Maria Amalia of Saxony was born on 24 November 1724 as the daughter of Augustus III of Poland, Elector of Saxony and Maria Josepha of Austria.
In 1738, Maria Amalia became engaged to Charles, King of Naples and Sicily who would also become Charles III of Spain. Charles was the younger son of Philip V of Spain who became King of Naples and Sicily through conquest. This marriage sealed the peace between the Bourbons, the Habsburgs and Wettins. Her wedding to Charles would be the first royal wedding in Dresden since her parents’ 1719 wedding, which had lasted for a month. In order to show their dynastic connection, genealogists demonstrated that Charles and Maria Amalia had two great-great-great-grandfathers in common: Philip III of Spain and Johan Georg I, Elector of Saxony. Their genealogy was also traced right back to the great Charlemagne.
The proxy wedding took place on 9 May 1738 with her brother, Frederick Christian of Saxony, standing in for the groom. The week-long celebrations included two illuminations of the city (it had to be repeated due to bad weather), fountains of wine and an obelisk of rocks. On 13 May, Maria Amalia left the Palace of Pillnitz on the Elbe near Dresden. She was accompanied by her brother Frederick Christian, who would be seeking a cure for his weak legs on the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples. Both she and her mother burst out in tears at her departure. Her train consisted of 200 people as befitting a Queen of Naples and Sicily. Her parents rushed ahead to have a surprise goodbye in private.
It took them 39 days, and they passed through three jurisdictions on the way. On 14 May, she reached Prague where she heard a Te Deum in the Cathedral on the Hradschin. She took a small detour towards St. Pölten to meet with her grandmother, Wilhelmina Amalia of Brunswick, Dowager Holy Roman Empress. She also visited the shrine of Mariazell before continuing to Venice, where she stayed overnight in Palmanova, Pordenone and Treviso. Each engagement required her to dress like a Queen, dripping with jewels. Finally, on 19 June, she arrived at the village of Portella on the border of the Kingdom of Naples, where her husband was waiting for her. They continued their travels together and arrived in Naples on 22 June. All the members of the household came to kiss her hand. On 2 July, they made their solemn entry into the city.
The couple was pleased with one another. Maria Amalia was still quite young and had not had her period yet. However, the marriage was consummated on 8 July 1738 with her husband writing to his parents that it took 15 minutes to break her hymen. Her husband proudly wrote to his parents on 20 November 1739 that she had had her first period and she soon fell pregnant with her first child. On 5 September 1740, she gave birth to her first child – a daughter named Maria Elisabetta. The King was reportedly “as happy about it as if it were a Prince.” She was nicknamed Isabelita. Her christening was celebrated with great pomp, but the little girl would tragically die in childhood. Four more daughters would follow: Maria Josefa (born 1742 – died young), Maria Isabel Ana (1743 – died young), Maria Josefa (born 1744) and Maria Luisa (born 1745). Their sixth child was finally the longed-for heir, Felipe Pascual was born on 13 June 1747. He would turn out to be mentally handicapped, and he had to be set aside in the succession. After the birth of their eldest son, she was admitted to the Council of State, though she had to listen to the deliberations from behind a curtain.
Seven more children would follow. The future Charles IV of Spain was born on 11 November 1748. Maria Theresa was born in 1749, but she died young. The future Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies was born in 1751. Gabriel was born in 1752. Maria ana was born in 1754, but she died young. Antonio Pascual was born in 1755. Francisco Javier was born in 1757, but he died in childhood. He was to be their last child.
On 10 August 1759, Charles’ elder half-brother King Ferdinand VI of Spain died without leaving issue and so Charles also became King of Spain and Maria Amalia his Queen. With their eldest son excluded from the succession, their second-born son was designated as the heir of Spain, while the third son was designated as heir to Naples and Sicily.
The new King and Queen of Spain arrived with six of their children after a sea journey from Naples on 17 October 1759. They travelled on to Madrid where they arrived on 9 December 1759 with many of the family falling ill on the way. They made their solemn entry into Madrid on 13 July 1760. On 19 July, the acclamation and oath of fealty to Charles and his heir took place in the royal church of San Gerónimo.
Just two months later, on 27 September 1760, Maria Amalia died suddenly. Her health had deteriorated since her arrival in Spain. A fall from her horse probably also exacerbated things. She was still only 35 years old.1