Open main menu

Mariana of Austria or Maria Anna (24 December 1634 – 16 May 1696) was Queen of Spain from 1649 until her husband and uncle, Philip IV, died in 1665. She was then appointed regent for their three-year-old son Charles II, and due to his ill health remained an influential figure until her own death in 1696.

Mariana of Austria
Diego Velázquez 032.jpg
Portrait by Velázquez
Queen consort of Spain
Tenure7 October 1649 – 17 September 1665
Born(1634-12-24)24 December 1634
Wiener Neustadt, Archduchy of Austria, Holy Roman Empire
Died16 May 1696(1696-05-16) (aged 61)
Uceda Palace, Madrid, Spain
SpousePhilip IV, King of Spain
Margaret Theresa, Holy Roman Empress
Philip Prospero, Prince of Asturias
Charles II, King of Spain
Full name
Maria Anna
FatherFerdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor
MotherMaria Anna of Spain
ReligionRoman Catholic

Early lifeEdit

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

Maria Anna was born on 24 December 1634 in Wiener Neustadt, the second child of King Ferdinand III of Hungary and Maria Anna of Spain. In 1637, her father became emperor on the death of Emperor Ferdinand II.

Her parents had six children, of whom three survived into adulthood. Maria Anna's elder brother, Ferdinand IV of Hungary died in 1654 at the age of 21; her younger brother Leopold I succeeded as emperor in 1658.

Queen of SpainEdit

The Habsburgs preferred to marry within the family to retain their lands and properties, and in 1646 Maria Anna was betrothed to her Spanish cousin Balthasar Charles, Prince of Asturias, heir to the Spanish crown. When he died three months later, Maria Anna was left without a husband and Philip IV without a male heir. His own wife had died several years before and on 7 October 1649, forty-four-year-old Philip married his fourteen-year-old niece in Navalcarnero, near Madrid. From then on, she was known by her Spanish name 'Mariana.'

The marriage was not a happy one; Mariana was excluded from government, focusing instead on religion and exceptional piety.[1] Only two of their five children lived into adulthood; the eldest, Margaret Theresa (1651-1673) followed her mother's example in 1666 by marrying her maternal uncle Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor. Mariana's second daughter, Maria Ambrosia, lived only fifteen days, followed by two sons, Philip Prospero (1657-1661) and Ferdinand Thomas (1658-1659).

Shortly after Philip Prospero's death, on 6 November 1661 Mariana gave birth to her last child, Charles. Unlike his elder sister, he suffered a number of physical disabilities and was known as El Hechizado or "The Bewitched" from the popular belief his ailments were caused by "sorcery." In Charles' case, the so-called Habsburg lip was so pronounced he spoke and ate with difficulty all his life. He did not learn to walk until he was eight and never attended school but foreign observers noted his mental capacities remained intact.[2]

It has been suggested Charles suffered from the endocrine disease acromegaly and a combination of rare genetic disorders often transmitted through recessive genes, including combined pituitary hormone deficiency and distal renal tubular acidosis.[3] However, this is speculation; the authors of the most significant study state that 'it has not been demonstrated the disabilities suffered by Charles II were caused by the expression of detrimental recessive alleles inherited from common ancestors.[4]


Mariana by Velázquez, 1660.

As Charles was only 3 years old when Philip died on 17 September 1665, Mariana was appointed his regent, advised by a Regency Council, until he became a legal adult at the age of 14. Her competence is difficult to assess; even modern opinions often reflect contemporary views on the role of women and Mariana as a 'foreigner,' while the second half of the 17th century was one of almost continuous crisis for Europe in general, not only Spain.[5] Recent studies argue she attempted significant reforms but these were compromised by internal political feuds.[6]

The struggle between 'Austrian' and 'French' factions, respectively led by Mariana and Charles' illegitimate half-brother John of Austria the Younger, was worsened by Spain's division into the Crowns of Castile and Aragon. Each had very different political cultures and traditions, making it hard to enact reforms or collect taxes; government finances were in perpetual crisis and Spain declared bankruptcy nine times between 1557 and 1666, including 1647, 1652, 1661 and 1666.[7]

Cardinal Juan Everardo Nithard, c. 1674, Mariana's first validos.

Mariana followed the system established by Philip of governing through personal advisors or "validos," the first of whom was Juan Everardo Nithard, an Austrian Jesuit and her personal confessor. Since Philip's will excluded foreigners from the Regency Council, Nithard first had to be naturalised, which caused immediate resentment.[8] The new government was faced with the long-running Portuguese Restoration War and the War of Devolution with France; Spain declared bankruptcy in 1662 and 1666, making reductions in military spending a matter of extreme urgency. In 1668, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ended the war with France while the Treaty of Lisbon accepted the restoration of the Crown of Portugal and loss of the Portuguese Empire.[9]

These concessions were an acceptance of reality and in many ways Aix-La-Chapelle was a diplomatic triumph, since France returned most of its gains but many nobles saw it as a humiliation. John instigated a revolt in Aragon and Catalonia, forcing Marianna to dismiss Nithard in February 1669 and replace him with Fernando de Valenzuela. When Charles came of age in 1675, John used the opportunity to dismiss Valenzuela but he was restored in 1677 when the Regency was reinstated due to Charles's ill-health.

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

The Franco-Dutch War in 1672 dragged Spain into another expensive war with France and John finally gained control of government in 1678. He died in September 1679, one of his last acts being to arrange a marriage between Charles and 17-year-old Marie Louise of Orléans in November 1679. Mariana was once more restored as regent, although her influence over Charles was diminished by his new wife.

The 1683-84 War of the Reunions was followed in 1688 by the outbreak of the Nine Years' War. In February 1689, Marie Louise died; as with many deaths of the period, there were allegations she was poisoned but modern assessments of her symptoms conclude the cause was almost certainly appendicitis. To replace her, Mariana selected Maria Anna of Neuburg, one of 12 children, whose eldest sister Eleonore was the third wife of Emperor Leopold, making her aunt to future emperors Joseph I and Charles VI. From Marianna's perspective, these Austrian connections and the family's record of fertility made her an ideal choice.[10]

However, Charles' second marriage was also childless; by that time, he was almost certainly impotent, his autopsy later revealing he had only one atrophied testicle.[11] As his health declined, internal struggles over the succession became increasingly bitter, with the leadership of the pro-French faction passing to Fernández de Portocarrero, Cardinal and Archbishop of Toledo.

Under the influence of the 'Austrians,' in 1690 Spain joined the Grand Alliance coalition against France, which proved a disastrous decision. The state declared bankruptcy once again in 1692 and by 1696, France occupied most of Catalonia; Mariana retained power with the support of German auxiliaries under Maria Anna's brother Charles Philip, many of whom were expelled after Mariana's death.[12] She died on 16 May 1696 at the Uceda Palace in Madrid, at the age of sixty-one; the cause is thought to have been breast cancer.[13]


Her daughter Margaret Theresa in Velázquez's masterpiece Las Meninas.
Las Meninas detail; Mariana and Philip appear reflected in a mirror.


Mariana supported the 1668 mission led by Diego Luis de San Vitores and Saint Pedro Calungsod to convert the indigenous Chamorro people of Guam and the Mariana Islands to Christianity.

The Portrait of Mariana painted by Diego Velázquez was commissioned by Philip and is the only known full-length painting of her. The original is in the Prado Museum in Madrid; a copy was sent to her father Ferdinand and is held by the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Several other portraits of her were made, including Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo's Queen Mariana of Spain in Mourning, 1666. She also appears as a detail in Velasquez' masterpiece Las Meninas which features her daughter Margaret Theresa.

Family treeEdit


  1. ^ Graziano, Frank (2004). Wounds of Love: The Mystical Marriage of Saint Rose of Lima. OUP. pp. 106–107. ISBN 0195136403.
  2. ^ Onnekink, David (ed) Mijers, Esther (ed), Rule, John (2017). The Partition Treaties, 1698-1700; A European View in Redefining William III: The Impact of the King-Stadholder in International Context. Routledge. pp. 91–108. ISBN 978-1138257962.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Callaway, Ewen (19 April 2013). "Inbred Royals Show Traces of Natural Selection". Nature News. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  4. ^ Gonzalo, Alvarez, Ceballos, Francisco; Quintero Celsa (2009). "The Role of Inbreeding in the Extinction of a European Royal Dynasty". PLOS ONE. 4 (4): e5174. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005174. PMC 2664480. PMID 19367331.
  5. ^ de Vries, Jan (2009). "The Economic Crisis of the 17th Century" (PDF). Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies. 40 (2): 151–194. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  6. ^ Mitchell, Silvia Z (2013). Mariana of Austria and Imperial Spain: Court, Dynastic, and International Politics in Seventeenth- Century Europe. University of Miami Scholarly Repository. pp. 19–21. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  7. ^ Jon Cowans (2003). Modern Spain: A Documentary History. U. of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 26–27. ISBN 0-8122-1846-9.
  8. ^ Storrs, Christopher (2006). The Resilience of the Spanish Monarchy 1665-1700. OUP Oxford. p. 154. ISBN 0199246378.
  9. ^ Barton, Simon (2009). A History of Spain. Palgrave. ISBN 978-0230200128.
  10. ^ Rommelse, Gijs (2011). Ideology and Foreign Policy in Early Modern Europe (1650–1750). Routledge. p. 224. ISBN 978-1409419136.
  11. ^ García-Escudero López, Ángel, Arruza Echevarría A, Padilla Nieva and R. Puig Giró1, Padilla Nieva, Jaime, Puig Giró, Ramon (2009). "Charles II; from spell to genitourinary pathology". History of Urology. 62 (3): 182.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ Storrs, Christopher (2006). The Resilience of the Spanish Monarchy 1665-1700. OUP Oxford. p. 158. ISBN 0199246378.
  13. ^ Graziano, Frank (2003). Wounds of Love : The Mystical Marriage of Saint Rose of Lima. Oxford University Press. pp. 106–107.


  • Barton, Simon; A History of Spain; (Palgrave, 2009);
  • Mitchell, Silvia Z. "Habsburg Motherhood:The Power of Queen Mariana of Austria, Mother and Regent for Carlos II of Spain,” in Early Modern Habsburg Women: Transnational Contexts, Cultural Conflicts, Dynastic Continuities. Eds., Anne J. Cruz and Maria Galli Stampino. Aldershot, UK; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013, 175-196.
  • De Vries, Jan; The Economic Crisis of the 17th Century; (Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, 2009);
  • Graziano, Frank; Wounds of Love : The Mystical Marriage of Saint Rose of Lima; (OUP, 2003);
  • Mitchell, Silvia Z; Queen, Mother, and Stateswoman: Mariana of Austria and the Government of Spain (Penn State University Press, 2019).
  • Rommelse, Gijs; Ideology and Foreign Policy in Early Modern Europe (1650–1750) (Routledge, 2011);
  • Rule, John; The Partition Treaties, 1698-1700; A European View in Redefining William III; (Routledge, 2011);
  • Storrs, Christopher; The Resilience of the Spanish Monarchy 1665-1700 (OUP Oxford, 2006);
Mariana of Austria
Born: 23 December 1634 Died: 16 May 1696
Spanish royalty
Title last held by
Elisabeth of France
Queen consort of Spain
7 October 1649 – 17 September 1665
Title next held by
Marie Louise of Orléans