|Maria Christina of Austria|
Formal photo portrait by Franzen, 1906
|Queen consort of Spain|
|Tenure||29 November 1879 -|
|Queen Regent of Spain|
|Tenure||25 November 1885 -|
|Born||21 July 1858|
Brünn, Moravia, Austrian Empire
|Died||6 February 1929 (aged 70)|
Royal Palace, Madrid, Kingdom of Spain
(m. 1879; died 1885)
|Father||Archduke Karl Ferdinand of Austria|
|Mother||Archduchess Elisabeth Franziska of Austria|
Archduchess Maria Christina Henriette Desideria Felicitas Raineria of Austria[n. 1] (Spanish: María Cristina de Habsburgo; 21 July 1858 - 6 February 1929) was Queen consort of Spain as the second wife of Alfonso XII. She ruled as queen regent during the vacancy of the throne between her husband's death in November 1885 and the birth of their son Alfonso XIII in May 1886, and subsequently also until the coming of age of the latter in May 1902.
Known to her family as Christa, she was born at ?idlochovice Castle (Groß Seelowitz), near Brünn (now Brno), in Moravia, a daughter of Archduke Karl Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Archduchess Elisabeth Franziska of Austria.
Various sources attributed good traits to Maria Christina before her marriage. One states she was "tall, fair, sensible, and well educated". She was Princess-Abbess of the Theresian Royal and Imperial Ladies Chapter of the Castle of Prague (1875-1879).
Maria Christina married King Alfonso XII of Spain on 29 November 1879 at the Basilica of Atocha in Madrid. The arranged marriage (the second of Alfonso XII after the death of his first wife María de las Mercedes of Orléans), was concerted on the basis of the conservative profile espoused by the Austro-Hungarian Empire as well as by the prestige attained by the Habsburgs in their previous involvement in the history of Spain, and blocked the possibility of a prospective Austrian endorsement to the Carlist cause.
After giving birth to two female children--María de las Mercedes (born 1880) and María Teresa (born 1882)--she ensured dynastic continuity, yet, with the threatening landmark for the ruling dynasty set by the previous Carlist Wars, she was still pressured to undergo a new pregnancy and give birth to a male child in order to consolidate the political system, as it was considered at the time.
She became pregnant again before the death of her husband in November 1885 (the king suffered from tuberculosis yet he followed a hectic lifestyle). An attributed dying wish by Alfonso XII pleading to her is "Ya verás cómo todo se arregla providencialmente. Pero, si muero, guarda el coño y ándate siempre de Cánovas a Sagasta y de Sagasta a Cánovas" ("You will see how everything is going to be providentially fixed, yet if I die, keep your pussy at bay and always go from Cánovas to Sagasta and from Sagasta to Cánovas"). While possibly apocryphal, it is representative of the Restoration era. Months later, in May 1886, she would give birth to a male child, Alfonso, who reigned as Alfonso XIII upon his birth .
Designated as regent upon the death of her husband in 1885, Maria Christina swore on the 1876 Constitution on 30 December 1885 at the Palacio de las Cortes, before the two legislative bodies. She rejected the title of reina gobernadora ("Queen Governor"), distancing from the memory of the previous regent Maria Christina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, who had used it in the 1830s.
When the King died on 25 November 1885, Maria Christina was pregnant, so the throne was vacant, depending on whether Maria Christina's unborn child was a male or a female; a male would make that child king, while a female would place the elder daughter and Princess of Asturias, María de las Mercedes, on the throne. During this period, Maria Christina ruled as regent until her child Alfonso, a son, was born on 17 May 1886; he was King (Alfonso XIII) from birth. Maria Christina continued as regent until Alfonso XIII attained his majority in 1902.
She nurtured a persona of austerity and staidness, and became known among the populace as Doña Virtudes, María la Seca ("Mary the Curt One") and la institutriz ("the governess"). She displayed strong religious beliefs which gained her the endorsement of Pope Leo XIII, weakening the adherence to Carlist stances within the clergy.
Her chief adviser and head of government was Práxedes Mateo Sagasta. Her rule is described[according to whom?] as well-balanced and in accordance with respect for constitutional rights, and many political reforms were instated during her regency to prevent political conflicts and chaos. Her role was mostly ceremonial, and her purpose was to preserve the crown for her son until he became an adult.
After the marriage of her son with Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg in 1906, she took a secondary role in public events. Nevertheless, Alfonso XIII continued to look to her on many occasions for advice.
She was the leading figure around which the Germanophile stronghold within the Royal Court coalesced during World War I, confronted to the pro-Entente minority faction represented by her daughter-in-law, the British-born Victoria Eugenie. Spain remained a neutral country during the conflict. She died on 6 February 1929, at the Royal Palace in Madrid, after some weeks of heart disease.
She is buried at El Escorial. Sir Charles Petrie, Alfonso XIII's biographer, maintained that the Queen dowager's death had a disastrous effect on her son, and that the latter never recovered politically from the blow. Within little more than two years the monarchy had collapsed.
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She received the following awards:
|Ancestors of Maria Christina of Austria|