Maria Anna of Bavaria was born on 8 December 1574 in Munich as the daughter of William V, Duke of Bavaria and Renata of Lorraine. She was their fourth child, but she would be the first surviving daughter of her parents. Six more siblings would follow, of whom four survived to adulthood. Her elder brother Maximilian was her father’s successor as Duke, and he later also became Elector of Bavaria.
Maria Anna’s mother Renata was known to be “a most learned woman among Duchesses”, and she set an example for her daughters. On top of traditional female handwork, Maria Anna and her sister Magdalene learned French and Latin. Magdalene was known to have also learned Italian, Spanish and history, so it is possible that Maria Anna had similar knowledge. Both sisters were later noted for playing important roles in defining Catholic court culture as well as being important figures in the diplomatic arena.1
On 23 April 1600, Maria Anna married her first cousin2 Ferdinand, Archduke of Inner Austria at Graz Cathedral. Over the years, she gave birth to seven children, of whom four would survive to adulthood, including her husband’s successor, Ferdinand. Maria Anna was known to be very pious, and she attended mass several times a day.
Maria Anna was ill for quite some time with something described as a “fever.” She died on 8 March 1616 at the age of 41 – and just two years after the birth of her last child – at Graz. Her husband would become Holy Roman Emperor just three years later, and he remarried to Eleonora Gonzaga in 1622. Maria Anna was buried in the Graz Mausoleum.