Louise Marie de Gonzague (1611–1667)

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Louise Marie de Gonzague (1611–1667)

Queen of Poland. Name variations: Louise Marie e Gonzague; Louise Marie Gonzaga; Marie-Louise Gonzaga or Gonzague; Marie Louise Gonzague-Cleves or Clèves; Princess de Nevers. Born on August 18, 1611; died on May 10, 1667; daughter of Charles I, duke of Mantua; married Wladyslaw also known as Ladislas IV (1595–1648), king of Poland (r. 1632–1648), king of Sweden (r. 1632–1648), tsar of Russia (r. 1610–1634), on March 10, 1646; married his half-brother John II Casimir (1609–1672), also known as Casimir V, king of Poland (r. 1648–1668), on May 29, 1649; children: (second marriage) Marie Theresa (1650–1651); and a son (b. 1652).

The princess Louise Marie de Gonzague became queen of Poland on her marriage in 1646 to Ladislas IV. After his death in 1648, she soon married his half-brother and successor John II Casimir. It was a rocky reign. One of the darkest periods in Polish history, the interval from 1648 until 1660 is traditionally known as the "Deluge." Poland was faced with internal strife and unrest among the nobility because of the inept rule of John Casimir. The nation was also invaded from without by Swedes, Cossacks, Muscovites, Tartars, Transylvanians, and Germans.

Decades earlier, during the Jagiellon rule, the Polish nobility had secured the right to elect their future sovereigns. First, the nobles of the Sejm (Parliament) had used their newly gained power to briefly elect the future king of France, Henry III, to the Polish throne. They next elected the Transylvanian Stephen Báthory. With the death of Báthory in 1586, the nobility turned to the Swedish Vasa (Waza) family for a king, Sigismund III Vasa, father of Ladislas IV. The emergence of the Swedes as kings of Poland ultimately led to the Swedish invasion of Poland in 1654 during John Casimir's reign.

As the Swedish forces of King Charles X Gustavus swept across Poland, King John Casimir and Queen Louise Marie eluded capture

and fled to Silesia. Charles Gustavus soon conquered the half-hearted Polish defenders and proclaimed himself ruler of Poland. In 1655, the occupation force of Charles Gustavus committed countless atrocities throughout the Polish countryside and attempted to cart everything of value back to Sweden. This series of endless offenses soon rallied the lethargic and splintered Polish populace to defend their country, and by mid-1656 the Poles were effectively resisting Swedish authority. Despite their fierce and costly nature, the Polish Wars continued until 1660. By the end of the carnage, Polish forces had regained their country by successfully expelling all occupation troops.

Louise Marie had enormous influence over her second husband, enough to convince him to name his successor in his lifetime in order to avoid the vote of the Sejm after his death. In agreement with Cardinal Jules Mazarin, Louise Marie chose the Duc d'Enghien, son of the Great Condé. When opposition rose up, led by George Lubomirski, the grand marshal of Poland, the queen resorted to court intrigue to silence him. After a second attempt at rebellion in 1666, Lubomirski asked pardon from the king. In return, John Casimir agreed to give up the idea of altering the law of free election. Casimir, the last Vasa, abdicated in September 1668, the year after Louise Marie's death.