|Maria Luisa of Spain by Lorenzo Baldissera Tiepolo, 1763|
After our theatrical detour we are back in a royal house today to welcome a lady of many titles to the salon. Maria Luisa was born Princess of Naples and Sicily and eventually became a Grand Duchess, a queen and an empress!
Maria Luisa was born to Maria Amalia of Saxony and the future Charles III of Spain, at that point King of Naples and Sicily. Already a Princess, when Charles inherited the Spanish throne in 1759, Maria Luisa became known as Infanta of Spain. The bright and cheerful girl was already embarked on an education that would prepare her for the life of a royal wife and at age of 15 she and her family moved to their new Spanish kingdom to take up residence.
Her future was decided on 16th February 1764 when Maria Luisa was married by proxy to Archduke Peter Leopold, the son of Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. The couple finally met in person in August 1765 for their formal wedding ceremony and when her father in law died within a week of the wedding, the new Grand Duke and Duchess of Tuscany moved to Florence to begin life as as husband and wife. Maria Luisa enthusiastically undertook her official duties and enjoyed life as the Grand Duchess, throwing herself into society. When the couple were crowned king and queen of Bohemia in 1790, they added one more impressive title to their collection, yet it was not yet the end of their rise through the noble ranks.
Despite its arranged beginnings and Leopold's penchant for extra-marital affairs, the couple's marriage was settled and friendly , Maria Luisa and Leopold's marriage was a happy one and the couple had 16 children, all but three of whom survived to adulthood. They lived in Florence for a quarter of a century until Leopold was elected Holy Roman Emperor at which point the family moved to Vienna. Sadly their life here proved to be short-lived; both the Emperor and Empress would be dead within two years, neither one yet 50 years old.
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.