Maria of Austria, Holy Roman Empress

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Maria of Austria
Holy Roman Empress; Queen consort of Germany, Hungary and Bohemia
Maria of Spain 1557.jpg
Tenure 1562–1576
Born 21 June 1528
Madrid, Spain
Died 26 February 1603
Convent of Las Descalzas Reales, Madrid, Spain
Spouse Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor
Issue Anna, Queen of Spain
Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor
Ernest, Archduke of Austria
Elisabeth, Queen of France
Matthias, Holy Roman Emperor
Maximilian III, Archduke of Austria
Albert VII, Archduke of Austria
House House of Habsburg(Spanish Habsburgs)
Father Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Mother Isabella of Portugal

Archduchess Maria of Austria (21 June 1528 – 26 February 1603) was the spouse of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia and Hungary.[1] She was the daughter of Emperor Charles V and twice served as regent of Spain.


Maria was born in Madrid to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, and Isabella of Portugal. She grew up mostly between Toledo and Valladolid with her siblings, Philip and Joanna. They built a strong family bond despite their father's regular absences. Maria and her brother, Philip, shared similar strong personal views and policies which they kept during the rest of their lives.

Married life

On 15 September 1548, aged twenty, she married her first cousin Archduke Maximilian.[2] The couple had sixteen children during the course of a twenty-eight-year marriage.

While her father was occupied with German affairs, Maria and Maximilian acted as regents of Spain from 1548 to 1551 during the absence of Prince Philip. Maria stayed at the Spanish court until August 1551,[3] and in 1552 the couple moved to live at the court of Maximilian's father in Vienna. During another absence of her brother, now King Philip II, from 1558 to 1561, Maria was again regent of Spain and returned to Madrid during that time.

After her return to Germany, her husband gradually succeeded his father Ferdinand I as ruler of Germany, Bohemia and Hungary, which he ruled from 1564 to his death in 1576. Maria was a devout Catholic and frequently disagreed with her religiously ambiguous husband. She had great influence over her sons, the future emperors Rudolf and Matthias.

Return to Spain

Maria returned to Spain in 1582, commenting that she was very happy to live in "a country without heretics". She settled in the Convent of Las Descalzas Reales in Madrid, where she lived until her death in 1603.

She was the patron of the noted Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria, and the great Requiem Mass he wrote in 1603 for her funeral is considered among the finest and most refined of his works.

Maria exerted some influence together with Queen Margaret, the wife of Philip III of Spain. Margaret, the sister of the future Emperor Ferdinand II, would be one of three women at Philip's court who would apply considerable influence over the king.[4] Margaret was considered by contemporaries to be extremely pious – in some cases, excessively pious, and too influenced by the Church,[5] and 'astute and very skillful' in her political dealings,[6] although 'melancholic' and unhappy over the influence of the Duke of Lerma over her husband at court.[5] Margaret continued to fight an ongoing battle with Lerma for influence until her death in 1611. Philip had an 'affectionate, close relationship' with Margaret, and paid her additional attention after she bore him a son, also named Philip, in 1605.[7]

Maria, the Austrian representative to the Spanish court – and Margaret of the Cross, Maria's daughter – along with queen Margaret, were a powerful Catholic and pro-Austrian faction in the court of Philip III of Spain.[4] They were successful, for example, in convincing Philip to provide financial support to Ferdinand from 1600 onwards.[7] Philip steadily acquired other religious advisors. Father Juan de Santa Maria, the confessor to Philip's daughter, Maria Anna, was felt by contemporaries to have an excessive influence over Philip at the end of his life, and both he and Luis de Aliaga, Philip's own confessor, were credited with the overthrow of Lerma in 1618. Similarly Mariana de San Jose, a favoured nun of Queen Margaret's, was also criticised for her later influence over the King's actions.[8]


Maria and Maximilian had sixteen children of which only five were still alive in the time of her death:



  2. Kamen, p. 35
  3. Kamen, p. 49
  4. 4.0 4.1 Sánchez, p.91.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Sánchez, p.98.
  6. Sánchez, p.99.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Sánchez, p.100
  8. Sánchez, p.97


Maria of Austria, Holy Roman Empress
Born: 21 June 1528 Died: 26 February 1603
Royal titles
Preceded by
Isabella of Portugal
Holy Roman Empress consort
Succeeded by
Anna of Tyrol
Preceded by
Anna Jagellonica
Roman-German Queen consort
Archduchess consort of Austria
Queen consort of Bohemia
Preceded by
Anna Jagellonica
in dispute with
Isabella Jagiellon
Queen consort of Hungary