Maria Theresa, Spanish Infanta, was born on the 10th September 1638 in Spain, the daughter of the Spanish King Philip IV and his consort Elisabeth of France. From 1646 until 1657, Maria Theresa was heir presumptive to the Spanish throne. Due to the absence of Salic Law in Spain (unlike France), it was possible for women to ascend the throne.
Maria Theresa’s (known later in France as Marie) childhood was marred by tragedy. The death of her mother in 1644 and the loss of her older brother in 1646 followed by her father’s unhappy second marriage left Maria Theresa completely alone in Spain. At the same time, France and Spain were eager to unite after several years of war. Marriage was therefore proposed between Maria Theresa and Louis XIV, the young and handsome king of France.
Queen of France
The two royal cousins married in June 1660. Prior to her marriage, Maria Theresa renounced all claims to her father’s throne. However, this renunciation was dependent on the payment of a large dowry, and this was never fulfilled. The young new Queen of France was not typically considered beautiful by the French court. Her forehead was considered rather too high and her mouth rather too large. However, her Hapsburg ancestry gave her respectability and, her gentle and demure nature would serve her well at the French court.
King Louis would never be a faithful husband, but thankfully Maria Theresa would find a faithful friend in her mother-in-law (and aunt) Anne of Austria. The two native Spanish women would spend time visiting convents and other religious institutions. Despite Louis’ infidelity, in early 1661 Maria Theresa became pregnant and later that year on the 1st of November (to the delight of France), a son was born. Louis, the Grand Dauphin (as he would be known) appeared to take after his mother in temperament and intelligence. Sadly, Louis would be the only child of Maria Theresa and Louis XIV to make it to adulthood.
Rumours have survived claiming that whilst married to Louis, Maria Theresa gave birth to an illegitimate child; Louise Marie Therese (The Black Nun of Moret). Louise herself would later be convinced of her royal heritage and would be mentioned in the memoirs of many contemporaries.
The Queen would eventually tolerate her husband’s many mistresses. The Queen even graciously forgave Louis’ mistress Louise de La Valliere when she begged the Queen for forgiveness before departing to a convent. In later years, the king’s mistress, Madame de Maintenon would attempt to reconcile the King to the Queen, who had been neglected by her husband for many years. Through these small actions the Queen would forever hold Maintenon in high esteem.
Unexpectedly, and at the tender age of forty-five, Maria Theresa died of a sudden illness. Upon hearing of her death, the King said :”In the twenty-three years during which I lived with the Queen, she gave me not a single anxiety, nor did she once oppose my will”. Her only living child, The Grand Dauphin, would not live to succeed his father as King.
One of her grandsons eventually inherited her Spanish claims and succeeded to the Spanish throne as King Philip V of Spain.