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Infanta Maria Luisa of Spain (Spanish: María Luisa, German: Maria Ludovika) (24 November 1745 – 15 May 1792) was Holy Roman Empress, German Queen, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, Grand Duchess of Tuscany as the spouse of Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor.[1]

Early life

Maria Luisa was born in Portici, in Campania, the site of the summer palace (Reggia di Portici) of her parents, King Charles, King of Naples and Sicily and Maria Amalia of Saxony. She was the fifth daughter, and second surviving child, of her parents.

Her father, the future Charles III of Spain, had become King of Naples and Sicily in 1735 after its occupation by the Spanish in the War of Polish Succession. After her father became King of Spain at the death of her half-uncle, Ferdinand VI of Spain, in 1759, she became known as Infanta Maria Luisa of Spain, and she moved with her family to Spain.

Grand Duchess of Tuscany

Maria Luisa was originally intended to marry the future Emperor Joseph II, but this was stopped by the discontent of Louis XV of France, who instead wished for Joseph to marry his granddaughter, Isabella of Parma.

On 16 February 1764 she was married by proxy at Madrid to Leopold, the second son of Empress Maria Theresa I, Holy Roman Empress and Francis, Duke of Lorraine, and the heir apparent to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Before her marriage, she was made to renounce her rights to the throne of Spain upon the wish of her father. After her wedding by proxy, she traveled to Austria by way of Barcelona, Genova and Bolzano. The next year, on 5 August, she married him in person at Innsbruck. Only a few days later, the death of Emperor Francis made Maria Luisa's husband the new Grand Duke of Tuscany, and the newly married couple moved to Florence, where they would live for the next twenty-five years. The couple arrived to Florence 13 September 1765. They were settled in the Palazzo Pitti.

By the time of her wedding, Maria Luisa was described as a blue-eyed beauty with a vivid charm, unpretentious and simple and with a disposition to be generous and kind, and her natural warm friendliness was said to have contrasted to the somewhat cold nature of Leopold.[2] By her strict Catholic upbringing, Maria Luisa was raised to endure any hardship of pregnancy and marriage without complaint, a role she also fulfilled during her marriage.[3] The relationship between Maria Luisa and Leopold has been described as happy, and Maria Luisa as a supporting and loyal wife. She accepted the infidelities of her spouse without complaints: among his most known lovers were Lady Anna Gore Cowper, and another was the ballerina Livia Raimondi, with whom he had a son, Luigi von Grün (1788–1814), and gave her own palace at Piazza San Marco.

As Grand Duchess of Tuscany, Maria Luisa made herself appreciated already the first year in Florence, during the famine of 1765, when she provided the poor and needing with food and medical aid, and she was referred to as an ideal "model of feminine virtue".[4] She was never crowned as Grand Duchess, though she was present at the coronation of Leopold in July 1768. She accompanied her consort and her sister-in-law, Maria Carolina of Austria, at the latter's marriage to her brother, the King of Naples: the couple remained there for the summer of 1768. In 1770, she accompanied Leopold on his visit to Vienna. Maria Luisa and Leopold neither enjoyed formal occasions and rarely participated in representation or indeed upheld much of a ceremonial court life at all; while Leopold spent his time with politics and his personal pleasure life, Maria Luisa isolated herself almost completely from high society and devoted herself completely to the upbringing of her children.[5] Maria Luisa and her spouse gave their children a very free upbringing, away from any formal court life, and occasionally took them on trips to the country side and the coast. She remained mostly unknown in the local aristocracy, and restricted her private social life to a very small circle of friends.[6]

Holy Roman Empress

In 1790, on the death of Leopold's childless brother, Joseph II, Maria Luisa's husband inherited the Habsburg lands in Central Europe, and was shortly thereafter elected Holy Roman Emperor. Taking the name of Leopold II, the new Emperor moved his family to Vienna, where Maria Luisa took on the role of imperial consort, being the penultimate one and the last to have had held the title until her husband's death. Leopold died scarcely two years later, on 1 March 1792. Maria Luisa followed her husband to the grave in less than three months, not living long enough to see her eldest son Francis elected as the last Holy Roman Emperor. She was buried next to her husband in the Capuchin Crypt. Her urn is located in the Loreto Chapel of the Vienna Augustinerkirche, her entrails in the Ducal Crypt. Maria Luisa is one of those 41 people who received a "Separated Funeral" with a division of the body into all three traditional Viennese burial places of the Habsburgs (Imperial Crypt, Herzgruft, Herzogsgruft).

Mozart's opera La clemenza di Tito was commissioned by the Estates of Bohemia as part of the festivities that accompanied the coronation of Maria Luisa and her husband Leopold as king and queen of Bohemia in Prague on 6 September 1791. In musical circles, Maria Luisa is famous for her putative denigration of Mozart's opera, which she supposedly dismissed as "una porcheria tedesca" (Italian for "German swinishness"), however no claim that she made this remark pre-dates the publication in 1871 of Alfred Meissner's Rococo-Bilder: nach Aufzeichnungen meines Grossvaters, a collection of stories about cultural and political life in Prague in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.[7]



Titles and styles

  • 24 November 1745 – 10 August 1759 Her Royal Highness Princess Maria Luisa of Sicily and Naples
  • 10 August 1759 – 16 February 1764 Her Royal Highness Infanta Maria Luisa of Spain
  • 16 February 1764 – 18 August 1765 Her Royal Highness Archduchess Maria Luisa of Austria, Princess Royal of Hungary and Bohemia
  • 18 August 1765 – 20 February 1790 Her Royal Highness The Grand Duchess of Tuscany
  • 20 February 1790 – 1 March 1792 Her Imperial Majesty The Holy Roman Empress, Archduchess of Austria, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia
  • 1 March 1792 – 15 May 1792 Her Imperial Majesty The Holy Roman Empress Dowager, Dowager Archduchess of Austria, Queen Dowager of Hungary and Bohemia
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