Barbara of Portugal

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Barbara of Portugal
María Bárbara of Portugal
Queen consort of Spain
Tenure 9 July 1746 – 27 August 1758
Spouse Ferdinand VI of Spain
Full name
Maria Madalena Josefa Teresa Bárbara
House House of Bourbon
House of Braganza
Father John V of Portugal
Mother Maria Anna of Austria
Born (1711-12-04)4 December 1711
Lisbon, Portugal
Died 27 August 1758(1758-08-27) (aged 46)
Aranjuez, Spain
Burial Convent of the Salesas Reales
Religion Roman Catholicism

Barbara of Portugal (Maria Madalena Bárbara Xavier Leonor Teresa Antónia Josefa; 4 December 1711 – 27 August 1758) was an Infanta of Portugal and later Queen of Spain as wife of Ferdinand VI of Spain.

Life in Portugal[edit]

Born Maria Madalena Josefa Teresa Bárbara, Barbara was the eldest child of King John V of Portugal and his wife, Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria, a daughter of Emperor Leopold I. The Princess was baptised Maria Madalena Bárbara Xavier Leonor Teresa Antónia Josefa, her names honouring a number of saints and relatives. She was usually referred to as Bárbara or Maria Bárbara, a name never before used among Portuguese royals, in honour of Saint Barbara, the saint of her birthday. She was a first cousin of the future Empress Maria Theresa as well as Maria Josepha of Austria. Although her parents were married in 1708, they remained childless for nearly three years. The King then made a promise to God that if an heir to the throne was born, a great convent would be built to thank Him. On 4 December 1711 Barbara was born, and, as promised, the King had the Convent of Mafra built.

Barbara was born as heiress-presumptive to the Portuguese throne, styled as Princess of Brazil or Princesa do Brasil. Her status as heiress lapsed when the Queen gave birth to a son, Pedro, two years later. Pedro died at the age of two, though another son, Joseph, born before Pedro's death, prevented Barbara from ever being heiress-presumptive again. She was second-in-line to the throne throughout much of her life.

Barbara in her younger years. By Domenico Duprà

Barbara had a fine education and loved music. A prodigiously talented keyboard player, she was the only student of Domenico Scarlatti, the great harpsichordist and composer, from age 9 or 10 until Scarlatti died in 1757, a year before her own death. She was considered to marry Louis XV of France.

Life in Spain[edit]

In 1729 at the age 18, Barbara married the future Ferdinand VI of Spain, two years her junior. Her brother Joseph married Ferdinand's half-sister, the Spanish Infanta Infanta Mariana Victoria, who was previously a rejected bride of Louis XV. The double marriage was meant to repair the Portuguese-Spanish alliance.[1] Scarlatti followed her to Madrid after her marriage and remained with her, composing hundreds of harpsichord sonatas for her. During her husband's reign, Barbara presided over magnificent parties and concerts at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, which was her favorite retreat.

Although Barbara was not considered beautiful by her contemporaries — her homely looks were thought by observers to cause her future husband a visible shock when he was first presented to her — 'Ferdinand the Learned' (as he was later known) became deeply attached to her,[1] sharing her passion for music.[citation needed] Ferdinand soon became dependent on Barbara for advice and support; when he ascended the Spanish crown as Ferdinand VI, the French ambassador noted "it is rather Barbara who succeeds Elizabeth [step-mother of Ferdinand] than Ferdinand succeeding Philippe."[1] Barbara was well-educated, adept at languages, an avid reader of many varied subjects and had a love of music.[1]

The couple produced no viable children,[1] with Barbara having a stillborn son in 1733. Barbara suffered from severe asthma for most of her life and became quite overweight later in life.[2] She died at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, on the outskirts of Madrid on 27 August 1758. Barbara's death was said to have broken her husband's heart.


Titles, styles, honours and arms[edit]

Coat of arms of Barbara of Portugal, Queen of Spain

Titles and styles[edit]

  • 4 December 1711 – 19 October 1712 Her Royal Highness the Princess of Brazil
  • 19 October 1712 – 20 January 1729 Her Highness the Infanta Barbara of Portugal
  • 20 January 1729 – 9 July 1746 Her Royal Highness the Princess of Asturias
  • 9 July 1746 – 27 August 1758 Her Majesty the Queen of Spain


  1. ^ a b c d e Noel, p. 174.
  2. ^ Noel, p. 177.


  • Noel, Charles C. (2004). "'Barbara Succeeds Elizabeth...': The Feminisation and Domestication of Politics in the Spanish Monarchy, 1701–1759". In Campbell Orr, Clarissa. Queenship in Europe 1660–1815: The Role of the Consort. Cambridge University Press. pp. 155–185. ISBN 0-521-81422-7. 
Barbara of Portugal
Born: 4 December 1711 Died: 27 August 1758
Spanish royalty
Preceded by
Elisabeth of Parma
Queen consort of Spain
Succeeded by
Maria Amalia of Saxony