Maria of Austria, Holy Roman Empress

Maria of Austria, Holy Roman Empress
Maria of Austria
Holy Roman Empress; Queen consort of Germany, Hungary and Bohemia
Tenure 1562–1576
Spouse Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor
Anna, Queen of Spain
Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor
Ernest, Archduke of Austria
Elisabeth, Queen of France
Matthias, Holy Roman Emperor
Maximilian III, Archduke of Austria
Albert VII, Archduke of Austria
House House of Habsburg
Father Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Mother Isabella of Portugal
Born 21 June 1528
Madrid, Spain
Died 26 February 1603
Convent of Las Descalzas Reales, Madrid, Spain

Archduchess Maria of Austria (21 June 1528 – 26 February 1603) was the spouse of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia and Hungary.[1] She was the daughter of Emperor Charles V and twice served as regent of Spain.



Maria was born in Madrid to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (elect at the time) and King of Spain, and Isabella of Portugal. She grew up mostly between Toledo and Valladolid with her other siblings. They built a strong family bond despite their father's regular absences. Maria and her full brother, Phillip, shared similar strong personal views and policies which they kept during the rest of their lives.

Married life

On the 13th September 1548, aged twenty, she married her first cousin Archduke Maximilian. The couple first stayed at the Spanish court and had sixteen children during the course of a twenty-eight-year marriage.

While her father was occupied with German affairs, Maria and Maximilian acted as regents of Spain from 1548 to 1550. In 1552, the couple moved to live at the court of Maximilian's father in Vienna. During the absence of her brother, King Philip II, Maria was again installed as regent of Spain from 1558 to 1561 and returned to Madrid during that time.

After her return to Germany, her husband gradually succeeded his father Ferdinand I as ruler of Germany, Bohemia and Hungary, which he ruled from 1564 to his death in 1576. Maria was a devout Catholic and frequently disagreed with her religious ambiguous husband. Maria of Spain had great influence over her sons, the future emperors Rudolf and Matthias.

Return to Spain

Maria returned to Spain in 1582, commenting that she was very happy to live in "a country without heretics". She settled in the Convent of Las Descalzas Reales in Madrid, where she lived until her death in 1603.

She was the patron of the noted Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria, and the great Requiem Mass he wrote in 1603 for her funeral is considered among the finest and most refined of his works.

Maria exerted some influence together with queen Margaret. Margaret, the sister of the future Emperor Ferdinand II, would be one of three women at Philip's court who would apply considerable influence over the king.[2] Margaret was considered by contemporaries to be extremely pious – in some cases, excessively pious, and too influenced by the Church[3] – 'astute and very skillful' in her political dealings,[4] although 'melancholic' and unhappy over the influence of the Duke of Lerma over her husband at court.[3] Margaret continued to fight an ongoing battle with Lerma for influence up until her death in 1611. Philip had an 'affectionate, close relationship' with Margaret,[5] and paid her additional attention after she bore him a son in 1605.[5]

Maria, the Austrian representative to the Spanish court – and Margaret of the Cross, Maria's daughter – along with queen Margaret, formed a powerful Catholic and pro-Austrian voice during the reign of Philip III of Spain life.[2] They were successful, for example, in convincing Philip to provide financial support to Ferdinand from 1600 onwards.[5] Philip steadily acquired other religious advisors. Father Juan de Santa Maria, was the confessor to Philip's daughter, Doña Maria, was felt by contemporaries to have an excessive influence over Philip at the end of his life,[6] and both he and Luis de Aliaga, Philip's own confessor, were credited with influencing the overthrow of Lerma in 1618. Similarly Mariana de San Jose, a favoured nun of Queen Margaret's, was also criticised for her later influence over the King's actions.[6]


Maria and Maximilian had sixteen children:

  • Anne of Austria (1 November 1549 – 26 October 1580), married Philip II of Spain
  • Ferdinand of Austria (28 March 1551 – 25 June 1552)
  • Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor (18 July 1552 – 20 January 1612)
  • Archduke Ernest of Austria (15 July 1553 – 12 February 1595), served as Governor of the Low Countries
  • Elisabeth of Austria (5 June 1554 – 22 January 1592), married Charles IX of France
  • Marie of Austria (27 July 1555 – 25 June 1556).
  • Matthias, Holy Roman Emperor (24 February 1557 – 20 March 1619)
  • An unnamed son (stillborn on 20 October 1557)
  • Maximilian III, Archduke of Austria (12 October 1558 – 2 November 1618), served as grandmaster of the Teutonic Order and Administrator of Prussia
  • Albert VII, Archduke of Austria (15 November 1559 – 13 July 1621), served as Governor of the Low Countries
  • Wenzel of Austria (9 March 1561 – 22 September 1578)
  • Friedrich of Austria (21 June 1562 – 16 January 1563)
  • Marie of Austria (19 February 1564 – 26 March 1564), named after deceased older sister
  • Karl of Austria (26 September 1565 – 23 May 1566)
  • Margaret of Austria (25 January 1567 – 5 July 1633), a nun
  • Eleonore of Austria (4 November 1568 – 12 March 1580)



  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Sánchez, p.91.
  3. ^ a b Sánchez, p.98.
  4. ^ Sánchez, p.99.
  5. ^ a b c Sánchez, p.100.
  6. ^ a b Sánchez, p.97.
Maria of Austria, Holy Roman Empress
House of Habsburg
Born: 21 June 1528 Died: 26 February 1603
Royal titles
Preceded by
Isabella of Portugal
Holy Roman Empress consort
Succeeded by
Anna of Tyrol
Preceded by
Anna Jagellonica
Roman-German Queen consort
Archduchess consort of Austria
Queen consort of Bohemia
Preceded by
Anna Jagellonica
in dispute with
Isabella Jagiellon
Queen consort of Hungary

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