Birthday: September 10, 1638
Died At Age: 44
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: María Teresa de Austria y Borbón
Born Country: Spain
Born in: Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain
Famous as: Queen of France
Empresses & Queens
Spouse/Ex-: Louis XIV of France (m. 1660)
father: Philip IV of Spain
mother: Elisabeth of France
siblings: Charles II of Spain
children: Louis François; Duke of Anjou, Louis; Grand Dauphin, Marie Thérèse of France (1667–1672), Philippe Charles; Duke of Anjou, Princess Anne Élisabeth of France, Princess Marie Anne of France
Died on: July 30, 1683
Who was Maria Theresa of Spain?
Maria Theresa of Spain was an ‘infanta’ of Spain and Portugal by birth and Queen of France by marriage. She was also the Archduchess of Austria as she belonged to the House of Habsburg, one of the most influential royal houses of Europe. A very pious and warm-hearted lady, Maria Theresa married her cousin King Louis XIV of France. Their marriage ended the thirty-year-long war between Spain and France. As a result of the marriage, Theresa became the Queen of France, leaving behind her claim to the Spanish throne which she held as an heir for a brief period of time in the 1650s. Maria Theresa was someone who was always respected for her kind and timid nature. Despite being a queen, she lived a sad life. She lost her mother at a young age and had a lonely childhood. After marrying King Louis XIV, she faced disloyalty from her unfaithful husband. She also lost all her children, except her eldest son, within a brief period of their birth. Maria Theresa was never a woman hungry for power and wealth. Despite being one of the most powerful figures in the royal family and in the French court, she never showed any interest in governance.
Childhood & Early Life
Maria Theresa of Spain was born on September 10, 1638, at the Royal Monastery of El Escorial, Spain, to King Philip IV and Elisabeth of France. When she was just six years old, she lost her mother, and within two years, her older brother Balthasar Charles also died.
Maria Theresa had a very lonely childhood. After her mother died, her father married her cousin who was just four years older than Maria.
As a member of The House of Habsburg, Maria Theresa held the title of Archduchess of Austria.
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Heir to the Spanish Throne
Maria Theresa was born as an ‘infanta’, a title given to the sons and daughters of the Spanish king regardless of age. When her brother Balthasar Charles died in 1646, just two years after their mother’s death, Maria Theresa became the heir to the Spanish throne.
When King Philip IV and his second wife, Mariana of Austria, had their son Philip Prospero in 1657, he became the lawful heir to the throne in place of Maria Theresa. However, when Prince Phillip died at the age of four in 1661, Maria Theresa once again became the heir to the throne until Charles II was born in November 1661.
Marriage and becoming the Queen of France
The ongoing war between France and Spain started to wind down in the late 1650s as none of the countries could afford to stretch it anymore. French Prime Minister Cardinal Mazarin tried to tie the Houses of France and Savoy by proposing a marriage between the King of France and Margaret Yolande, Princess of Savoy.
The news of the proposed partnership between the two houses irked King Philip IV, who felt the union would make him and his kingdom weaker. King Philip IV intervened and sent a delegation to the French court proposing arrangements of a royal wedding to start a new allegiance between France and Spain.
The negotiations stretched long and were not easy for both parties. It was proposed that Maria Theresa leave everything behind, including her claim to the Spanish throne. Her future children would also not have any claim to the same.
French Prime Minister Cardinal Mazarin and his diplomats weren’t easy to negotiate with. They eventually managed to fix a deal which demanded a large dowry to be given to Maria Theresa. However, Spain could never pay the proposed dowry due to the huge losses it had suffered in the war.
Theresa and her father along with the Spanish court met King Louis XIV and his court in ‘The Meeting on the Isle of Pheasants’ on June 7, 1660. Two days later, the couple, who were double cousins, got married in Saint-Jean-de-Luz at the church of Saint-Jean the Baptist.
Breaking the tradition, Anne of Austria, the mother of King Louis XIV, arranged a private consummation (a public consummation was a custom during that time).
Life as a devoted Wife and Mother
King Louis brought his newlywed wife Maria Theresa to Paris, and was very fond of her in the beginning. Theresa also found a mother figure in her mother-in-law (who was also her aunt). She was a devoted wife and a caring daughter-in-law.
Queen Maria Theresa would spend a great deal of time with her mother-in-law as both of them were very pious and fond of each other. She never showed any interest in politics or governance. Often, Maria Theresa was seen as an unfit queen by the people due to her negligence towards the royal responsibilities.
Maria Theresa gave birth to Louis, Grand Dauphin, on November 1, 1661. She was very protective of her son and took great interest in his education and upbringing.
She gave birth to two more children, Anne-Élisabeth of France and Marie-Anne of France, in the next three years. However, both of them died within a few days of their birth.
On January 2, 1667, the royal couple welcomed their fourth child, Marie-Thérèse of France, who was also known as la Petite Madame. In the ensuing years, she gave birth to Philippe Charles, Duke of Anjou, and Louis François, Duke of Anjou. Unfortunately, all three of these children died young. Ultimately, the only child she was survived by was her eldest.
Though King Louis showed great affection towards his wife in the first year of their marriage, he started to have multiple affairs soon. Despite being the queen, Maria Theresa never questioned her husband. King Louis was infamous for his affairs and his many mistresses, especially Françoise-Athénaïs, Marquise de Montespan.
In late July 1683, Maria Theresa fell gravely ill. The king arranged for the sacraments to be kept close as her health worsened by the day. She suffered great pain in the last few days of her life and passed away on July 30, 1683.