Archduchess Marie Henriette of Austria, Archduke Joseph of Austria-Hungary, King Leopold I of Belgium, King Leopold II of Belgium, King Louis Philippe of the French, Louise of Orléans, Queen Maria II of Portugal, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom
From the Emperor’s Desk: Generally on the blog I post biographical information of a royal person on the anniversary of their birth or death or marriage. While I will continue this practice I will also begin to post biographies of Royal persons randomly without any relation to an anniversary.
Both in the biographical posts on the birth, death or marriage anniversaries, as well as the random biographies, I will focus on just a portion of their lives since writing the entirety of their lives does take several days and many posts. I will also be including more topical posts in the future.
So here is a random biography
Archduchess Marie Henriette of Austria (August 23, 1836 – September 19, 1902) was Queen of the Belgians as the wife of King Leopold II. The marriage was arranged against the will of both Marie Henriette and Leopold and became unhappy due to their dissimilarity, and after 1872 the couple lived separate lives, though they continued to appear together in public.
Queen Marie Henriette was described as an energetic and intelligent horsewoman, foremost devoted to her animals. In 1895, she openly retired from public life and lived her last seven years in the city of Spa, where she became known as “The Queen of Spa”.
Archduchess Marie Henriette of Austria was one of five children from the marriage of Archduke Joseph of Austria, Palatine of Hungary, and Duchess Maria Dorothea of Württemberg.
Archduchess Marie Henriette was a cousin of Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria, and granddaughter of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II through her father. She was also a first cousin, once removed to Mary of Teck, the future Queen Mary of the United Kingdom (wife of King George V) through her mother.
Her father was Palatine of Hungary, and she spent a great deal of her childhood in the Buda Castle in Hungary. She lost her father at the age of ten. After her father’s death, she became a ward of Archduke Johann of Austria at the Palais Augarten in Vienna. It was said that she was raised by her mother “as a boy”. Marie Henriette was a vivid and energetic person with a strong will and a hot temperament, interested in riding.
One day before her 17th birthday, she married 18-year-old Prince Leopold of Belgium, the heir to the throne, on August 22, 1853. Leopold was the second-surviving son of Leopold I of Belgium and his French wife, Louise of Orléans; the eldest daughter of the future Louis-Philippe I, King of the French, and of his wife Maria Amalia of the Two Sicilies.
Marie Henriette was the sister-in-law of Charlotte of Belgium, future Empress of Mexico via Charlotte’s husband and Marie Henriette’s cousin, Archduke Maximilian of Austria, (brother of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary) and a cousin by marriage to both Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Queen Maria II of Portugal.
The marriage was arranged to strengthen the status of the Belgian Monarchy. As the former Protestant monarch of a newly established monarchy, the Belgian king Leopold I wished his son to marry a member from a Roman Catholic and prestigious dynasty, and the name Habsburg was one of her more important qualities. The marriage further more created an historical link between the new Kingdom of Belgium and the Habsburg dynasty of the Austrian Netherlands.
The marriage was suggested by her future father-in-law the king of Belgium to her guardian, the Archduke Johann of Austria, and arranged by the two men over her head.
She was introduced to Leopold on an Imperial court ball at Hofburg in May 1853, and she was informed that she was to marry him. Neither she or Leopold made a good impression on each other. She protested against the marriage plans without success, but was convinced to submit to it by her mother. Leopold himself also commented that he had agreed to the marriage because of his father.
Marie Henriette resigned from her rights to the Austrian throne and signed the marriage contract in Vienna on August 8, 1853. A wedding by proxy was celebrated at the Schönbrunn Palace on August 10, after which she travelled to Brussels, where the final ceremony was celebrated with Leopold in person on August 22nd.
The wedding was followed by a tour through the Belgian provinces and a trip to Great Britain in October. Queen Victoria commented to king Leopold I about the differences between the couple.
Marie Henriette was described as intelligent, well educated and cultivated, Leopold as well spoken and interested in military issues, but with no common interests between them whatsoever.
They did manage to have four children:
Louise, Princess Philipp of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Prince Leopold, Duke of Brabant
Stéphanie, Crown Princess of Austria
Clémentine, Princess Napoléon