Maria Christina of Austria

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Maria Christina of Austria
Queen Maria Christina of Spain Franzen.jpg
Formal portrait by Franzen, 1906
Queen consort of Spain
Tenure29 November 1879 – 25 November 1885
Queen regent of Spain
Regency25 November 1885 – 17 May 1902
Born(1858-07-21)21 July 1858
Gross Seelowitz, Moravia, Austrian Empire
Died6 February 1929(1929-02-06) (aged 70)
Royal Palace, Madrid, Kingdom of Spain
(m. 1879; died 1885)
Maria Christina Henriette Desideria Felicitas Raineria von Habsburg-Lothringen
FatherArchduke Karl Ferdinand of Austria
MotherArchduchess Elisabeth Franziska of Austria

Maria Christina Henriette Desideria Felicitas Raineria of Austria[1][n. 1] (Spanish: María Cristina de Habsburgo-Lorena; 21 July 1858 – 6 February 1929) was the second queen consort of Alfonso XII of Spain. She was queen regent during the vacancy of the throne between her husband's death in November 1885 and the birth of their son Alfonso XIII in May 1886, and subsequently also until the coming of age of the latter in May 1902.

Early life[edit]

Known to her family as Christa, she was born at Židlochovice Castle (Groß Seelowitz), near Brünn (now Brno), in Moravia, a daughter of Archduke Karl Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Archduchess Elisabeth Franziska of Austria.[2]

Her paternal grandparents were Archduke Charles of Austria and Princess Henriette Alexandrine of Nassau-Weilburg.

Various sources attributed good traits to Maria Christina before her marriage. One states she was "tall, fair, sensible, and well educated".[3] She was Princess-Abbess of the Theresian Royal and Imperial Ladies Chapter of the Castle of Prague (1875-1879).[4]

Queen consort[edit]

Maria Christina with Alfonso XII and the Princess of Asturias in 1880.

After the death of Queen María de las Mercedes in June 1878, King Alfonso XII was determined to remarried to produce an heir. The Queen had died just a few months after her marriage with no descendants and negotiations started with the court of Vienna. In August, Alfonso XIII traveled to Arcachon, Gironde, with the specific purpose of meeting Archduchess Maria Christina and her mother Archduchess Elisabeth. In this first meeting, the King proposed to her and she accepted.

In early September 1878, the Spanish Government approved the engagement and Emperor Franz Joseph asked his niece to officially relinquish her title of Abbess of the Theresian Convent of Prague as it was necessary for the future Queen to abandon all her Austrian appointments. The proposal was gazetted in the Wiener Zeitung on 7 September: "His Majesty the King of Spain, during his visit to Archacon, has requested the hand of the Most Serene Lady Archduchess Maria Christina... with previous consent of His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty, as Chief of the Imperial Family, the Most Serene Lady Archduchess has accepted the said proposal".

In compliance with Article 56 of the Constitution, the Cortes passed a law granting a 500.000 pesetas annuity for the future Queen Consort on 2 November. The terms of the marriage were settled in an agreement executed between Austria and Spain in Vienna on 15 November by their respective plenipotentiaries. That same day Maria Christina renounced to her succession rights to the Austrian throne before the Emperor and the court according to the tradition imposed to the Archduchesses who were to marry a foreign prince. Another marriage agreement was signed in Madrid on 28 November by the King and Maria Christina themselves.

The wedding took place on 29 November 1879 at the Basilica of Atocha in Madrid.[5] The arranged marriage (the second of Alfonso XII after the death of his first wife María de las Mercedes of Orléans), was concerted on the basis of the conservative profile espoused by the Austro-Hungarian Empire as well as by the prestige attained by the Habsburgs in their previous involvement in the history of Spain, and blocked the possibility of a prospective Austrian endorsement to the Carlist cause.[6]

After giving birth to two female children—María de las Mercedes (born 1880) and María Teresa (born 1882)—she ensured dynastic continuity, yet, with the threatening landmark for the ruling dynasty set by the previous Carlist Wars, she was still pressured to undergo a new pregnancy and give birth to a male child in order to consolidate the political system, as it was considered at the time.[7]

Death of Alfonso XII or The last kiss, by Juan Antonio Benlliure [es]

She became pregnant again before the death of her husband in November 1885 (the king suffered from tuberculosis yet he led an active life).[5] An attributed dying wish by Alfonso XII pleading to her is "Ya verás cómo todo se arregla providencialmente. Pero, si muero, guarda el coño y ándate siempre de Cánovas a Sagasta y de Sagasta a Cánovas" ("You will see how everything is going to be providentially fixed, yet if I die, keep your pussy at bay and always go from Cánovas to Sagasta and from Sagasta to Cánovas").[8] While possibly apocryphal, it is representative of the Restoration era.[5] Months later, in May 1886, she would give birth to a male child, Alfonso, who reigned as Alfonso XIII upon his birth.


Maria Christina swears the 1876 Constitution

Designated as regent upon the death of her husband in 1885, Maria Christina swore on the 1876 Constitution on 30 December 1885 at the Palacio de las Cortes, before the two legislative bodies.[9][10] She rejected the title of reina gobernadora ("Queen Governor"), distancing from the memory of the previous regent Maria Christina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies,[11] who had used it in the 1830s.

Queen Regent Maria Christina together with her son.

When the King died on 25 November 1885, Maria Christina was pregnant, so the throne was vacant, depending on whether Maria Christina's unborn child was a male or a female; a male would make that child king, while a female would place the elder daughter and Princess of Asturias, María de las Mercedes, on the throne. During this period, Maria Christina ruled as regent until her child Alfonso, a son, was born on 17 May 1886; he was King (Alfonso XIII) from birth.

She nurtured a persona of austerity and staidness, and became known among the populace as Doña Virtudes, María la Seca ("Mary the Curt One") and la institutriz ("the governess").[12] She displayed strong religious beliefs which gained her the endorsement of Pope Leo XIII, weakening the adherence to Carlist stances within the clergy.[13]

Her chief adviser and head of government was Práxedes Mateo Sagasta. Her rule is described[according to whom?] as well-balanced and in accordance with respect for constitutional rights, and many political reforms were instated during her regency to prevent political conflicts and chaos. Her role was mostly ceremonial, and her purpose was to preserve the crown for her son until he became an adult.

Her spell as regent saw the loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines after the 1898 Spanish–American War.[14][15]

Later life[edit]

Maria Christina in 1922, during a visit to a group of soldiers wounded during the Rif War.

After the marriage of her son with Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg in 1906, she took a secondary role in public events.[16] Nevertheless, Alfonso XIII continued to look to her on many occasions for advice.

She was the leading figure around which the Germanophile stronghold within the Royal Court coalesced during World War I, in contrast to the pro-Entente minority faction represented by her daughter-in-law, the British-born Victoria Eugenie.[17][18] Spain remained a neutral country during the conflict.

She died on 6 February 1929,[15] at the Royal Palace in Madrid, after some weeks of heart disease. She is buried at El Escorial.

Sir Charles Petrie, Alfonso XIII's biographer, maintained that the Queen dowager's death had a disastrous effect on her son, and that the latter never recovered politically from the blow. Within little more than two years the monarchy had collapsed.


  • 21 July 1858 – 29 November 1879: Her Imperial and Royal Highness Archduchess Maria Christina
  • 29 November 1879 – 25 November 1885: Her Majesty The Queen
  • 25 November 1885 – 17 May 1902: Her Majesty The Queen Regent
  • 17 May 1902 – 31 May 1906: Her Majesty The Queen
  • 31 May 1906 – 6 February 1929: Her Majesty The Queen Mother


She received the following awards:[19]





Informational notes
  1. ^ Also known as Maria Christina Henrietta Désirée Félicité Rénière[2]
  1. ^ "Maria Christina (Henriette Desideria Felicitas Raineria), Sternkreuzordens-Dame, Ehrengroßkreuz des souveränen Malteser-Ritterordens; geb. zu Groß-Seelowitz den 21. Juli 1858, vermählt zu Madrid den 29. November 1879 mit Seiner Majestät Alphons XII., König von Spanien, Inhaber des Infanterie-regiments Nr. 94, Witwe seit 25. November 1885." Schematismus für das kaiserliche und königliche Heer und für die kaiserliche und königliche Kriegsmarine für 1904. Vienna: Druck und Verlag der k.k. Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, December 1903. p. 22
  2. ^ a b Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Christina of Spain" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 292.
  3. ^ Wormeley Latimer, p. 382.
  4. ^ "Czech Eccleastical".
  5. ^ a b c Piñeiro, Raquel (23 November 2019). "a boda de Alfonso XII y María Cristina de Habsburgo: la historia que comenzó con un rey deseando a su futura suegra". Vanity Fair.
  6. ^ Moreno Seco 2011, pp. 390–391.
  7. ^ Moreno Seco 2011, pp. 395–396, 401–402.
  8. ^ Castilla, Amelia (20 June 1995). "El destino de la historia es convertirse en literatura". El País.
  9. ^ Casado Trigo, Manuel (2015). Análisis histórico-jurídico de la normativa de ceremonial y protocolo en las Cortes Generales Españolas (PDF). Madrid: UNED. pp. 341–342.
  10. ^ Queralt del Hierro, María Pilar (14 June 2018). "La inesperada muerte de Alfonso XII". National Geographic.
  11. ^ Casado Sánchez & Moreno Seco 2014, p. 117.
  12. ^ Moreno Seco, Mónica (2011). "María Cristina de Habsburgo, la (in)discreta regente" (PDF). In La Parra López, Emilio (ed.). La imagen del poder: Reyes y regentes en la España del siglo XIX. p. 393. ISBN 978-84-975678-5-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 March 2019.
  13. ^ Moreno Seco 2011, pp. 414–415.
  14. ^ Amiguet, Teresa (29 April 2018). "El principio del fin del Imperio español". La Vanguardia.
  15. ^ a b Correal, Francisco (16 November 2015). "Nueve décadas de morir lejos de casa". Diario de Sevilla.
  16. ^ Casado Sánchez, Mª Ángeles; Moreno Seco, Mónica (2014). "María Cristina de Borbón y María Cristina de Habsburgo: dos regentes entre los modos aristocráticos y los burgueses". Historia y Política. Madrid: UCM; UNED; CEPC. 31: 134.
  17. ^ Páez-Camino, Feliciano (2015). "España ante la Primera Guerra Mundial" (PDF). Madrid: UMER: 5. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  18. ^ Romero Salvadó, Francisco J. (2016). "España y la I Guerra Mundial. El Crepúsculo de una Era. Más allá de los campos de batalla" (PDF). In Navajas Zubeldia, Carlos; Iturriaga Barco, Diego (eds.). Siglo. Actas del V Congreso Internacional de Historia de Nuestro Tiempo. Logroño: Universidad de La Rioja. p. 14.
  19. ^ Hof- und Staatshandbuch der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie (1918), Genealogy p. 12
  20. ^ "Ritter-orden", Hof- und Staatshandbuch der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie, Vienna: Druck und Verlag der K.K. Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1918, p. 328
  21. ^ "Real orden de Damas Nobles de la Reina Maria Luisa". Guía Oficial de España (in Spanish). 1928. p. 231. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  22. ^ Royal Thai Government Gazette (4 June 1899). "พระราชทานเครื่องราชอิสริยาภรณ์ที่ประเทศยุโรป (ต่อแผ่นที่ ๙ หน้า ๑๓๐)" (PDF) (in Thai). Retrieved 8 May 2019. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  23. ^ M. & B. Wattel (2009). Les Grand'Croix de la Légion d'honneur de 1805 à nos jours. Titulaires français et étrangers. Paris: Archives & Culture. pp. 21, 450, 598. ISBN 978-2-35077-135-9.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  24. ^ Bragança, Jose Vicente de (2014). "Agraciamentos Portugueses Aos Príncipes da Casa Saxe-Coburgo-Gota" [Portuguese Honours awarded to Princes of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha]. Pro Phalaris (in Portuguese). 9–10: 12–13. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  25. ^ "Cancillería.- Acta de la entrega de la Rosa de Oro que Su Santidad León XIII remite á S. M . la Reina Regente de España" (PDF). Gaceta de Madrid (in Spanish). 4 July 1886. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  26. ^ 刑部芳則 (2017). 明治時代の勲章外交儀礼 (PDF) (in Japanese). 明治聖徳記念学会紀要. p. 157.
  27. ^ Royal Decree of 19 January 1902
  28. ^ Joseph Whitaker (1897). An Almanack for the Year of Our Lord ... J. Whitaker. p. 110.


  • Campos y Fernández de Sevilla, Francisco-Javier (1994). María Cristina de Habsburgo y la Regencia, 1885–1902 (in Spanish). San Lorenzo de El Escorial: Estudios Superiores del Escorial, Real Colegio Universitario "María Cristina".
  • Cancio R. Capote, Rita Mariea (1957). The Function of Maria Christina of Austria's Regency, 1885–1902, in Preserving the Spanish Monarchy. México: Ediciones Botas.
  • Ferrer, Eusebio; Puga, Maria Teresa; Rojas, Enrique (1994). Cuando reinar es un deber: regencia de María Cristina de Austria de Habsburgo-Lorena: minoría de edad de Alfonso XIII, 1885-1902 (in Spanish). Barcelona: Ediciones Internacionales Universitarias.
  • Figueroa y Torres, Conde de Romanones, Alvaro de (1934). Doña María Cristina de Habsburgo Lorena, la discreta regente de España (in Spanish). Madrid: Espasa Calpe.
  • Latimer, Elizabeth Wormeley (1907). Spain in the Nineteenth Century. Chicago: A. C. McClurg.
  • Martín Alonso, Aurelio (1914). Diez y seis años de regencia, María Cristina de Hapsburgo-Lorena, 1885–1902 (in Spanish). Barcelona: L. Tasso.
  • Queralt, María Pilar (2014). La pasión de la reina: María Cristina, la mujer que amo a Alfonso XII (in Spanish). Barcelona: Ciudad de Libros. ISBN 9781497645523.
  • Thoma, Helga (2003). Habsburgs letzte Herrscherin: Maria Christine, Erzherzogin von Österreich, Königin-Regentin von Spanien (in German). Wien-Klosterneuburg: Edition Va Bene. ISBN 3851671406.

External links[edit]

Maria Christina of Austria
Born: 21 July 1858 Died: 6 February 1929
Spanish royalty
Title last held by
Mercedes of Orléans
Queen consort of Spain
29 November 1879 – 25 November 1885
Title next held by
Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg