A regent is “a person appointed to administer a state because the monarch is a minor, is absent or is incapacitated.”
Anne of Austria was born on 22 September 1601 as the daughter of King Philip III of Spain and his wife Margaret of Austria. She grew up in the Royal Alcazar of Madrid and was close to her parents. She lost her mother in 1611 when Margaret died in childbirth.
She was just 11 years old when she was betrothed to King Louis XIII of France. They were married by proxy on 24 November 1615 at the same time as Louis’ sister Elisabeth married Anne’s brother Philip. Anne and Elisabeth were exchanged on the Isle of Pheasants. Anne and Louis were both 14 years, and they were pressured to consummate the marriage, to ensure the marriage could not be annulled. However, Louis ignored Anne and Louis’ mother Marie de’ Medici refused to give up her position as the first lady of the court.
By 1619, Louis and Anne had grown a bit closer and the marriage was consummated. Anne gave birth to a stillborn child in December 1619. On 14 March 1622 Anne fell down the stairs while pregnant and suffered another stillbirth. Their lack of children seemed to chill their relationship again. Louis had Cardinal Richelieu as his advisor, and Richelieu had a clear foreign policy against Anne’s family. Anne suffered two more stillbirths in 1626 and 1631. They began to fear there would be no children from their marriage. In 1635 France and Spain were at war, and Anne was put in an impossible position. Richelieu forced her to sign a covenant, which allowed him to open her letters for inspection.
To the great surprise of all Anne fell pregnant again in 1638 and gave birth to the future Louis XIV on 5 September 1638. He was known as Louis Dieudonné (Louis the God-given). On 21 September 1640 Anne gave birth to a second son, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans. A happy family life would not be in the cards for them. Anne’s husband died on 14 May 1643 of a combination of things.
“his intestines were inflamed and ulcerated, making digestion virtually impossible; tuberculosis had spread to his lungs, accompanied by a habitual cough. Either of these major ailments or the accumulation of minor problems may have killed him, not to mention physiological weaknesses that made him prone to disease or his doctors’ remedies of enemas and bleedings, which continued right to his death”1
Before his death, he set up a regency council with Anne at its head. This was in defiance of custom, which would have made Anne the sole regent. Anne would have none of this and had his will annulled by the Parlement de Paris. Some of her late husband’s ministers were exiled by her. She nominated Cardinal Mazarin as her chief minister to continue her husband’s policies. In 1648 Anne and Cardinal Mazarin successfully negotiated the peace of Westphalia, and with the support of the Cardinal, she also overcame an aristocratic revolt led by Louis II, Prince de Condé. Although her regency officially ended in 1651, she was still an influential person at his court.
She lived to see the birth of her first grandchild, also named Louis. Anne retired to the convent of Val-de-Grâce, which had been founded to give thanks for the birth of her son. She died there of breast cancer on 20 January 1666. 2