Christina of France

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Portrait of Christina by Giovanna Garzoni , 1635

Maria Christina of France ( French Marie Christine de France , Italian Maria Cristina di Francia ; * February 10, 1606 in Paris , † December 27, 1663 in Turin ) was a French princess who, by marriage to Viktor Amadeus I from 1619, was Duchess of Savoy was. After the death of her husband in 1637, she took over the reign of the duchy one after the other for her two sons and also exercised power when her son Karl Emanuel II ( Carlo Emanuele II in Italian ) was of legal age .

The reign was not without controversy, however, and her two brothers-in-law Moritz and Thomas Franz , with the support of Spain , sparked a civil war for power in the country. In return, Christina sought help from her brother Ludwig XIII. of France , with whose assistance they ultimately got the upper hand in Savoy. Her close ties to France forced the regent to make some concessions to her brother and his first minister Richelieu , but she was always careful to keep France's influence on Savoy-Piedmont as low as possible. By clever tactics, Maria Christina was not only able to preserve the duchy for her son, but also prevented it from falling into the hands of France. Only after her death in 1663, at the age of twenty-nine, did Charles Emmanuel II take over the business of government.


Christina was born in Paris as the third child and thus the second daughter of the French King Henry IV and his second wife Maria de 'Medici . In order to strengthen the connection between France and Savoy, she was betrothed to the Savoyard heir to the throne Viktor Amadeus I ( Italian Vittorio Amedeo I ) at the age of twelve . The wedding took place on the day of her 13th birthday in Paris. The connection resulted in seven children, four of whom reached adulthood:

Christina as a widowed duchess with three of her children
  • Ludwig Amadeus (* 1622; † 1628)
  • Ludovica Cristina (July 27, 1629 - May 14, 1692),
  • Franz Hyazinth (14 September 1632 - 4 October 1638), Duke of Savoy
  • Charles Emanuel II (June 20, 1634 - June 12, 1675), Duke of Savoy
  • Margarete Jolande (born November 15, 1635 - † April 29, 1663), Duchess of Parma
  • Katharina Beatrix (born November 6, 1636 - † August 26, 1637)
  • Henriette Adelheid (born November 6, 1636 - March 13, 1676), Electress of Bavaria

Christina's marital fidelity was openly and legitimately questioned by many contemporaries. When their eldest daughter was born, paternity was ascribed to a French courtier named Pommeuse , whom the father-in-law Charles Emanuel I had removed from the Turin court only a short time later. Christina also made no secret of her love affair with the artist Filippo de San Martino, conte d'Agliè - especially after the death of her father-in-law.

Her entire life was strongly influenced by her descent from the French royal house of the Bourbons . Not only did she lean her politics very strongly on France during her reign, she was also always in opposition to the aspirations for power and the politics of the Habsburgs , which traditionally were the greatest competitors of the French kings for supremacy in Europe.


Portrait of 7 year old Christina, painting by Frans Pourbus the Younger

After the Second War of Succession in Montferrat , in which the Duke of Savoy was unexpectedly not supported by his Habsburg relatives, Charles Emanuel I of Savoy ( Carlo Emanuele I in Italian ) turned disappointedly away from the House of Habsburg and approached its main rival France . From 1618, his son Moritz von Savoyen ( Maurizio di Savoia in Italian ) therefore negotiated with Claude de Bullion , negotiator of the Bourbons, about the marriage of Karl Emanuel's son Viktor Amadeus to the French princess Christina. The 31-year-old Savoyard prince was still unmarried at the time, and the succession to the throne had to be secured by a male heir for the older family line. The marriage contract was signed on January 11, 1619, but the wedding did not take place until the bride's 13th birthday. The ceremony was celebrated on February 10, 1619 with great pomp in the Louvre , because the connection should seal the anti-Spanish alliance of the House of Savoy with France.

Shortly after the marriage, Christina traveled to Turin, where numerous festivities and events such as theater and ballet performances or tournaments took place on the occasion of the wedding. Due to her young age, however, she still had no particular influence at the Savoyard court. When she was 24 years old, her father-in-law died and her husband succeeded him as duke. Christina's position changed when she gave birth to Franz Hyazinth, the long-awaited heir to the throne in 1632. Two years later, her position was consolidated with the birth of her second son, Karl Emanuel. The young woman became the focus of all courtly activities, also due to the influence of her lover, the artist Filippo d'Agliè. Together with him, she was instrumental in the development of dance, court culture and art in the Duchy of Savoy. In addition, it became the center of the French faction at the Savoyard court, which opposed any kind of Spanish influence in the duchy. Ever since Christina man despite the close family ties with the Spanish Habsburgs (his mother Catherine Michaela was a Spanish Infanta ) and against the will of all his siblings in April 1631 as part of the Peace of Cherasco in the Piedmont situated fortress Pinerolo had ceded to France in order To consolidate the alliance with the French king, the Turin court was divided into two camps. On the one hand, the duke and his wife stood as the heads of a parliamentary group that was friendly to France and was headed by the courtiers who were friendly to Spain, headed by Viktor Amadeus' siblings. The latter attributed the separation of Pinerolo to Christina's bad "French influence" on her husband. In protest against the governance of Viktor Amadeus, the only two remaining brothers in Turin, Moritz and Thomas Franz, left the duchy in 1634. Moritz returned to Rome , while Thomas Franz entered service in Spain and rose to the rank of general in the local military .

Allegorical equestrian portrait of Christina during her reign

Christina's husband died unexpectedly in October 1637, leaving her with five young children, including the heir to the throne, Franz Hyazinth, who was just four years old. His self-confident widow claimed the guardianship of her two sons and thus also the reign of Savoy-Piedmont. Probably also because the only two other aspirants to the reign, her two brothers-in-law Moritz and Thomas Franz, were not in the country, the Turin Senate officially appointed Christina regent of Savoy just a few days after the death of her husband. It was a difficult task for her. The duchy was financially weakened and in large parts devastated by the long wars of her father-in-law and husband. In addition, the plague raged in Savoy in 1630 . One of their first acts, however, was to prevent the two brothers-in-law from returning to their duchy. Moritz had already set out for Turin when the news of Viktor Amadeus' death was heard, but was forced to return at Savona . When the regent then also confirmed the treaty of Rivoli on June 3, 1638 and thus renewed the anti-Spanish alliance with France, Christina had gambled away the last bit of goodwill on the Spanish side. Habsburg troops then took the important Piedmontese city of Verceil on July 5th of that year and occupied it. When the heir to the throne died in autumn 1638 at the age of only 10, the long-smoldering conflict between the parties friendly to France and Spain culminated in a civil war . Because the cardinal now took second place in the Savoyard succession to the throne and Thomas Franz was in third place, the two expected to participate in the new reign - this time in the name of the only four-year-old Karl Emanuel II - and saw this as an opportunity not only to end the French dominance of the past seven years, but also to reverse its effects. Since Christina wanted to continue to rule alone, Thomas asked for help in Madrid for his and his brother's ambitions, but the Spaniards reacted hesitantly and finally the plot was uncovered by the French. Cardinal Richelieu issued an arrest warrant against Thomas Franz, but he did not return as a private person, as assumed, but with a mercenary force supported by Spain . His brother Moritz invaded Piedmont in November 1638, the invasion of which turned into a general uprising of the nobility and urban elites against Christina's reign. The supporters of the princes were called principisti , while the few who remained loyal to the regent were called madamisti , because Christina was also known in Savoy as Madama Reale . By the spring of 1639 Moritz and his troops had brought almost the entire south into his hands, while Thomas Franz had taken the north with Ivrea , Biella and the Aosta Valley . Spanish-financed troops thus controlled almost all of Piedmont and continually advanced on Turin. Christina had her children brought to safety with Felix of Savoy, an illegitimate son of Karl Emanuel I and governor of Chambéry . For the time being, she entrenched herself in the capital's medieval castle . But when Thomas Franz's troops were able to take Turin in July, Christina fled to Chambéry. From there she went on to Grenoble, where she met her brother and Richelieu to ask them for help in their fight against the brothers-in-law. This was granted to her, but at a very high price: the regent had to officially place Savoy under the protectorate of France and allow French troops to be stationed in all important cities of the duchy. Only the fortress of Montmélian was exempt from this regulation. Christina was also able to get Richelieu to abandon his request to send her son to the French court in Paris.

Engraved portrait of Christina as the widow of Balthasar Moncornet

Meanwhile, the French garrison in the citadel of Turin successfully defied the siege by Thomas Franz's soldiers until reinforcements arrived under the leadership of Count Harcourt . This was followed by an armistice and the withdrawal of the Spanish troops on September 24, 1639, so that Christina could return to Turin in November of that year. The civil war did not end officially until 1642. The peace agreement came about largely through the mediation of Jules Mazarin , who after the death of Richelieu had taken his place as first minister and advisor to the French king. Born in Italy, he was less relentless than his predecessor and a great admirer of Christina, which - especially during Anna's reign of Austria - gave her considerably more freedom in governance. By the peace treaty signed on June 16 of that year, Christina was recognized as regent for her second son until he came of age in 1648. In return, her two brothers-in-law received a seat on the Regency Council. Moritz was also given the post of Lieutenant General in Nice and agreed to lose his cardinal dignity and to marry Christina's only fourteen-year-old daughter Ludovica Cristina. His brother was appointed governor in Ivrea and Biella .

From then on, Christina of France held the fate of the duchy firmly in her hand. The power of governance rested solely with her and the few people in the Regency Council, to which her favorite Filippo d'Agliè belonged. By a treaty of April 3, 1645, France returned many of the occupied cities and areas to Savoy in order to continue to secure arms aid in the war against Spain. This led to further battles, sieges and armed conflicts in Savoyard territory until the Peace of the Pyrenees was finally concluded in 1659 . She kept her son away from political business as much as possible. When he came of age on June 20, 1648, Christina officially withdrew, but political power actually remained with her until her death. After the death of their two main antagonists Thomas Franz and Moritz in 1656 and 1657, their position was more stable than ever. Even after Charles Emanuel II married Françoise Madeleine d'Orléans in March 1663, the heir to the throne continued to give his mother sole government. He only appeared politically after her death. Christina Maria of France died in Turin on December 27, 1663 and was buried in the Basilica of Sant'Andrea in Vercelli .


Maria Christina excelled as a committed builder throughout her life. From 1633 she had the Turin Castello del Valentino , a wedding present from her father-in-law, rebuilt and completely redesigned based on French models. After the construction work was completed, it served as the regent's preferred residence. She also had a villa built for her according to Andrea Costaguta's plans . Various redesigns and urban planning activities can also be traced back to them. On her initiative, among other things, the design of the Piazza San Carlo, the construction of the Church of Santa Cristina by Carlo di Castellamonte and from 1646 the city expansion towards the east. She was also responsible for the construction of the Church of Santa Teresa, the town hall and a Franciscan monastery .

One of Christina's greatest achievements in administrative terms was the rehabilitation of the ailing financial budget of Savoy. In order to achieve this, it did not shrink from making unpopular decisions. Despite massive opposition from the church, it abolished its tax exemption and passed a law that land donations to church institutions required the express permission of the government in order to put a stop to the immense accumulation of land owned by the church. Church property was only charged with half the usual tax rate, but because the church had huge estates, this brought an enormous amount into the empty Savoyard coffers. In addition, the regent introduced a special property tax, which - although only intended as a special tax for a short time - was valid for the entire 17th century. In order to improve the effectiveness of the administration in the duchy and to get a better overview of the financial situation of her duchy, Christina formed 18 provinces in 1653, each of which was headed by a finance secretary and a governor . Another reform of the administration consisted in giving important offices and positions based on the French model no longer to nobles , but to commoners.


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  • Amedeo Peyron: Notes per servire alla storia della Reggenza di Cristina di Francia, duchessa di Savoia (= Memorie della Reale Accademia delle scienze di Torino. Volume 24). Stamperia Reale, Turin 1868.
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  • Christine de France et son siècle (= Dix-septième siècle. No. 262). Presses Universitaires de France, 2014, ISSN  1969-6965 ( digitized from (subject to a charge) ).

Web links

Commons : Christina of France  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Massimo Centini (ed.): La grande enciclopedia di Torino. Personaggi, monumenti, eventi storici, lingua, arte, curiosità e folclore di un'antica capitale, rimasta intatta nello spirito fino ai giorni nostri. Newton & Compton, Rome 2003, ISBN 88-8289-906-3 , p. 728.
  2. ^ A b Sylvia Jurewitz-Freischmidt: The mistresses of the Louvre. Casimir Katz, Gernsbach 2005, ISBN 3-925825-98-3 , p. 216.
  3. a b c d e f g h i Robert Oresko: Imperial Italy in the Thirty Years War. The House of Savoy and the Thirty Years War. In: Klaus Bussmann (Ed.), Heinz Schilling (Ed.): 1648: War and Peace in Europe. Volume 1. Event company 350 years of Westphalian Peace, Münster 1998, pp. 142–153 ( online ).
  4. ^ JCF Hoefer: Nouvelle biography générale depuis les temps les plus recules jusqu'à nos jours. Sp. 444.
  5. a b c d e f E. Stumpo: Cristina di Francia, duchessa di Savoia. o. S.
  6. ^ JCF Hoefer: Nouvelle biography générale depuis les temps les plus recules jusqu'à nos jours. Sp. 446.