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Maria Theresa of Spain
Maria Theresa with Her son, the Dauphin, Louis of France, Pierre Mignard 1661
Queen consort of France and Navarre
Tenure 9 June 1660 – 30 July 1683
Spouse Louis XIV of France
Louis, Dauphin of France
Princess Marie-Thérèse
Philippe-Charles, Duke of Anjou
House House of Habsburg
House of Bourbon
Father Philip IV of Spain
Mother Elisabeth of France
Born 10 September 1638(1638-09-10)
El Escorial, Spain
Died 30 July 1683 (aged 44)
Versailles, France

Maria Theresa of Spain (Spanish: María Teresa; French: Marie-Thérèse) (10 September 1638 – 30 July 1683) was the daughter of Philip IV, King of Spain and Elizabeth of France. She was Queen of France as wife of King Louis XIV. She was the mother of the Grand Dauphin. During her lifetime in Spain, she was painted by the renowned painter, Diego Velázquez.


In Spain


Early life

Maria Theresa as Infanta of Spain

Born as Infanta María Teresa of Spain being paternal great-great-granddaughter of an Archduke of Austria, at the Royal Monastery of El Escorial, she was the daughter of Philip IV, King of Spain and his Queen consort, Elizabeth of France. Another Spanish infanta, her paternal aunt and mother-in-law, Anne of Austria, Queen of France, also used the Austrian archducal title, then still affected by the Spanish Habsburgs, denoting the origins of the family. María Teresa thus combined the blood of Philip III of Spain and Margaret of Austria, on her father's side, and that of Henry IV of France and Marie de' Medici, on her mother's side. In his turn, Philip III was the son of Philip II of Spain and Anna of Austria who was, herself, a daughter of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor and Maria of Spain. Philip II and Maria of Spain were siblings, being both children of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and Isabella of Portugal. María Teresa, therefore, like many Habsburgs, was a product of years and generations of royal intermarriage between cousins (to illustrate, Philip II married Anna, who was his niece; thus Maria Teresa's great-grandmother was married to her own uncle, which makes Philip III not only his mother's son but her first cousin, and Maria Teresa is both Anna's great-granddaughter and her first cousin twice removed).

Infanta María Teresa by Velázquez, 1653. Here, she wears her hair in a popular style at the Spanish royal court, and also wears extremely wide panniers, also popular in Spain.

When Baltasar Carlos, heir to the Spanish throne, died, as a birth right, María Teresa could inherit the vast Spanish Empire and all the wealth it offered, since there was no restriction in Spanish succession law to the accession of a queen regnant (unlike in France with the Salic Law). While it has been said that she would have made a very good queen of Spain, María Teresa gained the reputation of being rather dull and simple as Queen of France.

It could be said that María Teresa had somewhat of a difficult childhood. Her mother, a beautiful French princess, died when she was just six years old. Her father loved her greatly though. He married his niece, Mariana of Austria, whose mother was his sister, a Spanish infanta. Mariana gave birth to Infanta Margarita Teresa, who was painted in by Velázquez in numerous portraits, and was the central figure in his Las Meninas. Margarita Teresa became Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, but died at the age of twenty-two.

In 1658, as the war with France began to wind down, a union between the two royal families, of Spain and of France, was proposed as a means to secure peace. María Teresa and the French king were double first-cousins, and it was proposed that they wed. His father was Louis XIII of France, who was the brother of her mother, while her father was brother to Anne of Austria, his mother. Such a prospect was intensely enticing to Anne of Austria, mother of Louis XIV and aunt of María Teresa, who desired an end to hostilities between her native country, Spain, and her adopted one, France, and who hoped this to come by her niece becoming her daughter-in-law.[1]. However, Spanish hesitation and procrastination led to a scheme in which Jules Cardinal Mazarin, the First Minister of France, pretended to seek a marriage for his master with Margaret Yolande of Savoy, the second daughter of Christine Marie of France, who was a sister of Louis XIII. When Philip IV of Spain heard of the meeting at Lyon between the Houses of France and Savoy in November 1658, he reputedly exclaimed of the Franco-Savoyard union that "it cannot be, and will not be". Philip then sent a special envoy to the French Court to open negotiations for peace and a royal marriage.


María Teresa is handed over to the French and her husband by proxy, Louis XIV on the Isle of Pheasants

The negotiations for the marriage contract were intense. Eager to prevent a union of the two countries or crowns, especially one in which Spain would be subservient to France, the diplomats sought to include a renunciation clause which would deprieve María Teresa and her children of any rights to the Spanish succession. This was eventually done but, by the skill of Mazarin and his French diplomats, the renunciation and its validity were made conditional upon the payment of a large dowry. As it turned out, Spain, impoverished and bankrupt after decades of war, was unable to pay such a dowry, and France never received the agreed sum of 500,000 écus.[2]

After a marriage by proxy to the French king in Fuenterrabia, María Teresa became known as Marie-Thérèse. Her father, Philip IV, and the entire Spanish court accompanied the bride to the Isle of Pheasants, in the Bidassoa, where Louis and his court met her. On 7 June 1660, she departed from her native country of Spain. Like her father, the new bride knew that they were unlikely to ever see each other again during their lifetime; it was not customary for foreign princesses to revisit the land of their birth: emotional ties were to be severed. It would take an extraordinary event for her to return to Spain. Two days later, on 9 June, the religious marriage took place in Saint-Jean-de-Luz Saint Jean-Baptiste church, which had recently been rebuilt on the site of the former 13th century church burned several times in the 15th and 16th centuries.

After the marriage ceremony, Louis wanted to consummate the marriage as quickly as possible. However the new queen was granted by her mother in law (and aunt) the privilege that the consummation would be private, and not public as was the custom.

In France

Court Life

On 26 August 1660, the newlyweds made the traditional the Royal Entry in Paris. This was to be Marie-Thérèse's introduction to her husband's subjects. She smiled and waved graciously.

Louis was faithful to his wife for the first year of their marriage, even going so far as to command the Grand Maréchal du Logis that "the Queen and himself were never to be set apart, no matter how small the house in which they might be lodging"[3]. He enjoyed the legitimate passion that his wife felt for him. However, the couple would later have difficulty in matching their personalities. While all Paris glorified the good looks of the King, Marie-Thérèse continued to put on weight with her delight in hot chocolate and to withdraw into her circle of dwarfs. It seemed Marie-Thérèse was always the last to know that her husband had found a new mistress. Despite this neglect, it is said that the King would perform his conjugal duties every night. Nonetheless, Louis' taking Louise de La Vallière as his first official mistress, caused the Queen much emotional pain. In later years, Louise would make a public apology for her wrongs against the Queen.

Marie-Thérèse, in a sense, was very lucky to have found such a friend in her mother-in-law, as many princesses in lands foreign to them would not. Marie-Thérèse continued to spend much of her free time playing cards and gambling, as she had no interest in politics or literature. Consequently, she was viewed as not fully playing the part of Queen designated to her by her marriage. However, she became pregnant in early 1661. The long awaited son was born on 1 November 1661. In Spain, five days after the birth of the dauphin, Marie-Thérèse's stepmother, Queen Mariana, gave birth to the future King Charles II of Spain, who was born with many defects due to his family's interbreeding. This set the question for the future Spanish succession, since Spain's heir was practically disabled mentally and physically.

Painting of the Royal family by Jean Nocret,1670; Marie-Thérèse sits to the right of Louis, just beneath him.

The first time Marie-Thérèse ever saw the Palace of Versailles was on 25 October 1660. Then, it was just a small royal residence which had been Louis XIII's hunting lodge not far from Paris. Later, the first building campaign (1664-1668) commenced with the Plaisirs de l’Île enchantée of 1664, a fête that was held from 7 to 13 May 1664. The fête was ostensibly given to celebrate the two Queens of France — Anne, the Queen Mother, and Marie-Thérèse, Louis XIV’s wife. But, in reality, it honored Louis's mistress, Louise de La Vallière. The celebration of the Plaisirs de l’Île enchantée is often regarded as a prelude to the War of Devolution, which Louis waged against Spain. The first building campaign witnessed alterations in the château and gardens in order to accommodate the 600 guests invited to the celebration.

As time passed, Marie-Thérèse grew more docile and the King continued and increased his romantic adventures. She tolerated Madame de Montespan, perhaps because La Montespan's malicious wit left her lost and baffled, but Marie-Thérèse was also too pious and too adoring of her husband to openly resent the position in which she was placed by his avowed infidelities. Moreover, in spite of his blatant unfaithfulness, he ensured that she was treated with the utmost respect befitting her position as Queen and his wife and did indeed reprimand Mme de Montespan when she crossed the line. Eventually, the Queen acted with dignity and did not create scenes at Court. In return, the King left her to her own devices, with her chocolate, Spanish maids and collection of dwarfs. During this period, the religious Madame de Maintenon grew in favour and began to reign over the King's mind and affections. Rather than submitting to his advances and becoming his Maîtresse-en-titre, she encouraged the King to bestow more attention on his long-neglected wife, a gracious act which Marie-Thérèse repaid by lavishing kindness on the new favourite.

Marie-Thérèse played little part in political affairs except for the years 1667, 1672, and 1678, during which she acted as Regent while her husband was absent, away on campaigns on the frontier.


Marie-Thérèse in her later years
Marie-Thérèse's burial site at the Basilique Saint-Denis, where most of France's monarchs are buried.

During the last week of July 1683, Marie-Thérèse fell ill and, as her illness worsened, her husband ordered for the Sacraments to be kept nearby. Marie-Thérèse, Infanta of Spain and Queen of France, died a painful death on 30 July 1683, at Versailles. Upon her death, said: 'This is the first trouble which she has given me.

Her state funeral was magnificent, and Jean-Baptiste Lully's requiem was played.

Of her six children only one survived her, Louis, who died in 1711. Marie-Thérèse's grandson would eventually inherit her rights to the Spanish Throne and become King Philip V of Spain in 1700.


Sketch of Maria Theresa on horseback
  • When asked if she found men in Spain attractive -- "How can I find other men in Spain attractive? There is no King there other than the King my father." (Comme puis-je trouver les autres hommes en Espagne attirants? Il n'y a pas d'autre Roi là-bas que le Roi mon père.)
  • Upon her death -- "This is the only way in which she has displeased me." -- Louis XIV
  • See the funeral oration of Bossuet, (Paris, 1684); Édouard Ducéré, Le Mariage de Louis XIV d'après les contemporains et des documents inédits, (Bayonne, 1905); Dr Cabanes, Les Morts mystérieuses de l'histoire (1900), and the literature dealing with her rivals Louise de La Vallière, Mme de Montespan and Mme de Maintenon.
  • It has been suggested that she was the unnamed "great princess" who, according to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, originally said "Let them eat cake" (and not Marie Antoinette of Austria almost a century later).[4].


House of Habsburg
Spanish line
Escudo de Armas de Felipe II de España.svg
Emperor Charles V
(King Charles I)
Philip II of Spain
Maria, Holy Roman Empress
Joan of Spain
Don John (illegitimate)
Margaret of Parma (illegitimate)
Philip II
Children include
Carlos, Prince of Asturias
Isabella of Spain
Catherine, Duchess of Savoy
Philip III of Spain
Maria of Spain
Philip III
Children include
Anne, Queen of France
Philip IV of Spain
Maria Ana, Holy Roman Empress
Infante Carlos
Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand
Philip IV
Children include
Balthasar Charles, Prince of Asturias
Maria Theresa, Queen of France
Margaret, Holy Roman Empress
Charles II of Spain
Charles II
Name Birth Death Notes
Maria Theresa of Spain with Louis XIV of France
Louis de France, Fils de France, le Grand Dauphin 1 November 1661 14 April 1711 Dauphin of France from 1661–1711. Father of Louis de France (1682-1712), Philippe d'Anjou and Charles de Berry
Anne-Élisabeth de France 18 November 1662 30 December 1662 Fille de France. Died in infancy.
Marie-Anne de France 16 November 1664 26 December 1664 (?) Fille de France. Died in infancy or became Louise Marie-Therese (The Black Nun of Moret).
Marie-Thérèse de France 2 January 1667 1 March 1672 Fille de France. Died at age five; known as Madame Royale and la Petite Madame
Philippe-Charles de France, duc d'Anjou 5 August 1668 10 July 1671 Fils de France. Died at age three.
Louis-François de France, duc d'Anjou 14 June 1672 4 November 1672 Fils de France. Died in infancy.


  1. ^ Antonia Fraser. Love and Louis XIV.
  2. ^ information
  3. ^ Ian Dunlop. Louis XIV. London: Pimlico, 2001.
  4. ^ Antonia Fraser. Marie Antoinette: The Journey. New York: Doubleday Publications, Inc., 2001.



  • 1638-1660: Her Royal Highness Infanta María Teresa of Spain and Portugal
  • 1660-1683: Her Majesty The Queen of France and Navarre



Maria Theresa of Spain
Born: 10 September 1638 Died: 30 July 1683
French royalty
Preceded by
Anne of Austria
Queen consort of France and Navarre
9 June 1660 – 30 July 1683
Succeeded by
Maria Leszczyńska

See also


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