Monday, May 18, 2009

Elisabeth of Valois, Queen of Spain

1 comment:

John (Ad Orientem) said...

From wikipedia

√Člisabeth of Valois (April 2, 1545 – October 3, 1568) was the eldest daughter of Henry II of France and Catherine de' Medici.


She was born in the Chateau of Fontainebleau. Her childhood was spent in the French royal nursery, where her father insisted she share her bedroom with her future sister-in-law, Mary, Queen of Scots, who was about her same age. Even though Elisabeth had to give precedence to Mary, (since Mary was already a crowned Queen) the two would remain close friends for the rest of their lives. Elisabeth was described as being shy, timid and very much in awe of her formidable mother; although there is also evidence that Catherine was tender and loving toward Elisabeth. (This was certainly evident in her letters to Elisabeth.)

Elisabeth married Philip II of Spain ("Philip the Catholic"), son of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and Isabella of Portugal in 1559. Originally married via proxy at Notre Dame (with the Duke of Alba standing in for Philip) prior to leaving France, the actual ceremony took place in Guadalajara, Spain upon her arrival. The marriage was a result of the Peace of Cateau Cambrésis (1559). His second wife, Mary I of England had recently died; making Elisabeth of Valois Philip's third wife.

Philip was completely enchanted by his 14 year old bride, and within a short period of time had given up his mistress. Despite the significant age difference, Elisabeth was also quite pleased with her husband. (In letters to her mother, she proclaimed herself to be fortunate to have married so charming a prince.) Philip enjoyed hosting chivalric tournaments to entertain his wife. Elisabeth would play liege lady to the three young Princes of the Spanish Court Don Carlos, Don Juan (John of Austria, illegitimate son of Charles V), and Alessandro Farnese (Duke of Parma, and son of Charles V's illegitimate daughter Margaret).

Elisabeth had originally been betrothed to Philip's son, Don Carlos, but political complications unexpectedly necessitated instead a marriage to Philip. Her relationship with her troubled stepson Don Carlos was warm and friendly. Despite reports of his progressively bizarre behavior, Don Carlos was always kind and gentle to Elisabeth. When it eventually became necessary for Philip to lock him away (which shortly lead to the Prince’s demise) Elisabeth cried for days.
Elisabeth in 1568

Philip was very attached to Elisabeth, staying close by her side even when she was ill with smallpox. Elisabeth's first pregnancy in 1564 ended with a miscarriage of twin girls. She later gave birth to Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain on August 12, 1566, and then to Isabella's younger sister Catherine Michelle of Spain October 10, 1567. Elisabeth had another miscarriage on October 3, 1568, and died the same day, along with her newborn infant son.

After the death of Elisabeth, Catherine de' Medici offered her younger daughter Marguerite as a bride for Philip. Philip declined the offer.

In fiction

Elisabeth of Valois is a central character in Schiller's play Don Carlos and in Verdi's opera adapted from that play also titled Don Carlos. Both works imply a tragic romance between Elisabeth and Carlos, suggesting that they were really in love with each other when Elisabeth was forced to break off her engagement to Carlos and marry his father Philip.