Anne of Austria
Born in Spain in 1601, Anne of Austria, queen consort of France, was married to the 14-year-old Louis XIII and later mothered Louis XIV. Anne had a difficult time with her husband and his chief minister, Cardinal de Richelieu. The tension between Anne and Richelieu worsened when the Cardinal declared war on Anne's brother and divided her loyalty. In 1651, Louis XIV took power and Anne lost her role as sole regent. She died in 1666 in Paris, France.
Born on September 22, 1601, in Valladolid, Spain, Anne of Austria was the oldest daughter of King Phillip III and Margaret of Austria. She was especially close to her mother who helped her develop a deep devotion to her Roman Catholic faith. Sadly Anne lost her mother to illness when she was around the age of ten.
Barely in her teens, Anne became betrothed to France's King Louis XIII in 1612. The two royals had both been born in September 1601 within days of each other—a fact some took as a sign that the pair were destined to be together. Unfortunately, in reality, the union of these two teenagers was an exercise in political matchmaking, not romantic love.
Leaving her native Spain, Anne of Austria wed King Louis XIII in November of 1615. The beautiful young queen struggled to fit in her new homeland. Her husband paid her little attention and his chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu, questioned her loyalty to France. Anne spent much of her time visiting churches and convents. She also enjoyed going to the theater.
Anne suffered a miscarriage in 1622 (one of several she experienced), and the loss of a potential heir strained her marriage further. King Louis XIII blamed her for the loss of the baby. A few years later, he became angry at Anne again for her flirtation with England's Duke of Buckingham. Anne found herself at odds with her husband in 1635 after France declared war on Spain. During this time, she corresponded with her brother—who had become King Phillip IV—on the sly. While she apparently never gave away any secrets, Anne was accused of treason by Cardinal Richelieu in 1637. She was eventually pardoned, but King Louis XIII remained suspicious of her for the rest of his life.
After nearly twenty-two years of marriage, Anne of Austria finally delivered an heir to the French throne in 1638. Her son Louis was considered a stroke of tremendous good fortune. Anne was thirty-six years old when he was born. Without an heir, her position as a queen was tenuous. But her son's arrival helped cement her place as French royalty. For that reason, he was called Louis de Dieudonne, or "Gift of God." Two years later, Anne gave birth to another son, Phillip.
Anne of Austria was a doting parent and more hands-on with her children than most royals of the time. As the boys grew, Louis XIII's health began to fail. He died in 1643, leaving a provision for the country to be ruled by a regent counsel instead by Anne herself. She had the French parliament overturn Louis XIII's attempt to temper her power. On behalf of her five-year-old son Louis, Anne became the sole regent of France. She selected one of Richelieu's associates, Jules Mazarin, to serve as her minister. Anne and Mazarin developed a close bond, but the details of their relationship are not known.
In the wake of Louis XIII's death, a series of civil conflicts erupted. Anne was forced to remove Mazarin for a time. In 1651, Anne succeeded power to her son Louis, and she was appointed to his council. She was relieved when peace was finally achieved with Spain in 1659. The following year, Anne reunited with her brother, King Phillip IV, when her son married Phillip's daughter, Marie-Thérèsa.
Always very pious, Anne continued to visit convents and religious sites in her later years. She largely stepped away from politics after Mazarin's death in 1661. Two years later, Anne began experiencing her own health problems. She learned that she had breast cancer the following year.
In late 1665, Anne's health began to decline significantly. She died in Paris, France, on January 20, 1666. The legendary foreign-born queen of France is remembered for her political strategies and personal strength as regent. She later became an important character in Alexandre Dumas's fictional novel The Three Musketeers.
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