The Stiff Habsburg’s – 17th Century

Themes! I’ve decided it would be fun to bring monthly themes to my blog in retrospect of its resurrection from the graveyard of broken blogs and what better place to start than my current historical fascination with all things Spanish, Austrian Habsburg’s. The dark, moody period from Philip II to Charles II’s Death in 1700 when the light entered with the crowning of the French Philip V (if you don’t count the war Philip started with his accession).

In breaking down my blog posts throughout the month I’m going to look at the Habsburg’s dynasty during the Seventeenth century with the interlocking families of the Spanish kings and the Holy Roman Emperors.

The Kings of Spain and their reigns during the century were;

  1. Philip III 1598 – 1621
  2. Philip IV 1621 – 1665
  3. Charles II 1665 – 1700

And more importantly the women they married;

  1. Margaret of Austria 1599 – 1611
  2. Elisabeth of France 1615 – 1644 and Maria Anna of Austria 1649 – 1665 (his death)
  3. Marie Louise d’Orleans 1679 – 1689 and Maria Anna of Neuburg 1689 – 1700 (his death)

Philip III came to the throne on the death of his father Philip II, a man who had married four times, one to whom was Mary I of England and another was his niece (something which will become a recurring theme with both empires, with devastating effect), this niece was Philip III’s mother Anna of Austria. Philip himself had much better luck in matrimony with Margaret of Austria who he was affectionate and loyal to and who bore him eight children, the future Philip IV, the future Anne, Queen of France and Maria Anna, Empress of the Holy Roman Empire among others.


Philip IV personal life started as positively as his reign did, his marriage to the beautiful Elizabeth, daughter of Henry IV of France and Marie d’Medici. They had eleven children together, however only Maria Theresa reached adulthood, becoming the future Queen of France. Their son Balthasar, after recently getting engaged to his cousin Maria Anna of Austria, dies at the age of 16.


Philip’s descent into the darkness illustrated by Velazquez in his Las Meninas series begins with a king who has lost his wife and his only son, so the logical thing to do would be to marry his newly single and fourteen year old niece, Maria Anna. Maria Anna, a happy child and now a miserable women sadly didn’t have much more luck than her predecessor, only two of her children reached adulthood.

1652 3.1

The mesmerizing little girl with her golden hair from Velazquez’s portraits, Margaret Theresa, who depressingly married her uncle (though by all accounts was much happier than her mother in her marriage) died at the age of twenty-one.


And of course the future King Charles II, “The cursed” (something he himself believed) who had so many health problems from the generations of inbreeding that he was “short, lame, epileptic, senile and completely bald before 35, always on the verge of death but repeatedly baffling Christendom by continuing to live”.


He married the enchanting and rather reluctant daughter of Henrietta of England, Marie Louise d’Orleans, who he was deeply in love with but was unable to live up to all that was expected of a husband and the unhappy Queen died childless at the age of 26 (just as her mother had 19 years earlier).


Six months later Charles married Maria Anna of Neuburg and with the progression of time it became clear that Charles would be unable to father children and must make arrangements for the accession of the Spanish throne. Charles would die in 1700 and with his the crumbling empire Charles I had created back in the sixteenth century to the outrage of his uncle Henry VIII.



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