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Elisabeth of Austria, wife of Charles IX


Penultimate queen of the Valois, wife of Charles IX, Elisabeth of Austria (1554-1592) was a gentle, good wife, dominated by Catherine de Medici, effaced like Claude and Eleanor; a discreet queen that we don't talk much about; a queen as we loved them at that time, a queen who above all does not get involved in politics!

A youngest of the family

Charles IX came to power by officially coming of age on August 17, 1563. Very young, malleable and above all dominated by his mother Catherine de Medici, he was unfamiliar with the politics and governance of a kingdom. The regent wants peace and national independence. To do this, she thinks of an alliance with the House of Austria and opts for Anne, the eldest of Maximilian II, granddaughter of Charles V.

Marshal Vieilleville, on a mission to Vienna in 1562, found the youngest Elisabeth, born in July 1554, "very pretty" and addressed the Emperor in these terms "sacred Majesty, here is the Queen of France" and the young lady of transmit on his part to the King of France "his very humble and very affectionate service"! Catherine de Medici welcomes this news very freshly: Elisabeth is only the youngest, but archduchess all the same. A Catholic marriage was nevertheless useful and Albert de Gondi took charge of the negotiations. The contract was signed in January 1570 and the marriage by proxy took place in October.

The young girl is sixteen and has learned to live at court unlike all the Spanish infantes; but no one had prepared her to have to leave her country and especially not to learn French, because in Austria, she spoke German or Spanish.

Queen of France

When she arrives in France, she is greeted in a princely way. Like all young future spouses, Charles IX will hide in the public to watch her and while waiting for her in Mézières, he "was delighted to have found a wife in his content". How is she ? Fortunately, François Clouet painted his portrait: a beautiful young girl, with a triangular face, golden hair held back by a pearl band, a frank and direct gaze. The official presentations take place on November 26, 1570, followed by ceremonial festivities. Elisabeth is dressed in a silver dress covered with pearls and a large purple coat strewn with golden lilies. She wears "an imperial crown adorned with large diamonds, rubies and emeralds." The festivities last two days, the treaties are ratified, Elisabeth is Queen of France.

Festivities in the capital take place in the spring of 1571, with triumphal arches, processions, cavalcades, fireworks, balls. Sacred in Saint Denis on March 25, she is "walked" dripping with gold and pearls, in a litter of silver cloth, enters Paris on the 29th and the festivities end on March 30, 1571 with an enormous banquet and a ball offered by the City of Paris.

Obviously Protestants are not happy to see spending so much money ...

Representation and procreation

Everything went well at the beginning of the couple's life together: Charles IX showed her affection when she was bedridden with a good bronchitis in January 1571; he spends time with her, brings in a troop of jugglers to entertain her and even takes her to the Saint Germain fair when she is better. During the Carnival period, they dress up and walk around Paris. But she does not have the same playful temperament as him and above all does not speak the same language: there is total incomprehension! When speaking to her, you have to go through the Countess of Arenberg, a lady in her suite who acts as a translator. At the end of a year of marriage, she is pregnant… and despite Marie Touchet (mistress of the king), Elisabeth "never made her worse dear (worse face), nor spoke to her worse, patiently supporting her little one. jealousy and the theft he was doing to her ”.

Raised in virtue and in religion, she supports her husband during the dark hours of Saint Barthélémy. Locked up alone in her apartments, almost all alone sleeping in the Louvre, when the alarm clock starts ringing, and these women warn her to tell him that her husband is responsible, she begins to pray for him and ask God for him. forgive!

On October 27, 1572, a baby Marie-Elisabeth was born, carried by the godmother the Queen of England during her baptism.

Elizabeth is once again spoken of during the visit of the Polish ambassadors in 1573: she is only an act of presence. During the three and a half years of reign, she is sidelined by her husband who prefers the hunt and her mother-in-law the power. Yet when her husband is ill, she stays with him, sitting in silence, crying while hiding her pain, praying a lot, even at night so as not to be seen.

His return to Vienna

After her husband's death in 1574, "not being recognized or rewarded as she deserved," she was determined to return to Austria, not being able to stay in France as she had no son. In Amboise, she will embrace her little daughter, whom she will no longer see and who will die in April 1578, then leaves Paris at the beginning of December 1575. She settles again in Vienna, she is only twenty-one years old! She remains in good contact with her sister-in-law Marguerite (Queen Margot) to whom she will pay half of her dower when she learns that the Queen of Navarre no longer has a "valiant penny".

Henri III is approached for her new husband: she refuses; Philip II of Spain has just lost Anne (the eldest of the archduchesses), she is offered Elisabeth: she also refuses, in memory of her husband Charles.

Wishing to enter the convent, she founded a Poor Clare monastery near Vienna. She leads the life of nuns there "on vigils, fasts and continual prayers for Peace among Christian princes". She created the Church of All Saints in Prague and is perhaps at the origin of two works "on the Word of God" and "on the considerable events which happened in France in her time".

She died in January 1592 and L’Etoile wrote "she had been greatly loved and honored by the French".

Simone Bertière - The bloody years - the queens of France in the time of the Valois. Pocket, 1996.


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