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Elisabeth of Austria
Queen consort of France
Elizabeth d'Autriche, by François Clouet (1510-1572).
Tenure 26 November 1570 – 30 May 1574
Spouse Charles IX of France
Marie Elisabeth of Valois
House House of Habsburg
House of Valois
Father Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor
Mother Maria of Spain
Born 5 July 1554(1554-07-05)
Died 22 January 1592 (aged 37)

Elisabeth of Austria (5 July 1554 – 22 January 1592), was born an Archduchess of Austria, and later became Queen of France. She was the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II and Maria of Spain. She was married to Charles IX of France for three and a half years, until his death.


Early life

Elisabeth enjoyed a privileged and secluded childhood in Vienna, where she and her many siblings were raised as devout Catholics. With her flawless white skin, long blond hair and perfect physique, she was considered one of the greatest beauties of the era. Demure, pious and warm-hearted, she was also naive and intensely innocent because of her sheltered upbringing.

Marriage: Queen of France

At the age of sixteen, she was married to King Charles IX of France to help cement an alliance between the Habsburg emperors and the French Crown. She was first married by proxy (with ambassador Albert de Gondi standing in for the king) in Vienna, and then in an official ceremony in Paris with immense pomp and extravagance, despite the dire state of French finances. Her wedding gown was of silver and her tiara was studded with pearls, emeralds, diamonds and rubies.

Her husband, who already had a long-term mistress, Marie Touchet, was devoted to his teenage bride. Although they never fell in love, the couple had a warm and supportive relationship. Charles realised that the scandalous ways of the French Court might shock Elisabeth and, along with his mother, Catherine de' Medici, he made an effort to shield her from its excesses. She continued to hear Mass twice a day, despite being horrified at how little respect was shown for religion by the supposedly Catholic courtiers. Her one controversial act was to make a point of rejecting the attentions of Protestant courtiers and politicians by refusing them permission to kiss her hand when they paid homage to the royal family.

Charles suffered periodic bouts of madness, which had to be hidden from the public as best as possible. Despite these hindrances, Elisabeth quickly fell pregnant and left Paris to enjoy the country air at Fontainebleau. It was during this seclusion that she received news of the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre in August 1572, when thousands of French Protestants were slaughtered on the streets of Paris. Although she loathed Protestantism, Elisabeth never publicly rejoiced at so many deaths - like other prominent Catholics did. Her daughter, Marie-Elisabeth, was born a few months later, on 27 Oct 1572.

Widowhood and Death

Two years later, when France was devastated by another religious civil war, Charles IX died, with Elisabeth at his bedside - weeping "tears so tender, and so secret," according to one eyewitness. She retired to the countryside, rejecting her father's proposition that she attempt to marry her dead husband's brother - now King Henry III of France. She made half her fortune available to her sister-in-law - Marguerite de Valois - who was ostracised from the rest of the royal family. Her last great tragedy came on 9 April 1578, when her six year-old daughter died of an unknown infantile infection.

Elisabeth died in 1592, by which time the House of Valois had been destroyed and a new royal family ruled France.

Family and Children

Elisabeth and Charles IX had one child:


French royalty
Preceded by
Mary Stuart
Queen consort of France
26 November 1570 – 30 May 1574
Succeeded by
Louise de Lorraine-Vaudémont


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