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Maria Anna of Austria (c. 1634–1696)

Maria Anna of Austria (c. 1634–1696)

Queen and regent of Spain . Name variations: Maria of Austria; Marie-Anne of Austria; Mariana de Austria;Mariana of Austria; Mariana Teresea of Austria. Born on December 24, 1634 or 1635; died on May 16, 1696; daughter of Ferdinand III, king of Hungary and Bohemia, Holy Roman emperor (r. 1637–1657), and Maria Anna of Spain (1606–1646); became second wife of Philip IV (1605–1665), king of Spain (r. 1621–1665), on November 8, 1649; children: Margaret Theresa of Spain (1651–1673); Charles II the Bewitched (1661–1700), king of Spain (r. 1665–1700).

The daughter of Ferdinand III of Austria and Maria Anna of Spain , Maria Anna of Austria was born around 1634. She was originally betrothed to Baltasar Carlos, crown prince of Spain, but when he died, his father, Philip IV, decided to marry her. Even though Maria Anna was Philip's niece, they wed in 1649, whereupon she left Austria to join the old king in Spain. She had a daughter, Margaret Theresa of Spain , in 1651, who was eventually wed to Leopold III of Austria. Several other children were either still-born or did not survive infancy. In 1661, Charles II, the long-desired male heir, was born. Frequent intermarriage between the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs was probably responsible for the boy's genetic problems. Mentally retarded and physically deformed, Charles II, known as Charles the Bewitched, became king as a four-year-old when Philip died in 1665.

Philip IV named Maria Anna regent until the boy was old enough to rule. Maria Anna depended heavily upon the counsel of Fernando Valenzuela and especially of her confessor, the German Jesuit Johann Eberhard Nithard. This caused resentment among Spanish courtiers. She gave up the regency in 1675, when Charles II turned 14. Philip IV left her an annual pension of 300,000 ducats. She tried to remain in Madrid, close to the court and power, but John of Austria, Philip's illegitimate son who enjoyed great influence over his half-brother, forced her to move to Toledo. Maria Anna remained there until 1679, when John died, and then returned to Madrid. Charles II married Marie Louise d'Orleans (1662–1689) that year, and his mother lived in her daughter-in-law's apartments. Maria Anna's influence did not wane with Marie Louise's death in 1689. She chose a new wife for her son, her choice falling on Maria Anna of Neuberg (1667–1740). Charles proved unable to sire a child with either of his wives, and his mother understood the dynastic crisis that loomed should he die without a direct heir. Death claimed her on May 16, 1696, and Charles the Bewitched four years later, whereupon the Spanish crown passed to Philip V and the Bourbon dynasty.

sources:

Kamen, Henry. Spain in the Later Seventeenth Century, 1665–1700. NY: Longman, 1980.

Kendall W. Brown , Professor of History, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

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