Elizabeth of France, Queen of Spain and Portugal

Elizabeth as a young girl in France, artist unknown (source)

Elizabeth as a young girl in France, artist unknown (source)

Elizabeth of France, the eldest daughter of Henry IV and his second wife Marie d’Medici, was born on November 22 in 1602. When she was just eight years old, her father was assassinated and her brother came to the throne as Louis XIII of France. Louis was only nine years old and their mother became regent.

To secure an ongoing alliance with Spain, Marie arranged a double marriage for her two oldest children. They would marry brother and sister, Philip and Anne, the children of Philip III and Margaret of Austria. After their proxy marriages took place, they met their spouses on  November 25, 1615, on an island in the river Bidassoa which divides France from Spain. Elizabeth was now Isabel, Princess of Asturias, but by the time of her first child, Philip had ascended to the throne and she was Queen consort. Philip had mistresses, which Isabel was aware of, and there were rumors about her relationship with Don Juan de Tassis y Peralta, 2nd Count of Villamediana, a poet.

Peralta had lived in exile from the court from 1611 to 1617. However, upon his return, his satirical pen took aim at a number of prominent men and he was ordered to leave court again in 1618. When Philip III died in 1621, he returned and was appointed gentleman-in-waiting to Elizabeth. In May of 1622, Suspicions about their relationship deepened after he carried the queen to safety when a fire broke out during the performance of one of his plays. Whether because of relations with the queen or his satire, Peralta was warned that his life was in danger. He evidently ignored the warnings and was murdered in August of 1922.

Elizabeth c. 1625 by Diego Velázquez (source)

Elizabeth c. 1625 by Diego Velázquez (source)

In spite of affairs, Philip and Elizabeth would of course do their duty to provide an heir to the throne. Of Elizabeth’s seven children only two survived beyond a couple of years. Her only surviving son, Balthasar Charles, died at the age of 16 and didn’t live to take his father’s throne. That honor would go to Charles II, the son of Philip and his second wife (and niece) Mariana of Austria.

Elizabeth’s youngest daughter, Maria Theresa of Spain, would go on to marry Louis XIV of France and have children herself. Her grandson, Elizabeth’s great-grandson, would become Philip V of Spain after Charles. Through him Elizabeth is an ancestor of the current monarch, Juan Carlos I.

Elizabeth was very popular among the people and considered beautiful, noble and intelligent. She died at the age of 41 on October 6, 1644.

Equestrian portrait of Elizabeth c. 1635 by Diego Velázquez (source)

Equestrian portrait of Elizabeth c. 1635 by Diego Velázquez (source)

Find out what else happened on November 22 in Women’s History.

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