Maria Theresa of Spain

Maria Theresa of Spain

Maria Theresa of Austria
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(1683-07-30) (aged 44)
Versailles, France
Religion Roman Catholicism

Maria Theresa of Austria (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. Maria Theresa was Queen of France as wife of King Louis XIV and mother of the Grand Dauphin, an ancestor of the last four Bourbon kings of France.


In Spain

Early life

Maria Theresa as Infanta of Spain

Born as Infanta María Teresa of Spain at the Royal Monastery of El Escorial, she was the daughter of Philip IV, King of Spain, and his consort Elisabeth of France, who died when Maria was only six years old. Being a paternal great-great-granddaughter of an Austrian archduke, Maria Theresa was entitled to use the title of Archduchess of Austria. Like many Habsburgs, she was a product of generations of royal intermarriage between cousins.

Infanta Maria Theresa by Velázquez, 1653. Here, she wears her hair in a popular style at the Spanish royal court, and a dress with wide panniers, also popular in Spain.

Unlike France, the kingdom of Spain had no Salic Law, so it was possible for a female to assume the throne. When Balthasar Charles, Prince of Asturias, son of Maria Teresa's father Philip IV of Spain and heir to the Spanish throne, died in 1646, Maria Teresa became heiress presumptive to the vast Spanish Empire until the birth of Philip Prospero, Prince of Asturias, in 1657. She became heiress presumptive once more during the brief period 1-6 November 1661, between the death of Prince Philip and the birth of Prince Charles, who would later inherit the throne of Spain as Charles II.

In 1658, as war with France began to wind down, a union between the royal families of Spain and France was proposed as a means to secure peace. Maria Teresa and the French king were double first-cousins: Louis XIV's father was Louis XIII of France, who was the brother of Maria Theresa's mother, while her father was brother to Anne of Austria, Louis XIV's mother. Anne of Austria desired an end to hostilities between her native country of Spain and her adopted one, France.[1] However, Spanish procrastination led to a scheme in which France's prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, pretended to seek a marriage for his master with Margaret Yolande of Savoy. When Philip IV of Spain heard of a 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.[citation needed]


Maria Theresa 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 deprive Maria Theresa 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, Maria Theresa 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 left Spain and on 9 June the marriage took place in Saint-Jean-de-Luz at the recently rebuilte Saint Jean-Baptiste church. After the wedding, Louis wanted to consummate the marriage as quickly as possible, however the new queen's mother-in-law (and aunt) arranged a private consummation instead of the public one that was the custom.[citation needed]

In France

Court life

Official portrait of Maria Theresa as Queen of France, by Charles Beaubrun

On 26 August 1660, the newlyweds made the traditional Joyeuse Entrée into Paris. Louis was faithful to his wife for the first year of their marriage, commanding 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 with compatibility.[citation needed] Marie-Thérèse gained weight with her delight and withdrew into her circle of dwarfs.[citation needed] Louis's installment of Louise de La Vallière as his first official mistress pained the queen, for which Louise would later tender a public apology.[citation needed]

Marie-Thérèse was very fortunate to have found a friend at court in her mother-in-law, unlike many princesses in foreign lands. She 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. But more importantly, she became pregnant in early 1661, and a long-awaited son was born on 1 November 1661.

The first time Marie-Thérèse ever saw the Palace of Versailles was on 25 October 1660. At that time, 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 week-long celebration at the palace of Versailles ostensibly held in honour of France's two queens, Louis XIV's mother and wife, exposed Louise de La Vallière's role as the king's maîtresse-en-titre. 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.

Two Queens of France: Anne of Austria with her niece and daughter-in-law, Marie-Thérèse, holding her son Louis

As time passed, Marie-Thérèse also came to tolerate her husband's prolonged infidelity with Françoise-Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan. The king left her to her own devices, yet reprimanded Madame de Montespan when her behaviour at court too flagrantly disrespected the queen's position.

Later, the governess of Montespan's illegitimate children by the king, Madame de Maintenon, came to supplant her mistress in the king's affections. At first she resisted the king's advances and encouraged him to bestow more attention on his long-neglected wife, a thoughtfulness which Marie-Thérèse repaid with warmth toward the new favourite. After the queen's death, Mainteon would become the king's second, although officially secret, wife.

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 away on campaigns on the frontier.


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. She died a painful death on 30 July 1683, at Versailles. Upon her death, Louis XIV said: "This is the first trouble which she has given me."

Of her six children, only one survived her, Louis, le Grand Dauphin, who died in 1711. The younger of Marie-Thérèse's grandsons would eventually inherit her claim to the Spanish throne, becoming King Philip V of Spain in 1700.


Name Birth Death Notes
Maria Theresa of Spain with Louis XIV of France
Louis, le Grand Dauphin 1 November 1661 14 April 1711 Dauphin of France from 1661–1711. Father of Louis, Dauphin of France (1682-1712), Philip V of Spain and Charles, Duke of Berry (1686-1714)
Anne-Élisabeth de France 18 November 1662 30 December 1662 .
Marie-Anne de France 16 November 1664 26 December 1664 (?) .
Marie-Thérèse de France 1667 1672 . known as Madame Royale and la Petite Madame
Philippe-Charles de France, duc d'Anjou 1668 1671
Louis-François de France, duc d'Anjou 14 June 1672 4 November 1672

Titles and styles

  • 10 September 1638 - 9 June 1660: Her Royal Highness Infanta María Teresa of Spain, Archduchess of Austria
  • 9 June 1660 – 30 July 1683: Her Majesty Queen Marie-Thérèse of France



  1. ^ Antonia Fraser. Love and Louis XIV.
  2. ^ Marie-Thérèse d’Autriche - dowry information
  3. ^ Ian Dunlop. Louis XIV. London: Pimlico, 2001.



Maria Theresa of Spain
House of Habsburg
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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