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Maria Luisa of Spain ( Spanish pronunciation: [maˈɾi.a

In 1801 the Treaty of Aranjuez made her husband King of Etruria, a kingdom created from the former Duchy of Tuscany in exchange for the renunciation of the Duchy of Parma. They arrived in Florence, the capital of the new kingdom, in August 1801. During a brief visit to Spain in 1802, Maria Luisa gave birth to her second child. Her husband's reign in Etruria was marred by his ill health. He died in 1803, at the age of 30, following an epileptic crisis. Maria Luisa acted as regent for their son. During her government in Florence, she tried to gain the support of her subjects, but her administration of Etruria was cut short by Napoleon Bonaparte, who forced her to leave with her children in December 1807. As part of the Treaty of Fontainebleau, Napoleon incorporated Etruria to his domains.

After a futile interview with Napoleon in Milan, Maria Luisa looked for refuge in exile with her family in Spain. The Spanish court was deeply divided and a month after her arrival the country was thrown into unrest when a popular uprising, known as the Mutiny of Aranjuez, forced Maria Luisa's father to abdicate in favor of her brother Ferdinand VII. Napoleon invited father and son to Bayonne, France, with the excuse of acting as a mediator, but gave the kingdom to his brother Joseph. Napoleon called the remaining members of the Spanish royal family to France and at their departure on 2 May 1808, the citizens of Madrid rose up against the French occupation. In France, Maria Luisa was reunited in exile with her parents. She was the only member of the Spanish royal family to directly oppose Napoleon. After her secret plan to escape was discovered, Maria Luisa was separated from her son and placed with her daughter as prisoners in a Roman convent.

Maria Luisa, mostly known as the Queen of Etruria during her lifetime, regained her freedom in 1814 at the fall of Napoleon.

Infanta of Spain

Born at the Palace of San Ildefonso, Segovia, Spain, Maria Luisa was the third surviving daughter of King Charles IV of Spain and his wife Maria Luisa of Parma, a granddaughter of Louis XV. She was given the names Maria Luisa Josefina Antonieta, after an older sister, Maria Luisa Carlota, who died just four days before Maria Luisa's birth, on 2 July, and her mother.

In 1795, Maria Luisa's first cousin, Louis, Hereditary Prince of Parma, came to the Spanish court to finish his education. There was an understanding between the two royal families that Louis would marry one of the daughters of Charles IV. It was anticipated that he would marry the Infanta Maria Amalia, Charles IV's eldest unmarried daughter. She was fifteen years old at the time and of a timid and melancholic nature. Louis, who was equally shy and reserved, preferred her younger sister, Maria Luisa, who although only twelve, was of a more cheerful disposition and somewhat better looking. All four daughters of Charles IV were short and plain, but Maria Luisa was clever, lively and amusing. She had dark curly hair, brown eyes and a Grecian nose. Although not beautiful, her face was expressive and her character lively. She was generous, kindhearted and devout. Both infantas were favorably impressed by the Prince of Parma, a tall and handsome young man, and when he ultimately chose the younger sister, Queen Maria Luisa readily agreed to the change of bride.


Louis was created Infante of Spain and married Maria Luisa on 25 August 1795 at the Royal Palace of La Granja. In a double wedding with her sister, Maria Amalia, who was the original intended bride, married her much older uncle, Infante Antonio. The marriage between the two different personalities turned out to be happy, though it was clouded by Louis' ill health: He was frail, suffering chest problems, and since a childhood accident when he hit his head on a marble table, suffered epileptic fits. As the years went on his health deteriorated and he grew to be increasingly dependent on his wife. The young couple remained in Spain during the early years of their marriage, which were to be the happiest period of their lives.

Maria Luisa was only thirteen when she married, and her first child was not born for another four years.

Queen of Etruria

Maria Luisa's life was deeply marked by Napoleon Bonaparte's actions. Napoleon was interested in having Spain as an ally against England. In the summer of 1800, he sent his brother Lucien to the Spanish court with the proposal that would result in the Treaty of Aranjuez. Napoleon, who had conquered Italy, proposed to compensate the House of Bourbon for their loss of the Duchy of Parma by creating the new Kingdom of Etruria for Louis, heir of Parma. The new kingdom was created out of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

To make way for the Bourbons, Grand Duke Ferdinand III was ousted and compensated with Salzburg. Maria Luisa, who had never lived away from her own family and was totally inexperienced in political affairs, opposed the plan. One of Napoleon's conditions was that the young couple had to go to Paris and there receive from him the investiture of their new sovereignty, before taking possession of Etruria. Maria Luisa was reluctant to make a trip to France, where only seven years earlier her relatives Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had been executed. However, pressed also by her family, she did as she was told. On 21 April 1801 the couple and their son left Madrid, crossed the border in Bayonne and traveled incognito to France under the name of Counts of Livorno. Napoleon received them with great attentions, at their arrival in Paris on 24 May. At first, the young couple did not make a good impression. In her memoirs, the Duchess of Abrantes described Maria Luisa's character as a "mixture of shyness and haughtiness which at first gave restraint to her conversation and manners".

On her part, the Infanta did not enjoy her visit to Paris.

In the recollections of Napoleon's valet, Maria Luisa left a more favorable impression than her husband: "The Queen of Etruria was, in the opinion of the First Consul, more sagacious and prudent than her husband.. [she] dressed herself in the morning for the whole day, and walked in the gardens, her head adorned with flowers or a diadem, and wearing a dress, the train of which swept up the sand of the walk: often also carrying in her arms one of her children.., by night the toilet of her Majesty was somewhat disarranged.

On 30 June, after staying in Paris for three weeks, Maria Luisa and her husband, headed south toward Parma. In Piacenza they were greeted by Louis' parents, together they went to Parma and Maria Luisa met her husband's two unmarried sisters. They found Louis already speaking Italian with a foreign accent while Maria Luisa's Italian was often mixed with Spanish words. After three weeks in Parma they entered Etruria. In August they arrived at Florence. The French general Murat had been sent to Florence to prepare the Pitti Palace for them. But the King and Queen of Etruria did not have an auspicious start in their new life. Maria Luisa suffered a miscarriage, while her frail husband's health deteriorated further, fits of epilepsy becoming more frequent. The Pitti Palace, the residence of the King and Queen, was the former house of the Medici dukes. The palace had been practically abandoned after the death of the last Medici and the ousted Grand Duke Ferdinand had taken most of its values with him. Short of money, Maria Luisa and her husband were forced to furnish the Pitti Palace borrowing furniture from the local nobility.

Maria Luisa and Louis were both full of good intentions but they were received with hostility by the population and the nobility that missed the popular Grand Duke and saw them as just mere tools in the hands of the French.

Louis felt very ill before boarding the ship, waiting for his full recovery delayed their plans for weeks.

Back in Etruria, the illness of her husband was carefully concealed from the population, as Maria Luisa alone was seen in public functions and entertaining at court.

Regent of Etruria

Grief-stricken by the death of her husband, she began suffering from a nervous illness.

During her four-year regency, Maria Luisa took on the government of Etruria with the help of her ministers Count Fossombroni and Jean Garbiel Eynard (1775-1863).

Though Maria Luisa by then had become fond of Florence, Napoleon had other plans for Italy and Spain: I am afraid the Queen is too young and her minister too old to govern the Kingdom of Etruria, he said.


The exiled Queen went to Milan where she had an interview with Napoleon. He promised her, as compensation for the loss of Etruria, the throne of a Kingdom of Northern Lusitania (in the North of Portugal), he intended to create after the Franco-Spanish conquest of Portugal. This was part of the Treaty of Fontainebleau between France and Spain (October 1807) that also had incorporated Etruria to Napoleons' domains. Napoleon had already ordered the invasion of Portugal but his secret aim was ultimately to depose the Spanish royal family and have access to the money remitted from Spanish colonies in the New World. As part of the agreement, Maria Luisa would marry Lucien Bonaparte, who would have to divorce his wife, but both refused: Lucien was attached to his wife and Maria Luisa considered those nuptials a misalliance, and she would not allow herself to be put in Portugal in the place of her eldest sister, Carlota. Napoleon wanted Maria Luisa to settle in Nice or Turin, but her intentions were to join her parents in Spain. She arrived at a court deeply divided and a country in unrest: her brother, Ferdinand, Prince of Asturias, had plotted against their father and the unpopular prime minister Manuel Godoy.

Ferdinand had been pardoned but with the family's prestige shaken, Napoleon took this opportunity to invade Spain.

Supporters of Ferdinand spread the story that prime minister Godoy had betrayed Spain to Napoleon.

Maria Luisa, who at the time had been in Spain for barely a month, took her father's side against the party of her brother.

At that time, Maria Luisa had become unpopular.


After this, Napoleon gave Spain to his brother Joseph Bonaparte and forced the Royal family into exile in Fontainebleau. Maria Luisa requested a separate residence and moved with her children to a house in Passy, but was soon moved to Compiegne on June 18. She was plagued by frequent sickness and shortage of money and, not owning any horses, was forced to walk wherever she needed to go. When at last Napoleon sent 12,000 francs as the promised compensation, the expenses of her trip to France were discounted. She wrote a letter of protest, saying that prisoners were never made to pay for their removal, but she was advised not to send it out. She was promised to retire to the Palace of Colorno in Parma with a substantial allowance, but once in Lyon, under the pretext of conducting her to her destination, she was escorted to Nice, where she was kept under strict vigilance.

She planned to escape to England, but her letters were intercepted and her two accomplices executed. Maria Luisa was arrested on 26 July and condemned to be imprisoned in a convent in Rome, while her nine-year-old son was to remain in the care of his grandfather Charles IV. Maria Luisa's pension was reduced to 2500 francs; all her jewels and valuables were taken away. She was imprisoned in the convent of Santi Domenico e Sisto, near the Quirinal on 14 August 1811 with her daughter and a maid. Her pleas for clemency were unanswered.

During her imprisonment, Maria Luisa and her children were stripped of their rights to the Spanish crown by the Cádiz Cortes, on 18 March 1812, because she was under Napoleon's control. Her rights were not restored until 1820. The former Queen of Etruria wrote in her Memoirs:

On 19 June 1812, she was allowed to see her family.

Congress of Vienna

Maria Luisa moved with her children and her parents to the Barberini Palace. She hoped for the restorations of her son's estates and as the Congress of Vienna (1814–15) assembled to reorder the European map, she quickly wrote and published the Memoirs of the Queen of Etruria, originally written in Italian but translated to different languages, to put forward her case. When Napoleon returned from his exile at Elba, Maria Luisa and her parents fled Rome, moving from one city to another in Italy. The Countess de Boigne met her in Genoa and found her untidy and vulgar. When Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, they returned to Rome.

At the Congress of Vienna, Maria Luisa's interests were represented by the Spanish emissary Marquis of Labrador, an incompetent man, who did not successfully advance his country's or Maria Luisa's diplomatic goals. The Austrian Minister Metternich had decided not to restore Parma to the House of Bourbon, but to give it to Napoleon's wife, Marie Louise of Austria. Maria Luisa pleaded her cause to her brother Ferdinand VII of Spain, the Pope, and Tsar Alexander I of Russia. Ultimately, the Congress decided to compensate Maria Luisa and her son with the smaller Duchy of Lucca, which was carved out of Tuscany. She was to retain the honors of a queen as she had before in Etruria.

However, Maria Luisa refused this compromise for more than two years.

Seeking independence from her family, Maria Luisa accepted the solution offered by the Treaty of Paris in 1817: upon the death of Marie Louise of Austria, the duchy of Parma would revert to Charles Louis and the House of Bourbon. Maria Luisa became Duchess of Lucca in her own right and was granted the rank and privileges of a queen. Her son, Charles Louis, would succeed her only upon her death and would be the Prince of Lucca. Lucca would be annexed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany when the family regained possession of Parma. Then the Spanish minister in Turin, took possession of Lucca until Maria Luisa arrived on 7 December 1817.

Duchess of Lucca

When Maria Luisa arrived in Lucca, she was already thirty-five years old.

Maria Luisa's firm intention was to obliterate every trace of the government Elisa Bonaparte, who had ruled Lucca from 1805 to 1814 and who nominally succeeded Maria Luisa in Tuscany in 1808. As duchess, she promoted public works and culture in the spirit of enlightenment and during her government the sciences flourished. Between 1817-20, she ordered the complete renewal of the inner decorations of the Palazzo Ducale, completely redecorating the building into its present form, making the Palazzo one of the finest in Italy. Maria Luisa, a religious woman, favored the clergy. In her small state, seventeen new convents were founded in the six years of her reign. Among the projects she accomplished were the building of a new aqueduct and the development of Viareggio, the port of the Duchy.

Politically, Maria Luisa disregarded the constitution imposed on her by the congress of Vienna and governed Lucca in an absolutist fashion, though her government was not very reactionary and oppressive.


Throughout these years, she spent the summers in Lucca and the winters in Rome. She went to Rome on 25 October 1823 to her Palace in Piazza Venezia, already feeling ill. On 22 February 1824 she signed her will and died of cancer on 13 March 1824 in Rome. Her body was taken to Spain to be buried at the Escorial. A monument to her memory was erected in Lucca. Upon her death, she was succeeded by Charles Louis.


Maria Luisa was survived by her two children:


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