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Maria Antonia of Austria (1683–1754)

Maria Antonia of Austria (1683–1754)

Queen of Portugal and archduchess of Austria . Name variations: Marie-Anne of Austria; Maria Ana. Born Maria Antonia Josefa in Linz, Austria, on September 7, 1683; died on August 14, 1754; daughter of Leopold I, Holy Roman emperor (r. 1658–1705), and his third wife, Eleanor of Pfalz-Neuburg (1655–1720); married Joao or John V (1689–1750), king of Portugal (r. 1706–1750), in 1708; children: Pedro (1712–1714); Maria Barbara of Braganza (1711–1758, who married Ferdinand VI, king of Spain); José or Joseph I (1714–1777), king of Portugal (r. 1750–1777); Carlos (1716–1736); Pedro or Peter III (d. 1786), king of Portugal (r. 1777–1786); Alexander (1723–1728).

Birth of John V (1689); War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14); construction of palace complex at Mafra began (1717).

Born in Linz, Austria, on September 7, 1683, Maria Antonia of Austria was the daughter of the Habsburg ruler Leopold I and his third wife, Eleanor of Pfalz-Neuburg . To strengthen an alliance with Portugal during the War of the Spanish Succession, Maria Antonia married John V, king of Portugal, on July 9, 1708, by proxy in Vienna. A fleet of 11 ships carried her to her new homeland.

Despite her own virtues, Maria Antonia's marriage was unhappy because of her husband's infidelities. To the royal couple's consternation, their first years of marriage bore no children. Maria Antonia eventually gave birth to Maria Barbara of Braganza in 1711, in celebration of which John V built the great basilica of Mafra. Two of her sons also survived to adulthood: Joseph I and Peter III, both of whom ruled.

On two occasions Maria Antonia governed as regent. The first occurred in 1716, when the king secluded himself at Vila Viçosa suffering from depression. In 1742, John became very ill. Maria Antonia intermittently governed as regent until his death, despite the fact that her son, Joseph, was already an adult. Perhaps her chief political action, however, was to help launch the governmental career of Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the future marquis of Pombal. Upon John V's death in 1750, Maria Antonia recommended Joseph appoint Carvalho e Melo as minister, recognizing her son's disinterest in politics and frivolous personality. Joseph complied immediately, and by 1756 the future marquis had become chief minister. He governed as virtual dictator of Portugal from 1756 to 1777.

Maria Antonia died in Belem Palace on August 14, 1754. She was buried in the São João Nepomuceno convent for Discalced Carmelites that she had founded. Her reign was a period of prosperity, largely due to the Brazilian gold-and-diamond boom.

sources:

Fonseca Benevides, Francisco da. Rainhas de Portugal; estudos históricos com muitos documentos. 2 vols. Lisbon: Typographia Castro Irmão, 1878–79.

Livermore, H.V. A New History of Portugal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966.

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

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