Mariana of Austria was born on 24 December 1634 as the daughter of Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor and Maria Anna of Spain. At the age of 11, Mariana was betrothed to Balthasar Charles, Prince of Asturias, but he died just three months later at the age of 16. King Philip IV of Spain was now left without a male heir, and he was conveniently widowed too. He decided to marry Mariana, who was also his niece, himself. Their age difference was 30 years.
Of their five children, only two would live to adulthood. Her eldest daughter Margaret Theresa would go on to marry her own uncle, Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor. Her only surviving son, Charles, was born on 6 November 1661. He was born physically and mentally disabled, most likely due to the many years of inbreeding.
Queen, Mother, and Stateswoman: Mariana of Austria and the Government of Spain dives into the life of Queen Mariana, who devoted her life to her son. Charles was just three years old when his father died, and Mariana was appointed as regent. A power struggle saw her briefly ousted as regent, but she made a brilliant return to court. In addition to her tasks as a regent, she also had to manage the succession. Her only daughter had died in 1673, leaving just one surviving daughter. This daughter, Maria Antonia of Austria, died young as well, leaving behind a young son, Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria. Meanwhile, Charles had married twice as well, but neither marriage had produced any children and talks concerning the succession became very bitter.
Mariana did not live to see how it would all play out. She died in 1696, just four years before her son. I really enjoyed reading more about Mariana and her relationship with Charles especially. I always like the inclusion of letters, which made Charles more human to me and not the caricature that has come down to us from the 17th century. Mariana herself came across as an amazingly strong woman who was born and raised for the task ahead and did it brilliantly. How much more could she have done if she had had more (healthy) children? We can only guess.