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Infanta Margaret-Theresa of Spain (12 July 1651 – 12 March 1673) was, by marriage to Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, Holy Roman Empress, German Queen, Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia.

Infanta Margaret-Theresa of Spain

Infanta Margaret-Theresa was born on July 12, 1651 in Madrid as the first child of King Felipe IV of Spain born from his second marriage with his niece Mariana of Austria. Because of this avunculate marriage, Margaret’s mother was nearly thirty years younger than her father.

Her mother, Archduchess Maria-Anna of Austria (December 24, 1634 – May 16, 1696), was the the second child of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III and Infanta Maria-Anna of Spain, daughter of King Felipe III of Spain and Archduchess Margaret of Austria (the daughter of Archduke Charles II of Austria and Maria-Anna of Bavaria)

King Felipe IV of Spain and Portugal (father)

Archduchess Maria-Anna of Austria (mother)

Maria-Anna of Austria and her husband Emperor Ferdinand III were first cousins continuing a long line of multiple cousin and niece/uncle marriages between the Austrian and Spanish branches of the House of Habsburg.

Infanta Margaret-Theresa of Spain also was the elder full-sister of King Carlos II, the last of the Spanish Habsburgs. She is the central figure in the famous Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez, and the subject of many of his later paintings.

The marriage of her parents was purely made for political reasons, mainly the search for a new male heir for the Spanish throne after the early death of Balthasa-Carlos, Prince of Asturias in 1646.

Besides him, the other only surviving child of Felipe IV’s first marriage was the Infanta Maria-Theresa, (Margaret-Theresa‘s half-sister) who later became the wife of King Louis XIV of France and Navarre. After Margaret-Theresa, between 1655 and 1661, four more children (a daughter and three sons) were born from the marriage between Felipe IV and Maria-Anna of Austria, but only one survived infancy, the future King Carlos II of Spain.


Margaret-Theresa did not develop the serious health issues and disabilities (because of the close consanguinity of her parents) that her younger brother Carlos had shown since his birth. During her childhood she was once seriously ill, but survived. According to contemporaries, Margaret-Theresa had an attractive appearance and lively character. Her parents and close friends called her the “little angel”.

She grew up in the Queen’s chambers in the Royal Alcazar of Madrid surrounded by many maids and servants. The Infanta loved candies, which she constantly hid from the physicians who cared for the health of her teeth. Both Margaret-Theresa’s father and maternal grandfather Emperor Ferdinand III loved her deeply. In his private letters King Felipe IV called her “my joy”. At the same time, Margaret-Theresa was brought up in accordance with the strict etiquette of the Madrid court, and received a good education.

In the second half of the 1650s at the imperial court in Vienna the necessity developed for another dynastic marriage between the Spanish and Austrian branches of the House of Habsburg. The union was needed to strengthen the position of both countries, especially against the Kingdom of France. At first the proposals were for Maria-Theresa (Margaret-Theresa’s half-sister) to marry the heir of the Holy Roman Empire, Archduke Leopold Ignaz. But in 1660 and under the terms of the Treaty of the Pyrenees, the Infanta was married to the French King; Louis XIV, and as a part of her marriage contract, she was asked to renounce her claims to the Spanish throne in return for a monetary settlement as part of her dowry, which was never paid.

Then began discussion about a marriage between Margaret-Theresa and the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I (who was her maternal uncle and paternal cousin). However, the Madrid court hesitated to agree to this proposal, because the infanta could inherit the Spanish crown if her little brother died. The count of Fuensaldaña, Spanish ambassador in France, suggested the infanta as a possible bride for King Charles II of England. However, King Felipe IV rejected this idea, replying that the King of England should look for a wife in France.


In October 1662, the new Imperial ambassador in the Spanish Kingdom, Count Francis Eusebius of Pötting, began one of his main diplomatic assignments, which was the celebration of the marriage between the Infanta Margaret-Theresa and the Emperor Leopold I. Negotiations by the Spanish side were led by Ramiro Núñez de Guzmán, Duke of Medina de las Torres. On April 6 1663, the betrothal between Margaret and Leopold I was finally announced. The marriage contract was signed on December 18. Before the official wedding ceremony (which, according to custom, had to take place in Vienna) another portrait of the Infanta was sent, in order for the Emperor to know his bride.

King Felipe IV died on September 17, 1665. In his will, he did not mention Margaret-Theresa’s betrothal; in fact, the context in which the document was prepared suggests that the late monarch still hesitated to marry his daughter to his Austrian relative because he sought to ensure her rights as sole ruler of the Spanish crown in case of the extinction of his male line. Maria-Anna of Austria, now Dowager Queen and Regent of the Kingdom on behalf of her minor son Carlos II, delayed the wedding of her daughter.

The marriage was agreed upon only after intense Imperial diplomacy efforts. On April 25, 1666, the marriage by proxy was finally celebrated in Madrid, in a ceremony attended not only by the Dowager Queen, King Carlos II and the Imperial ambassador but also by the local nobility; the groom was represented by Antonio de la Cerda, 7th Duke of Medinaceli.

On April 28, 1666 Margaret-Theresa traveled from Madrid to Vienna, accompanied by her personal retinue. The Infanta arrived at Denia, where she rested for some days before embarking on the Spanish Royal fleet on July 16, in turn escorted by ships of the Order of Malta and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Then (after a short stop in Barcelona because Margaret had some health issues) the cortege sailed to the port of Finale Ligure, arriving on August 20.

There, Margaret-Theresa was received by Luis Guzman Ponce de Leon, Governor of Milan. The cortege left Finale on September 1 and arrived in Milan ten days later, although the official entry was not celebrated until September 15. After spending almost all September in Milan, the Infanta continued the journey through Venice, arriving in early October in Trento. At every stop Margaret-Theresa received celebrations in her honor.

On October 8, the Spanish retinue arrived at the city of Roveredo, where the head of Margaret-Theresa cortege, Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, 8th Duke of Alburquerque officially handed the Infanta to Ferdinand Joseph, Prince of Dietrichstein and Count Ernst Adalbert von Harrach, Prince-Bishop of Trento, representants of Leopold I. On October 20, the new Austrian cortege left Roveredo, crossing the Tyrol, through Carinthia and Styria, and arrived on 25 November 25, at the district of Schottwien, twelve miles from Vienna where the Emperor came to receive his bride.