Giovanna d’Aragona was born in Naples in 1477, in English Joanna of Aragon. She was the daughter of the unlucky Henry of Aragon the Marquis of Gerace, who died of poisoning in 1478, and the granddaughter of the King of Naples Ferrante I of Aragon.
When she was only 20, she married the second Duke of Amalfi Don Alfonso Todeschini Piccolomini, the nephew of the Pope Pius III. Unfortunately the marriage did not last long due to his premature death, so the woman found herself alone having to manage the family heritage.
In that difficult time the court butler, the Neapolitan patrician Antonio Beccadelli helped her, and they fell in love very soon. They got married clandestinely, against the social conventions of the time, and they had two children.
Unfortunately, Joanna’s brother the Cardinal Louis of Aragon discovered their affair and had the poor wretch locked up in the Ziro Tower together with her children to stifle the shameful affair, in the stretch of road that connects Amalfi to Atrani, precisely at Pontone, fraction of the municipality of Scala. He also sent his killers to murder Antonio Beccadelli in Milan, where he had sheltered.
The story was told by the writer and bishop Matteo Bandello in his novels because he was a close friend of Beccadelli. It is almost certain that Joanna and her children were also killed by the hitmen, in 1510.
Joanna the Mad? A nomenclature problem
Many queens were named Joanna, especially in the history of the Kingdom of Naples, like Joanna II, said the Queen of Hearts. However, the one at issue is often confused with Joanna the Mad. This unpleasant nickname was instead referred to the mental insanity, true or assumed that it was, of Joanna of Trastámara, namely Joanna of Aragon and Castile, sadly known as Juana la Loca, contemporary to our queen locked up in the Ziro Tower and as entangled as her in palace intrigues.
Giovanna d’Aragona in art and literature
The story of queen Joanna locked up in the Ziro Tower made a big stir and inspired several literary works, for example some sixteenth-century short stories and, in the following century, the tragedies The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster and El Mayordomo de la Duquesa Amalfi by Lope de Vega. It is also very likely that she is the woman depicted in an oil painting on canvas attributed to the school of Raphael Sanzio, dated around 1518 and kept in the Louvre Museum in Paris.