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Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies (April 27, 1806 – August 22, 1878) was queen consort of Spain from 1829 to 1833 and regent of the Kingdom from 1833 to 1840.

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Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies was born in Palermo, Sicily the daughter of King Francesco I of the Two Sicilies and his second wife, Maria Isabella of Spain. King Francesco I of the Two Sicilies was the son of Ferdinand I of the Two Siclies (who was the third son of King Carlo VII-V of Naples and Sicily by his wife, Maria Amalia of Saxony.) By the way, King Carlo VII-V of Naples and Sicily was also King Carlos III of Spain.

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Carlos IV of Spain
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María Isabella of Spain

Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies’ mother, Maria Isabella of Spain, was the youngest daughter of King Carlos IV of Spain and his wife Maria Luisa of Parma. This means her parents were first cousins; her grand fathers (Carlos IV of Spain & King Francesco I of the Two Sicilies) were brothers.

On May 27, 1829, Maria Josepha Amalia of Saxony, Queen Consort of Spain as the third wife of King Fernando VII of Spain, died. Fernando VII, old and ill, had gone his entire reign without producing a male heir, sparking a succession duel between the Infanta Maria Francisca and the Infante Carlos, and the Infanta Luisa Carlotta and the Infante Francisco de Paula. Fernando VII declared his intention to marry and assembled the Council of Castile, who tasked the King with remarriage.

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King Fernando VII of Spain

Following Luisa Carlotta’s suggestion, Fernando VII sent for Maria Christina of the Two Siclies, his niece, who had already given birth to a child and pleased the King’s eyes. The two were wed on December 12, 1829 at the Church of the Atocha.

With her betrothal and then marriage to Fernando VII, Maria Christina became embroiled in the conflict between the Spanish Liberals and the Carlists. The Liberal faction, and the Spanish people, greatly revered Maria Christina, and made her their champion; when she first arrived in Madrid in 1829, the blue of the cloak she wore became their official color. The Carlist’s were absolutists and highly conservative, and derived their name from the Infante Carlos de Borbón, Count of Molina who they favored for the throne. Using King Felipe V’s enactment of Salic law, which banned women from taking the throne.

Fernando VII and Maria Christina produced two daughters, Isabella in October 1830 and Luisa Fernanda the next year. However, in a secret session of the Cortes in 1789, King Carlos IV reversed the Salic Law of succession with the Pragmatic Sanction. Seeking to secure the succession of an heir of his siring, no matter their gender, Ferdinand VII announced the Pragmatic Sanction in March 1830. The Pragmatic Sanction removed the Salic system established by Felipe V of Spain and returned Spain to a a male preferred primogeniture, similar to the British style of mixed succession that gave succession rights to women. This type of system of succession predated the Bourbon monarchy in Spain.

On the trip to La Granja, Fernando VII was badly injured by a coach accident. He became ill and increasingly sick over the summer. At one point, Fernando VII was found unconscious at the palace chapel. Seeking council in the event of Fernando VII’s death, Maria Christina approached the Carlist Francisco Calomarde, who advised her that the Spanish people would rally behind Infante Carlos de Borbón, Count of Molina.

Infante Carlos de Borbón, Count of Molina (March 29, 1788 – March 10, 1855) was an Infante of Spain and the second surviving son of King Carlos IV of Spain and of his wife, Maria Luisa of Parma and the younger brother of King Fernando VII.

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Infante Carlos de Borbón, Count of Molina

Fearing the actions of Infante Carlos de Borbón, and wanting to make him his ally, Maria Christina coerced Fernando VII into signing a decree making her regent if he died, with Infante Carlos de Borbón, as her chief adviser. Infante Carlos de Borbón refused, demanding total governance. Calomarde, with Maria Francisca and Maria Theresa, reissued his warning, coercing the King and Queen into repealing the Pragmatic Sanction.

When Fernando VII appeared to have died, the repealing was announced publicly, and Maria Christina was deserted by her courtiers. Fernando VII was discovered to be alive, and news of this also spread. Altogether, Luisa Carlotta, at that time in Andalusia, soon arrived at La Granja and speedily re-enacted the Pragmatic Sanction and orchestrated Calomarde’s dismissal.

When Fernando VII actually did die on September 29, 1833, Maria Christina became regent for their daughter, proclaimed Queen Isabella II of Spain. Isabella’s claim to the throne was disputed by Infante Carlos de Borbón who claimed that his brother Ferdinand had unlawfully changed the succession law to permit females to inherit the crown.

Infante Carlos de Borbón, Count of Molina immediately claimed the throne of Spain after the death of his older brother King Fernando VII in 1833. Claiming the style and title, King Carlos V of Spain, first of the Carlist claimants to the throne of Spain, he was a reactionary who stridently opposed liberalism in Spain and the assaults on the Catholic Church. His claim was contested by liberal forces loyal to the dead king’s infant daughter, the new Queen Isabella II. The result was the bloody First Carlist War (1833–1840).

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Isabella II as a child. She is depicted wearing the sash of the Order of Queen Maria Luisa.

Some supporters of infante Carlos went so far as to claim that Fernando had actually bequeathed the crown to his brother but that Maria Christina had suppressed that fact. It was further alleged that the Queen had signed her dead husband’s name to a decree recognizing Isabella as heir. Despite considerable support for Carlos from conservative elements in Spain, the Liberal faction supporting Queen María Christina as Regent, successfully retained the throne for her daughter.