Movement symptomatology in melancholia and the legend of "Le Tristi Reyne di Napoli"

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, USA
dajwidmer AT

At the church of Sant'Anna dei Lombardi, a statue of one of the last queens of an independent Naples stands frozen in a cry of grief.  Giovanna IV mourns over the body of Christ, with members of her family, but the queen, along with her mother, (Juana d'Aragona or Giovanna III) was also marked as solidly with a sorrowful sobriquet as the marble of the retable.   Both Giovannas are known as "le tristi reyne di Napoli" "the sad queens of Naples" and this presentation will explore the personal events associated with their title as well as the physical symptomatology and political powerlessness suggested in the nickname.

When Juana de Aragona (1455-1517) married King Ferrante I of Naples in 1478, she took the name Giovanna III, numbering herself after the two Neapolitan Queens-regnant of the previous 100 years.   For the next 30 years, through deaths in the family, wars, invasions, and exiles, she acted as advisor to her husband, served as chief lieutenant of the kingdom for her step-son and for her son-in-law, and was politically active in ousting their successor from the throne in the hopes of installing her daughter there.   This daughter, when married to King Ferrandino, was titled as a joint monarch to support her claim and when her husband was sick and dying, she was paraded through Naples as Queen Giovanna IV in the hopes of gaining the crown in her own right.   Yet after all this involvement in the politics of the realm, suddenly in 1508, Giovanna III was removed as regent for the Spanish crown and both women disappeared into royal palaces where their court remained in seclusion for the next decade of their lives and where the legend of the "tristi reyne di Napoli" began.  Melancholia's awkward and slowed movements along with other aspects of psychomotor retardation in states of chronic sadness create a specific portrait of the classic melancholic.  In reviewing the familial history of the Aragonese house, I hope to show that, in Spain's attempt to discredit the ousted dynasty, labeling the two Giovannas as "sad" queens of Naples may have been a use of melancholia's associated physical immobility as a tool to render the women politically powerless and to justify their close confinement.

Session VI.  Movement Disorders
Friday, 23 June 2006, 6.30 - 7.00 pm

11th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Pavia, Italy, 2006