Maria of Austria and her daughter Elisabeth – The teenage years of a Queen

(public domain)

Maria of Austria was born on 21 June 1528 as the daughter of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, and Isabella of Portugal. On 15 September 1548, she married her first cousin, the future Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor.

The couple would go on to have sixteen children together, though not all survived to adulthood. One of these children was Elisabeth, who was born on 5 July 1554. She would spend the first four years of her life in the Hofburg in Vienna.1 She would grow up in a musical environment surrounded by excellent musicians. For the better part of the next seven years, Elisabeth lived in Wiener Neustadt.2 In Wiener Neustadt, she lived separately from the city in women’s rooms led by her mother.3 Her exact formal education is not known. As she grew up, several matches were already being discussed for her. As early as 1561, the marriage between King Charles IX of France and Elisabeth was being floated.4 However, King Sebastian of Portugal and the future King of Navarre were also in the mix.5

On 1 September 1562, the eight-year-old Elisabeth embarked on a six month trip through the Bohemian kingdom and parts of the Holy Roman Empire. She travelled with her parents and older siblings, Anna, Rudolf and Ernst.6 She entered the city of Prague with her mother, sister, aunt and eleven court ladies in an ornate wagon behind four stately and customed horses.7 On 20 September, the family gathered at six in the morning in the Saint Vitus Cathedral in Prague for the coronation of Elisabeth’s father as King of Bohemia.8 Afterwards, they attended a banquet.9 Her mother’s coronation followed the next day, and this time, the women were given central roles. Elisabeth and Anna followed their mother into the cathedral. Maria wore a white dress with gold, the long arms of which were described as “old Spanish.” Elizabeth and Anna sat in a choir stall during the ceremony.10 Maria was anointed with consecrated oil, and she received the sceptre, orb and crown associated with the office of the Queen of Bohemia.11 Maria, wearing her crown, took communion and was led out of the cathedral by her husband. She stumbled slightly on a fold in the carpet.12 Elisabeth was also present the following year when her parents were crowned King and Queen of Hungary.13 Tragically, several spectators were burned to death by fireworks that went off too early during the following festivities.14

In early 1564, Elisabeth was asked to stand as godmother for her newest sibling named Maria. However, the little girl died just over a month of her birth.15 Another death, that of her grandfather Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, later that same year would change much in her and her mother’s life.16 They were now the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire. Her mother was the first Holy Roman Empress in a quarter of a century. The court returned to Vienna where the public mourning rituals for the Emperor dictated the days. As mourning passed and more weddings happened, Elisabeth must have realised that her time would come too. Her eldest sister was 16 and Elisabeth, though only 11, was old enough to at least be engaged. However, dynastic events would delay their marriages for years.17

From December 1565, Elisabeth, Anna and their parents were once again on the move. For a six-month trip, the family visited several cities they had visited before, but they also saw Munich. In 1566, Elisabeth and her brother Matthias undertook a pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Mariazell in Styria as war descended on them.18 The enemy retreated by the end of the year.

The death of Elisabeth of Valois, Queen of Spain, in 1568, left the King of Spain in need of a new wife. Elisabeth’s sister Anna was offered up as the new Queen of Spain. Anna was to marry her own uncle. During this time, the betrothal between Elisabeth and the French King was also finalised. The Spanish King put up no objections.19

Elisabeth married Charles by proxy on 22 October 1570 in the Cathedral of Speyer. She left Austria on 4 November, and they were married in person on 26 November 1570. Her wedding gown was of cloth of silver with pearls. She was still only 16 years old, but she was now Queen of France.

  1. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.11
  2. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.67
  3. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.95
  4. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.136
  5. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.137
  6. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.151
  7. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.154
  8. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.157-158
  9. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.162
  10. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.163
  11. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.164
  12. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.165
  13. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.230
  14. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.235
  15. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.239-240
  16. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.245
  17. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.256
  18. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.347
  19. Joseph F. Patrouch – Queen’s Apprentice p.394

About Moniek Bloks 2762 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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