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Mariana of Austria
Mariana of Austria, 1652 by Diego Velázquez, Prado Museum, Madrid.
Queen consort of Spain
Tenure 1649 - 1665
Spouse Philip IV of Spain
Margaret Theresa, Holy Roman Empress
Philip Prospero, Prince of Asturias
Charles II of Spain
House House of Habsburg
Father Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor
Mother Maria Anna of Spain
Born 21 December 1634(1634-12-21)
Hofburg Palace, Vienna, Austria
Died 16 May 1696 (aged 61)
Uceda Palace, Madrid, Spain
Burial El Escorial

Mariana of Austria (21 December 1634 – 16 May 1696) was Queen consort of Spain as the second wife of King Philip IV, who was also her maternal uncle. At the death of her husband in 1665, Mariana became Queen regent, and she remained an influential figure during the reign of her son Charles II, the last Spanish Habsburg.


Early life

Maria Anna and her older brother, Ferdinand, by Frans Luycx, c. 1636.

Born as Maria Anna on December 21, 1634 in the Hofburg Palace, in Vienna, Austria, she was the granddaughter of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II. Her parents were King Ferdinand III of Hungary and Maria Anna of Spain, the sister of Mariana's future husband, King Philip IV of Spain. Her father, who would become Emperor in 1637, was as yet only the King of Hungary and Bohemia, and was away for most of his wife's pregnancy campaigning in the Thirty Years' War.

Maria Anna, was the second of six children, three of which died in early childhood. Her oldest brother, Ferdinand IV of Hungary died young. Only Maria Anna and her younger brother, the future Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, lived to reach old age.


The reflection of Mariana and Philip IV appears in Las Meninas, by Velázquez.

Maria Anna was destined from her early years to continue the marriage policy between the two branches of the Habsburg family, the Austrian and the Spanish. A policy of inbreeding followed for generations. Following this policy, in 1646 Maria Anna, then eleven years old, was engaged to her Spanish Habsburg first cousin Baltasar Carlos, Prince of Asturias, heir of the Spanish crown. However, he died only three months later age 16. With Baltasar Carlos's death, Philip IV was left without a male heir and Maria Anna without a fiancé. Philip was widower, as his beautiful and beloved French wife, Élisabeth of France, had justr died a few years prior. Philip decided to marry his 15 year old niece himself. After a marriage by proxy, they were wedded on October 7, 1649 in Navalcarnero, near Madrid, and spent their wedding night at El Escorial. From then on, she went by her name in Spanish, Mariana. Although known for being cheerful as a young girl, after her wedding to her uncle she became cold and bad-tempered.

Mariana and Philip's marriage produced five children, however, only two lived into adulthood. Their first child was Margarita Teresa, who was born on July 12, 1651; just as her mother did, she went onto marry her maternal uncle Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor. In 1655, Mariana then had another daughter, Maria Ambrosia de la Concepción; she only lived fifteen days. During this time period, there were those at court who wanted Philip to name his eldest daughter, Maria Teresa, as his heir,which would have been legal, as Spanish law permitted (And still does) for a woman to inherit the throne. Mariana began feeling the pressure to have a son. Eventually, her first son, Philip Prospero, was born on November 28, 1657, who was joyously received. She then gave birth to the Infante Fernando Tomás in 1658, but he died a year later in 1659.

Sadly, her son Philip Prospero died in 1661. But that same year, Mariana gave birth to her last child, a son; he was named Carlos and was born on November 6.

Carlos was born physically and mentally disabled, and disfigured. Possibly through affliction with mandibular prognathism, he was unable to chew. His tongue was so large that his speech could barely be understood, and he frequently drooled. It has been suggested that he suffered from the endocrine disease acromegaly,[1] or his inbred lineage may have led to a combination of rare genetic disorders such as combined pituitary hormone deficiency and distal renal tubular acidosis.[2]

Consequently, Charles II is known in Spanish history as El Hechizado ("The Hexed") from the popular belief – to which Charles himself subscribed – that his physical and mental disabilities were caused by "sorcery." The king went so far as to be exorcised.

Mariana by Velázquez

Mariana by Velázquez, c. 1656.

Spain's most famous painter at the time, Diego Velázquez, stayed in Rome from 1649-1650. Philip IV wanted his favourite court painter, now enjoying such a triumph in Rome, to paint his second wife, Mariana, and to give his advice on the renovation of the old royal palace in Madrid, the Alcázar. Consequently, he wished Velázquez to come back to court as soon as possible, but nonetheless the artist delayed his return for another whole year.

The official portrait of Mariana, commissioned by the king, is the most famous one of her, and today it hangs in one of the best art museums in the world, the Prado Museum, in Madrid. The painting was copied, and one of the copies hangs in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The original portrait was not completed until 1652. Mariana was just nineteen at the time that it was painted. It shows her full length, wearing a black dress with silver braid, and of course adorned with much valuable jewellery: gold necklaces and bracelets, and a large gold brooch on her close-fitting bodice. Her right hand rests on the back of a chair, and she holds a delicate lace scarf in her left hand. The picture is bathed in harmonious shades of black and red, although the dramatically drawn curtain has been painted over by another hand.

The composition turns on the focal point of the queen's alabaster skin and rouged face, small and almost doll-like under her hair, which is dressed very wide. Her bust, tightly encased in the bodice, her stiff farthingale and all her fashionable magnificence are rendered true to life by Velázquez, and at the same time he reveals them as a theatrical show concealing the girl's natural physical nature beneath the armour of courtly constraint.


Mariana by Velázquez, 1660.

When Philip IV died on September 17, 1665, their only surviving son, Carlos, was only 3 years old, and Mariana served as Regent, relying on her confessor, Juan Everardo Nithard, for support until his dismissal in 1669. Charles, at most times unable to walk or speak, needed a regent more than most child kings, and was carried as an infant in an adult's arms until he was 10. In 1668, a voyage led by Jesuit missionary San Vitores named the Mariana Islands in the North Pacific after the queen regent. Also that year, Spain entered the War of Devolution; it lost most of its land in the Spanish Netherlands to France. Mariana served as his regent for much of his life. She suffered greatly upon receiving the news of the death of her daughter, the Holy Roman Empress, Margarita Teresa, in Vienna in 1673. In 1675, her son Carlos reached the age he need to be to rule, however, Mariana continued to rule most of the time due to her son's illnesses. In 1677, Mariana was driven from Madrid by John of Austria the Younger, an illegitimate son of Philip IV. The palace coup was due to widespread dissatisfaction at court with her support for her new advisor Fernando de Valenzuela. She went to live in Toledo, but returned to Madrid upon John's death in 1679.

Later life

That same year, her son Charles II married the French princess Marie Louise d'Orléans. Although he was madly in love with her, their marriage remained childless. Ten years later, in 1689, Marie Louise died under mysterious circumstances. At the time, there were rumours saying that she had been poisoned by the notorious intrigante Olympia Mancini, Countess of Soissons, at the behest of Mariana, the dowager queen, because Marie Louise had not given birth to any children. This is questionable since Mariana and Marie Louise were close and the dowager queen was also devastated at the young Marie Louise's death. It seems likely that the real cause of her death was appendicitis.

Carlos married again, this time a German princess: Maria Anna of Neuburg. However, this second marriage was also childless. His new wife was in very bad terms with the Queen Mother, Mariana, who wanted her great-grandson, Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria, to become the next King of Spain. This led to frequent arguments with her second-daughter-in-law, Maria Anna of Neuburg, who wanted her nephew, Archduke Charles of Austria, to become the next King of Spain. After many unpleasant arguments, the Queen Mother stated: "Two suns cannot live in the same sky". Once during an argument between the two royal ladies, the Queen Mother told her: "Learn to live, lady, and know once and for all that people far higher than you have humbled themselves before me, people over whom you have only one advantage, that you are the wife of my son, an honour which you owe to me alone." The hysterical Maria Anna replied: "That is why I hate you so much!"

As her great-grandson, Joseph Ferdinand, died childless, Mariana has no descendants today.


Mariana, as a widow, in her later years, by Claudio Coello, c. 1685-1693.

Mariana died of breast cancer on the night of May 16, 1696 at the Uceda Palace in Madrid, Spain, at the moment when a total eclipse of the moon reached its maximum and the Spanish capital was completely covered in darkness. Soon after her funeral, some miracles begun to be reported. When her coffin was taken out so the crowds could say farewell, a white dove was seen flying around it and finally disappeared into the heavens. Everyone thought it was an omen. A nun who had attended the Queen Mother at the palace begged a garment for remembrance; she slept in it and next morning awoke cured of a life-long paralysis. The British ambassador in Madrid, Lord Alexander Stanhope, wrote about this subject:

There is now great noise of a miracle, done by a piece of waistcoat she died in, on an old lame nun, who in great faith earnestly desired it, and so sooner applied it to her lips, but she was perfectly well, and immediately threw away her crutches. This, with some other stories, which will not be wanting, may in time grow up to a canonization.

The infamous Countess of Berlips, a German lady living at the Spanish court, wrote the following lines on the subject:

The miracles attributed to her after her death are not yet proved. One knows how easily such things are made up and attributed to people who have been calumniated while alive. There is no doubt that the dead Queen was a saint, because of her irreproachable conduct all her life, but the Spaniards don't deserve miracles from her, since they embittered her existence.


Mariana's ancestors in three generations
Mariana of Austria Father:
Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor
Father's father:
Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor
Father's father's father:
Charles II of Austria
Father's father's mother:
Maria Anna of Bavaria
Father's mother:
Maria Anna of Bavaria
Father's mother's father:
William V, Duke of Bavaria
Father's mother's mother:
Renata of Lorraine
Maria Anna of Spain
Mother's father:
Philip III of Spain
Mother's father's father:
Philip II of Spain
Mother's father's mother:
Anne of Austria
Mother's mother:
Margaret of Austria
Mother's mother's father:
Charles II of Austria
Mother's mother's mother:
Maria Anna of Bavaria


  • Calvo Poyato, José, La vida y epoca de Carlos II el Hechizado (Barcelona: Editorial Planeta, 1998).
  • Calvo Poyato, José, Reinas viudas de España (Barcelona: Península, 2002).
  • Fisas, Carlos, Historias de las reinas de España: la Casa de Austria (Barcelona: Editorial Planeta, 1999).
  • González-Doria, Fernando, Las reinas de España (Madrid: Trigo, 2003).
  • Maura Gamazo, Gabriel, Vida y reinado de Carlos II (Madrid: Espasa Calve, 1942).
  • Pfandl, Ludwig, Carlos II (Madrid: Afrodisio Aguado, 1947).


External links


Mariana of Austria
Born: 23 December 1634 Died: 16 May 1696
Spanish royalty
Preceded by
Elisabeth of Bourbon
Queen consort of Spain
Succeeded by
Marie Louise d'Orléans
Consort of the Spanish Netherlands
Artois lost in 1659



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