Ana – Spanish princess, French queen
It’s some time since I wrote anything about a Spanish Hapsburg, and by now I am suffering such severe withdrawal symptoms I’ve decided there’s nothing to it but to throw myself headlong into the story of Ana María Mauricia, Spanish Infanta and future French Queen.
Choosing Ana is rather apt, as here in Sweden December 9th is Anna’s nameday – once a saint’s day commemorating the Virgin’s mother, these days merely a cause of celebration for those who share that name. Like me.
Well, neither here nor there – at least not from a Hapsburg persepctive. So let’s return to my chosen protagonist instead. Ana was born in 1601, the eldest daughter of Felipe III and his wife (and cousin). Felipe was the son of Felipe II, at the time of his birth discarded as being puny and weak – and hopefully nothing but a spare, seeing as he had two older brothers – but soon enough the elder brothers had died, and so it was that the runt of the litter ascended the throne after that illustrous king, Felipe II.
Felipe III was very pious – as was his wife – and little Ana grew up just as pious, happily accompanying her parents when they went to visit monasteries or the like. She was close to her parents and siblings, and when her mother tragically died when Ana was eleven, she did her best to mother her sisters and brothers – obviously with some success, as they were all very fond of her.
At the time, Spain and France were the largest and most powerful Catholic realms in Europe. Well, the Spanish would argue Spain was a teensy, weensy bit richer and more important and more religious and bigger – definitely bigger – given all those colonies they had. Spain was an Empire. France was a mere kingdom. As per the Spanish.
For the last hundred years or so, France and Spain had been in constant conflict with each other, every such period of conflict ending with a treaty solemnised by a marriage. So Felipe II married Elizabeth Valois in 1559, thereby ushering in a period of (relative) peace between France and Spain. So Ana was to marry the very young French king, Louis XIII, while her brother, the future Felipe IV, was to marry Louis’ younger sister, yet another Elizabeth. (Yet another of Louis XIII’s sisters was to marry Charles I of England)
Being a princess and raised to be obedient and pious and in everything do as was best for Spain, Ana probably had no objections to the match. Besides, she’d end up a queen, even if France was viewed with some suspicion by the devout Spanish. A nest of sin and vanity, people muttered, not at all as morally upright as Spain.
At fourteen, Ana was sent off to France, where she was quickly renamed Anne and presented to her husband. Pressure was on for the newlywed to consummate their marriage ASAP, but Louis was not all that interested in his young wife, and she stuck out like a wart among the French courtiers, being predisposed to dress sedately and spend more time on her knees praying than playing.
To be fair to Louis, he didn’t have it easy. He’d become king at nine, following his father’s assassination. Since then, France had danced to the tunes of the Dowager Queen’s pipe. Maria d’Medici antagonised the French repeatedly, and in 1617 Louis ousted his mother’s favourite, forced Maria into exile and took control of his kingdom. He was sixteen at the time, prone to being suspicious of everyone and everything and afflicted by a severe stutter.
One could have thought the young king would have looked to his equally young wife for support. Instead, he gravitated to the young men at court, and Anne, on her part, was lonely and isolated – even more so when her Spanish household was sent home, new French ladies chosen for her.
To say Anne and Louis had an unhappy start to their marriage is an understatement – after all, there’s a reason why Dumas had this particular queen entering into liasons dangereuses with the Duke of Buckingham, the ever so dashing George Villiers. Not, I might add, something one should take as historical fact.
Anyway, around 1619, the king finally acquiesced to consummating his marriage – the pressure was on to produce an heir. For a time, it seemed the king and his queen would bond, but a number of stillbirths drove them even further apart. The king did his thing – principally fighting the Protestants – the queen did her thing – mostly spending times visiting religious establishments – and as time passed, it seemed unlikely there would ever be an heir.
Things weren’t exactly helped by Cardinal Richelieu, since 1624 effective ruler of France and Louis XIII’s go-to person in all matters, be they great or small. I’m guessing that a cardinal had little advice to dispense when it came to marriage – and besides, the cardinal did not mind that the Hapsburg queen was relegated to the sidelines.
Richelieu was very anti-Hapsburg. Not so strange, seeing as France was effectively surrounded by Hapsburg dominions, but for Anne this meant that she was defined as the enemy, and as tensions rose between France and Spain, so did the cardinal’s (and the king’s) distrust of Anne. It probably didn’t help that Anne still retained a lot of that stiff formality imbued in her since childhood. The Spanish court was a solemn affair – contemporaries often remarked about the lack of gaiety in a court dominated by religious fervour and a protocol so stifling no one was allowed to touch the queen – or the king.
In 1635, war between France and Spain was a fact. Anne was caught firmly in the middle, but her loyalty – and her heart – remained with Spain. She maintained a secret correspondence with her brother Felipe IV, keeping him appraised of events at the French court. Borderline treason, Richelieu would have argued, and things came to a head in 1637, when Anne was obliged by Richelieu to allow all her letters to be read before they were sent off. This plunged the Anne – Louis relationship into something resembling a minor ice-age, both of them doing their best to avoid spending time with each other.
And yet…In this period of documented estrangement, things finally happened. In September of 1638, Anne gave birth to a son. A miracle, some people said – the consequence of a night of very bad weather forcing the king to spend the night with his wife, said others. Whatever the case, two years later she presented her husband with yet another son – not that either of these births seem to have done much to mend the rift between them.
Anne, however, could relax. She had done her duty, presenting France with two male heirs. The Bourbon dynasty remained secure, and from Anne’s perspective things took a turn for the better when Richelieu died in 1642. Some months later, Louis XIII died as well. Anne finally came into her own as Regent for her four-year-old son, the young Louis XIV – this despite Louis XIII wishes that his wife be kept well away from managing the kingdom.
Anne chose a certain Cardinal Mazarin as her chief minister – somewhat ironic, as Mazarin had been a close associate to richelieu. In difference to Richelieu, who mostly ignored the queen, Mazarin had been savvy enough to cultivate her. There is a little story of how Mazarin – who was an excellent card player – once won a fortune at the card tables, claimed it was because of the queen’s presence and gave her his winnings, a staggeringly high sum. The queen, some days later, reciprocated. And some years later, she rewarded Mazarin by making him the most powerful man in France.
This was not popular with the French. A Spanish queen and an Italian cardinal ruling on behalf of their little French prince. Tensions grew, rumours flew about Anne and Mazarin – several people insisted they were more than co-regents, Anne acting very out of character in Mazarin’s presence. With him, she was intimate, leaning close together as they whispered and laughed. IMO, Anne had found a friend rather than a lover, and furthermore a friend who shared most of her opinions on such things as royal prerogative and the divine right of kings.
In 1648, all the building tension exploded into what is known as the Fronde (so named because the rioters resorted to using sling-shots, in French frondes). The rebellion had as its original cause Mazarin’s attempt to tax all those who built new houses outside Paris’ ancient city walls, but was really a general outcry against years of excessive taxation – war is a costly business – and Mazarin’s attempt to coerce Parlement into accepting certain of his measures. Plus there was an outcry demanding that the people be given a voice in how they were ruled.
So violent was the uproar that Anne saw herself forced to flee the capital with her sons, and even after some sort of treaty had been reached in 1649, she refused to return. Wisely, as it turned out, as the revolt had attracted the attention of certain cadet members of the Bourbon family, notably Louis, Prince de Condé.
Condé wanted to rid France of Mazarin and took the opportunity offered by the Fronde to foment further unrest. In 1650, Anne and Mazarin arrested Condé and various of his supporters. Half of France exploded in rage – Condé was popular, Mazarin was not, neither was the Spanish queen – and in 1651 Anne saw no other option but to release Condé who went on to immediately rebel, his victorious and brutal troops entering Paris in late 1651. Mazarin fled abroad.
Not good, putting it mildly. But Mazarin was nothing if not tenacious, and succeeded in contracting a certain Turenne to lead the counterattack. Soon enough, Condé was fleeing the country while a triumphant Mazarin could return to serve Louis XIV, by now old enough (at fifteen) to do without regents. Or much in the way of councellors – as we all know, Louis XIV was the ultimate proponent of absolutist monarchy.
So what of Anne? Her eldest son was now king in fact as well as name, and one could think her relegated to the fringes of things. Not at all. Louis was fond of his mother, and appreciated her counsel. Anne’s influence – and Mazarin’s – remained strong.
In 1659, the war with Spain was finally brought to an end, and to celebrate this joyous occasion Louis XIV was to wed his first cousin (twice over, seeing as his bride’s mother was Louis’ paternal aunt, her father his maternal uncle) Maria Teresa of Spain. I dare say Anne did some little skips of joy at the thought.
In 1660, Louis and Maria Teresa were married. Anne could relax. Her beloved Spain and the France she’d lived in for 45 years were at last at peace, the union cemented further when the recently married couple were blessed by a little male heir, Louis, Dauphin of France. Sadly, there would be no more children that lived beyond childhood, despite little Louis having five siblings.
Anne retired to a convent in 1661. She spent her last five years in – I presume – spriritual contemplation. Things coming full circle, one could say, the once so pious little princess of Spain returning to spend her days in devotion of the Lord.
Other posts about the Hapsburgs: