Who was Anne of Austria?
Anne of Austria was a Spanish princess from the House of Habsburg who became the Queen of France through her marriage to Louis XIII. She was married at the age of 11, after which she moved to France but did not learn to speak French until much later in her adult life. Her marital relationship with the King of France went through many ups and downs. The discord, which started mainly because she was unable to provide a son to the king for two decades, deteriorated to the point that she was accused of treason. She finally produced an heir (Louis XIV) in her late thirties. However, the royal couple’s happiness was short lived as the king passed away soon after, leaving Anne as regent of the crown. As her five years old son waited to reach adulthood, she learned the ropes of running a kingdom, but her period as regent of France saw the outbreak of a civil war in the country. However, she succeeded in keeping Louis XIV safe during a very challenging time. Once he was old enough to take the reins of his kingdom, she was able to follow a more relaxed lifestyle that included taking care of her second son and visiting churches and monasteries.
Childhood & Early Life
Anne of Austria was born as Ana Maria Mauricia on September 22, 1601, in Valladolid, Spain. She was the eldest daughter of King of Spain, Philip III, and Margaret of Austria.
She was called Anne of Austria because her father belonged to the House of Habsburg, earlier referred to as the House of Austria.
She was raised in a religious environment. She was very close to her mother but lost her at an early age, in 1611. Thereafter, she did her best to look after her younger siblings.
On October 18, 1615, she was married off to King of France, Louis XIII, in Burgos. Her marriage was meant to cement political and military ties between the Catholic kingdoms of Spain and France.
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Anne of Austria moved into the Louvre with her Spanish servants and household officials after her marriage. However, she rarely got the opportunity to spend any time with her husband, Louis XIII. It changed in 1617, when the young Louis, aided by the Duke of Luynes, exercised his independence through a royal coup.
The Duke replaced Anne’s Spanish aides with the French ones and organized court events to foster affection between the royal couple. The strategy worked and Anne became pregnant in 1622, which unfortunately ended in a miscarriage. Louis blamed her for the loss.
Louis chose Cardinal Richelieu as his new advisor in 1624, and the latter got involved in a decade-long tussle with Anne. It only added to her troubles and created more distance between her and Louis.
In 1635, France declared war on Spain, and the new development made Anne anxious. She feared that the hostilities between the countries along with her inability to provide an heir would result in Louis disowning her.
She made the matters worse by keeping in contact with her brother, King Philip IV of Spain, through secret letters. As a result, she was accused of treason two years later, to which she confessed.
Louis’ hostility towards her subsided to an extent with the birth of their first son after 22 years of marriage. Louis de Dieudonne was born in 1638, while their second son, Phillipe, was born two years later.
Wen King of France died on May 1643, Anne was named regent. Helped by Mazarin and Pierre Séguier, she successfully convinced the French Parliament to quash her late husband’s will that stopped her from obtaining regency. She then appointed Cardinal Mazarin as her chief advisor.
In October 1643, she along with her two sons and Cardinal Mazarin moved into the Palais-Royal from the Louvre. There, through her nightly meetings with Mazarin, she received her education on running a kingdom. Three years later, she entrusted him with the responsibility of educating Louis XIV.
Between 1648 and 1653, the resentment towards Cardinal Mazarin’s influence on the regent queen led some aristocrats and royal family members to orchestrate a civil war, known as the Fronde. Consequently, the Cardinal was forced into exile in Germany until 1651 when Louis became old enough to proclaim his majority, inviting him back to Paris.
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In 1654, Louis was officially crowned the King of France. Anne however retained her position on the king’s council.
Anne of Austria managed to secure for her closest confidante, Marguerite d’Arbouze, the post of Abbess at Val-de-Grâce de Notre-Dame-de-la-Crèche.
In 1621, she was able to relocate the Benedictine convent to Paris, and later that year, she became its new foundress.
She commissioned the construction of the church of Val-de-Grâce in 1645 to show her gratitude to the Virgin Mary for blessing her with a son and heir, Louis XIV, following several still-births.
Designed by François Mansart and later Jacques Lemercier, the Val-de-Grâce was completed in 1667. Today, it is considered one of the finest examples of Parisian baroque architecture.
Family & Personal Life
Anne of Austria had a tumultuous relationship with her husband Louis XIII. While he ignored her initially, he grew affectionate towards her soon after. At one point, she fell seriously ill, and he became too distracted to attend to kingly affairs.
A string of still births and her dislike for Cardinal Richelieu disenchanted the king, further straining their marital relationship.
When Anne gave birth to Louis XIV on 5 September 1638, the occasion was hailed as a 'gift from God'; and she certainly treated him like that. The apple of her eye could be always found by her side. Her second son Phillipe was born two years later, but Louis remained her favourite.
Her fidelity was brought into question twice during her lifetime. The first instance came during a royal marriage celebration in 1625, when she publicly engaged in innocent flirting with the handsome Duke of Buckingham.
Her relationship with Cardinal Mazarin also brought her under scrutiny. Rumours were rife that the Cardinal and Anne were not only lovers, but were also secretly married.
She started showing symptoms of breast cancer in 1664, suffering from it for two years in absence of a cure at that time. She finally passed away on January 20, 1666, at the age of 64.
Fastidious by nature, no cambric or linen was ever too fine for Anne of Austria.
Although she loved flowers, for some reason, she detested roses to the point that she could not even bear to see them in paintings.