Maria Christina Henriette Desideria Felicitas Raineria of Austria (21 July 1858 – 6 February 1929) was Queen of Spain as the second wife of King Alfonso XII. She was regent during the minority of their son, Alfonso XIII, and the vacancy of the throne between her husband's death and her son's birth.
When the King died, 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 her elder daughter, Infanta María Mercedes, on the throne. During this period, Maria Christina ruled as regent until her child, a son, was born, who was Alfonso XIII of Spain from birth. Maria Christina continued as regent until Alfonso XIII attained his majority in 1902; she is the "Her Majesty the Queen Regent of Spain" named as concluding in the Treaty of Paris (1898) with the United States of America, ending the Spanish–American War.
Her chief adviser and head of government was Práxedes Mateo Sagasta. Her rule is described as well balanced and in accordance with respect for the 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.
After her son's marriage in 1906, she lost her position as first lady at court and became Queen dowager and Queen Mother. Nevertheless, Alfonso XIII continued to look to her on many occasions for advice.
In February 1929, after some weeks of heart disease, she died at the Royal Palace in Madrid and 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.
Campos y Fernández de Sevilla, Francisco-Javier. María Cristina de Habsburgo y la Regencia, 1885–1902. San Lorenzo de El Escorial: Estudios Superiores del Escorial, Real Colegio Universitario "María Cristina", 1994.
Cancio R. Capote, Rita Maria. The Function of Maria Christina of Austria's Regency, 1885–1902, in Preserving the Spanish Monarchy. México: Ediciones Botas, 1957.
Figueroa y Torres, Alvaro de, Conde de Romanones. Doña María Cristina de Habsburgo Lorena, la discreta regente de España. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1934.
Martín Alonso, Aurelio. Diez y seis años de regencia, María Cristina de Hapsburgo-Lorena, 1885–1902. Barcelona: L. Tasso, 1914.
Thoma, Helga. Habsburgs letzte Herrscherin: Maria Christine, Erzherzogin von Österreich, Königin-Regentin von Spanien. Wien-Klosterneuburg: Edition Va Bene, 2003.
Wormeley Latimer, Elizabeth (1907). Spain in the Nineteenth Century. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co.