Monday, June 18, 2012
Consort Profile: Queen Maria Luisa of Savoy
Queen Maria Luisa of Savoy was consort to the first Bourbon King of Spain and also showed herself to be not only a popular and beloved consort but a talented and confident woman who would have been perfectly capable of ruling a country herself, as she did on occasion when her husband was out of town. She was born in Turin on August 17, 1688, the third daughter of Duke Victor Amadeus II of Savoy and Princess Anne Marie of Orleans (daughter of the Duke of Orleans and Princess Henrietta of England). She was a bright, playful and happy child but it was a childhood that did not last long since, as with so many princesses, she had to grow up quite rapidly for the sake of a political marriage. It was not as much a case of her own parents seeking a match for her but her husband-to-be who sought her out for political reasons. Over in Spain the House of Hapsburg had died out with King Carlos II and the grandson of King Louis XIV of France was set to be imported as the new King of Spain, the first of the dynasty that continues to the present day. Only 16-years-old at the time, the French and Spanish governments came to an agreement and the teenage Duke of Anjou became King Felipe V of Spain.
Happily, when Queen Maria Luisa arrived in Barcelona and met her young husband King Felipe V she was not disappointed. Despite the circumstances of their union the two had a successful marriage and a genuine romance. As she settled in to life in Spain her most constant guide and companion was the formidable Princess des Ursins who became head of the Queen’s household and, unofficially, the most powerful woman in Spain. It had to be a difficult time for her as the War of Spanish Succession broke out which placed her father, the Duke of Savoy, on the side of Great Britain, Austria and others in opposition to France and Spain. As fighting raged from northern France and the Low Countries to the Italian peninsula, King Felipe V had to leave Spain to defend family territory in Naples. This left Queen Maria Luisa in Madrid as regent for her husband for quite some time but she proved herself to be more than up to the challenge. She was extremely thorough in her work, listening to all sides, investigating every complaint and checking all reports herself. She helped to reorganize the government and rallied the Spanish people to unite in support of the war effort. The patriotism she displayed and the care she showed toward the people made her popularity soar and the population adored her, affectionately calling her “La Savoyana”.
The only problem for the Queen was her long-time ‘right arm’ Princess des Ursins who, one year after the King returned, was forced to leave the court because of pressure from King Louis XIV. This was mostly due to the fact that she had strongly advised the King and Queen to keep the French at a distance and surround themselves with Spaniards to make sure there was no mistaking that the new Bourbon monarchy would be Spanish and not simply an extension of France. Queen Maria Luisa was extremely distraught to see the Princess go who she had come to depend on so much. However, it was only temporary and to the great delight of the Queen the princess was able to return in 1705. Two years later the Savoy queen did her duty for the Spanish succession and gave birth to a son and heir, the future King Luis I. Two years later another baby boy followed but, sadly, did not live out the year. In 1712 the Queen gave birth to another son, who greatly resembled his mother. However, like the rest, his health was not robust (usually attributed to the degree of relation between the King and Queen) and he would die at only seven years old. In 1713 the Queen presented her husband with another son, the future King Fernando VI, who would thankfully have a long life and go on to enact many reforms in Spain and across the Spanish empire.