Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Consort Profile: Queen Marie Louise of Orleans
Marie Louise had a good upbringing and was given a great deal of attention by her grandmothers; the tragic Queen Henriette Marie and the formidable and calculating Queen Anne of Austria who left most of her fortune to the child when she died in 1666. She did not have an entirely happy childhood as her mother died in 1670 but, on a brighter note, she had a very good relationship with the stepmother she acquired the following year and with whom she always remained close. As she grew older though, the family necessarily began looking for an appropriate marriage for her and, as was often the case, trying to maintain friendly Franco-Spanish relations were a priority as the two monarchies had recently been squabbling over conflicting claims in the Low Countries. As a result, to a large extent thanks to King Louis XIV of France, she was betrothed to the King of Spain at the age of 16. On August 30, 1679 she was married by proxy at Fontainebleau Palace with the Prince of Conti acting for the groom. In a touching moment, during her last days in France, she went to pray at the Val-de-Grâce convent where the heart of her late mother was preserved.
Marie Louise then set out for Spain and met her husband, King Carlos II, going through another wedding ceremony at Quintanapalla on November 19, 1679. The resulting marriage was sadly tragic though not for the reasons one might expect of a match arranged by the father and uncle of the bride. Not surprisingly, King Carlos II was absolutely smitten with his young bride the instant he met her and for the rest of his life no other woman ever held his heart the way she did. However, her status in France had given her comfort but great freedom and she found the strict protocol and rules of the Hapsburg court in Spain hard to endure. There was also a good deal of lingering animosity against the French due to the recent conflict and for many Spaniards their new French queen became the focus for it. As Queen, Marie Louise was spared the worst of this, but her ladies were constantly being accused of involvement in some sinister plot or intrigue on the part of France and this only served to increase the feelings of isolation and homesickness on the part of the queen.
Queen Marie Louise, who had arrived in Spain young, beautiful of full of energy had dealt with her depression by over eating and had become an overweight, unhealthy and constantly sad figure. She attended her husband, heard mass and tried to distract herself as best she could but she could find no happiness. On February 11, 1689 she was taken to bed with extreme stomach pains. Marie Louise had come to her tragic end, passing away the next night. However, her last thoughts were extremely touching. Despite all of his infirmities, her last words were of her husband, the one person in Spain who had always truly cared for her. “Your Majesty might have other wives”, she said, “but no one will ever love you as I do”. And with that, she departed this life at only 26-years old. King Carlos II would marry again, as duty dictated, but he would never hold any woman as dear as he had Marie Louise, and in his mind, no other could ever hope to match her and the heartbreak he felt would never go away. He lived on in increasing misery until 1700 when the reign of the Spanish Hapsburgs came to an end.