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The Last Queen: A Novel
by C. W. Gortner

Published: 2009-05-05
Paperback : 400 pages
8 members reading this now
5 clubs reading this now
3 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 1 members
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 ...
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Introduction

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.

Editorial Review

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Excerpt

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. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. This novel is told in the point of view of a woman. Do you think the author does a convincing job of immersing the reader in Juana's thoughts and emotions?
2. The Last Queen is set mainly in Spain. What did you learn about life in Spain at 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's decision to marry her against her will? What do you think about Isabel's notions of duty?
4. Princesses often did not decide whom they would marry, nor could they willingly leave or divorce their spouses. How does this influence 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 between men and women in the 16th century are a principal theme of this novel. How does these compare to gender relations today?
7. Juana makes a terrible choice in order to free herself of Philip's cruelty. Do you think her act was justified? How do you imagine you might have reacted in her position?
8. History has dubbed Juana the Mad Queen of Castile. Do you agree with history's verdict? 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 people true to their time?

Suggested by Members

Men and power-imprisoning your daughter to become king.
by [email protected] (see profile) 08/21/09

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

I'm often asked how I became interested in the story of Juana la Loca. I can't remember a time when I wasn't! I was raised in southern Spain, where my family lived near a ruined castle that had belonged to Juana's parents, Isabel and Fernando. Clambering over those decrepit battlements, I knew Juana had touched these same stones, perhaps even marveled, as I did, at the landscape's beauty. My vision of this vibrant young princess was at odds with the bereft queen of legend, whose name is synonymous with grief. I wondered, did she really go mad over love? Or did history lie to cover up her secret?

Thus did I embark on a life-changing journey that would result in THE LAST QUEEN.

Juana is a pivotal figure in history: she was the mother of Charles V, who ruled Europe's most powerful empires in the 16th century; she was also the daughter and heir of Isabella the Catholic and therefore a sovereign queen in her own right; and her younger sister was Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII's first wife. Yet history is rarely kind to women, particularly those in power, and so I set out to discover if the legend of the mad queen of Spain was true. I wasn't surprised to find few biographies in English on Juana; what did strike me was a suspicious persistence in propagating her instability. It took six years of meticulous research but slowly the web of misinformation and calumny that surrounded Juana began to unravel.

It was as if she were whispering in my ear.

For nearly five hundred years, Juana of Castile has been tainted by lurid myth because she posed a threat. Now, for the first time, she tells us her story. It is an astonishing tale of intrigue, grandeur, and haunting desire, of a passionate woman who fought for her country and gave birth to an empire; and of a queen whose humanity still speaks to us today.

I hope you will find her story as captivating as I do; she is truly one of history's most fascinating and misunderstood women.

Warmly,

C.W. Gortner

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Member Reviews

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  "Women over the ages and still powerless"by [email protected] (see profile) 08/21/09

This book was read and discussed by the club. The last queen is in a position of power but succumbs to the men around her. No one cried for her husband, Phillip. Disappointment at the end but don't... (read more)

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