Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Biography - Elisabeth of Austria 1554–1592 Queen of France devotes herself to God after death of husband & only child & being expelled by Catherine de' Medici

1571 Elisabeth of Austria (1554–1592) Queen of France by François Clouet (1515–1572)

Elisabeth of Austria (1554–1592) was a German princess of the House of Habsburg, by birth Archduchess of Austria & by marriage Queen of France. She was the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II & Maria of Spain. During her childhood, she lived with her older sister Anna & younger brother Matthias in a pavilion in the gardens of the newly built Schloss Stallburg near Vienna. The children enjoyed a privileged & secluded childhood & were raised as devout Catholics. Elisabeth's brothers were educated by the Flemish writer & diplomat Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq. The curious young princess soon joined & overshadowed them in their studies.

Elisabeth of Austria (1554–1592) Queen of France attr François Clouet (1515–1572)

When she turned 5 in 1559, a marriage between her & the future King Charles IX of France was plotted. In 1562, the Maréchal de Vieilleville, a member of the French delegation sent to Vienna, after seeing the 8-year-old princess, exclaimed: "Your Majesty, this is the Queen of France!" Elisabeth's grandfather, the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, appeared interested in arranging such a marriage. Queen Catherine de' Medici the absolute power behind the throne, agreed to the marriage with Elisabeth, because she believed that France needed a Catholic marriage in order to combat the Protestant parties as well as to cement an alliance between the Habsburg emperors & the French Crown.

King Charles IX of France (1550-1574)

Elisabeth was first married by proxy in October of 1570, in the Cathedral of Speyer (Elisabeth's uncle, Archduke Ferdinand of Further Austria-Tyrol, served as proxy for the French King). After a week of celebrations, on November 4th, she left Austria for France, accompanied by a hoard of high-ranking German nobles. In France, the roads proved impassable due to constant rain. The royals decided that the official wedding was to be celebrated in the small border town of Mézières-en-Champagne. King Charles IX of France & Archduchess Elisabeth of Austria were formally married there on 26 November 1570. Since the wedding took place far away from Paris, it was not until the spring that the German-French alliance was celebrated with magnificent feasts in the French capital, as she officially became queen.

Elisabeth of Austria (1554–1592) Queen of France Joris van der Straeten (Georges van der Straeten 1570

Elisabeth was so delighted with her husband, that she did not hesitate to kiss him in front of others. However, King Charles IX had a long-term mistress, Marie Touchet, who declared, "The German girl doesn't scare me." After a brief infatuation with his teenage bride, the King soon returned to his long-time mistress. He was encouraged to do this by his own uber manipulative mother, Queen Catherine de Medici, who wanted to ensure that her new daughter-in-law was kept out of having any influence in the affairs of state.

Francois Clouet Catherine de' Medici (1519-89), Queen of France (1547-59)

Charles IX realized that excesses of the French Court might shock the sheltered, religious Elisabeth; &, along with his mother, so he made an effort to shield her. The young new Queen was indeed shocked with the licentious ways of the French court, & dedicated her time to embroidery work, reading, & the practice of charitable & pious works. She continued to hear Mass twice a day.

Elisabeth of Austria (1554–1592) Queen of France by François Clouet (1515–1572)

Despite her strong opposition to the Protestantism in France, she was horrified upon receiving news of the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre on 24 August 1572, when thousands of French Protestants were slaughtered on the streets of Paris. The morning after the massacre, the shocked Queen asked her husband if he knew about the massacre in advance. When her husband, the King, admitted that he was the initiator, she said she would pray for him & the salvation of his soul.

Elisabeth of Austria (1554–1592) Queen of France

A few months later, on 27 October 1572, the Queen gave birth to a daughter. By the time of Marie Elisabeth's birth, the already poor health of the King deteriorated rapidly, & he died on 30 May 1574. The young Queen, who was at his bedside weeping "tears so tender, & so secret," according to one eyewitness, was expelled from the King's chamber by her mother-in-law, Queen Catherine de Medici. After a 40 days mourning period, Elisabeth was compelled by her father to return to Vienna. In August of 1575, Elisabeth visited her almost 3-year-old daughter back in Paris. In December, she left Paris, leaving little Marie Elisabeth under the care of her conniving grandmother Queen Catherine de Medici. Elisabeth would never see her daughter again, the young princess Marie Elisabeth died 3 years later.

1580 Elisabeth of Austria (1554–1592) Queen of France in widow's clothes by Jakob de Monte

The widow Elisabeth turned to doing the work of God. In France, Elisabeth built a Jesuit college in Bourges. In 1580, Elisabeth bought lands near Stallburg & founded the Convent of Poor Clares - Queen of Angels, also called The Queen's Monastery. Elisabeth devoted her life to the example of her convent's holy patron Clare in the exercise of piety, poor relief & health care. Elisabeth died in 1592, & was buried in a simple marble slab in the church of her convent. In her will, Elizabeth donated money not only for the poor & sick, but also included funds for prayers for her late husband in the convent's church.