and Croatia, Archduchess Maria of Austria, Archduchess of Austria, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II, Holy Roman Empire, Hungary, Infanta of Spain, King Carlos I of Spain, Kingdom of Spain, Queen of Bohemia
Archduchess Maria of Austria (June 21, 1528 – February 16, 1603) was the empress consort and queen consort of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Bohemia, Hungary and Croatia. She served as regent of Spain in the absence of her father Emperor Charles V from 1548 until 1551.
Maria was born in Madrid, Spain to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, (Carlos I of Spain) and Isabella of Portugal, the second child and first daughter of King Manuel I of Portugal and his second wife, Maria of Aragon, herself the the third surviving daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Fernando II-V of Aragon and Castile (the Catholic monarchs).
As a member of the House of Habsburg she was both an Archduchess of Austria and an Infanta of Spain.
Archduchess Maria grew up mostly between Toledo and Valladolid with her siblings, Archduke Philipp and Archduchess Joanna of Austria. They built a strong family bond despite their father’s regular absences. Maria and her brother, Philipp, shared similar strong personal views and policies which they retained during the rest of their lives.
Regent of Spain
On September 15, 1548, aged twenty, she married her first cousin Archduke Maximilian of Austria the eldest son of the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, younger brother of Emperor Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and the Jagiellonian Princess Anne of Bohemia and Hungary (1503–1547).
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 Infante Felipe I of Spain. Maria stayed at the Spanish court until August 1551, 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 Felipe II, from 1558 to 1561.
After her return to Germany, her husband eventually succeeded his father Ferdinand I, at his death, as Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II, King of Bohemia, Hungary and Croatia which he ruled from 1564 to his death in 1576.
Maria was a devout 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. 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.
In 1576, Maximilian II 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 Felipe 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. 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.
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, Felipe III of Spain. Margaret, the sister of the future Emperor Ferdinand II, would be one of three women at Felipe III’s court who would apply considerable influence over the king.
Margaret was considered by contemporaries to be extremely pious – in some cases, excessively pious, and too influenced by the Church, and ‘astute and very skillful’ in her political dealings, although ‘melancholic’ and unhappy over the influence of the Duke of Lerma over her husband at court. Margaret continued to fight an ongoing battle with Lerma for influence until her death in 1611. Felipe had an ‘affectionate, close relationship’ with Margaret, and paid her additional attention after she bore him a son, also named Felipe in 1605.
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 Felipe III of Spain.
They were successful, for example, in convincing Felipe to provide financial support to Ferdinand from 1600 onwards. Felipe III steadily acquired other religious advisors. Father Juan de Santa Maria, the confessor to Felipe III’s daughter, Maria Anna, was felt by contemporaries to have an excessive influence over Felipe at the end of his life, and both he and Luis de Aliaga, Felipe III’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.