Claudia Felicitas of Austria was born on 30 May 1653 as the daughter of Ferdinand Charles, Archduke of Further Austria and Count of Tyrol, and his wife and first cousin Anna de’ Medici. She was named for her grandmother Claudia de’ Medici, who had died in 1648. She would be the only one of their three daughters to survive to adulthood. A second sister died immediately following her birth, while the third sister Maria Magdelena died at the age of 13. Thus, Claudia Felicitas was the last of the Habsburg-Tyrol line. Claudia Felicitas was known for her love of music, and she loved to sing and compose. She was also known to have loved hunting.
When Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor, lost his first wife Margaret Theresa in early 1673, he had just one living daughter (Maria Antonia), and he was in desperate need of a male heir. He was, however, deep in grief, and at first, he refused even to contemplate getting remarried. The pressure of needing a male heir soon outweighed his grief, and he found that a new bride had already been selected. Claudia Felicitas had also been considered as a bride for the Duke of York (the future King James II and VII of England, Scotland, and Ireland), but those negotiations had led to nothing.
Claudia Felicitas was 20 years old at the time and was considered to be strong and healthy, with a pleasant disposition and “all virtues and great piety.”1 She would make a good stepmother to his little daughter, and since Claudia Felicitas was already his ward (and second cousin), the wedding could be held with fewer expenses.
On 5 October 1673, the proxy wedding took place in Innsbruck. She and her mother then travelled to Graz, where the official wedding was scheduled to take place. On 15 October, the wedding was held at Graz Cathedral, with celebrations lasting two weeks. In early November, the newlyweds travelled from Graz to Vienna.
The Swedish ambassador Esaias Pufendorf wrote about Claudia Felicitas: “The current empress is a well-grown person with a brisk and lively spirit so that she can pull her master out of his gloom and into good humour; she is valued by him, especially since she has the same inclination with music and hunting and also plays and sings on instruments herself. “2 Nevertheless, Leopold thought she was “not like my only Margareta.”3
Claudia Felicitas gave birth to her first child – a daughter named Anna Maria Sophie – on 11 September 1674, but tragically the little girl lived for just two months. A second daughter – named Maria Josepha Clementine – was born on 11 October 1675, but she too would not make it to her first birthday. Claudia Felicitas fell ill with tuberculosis shortly after the birth of her second daughter, but there was little the doctors could do for her.
She died on 8 April 1676 “without any other help than from God and the angels.”4 At her own request, she was buried in the Dominican church in Vienna, where her mother would join her in death the following September. Her heart was removed from her body and placed in a tin urn. It has the following inscription, “Inside lies the heart of the most noble Empress Claudia Felicitas, Archduchess of Austria and Tyrol, who was born on May 30th in 1653 and went from life to heaven in the 23rd year of her age in 1676 on April 8th, at half-past five in the morning.” The urn was placed in the Imperial Crypt.5
Her two daughters were also buried in the Imperial Crypt and rest in coffins placed in the wall.
At the end of the year, Leopold remarried to Eleonore Magdalene of Neuburg, who bore him the successor he needed.
- Leopold I of Austria by John Philip Spielman p.72
- The Habsburgs: embodying empire by Andrew Wheatcroft p.201
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