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Maria Theresa of Austria

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Queen of France (1638-1683)

Daughter of Philippe IV of Spain and Elisabeth of France, Maria Theresa was born in 1638 in the Escurial palace close to Madrid. In 1660, following the Pyrenees Treaty, she married Louis XIV in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. This marriage sealed the reconciliation between France and Spain. Described as shy and withdrawn, the Queen suffered from having to accompany the King in all his official travels.

Shy, patient, naive, gentle and very pious, she kept apart from the world of the Court, as she had difficulty in speaking French. Most of her entourage were Spanish. In 1666, the death of Anne of Austria deprived her of a precious supporter. She admired her husband greatly but suffered because of his infidelities.

Maria Theresa of Austria attached importance to her role as a mother and gave her support to Bossuet, the tutor of the Dauphin, as can be seen in their correspondence: “Allow nothing, Monsieur, in the conduct of my son that might offend the holiness of the religion that he professes, or the majesty of the throne to which he is destined”.

Although appointed Regent by Louis XIV in 1672, during the Dutch War, her nature ruled out any political ambition. She accompanied the King on all his official travels. In 1667, she was with him on his visit to the Spanish Netherlands. But in 1683, his long trips around Burgundy and Alsace exhausted her. On her return to Versailles she fell ill and died very suddenly from an abscess. The King then made the following cruel remark which showed just how little interest he had in his wife: “That’s the first sorrow she has caused me”.

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