To pave the way for her future husband to leave the clergy, he just needed the Pope’s approval, and on his way to Rome, he paid a visit to Claudia. Leopold was accompanied by Maria Maddalena, who spoke to Claudia as he stood by and watched. They reportedly did not even speak, but both appeared agreeable to the match. In early December, Leopold was finally in Rome, and negotiations went smoothly. On 18 December 1625, the dispensation was granted, and the marriage contract was confirmed on 25 December. Claudia was able to remove her widow’s weeds and was presented with a diamond-studded necklace from Leopold.
On 25 March 1626, the proxy wedding took place in Florence, and three days later, Claudia left Florence – leaving behind her four-year-old daughter Vittoria. On 19 April 1626, the wedding finally took place in Innsbruck. Claudia was now Archduchess of Austria and Countess of Tyrol, and the festivities went on for the days to come. The newlyweds seemed to get along well, and Claudia soon found herself pregnant again. The proud father reported it to Florence in July, but Claudia fell ill and nearly lost the child in the late summer. Leopold worriedly wrote to his sister Maria Maddalena who had also become ill during her first pregnancy and had given birth to a mentally disabled daughter. Luckily, Claudia recovered from whatever was ailing her, and she gave birth to a daughter named Maria Eleonore on 9 February 1627. She was soon pregnant again, and the hopes were high that it would be a boy this time. On 17 May 1628, their wish came true – Claudia gave birth to a son named Ferdinand Charles.
Tragically, little Maria Eleonore fell ill the following summer and died just a few days later, on 29 July 1629. By then, Claudia was entering the last stages of yet another pregnancy. On 12 August, she gave birth to another daughter – named Isabella Clara. She had been a little premature, and she suffered from rashes. When little Ferdinand Charles also became ill during this time, Claudia despaired. She ordered a 24-hour prayer, and he soon improved. Isabella Clara too appeared to overcome her premature birth. On 28 November 1630, Claudia gave birth to a second son – named Sigismund Francis. Her last child – a daughter named Maria Leopoldine – was born on 6 April 1632. She was born in the midst of a war with Sweden, and the situation was so dire that the court was standing by to flee.
Then tragedy struck. Leopold died on 13 September 1632 after falling ill while taking a rest from battle. At the age of 28, Claudia had become a widow for the second time. Claudia wrote to Leopold’s sister to thank her for arranging her marriage to “such a polite prince who loved me more than I deserved.”1 Leopold’s will was written in 1629 and Claudia was appointed as regent with a council. This would be no easy task in the midst of the Thirty Years’ War.
Claudia consulted Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor, on how best to raise her young son. Should he perhaps be separated from the women and given his own household? Her husband’s will had stated that he wanted him to be raised by Jesuits. The Emperor responded that Claudia should do what she thought was best and that he did not believe that the five-year-old should be separated yet. All four siblings received their education from the Jesuits. Theatre became a great part of their childhood, and the siblings were not only spectators but also actors. In 1636, all four performed for their mother’s birthday.
For more than 13 years, Claudia held the regency for her son. In 1646, her son came of age and during a touching ceremony, Ferdinand Charles thanked his mother in Italian for her care. Later that same year, Ferdinand Charles married his first cousin Anna de’ Medici. He was the second of her children to marry – Vittoria had married her betrothed Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, in 1637. Her greatest triumph on the marriage market came in 1648 when her 16-year-old daughter Maria Leopoldine married Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor. She proudly escorted her daughter to her new life. She also arranged the marriage of her eldest daughter, Isabella Clara, to the Duke of Mantua but did not live to see it take place.
Claudia had been suffering from dropsy for quite some time, but doctors were unable to help her. In the early hours of 25 December 1648, she called her family to her to give them her blessing. However, she was barely able to speak by then. She died between 6 and 6.30 in the morning at the age of 44. Her body was placed in an oak chest and then in a tin coffin. A golden urn was made to hold her heart. She was buried in the Jesuits’ Church in Innsbruck with her husband and young daughter Maria Eleonore.