. How does this affect Juana in her struggles? 

5. When Juana discovers her mother is dying, she realizes she cannot evade her destiny. Why do you think she decides to return to Flanders to fight for Castile? What are your impressions of her conflicts with her inheritance? 

6. The differences in societal power between men and women in the sixteenth century are a principal theme in this novel. How do they compare to gender relations today? 

7. Juana makes a terrible choice to free herself from Philip. Do you think her act was justified? How do you imagine you might have acted in her place? 

8. History has dubbed Juana the Mad Queen. Do you believe she was mad? What are your impressions of her as a person and as a monarch? 

9. Fernando of Aragon is an enigmatic personage in this novel. How do you feel about him and his actions? 

10. Which of the characters in this novel were your favorites? Which did you dislike the most? Do you think the characters were portrayed as true to their time? 

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