Maria Luisa of Spain – A blue-eyed beauty (Part one)

maria luisa spain
(public domain)

Maria Luisa of Spain was born on 24 November 1745 as the daughter of King Charles III of Spain (at the time King of Naples and Sicily) and Maria Amalia of Saxony. She was their second surviving daughter. Her parents had a total of 13 children, though only seven survived to adulthood. Her younger brother Prince Felipe was excluded from the line of succession due to his mental disability.

In 1765, Maria Luisa married Archduke Leopold, the second surviving son of Maria Theresa of Austria and the intended heir of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. The wedding was held in Innsbruck in a break with tradition. Her father had worried that if his daughter was married in the splendour of Vienna, she would “acquire a distaste for the comparatively quiet life of Florence.”1 Leopold and his father Francis travelled to Bozen in northern Italy to meet Maria Luisa, while Maria Theresa and the rest of the wedding party travelled immediately to Innsbruck.

Maria Luisa had been escorted from Barcelona to Genoa by a fleet of Spanish ships. At that time, Maria Luisa was described as “a blue-eyed beauty of great liveliness and charm.”2 She was known to be warm and kind.

However, the wedding almost didn’t happen. Leopold fell ill on the way to Bozen, and by the time the family was reunited in Innsbruck, he was suffering from pleurisy. On 4 August 1765, Maria Luisa and Leopold were married in the Hofkirche in Innsbruck, but Leopold was struggling to breathe and sweat rolled down his face as he recited his wedding vows. As soon as they were officially married, Leopold was rushed to bed. Maria Luisa received the support of her new mother-in-law, but both were worried sick. Leopold was even worse the following day, and he had a severe fever. Maria Luisa joined her new in-laws in a silent vigil by his bedside. It took nearly two weeks before Leopold began to improve.

In the middle of August, he was well enough that some of the delayed celebrations for the wedding should go ahead. Maria Theresa held a dinner party for the archduchesses while Francis and Leopold’s elder brother Joseph went to the opera. Suddenly, Francis became unwell and suffered a massive stroke. He died that day – 18 August 1765. Leopold’s brother Joseph now became Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, but he had just one surviving daughter by his late first wife Isabella of Parma, and tragically, the young girl would die in 1770. Joseph’s second marriage to Maria Josepha of Bavaria would remain childless.

While Joseph became the new Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold became the new Grand Duke of Tuscany, with Maria Luisa becoming Grand Duchess. After two long weeks of travelling, they arrived in Florence on 13 September. Their new home was to be the Pitti Palace. The following day, Maria Luisa and Leopold appeared on the balcony of the palace to greet the welcoming crowds.

On 14 January 1767, Maria Luisa gave birth to her first child – a daughter named Maria Theresa for her formidable grandmother. In February the following year, she was nine months pregnant with her second child when she ventured out of confinement to attend a masquerade ball with a checkered mask. She went into labour that very same night, and early the next morning, she gave birth to a “healthy, well-formed” son.3 The baby was named Francis, and he too would one day be Holy Roman Emperor. Baby Francis was baptised later that same day with the name “Francis Joseph Charles.” His uncle and godfather Joseph would take an immense interest in his life as he would be the eventual heir. The date was considered to be an especially good omen too as it was the wedding anniversary of Maria Theresa and Francis. Maria Theresa was reportedly so excited that she ran into the imperial theatre shouting, “My Poldy’s got a boy!”4

With the family now settled and blessed with an heir, it was time for their coronation. She was not crowned with him, but she sat in a special box by the altar. The following year, a second son was born. He was named Ferdinand and would eventually become the next Grand Duke of Tuscany. Leopold had been reigning for nearly five years in Tuscany, but he felt suffocated by his mother’s constant advice and he and Maria Luisa – by then again pregnant – travelled to Vienna in April 1770 to talk to her. Leopold and Maria Theresa spoke for hours, and both emerged exhausted, though the outcome seemed to please both. Just before dawn on 21 April 1770, Maria Luisa gave birth to her fourth child – a daughter named Maria Anna. The family stayed in Austria for the following spring and summer as the delivery had been difficult, and Maria Luisa needed time to recover.

Nevertheless, more children would follow. Archduke Charles was born in 1771, Alexander in 1772, Albert in 1773 and Maximilian in 1774. The children received a simple upbringing and “were not brought up in a palace, but in a home.”5 Above all, they were taught that they, as royalty, were there to serve the people. Maria Luisa and Leopold love to take their growing brood on vacations to the countryside or to the beach.

Read part two here.

  1. In Destiny’s Hands: Five Tragic Rulers, Children of Maria Theresa by Justin Vovk p.39
  2. In Destiny’s Hands: Five Tragic Rulers, Children of Maria Theresa by Justin Vovk p.40
  3. In Destiny’s Hands: Five Tragic Rulers, Children of Maria Theresa by Justin Vovk p.61
  4. In Destiny’s Hands: Five Tragic Rulers, Children of Maria Theresa by Justin Vovk p.61
  5. In Destiny’s Hands: Five Tragic Rulers, Children of Maria Theresa by Justin Vovk p.115

About Moniek Bloks 2666 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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