Anna of Tyrol – The working Empress

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Anna of Tyrol was born on 4 October 1585 as the third and last daughter of Ferdinand II, Archduke of Further Austria, and Count of Tyrol, and his second wife and niece, Anna Caterina Gonzaga (also known as Anna Juliana Gonzaga). From her father’s first (morganatic) marriage to Philippine Welser, she had two half-brothers who could not inherit their father’s titles. Anna’s eldest full sister died in infancy, while her second sister Maria became a nun.

Anna and Maria grew up dividing their time between Ambras Castle, the Hofburg and Ruhelust Castle. Ferdinand and Anna Caterina were quite musical, and while Anna may not have had such a musical education, she certainly knew how to play the clavichord, and she composed songs. The sisters were raised in the Catholic faith by their mother and were educated to a very high standard. Due to their sickly nature, Anna Caterina also made sure to feed the children a special diet from a cookbook she had made personally.

Anna was just nine years old when her father died on 24 January 1595, while her mother was just 29 years old. Anna Caterina reportedly received proposals from both Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor and his brother Matthias but turned them both down to follow the religious life. Although Anna was the younger daughter, she was considered to be “more marriageable”, and most of the attention was focused on her. This was probably due to Maria’s health problems and a speech impediment. The first offer of marriage came from the widowed King of Poland, Sigismund III, but now the Holy Roman Emperor also became interested in Anna instead of her mother. However, he continued to stall his decision, and so the actual groom would be his brother Matthias.

On 4 December 1611, Anna married her first cousin Matthias, who was by then already King of Hungary and Bohemia, in the Augustinian Church in Vienna. They were 28 years apart in age. The following year, Matthias was elected Holy Roman Emperor and succeeded his childless brother Rudolf II. Unfortunately, the union between Anna and Matthias was destined to remain childless as well. Anna did act as a foster mother to a converted Turkish girl for a short while. On 15 June 1612, Anna was crowned as Holy Roman Empress in Frankfurt.

Anna was known to have had a good influence on Matthias, and they were known as the “Arbeitspaar” (working couple). For her devotion to the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Paul V awarded her with a Golden Rose.

Anna is perhaps best known for having co-founded the Capuchin Church and crypt. Construction began just a month before Anna tragically passed away. She died on 14 December 1618 at the age of 33. Her husband followed her to the grave just three months later. Without any heirs, Matthias was succeeded by his cousin Ferdinand. The crypt was completed in 1633, and the remains of Matthias and Anna were moved there.

Photo by Moniek Bloks


About Moniek Bloks 2743 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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