Maria Anna of Neuburg

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Maria Anna of Neuburg
Jan van Kessel (II) or Claudio Coello (Attr.) - Portrait of Maria Anna of Neuburg.jpg
Maria Anna of Neuburg by Jan van Kessel (II) or Claudio Coello
Queen consort of Spain
Reign28 August 1689 – 1 November 1700
Born(1667-10-28)28 October 1667
Benrath Palace, Düsseldorf, Electoral Palatinate
Died16 July 1740(1740-07-16) (aged 72)
Infantado Palace, Guadalajara, Spain
SpouseCharles II of Spain
FatherPhilip William, Elector Palatine
MotherElisabeth Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt
ReligionRoman Catholicism

Maria Anna of Neuburg (Spanish: Mariana; 28 October 1667 – 16 July 1740), was Queen of Spain from 1689 to 1700 as the second wife of Charles II, last Habsburg King of Spain.

Her marriage was dominated by the political struggle between French and Austrian factions over the Spanish throne, which resulted in the 1701 to 1714 War of the Spanish Succession. When Charles died in 1700, he was succeeded by the French candidate, Philip V and Maria Anna was exiled. She lived largely forgotten until her death in 1740.


The ruins of Heidelberg Castle, burned by the French in 1689 and never rebuilt

Born in Benrath Palace in Düsseldorf, Maria Anna was the twelfth child of Philip William, then Duke of Berg and Jülich and Elisabeth Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt.

The family's reputation for fertility and connections to the Wittelsbachs made the daughters a popular choice for royal marriages. One of her sisters, Maria Sophia, married Peter II of Portugal, while Eleonore was the third wife of Emperor Leopold. This meant Maria Anna was aunt to the future emperors Joseph I and Charles VI.[1]

When Philip William succeeded Charles of Simmern as Count of the Palatinate in May 1685, Louis XIV claimed half of it. The French invaded in September 1688 and before withdrawing in 1689, they destroyed much of Heidelberg, plus another 20 substantial towns and numerous villages.[2]

Although the policy was applied across the Rhineland, the Palatinate was raided again in 1693, and the devastation shocked much of Europe.[3] It confirmed Maria Anna's pro-Austrian, anti-French sentiments, important factors in her selection as the second wife for Charles II of Spain. His first wife, Marie Louise of Orléans died on 12 February 1689; lack of an heir and his declining health made remarriage a matter of urgency. His mother and Queen Regent, Mariana of Austria, selected Maria Anna based on her family's history of fertility and their opposition to France.[1]

She and Charles were married by proxy in August 1689; their formal wedding took place on 14 May 1690 in San Diego, near Valladolid. Their marriage is commemorated in the Festival book, listing celebrations held in Naples to mark the occasion, the L’ossequio tributario della fedelissima Città di Napoli, per le dimostranze giulive nei Regii Sponsali del Cattolico, ed Invittissimo Monarca Carlo Secondo colla Serenissima Principessa Maria Anna di Neoburgo Palatina del Reno.[4]


European possessions of Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs, ca 1700

Charles's death was anticipated almost from his birth in 1661; the unfortunate victim of Habsburg inbreeding, 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."[5]

His parents Philip IV of Spain and Mariana of Austria were uncle and niece, making Charles their son, first-cousin and great-nephew respectively. The impact of this inbreeding is not fully understood and his elder sister Margaret Theresa does not appear to have suffered the same issues. The authors of the most significant study state it has not been demonstrated (his) disabilities...were caused by...recessive alleles inherited from common ancestors.[6]

Despite Charles's physical ailments, foreign observers like the Marquess of Torcy noted his mental capacities remained intact. Others claimed his mother and Maria Anna used his poor health to restrict access and retain political control.[7]

While the Spanish Empire or 'Monarchy' was no longer the pre-eminent global power, it was still an enormous global confederation that remained largely intact. If Charles died childless, his co-heirs were Louis XIV and Emperor Leopold; acquisition of an undivided Spanish Monarchy by either would drastically alter the European balance of power.[8]

Queen of Spain[edit]

Charles II, ca 1670-80

The Spanish political establishment was split into pro-Austrian and pro-French factions, the latter led by Fernández de Portocarrero, Cardinal and Archbishop of Toledo. For most of this period, the 'Austrians' controlled government, with Maria Anna assuming leadership after Marianna of Austria died in 1696. In 1690, they supported Spain's entry into the Nine Years War, which proved a disastrous decision; the state declared bankruptcy in 1692 and by 1696, France occupied most of Catalonia.[9]

Maria Anna's power derived from her status as mother of the future monarch, which dissipated when it became clear this was unlikely to occur. By now, Charles was almost certainly impotent, his autopsy later revealing he had only one atrophied testicle.[10] To offset this, she claimed to be pregnant on various occasions, and encouraged Charles to undergo exorcisms, thus making it clear the failure to produce an heir was not her fault.[11]

In 1698, Charles fell seriously ill and his death seemed imminent. On 11 October, Britain, France and the Dutch Republic signed the Treaty of the Hague or First Partition Treaty, an attempt to impose a solution to the Succession issue on Spain and Austria.[12] Six year old Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria, was made heir to the bulk of the Spanish Empire, the rest split between France and Austria. His parents were Charles's niece Maria Antonia and Maximilian of Bavaria, a Wittelsbach like Maria Anna.[13]

The Spanish had not been consulted and in any case opposed the partition of their Empire; on 14 November 1698, Charles published his Will, naming Joseph Ferdinand heir to an undivided Spanish Monarchy. Maria Anna was appointed regent during his minority, an announcement received by his Spanish councillors in silence.[14]

Maria Anna, as huntress by Robert Gabriel Gence

After his death from smallpox in 1699, France, Britain and the Dutch Republic agreed to the Treaty of London or Second Partition Treaty in March 1700. Joseph Ferdinand was replaced by Maria Anna's nephew, Archduke Charles, with Spanish possessions in Italy, the Netherlands and Northern Spain divided between France, Savoy and Austria. Charles was induced to modify his Will in favour of Archduke Charles, but continued to insist on an undivided Monarchy and added the requirement Spain remain independent of Austria.[15]

Most of the Castilian nobility preferred a Bourbon candidate, despite efforts by Maria Anna to ensure her nephew's succession. In June 1700, her ally Mendoza, Inquisitor General, arrested Charles's pro-French personal confessor Froilán Díaz, and charged him with 'bewitching' the king. When the committee set up to review the case acquitted Díaz, Mendoza ordered their arrest, seriously undermining Maria Anna, who was viewed as the instigator. A Council was established to investigate the Inquisition itself; it survived as an institution until 1834, but its power was broken.[16]

In September 1700, Charles became ill again; by 28 September he was no longer able to eat and Portocarrero persuaded him to alter his Will in favour of Louis XIV's grandson, Philip of Anjou. On his death in November 1700, Philip was proclaimed King of Spain on 16 November 1700, with Portocarrero as his chief advisor, and Maria Anna was exiled to Toledo.[17]

Maria Anna lived quietly in Toledo until 1706, when the forces of her nephew Archduke Charles briefly occupied the city. After Philip's victory, she was exiled to Bayonne, France, where she lived for the next few decades, and allegedly married a local barrel-maker. In 1739, she was allowed to return to Spain, and given lodging in the Infantado Palace in Guadalajara, where she died on 16 July 1740. She was buried in El Escorial Monastery.[11]




  1. ^ a b Rommelse 2011, p. 224.
  2. ^ Lynn 1999, p. 198.
  3. ^ Dosquet 2016, pp. 643–644.
  4. ^ Lo.
  5. ^ Durant 1963, p. 25.
  6. ^ Gonzalo, Ceballos, Quintero 2009, pp. e5174.
  7. ^ Rule 2017, pp. 91-108.
  8. ^ Storrs 2006, pp. 6-7.
  9. ^ Storrs 2006, pp. 157-158.
  10. ^ García-Escudero, Ángel, Padilla Nieva, Giró1 2009, p. 182.
  11. ^ a b Beem 2019, p. 108.
  12. ^ Clark 1970, p. 393.
  13. ^ Onnekink 2007, p. 201.
  14. ^ Ward 1912, p. 385.
  15. ^ Mckay 1983, p. 55.
  16. ^ Kamen 1997, p. 141.
  17. ^ Hargreaves-Mawdsley 1979, pp. 15–16.


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Maria Anna of Neuburg
Born: 28 October 1667 Died: 16 July 1740
Spanish royalty
Title last held by
Marie Louise of Orléans
Queen consort of Spain
1690– 1700
Title next held by
Maria Luisa of Savoy