Maria of Austria, Holy Roman Empress

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Maria of Austria
Maria of Spain 1557.jpg
Holy Roman Empress
Archduchess consort of Austria
Tenure25 July 1564 – 12 October 1576
Queen consort of Germany and Bohemia
Tenure20 September 1562 – 12 October 1576
Queen consort of Hungary
Tenure8 September 1563 – 12 October 1576
Born21 June 1528
Madrid, Spain
Died26 February 1603(1603-02-26) (aged 74)
Convent of Las Descalzas Reales, Madrid, Spain
(m. 1548;died 1576)
House Habsburg
Father Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Mother Isabella of Portugal

Archduchess Maria of Austria (21 June 1528 – 26 February 1603) was the empress consort and queen consort of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Bohemia and Hungary. [1] She served as regent of Spain in the absence of her father Emperor Charles V from 1548 until 1551, and in the absence of her brother Philip II, from 1558 to 1561.



Early life

Maria was born in Madrid, Spain to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, and Isabella of Portugal. She grew up mostly between Toledo and Valladolid with her siblings, Philip and Joanna. They built a strong family bond despite their father's regular absences. Maria and her brother, Philip, shared similar strong personal views and policies which they retained during the rest of their lives.

Regent of Spain

On 15 September 1548, aged twenty, she married her first cousin Archduke Maximilian. [2] The couple had sixteen children during the course of a twenty-eight-year marriage.

While her father was occupied with German affairs, Maria and Maximilian acted as regents of Spain from 1548 to 1551 during the absence of Prince Philip. Maria stayed at the Spanish court until August 1551, [3] and in 1552, the couple moved to live at the court of Maximilian's father in Vienna.

In 1558, Maria returned to Madrid and acted as regent of Spain during the absence of her brother, now King Philip II, from 1558 to 1561.


After her return to Germany, her husband eventually succeeded his father Ferdinand I, at his death, as ruler of Germany, Bohemia and Hungary, which he ruled from 1564 to his death in 1576.

Maria was a fanatic Catholic and frequently disagreed with her religiously ambiguous husband about his religious tolerance.

During her life in Austria, Maria was reportedly ill at ease in a country which was not entirely Catholic, and she surrounded herself with a circle of strictly Catholic courtiers, many of whom she had brought with her from Spain. [4] Her court was organized by her Spanish chief lady-in-waiting Maria de Requenes in a Spanish manner, and among her favorite companions was her Spanish lady-in-waiting Margarita de Cardona. [4]

In 1576, Maximilian died. Maria remained at the Imperial Court for six years after his death. She had great influence over her sons, the future emperors Rudolf and Matthias.

Return to Spain

Maria returned to Spain in 1582, taking her youngest surviving child Archduchess Margaret with her, promised to marry Philip II of Spain, who had lost his fourth wife, her oldest daughter, Archduchess Anna in 1580. Margaret finally refused and took the veil as a Poor Clare. [5] Commenting that she was very happy to live in "a country without heretics", Maria settled in the Convent of Las Descalzas Reales in Madrid, where she lived until her death in 1603.

Cornelis Galle II after Sir Anthony van Dyck, Maria of Austria, 1649, engraving, Department of Image Collections, National Gallery of Art Library, Washington, DC Maria of Austria.jpg
Cornelis Galle II after Sir Anthony van Dyck, Maria of Austria , 1649, engraving, Department of Image Collections, National Gallery of Art Library, Washington, DC

She was the patron of the noted Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria, and the great Requiem Mass he wrote in 1603 for her funeral is considered among the best and most refined of his works.

Maria exerted some influence together with Queen Margaret, the wife of her grandson/nephew, Philip III of Spain. Margaret, the sister of the future Emperor Ferdinand II, would be one of three women at Philip's court who would apply considerable influence over the king. [6] Margaret was considered by contemporaries to be extremely pious – in some cases, excessively pious, and too influenced by the Church, [7] and 'astute and very skillful' in her political dealings, [8] although 'melancholic' and unhappy over the influence of the Duke of Lerma over her husband at court. [7] Margaret continued to fight an ongoing battle with Lerma for influence until her death in 1611. Philip had an 'affectionate, close relationship' with Margaret, and paid her additional attention after she bore him a son, also named Philip, in 1605. [9]

Maria, the Austrian representative to the Spanish court – and Margaret of the Cross, Maria's daughter – along with queen Margaret, were a powerful Catholic and pro-Austrian faction in the court of Philip III of Spain. [6] They were successful, for example, in convincing Philip to provide financial support to Ferdinand from 1600 onwards. [9] Philip steadily acquired other religious advisors. Father Juan de Santa Maria, the confessor to Philip's daughter, Maria Anna, was felt by contemporaries to have an excessive influence over Philip at the end of his life, and both he and Luis de Aliaga, Philip's own confessor, were credited with the overthrow of Lerma in 1618. Similarly Mariana de San Jose, a favoured nun of Queen Margaret's, was also criticised for her later influence over the King's actions. [10]


Maria and Maximilian had sixteen children of whom only five were still alive at the time of her death:



  2. Kamen 1998, p. 35.
  3. Kamen 1998, p. 49.
  4. 1 2 Akkerman, Nadine (2013). The Politics of Female Households: Ladies-In-Waiting Across Early Modern Europe.
  5. Cárdenas, Fabricio (2014). 66 petites histoires du Pays Catalan[66 Little Stories of Catalan Country] (in French). Perpignan: Ultima Necat. ISBN   978-2-36771-006-8. OCLC   893847466.
  6. 1 2 Sánchez, p. 91.[ better source needed ][ full citation needed ]
  7. 1 2 Sánchez, p. 98.[ better source needed ][ full citation needed ]
  8. Sánchez, p. 99.[ better source needed ]
  9. 1 2 Sánchez, p. 100[ better source needed ][ full citation needed ]
  10. Sánchez, p.97[ better source needed ][ full citation needed ]
  11. 1 2 Wurzbach, Constantin, von, ed. (1861). "Habsburg, Philipp I. der Schöne von Oesterreich"  . Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich [Biographical Encyclopedia of the Austrian Empire] (in German). 7. p. 112 via Wikisource.CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)
  12. 1 2 Armstrong, Edward (1911). "Charles V. (Roman Emperor)"  . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica . 5 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  13. 1 2 Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Joanna"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  14. 1 2 3 4 Stephens, Henry Morse (1903). The story of Portugal. G.P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 139, 279. ISBN   9780722224731 . Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  15. 1 2 "Maria (D.). Rainha de Portugal". Portugal - Dicionário Histórico, Corográfico, Heráldico, Biográfico, Bibliográfico, Numismático e Artístico (in Portuguese). IV. pp. 823–824.

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Maria of Austria, Holy Roman Empress
Born: 21 June 1528 Died: 26 February 1603
Royal titles
Preceded by
Isabella of Portugal
Holy Roman Empress consort
Succeeded by
Anna of Tyrol
Preceded by
Anna Jagellonica
Queen consort of Germany and Bohemia
Archduchess consort of Austria
Queen consort of Hungary
Disputed by Isabella Jagiellon