Maria Barbara de Bragança

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Maria Bárbara de Bragança as Infanta of Portugal (Anonymous, approx. 1726–28, formerly in the Museu Nacional dos Coches , Lisbon)

Maria Barbara de Bragança [ bɾɐˈɡɐ̃sɐ ] (German: von Braganza ; * December 4, 1711 in Lisbon , † August 27, 1758 in Aranjuez ) was a Portuguese infanta and as the wife of Ferdinand VI. Queen of Spain from 1746 until her death in 1758.


Infanta of Portugal

Maria Barbara was the eldest daughter of the Portuguese King Johann V and his wife Maria Anna of Austria . Her parents had married in 1708 and after three years of marriage they still had no children. Her father vowed to have a large monastery built if he got an heir to the throne. Finally, on December 4, 1711, a girl was born, and the father, as promised, had a convent built, the monastery in Mafra . The little Infanta was baptized Maria Madalena Bárbara Xavier Leonor Teresa Antónia Josefa . Relatives and saints were honored by the names given to her. She was named Barbara after the patron saint of her birthday. Usually she was called Bárbara or Maria Bárbara , although that name had never been used in the Portuguese dynasty.

At her birth Maria Barbara was the presumptive Portuguese heir to the throne until her brother Pedro was born in October 1712. Although he died at the age of two, her mother had given birth to another son in June 1714, Joseph (Portuguese: José ), who later became King Joseph I. As a result, Maria Barbara never again had the status of presumptive heir to the throne. When she was a girl, her family had plans to see her with Louis XV. of France to marry. She enjoyed an excellent upbringing, spoke several languages ​​and was very musical. In particular, she had a penchant for church music and later composed several pieces of sacred music. From the age of 9 or 10 she was the only student of the famous harpsichordist and composer Domenico Scarlatti ; and she also developed into a virtuoso harpsichordist.

Princess of Asturias

At the end of the 1720s, specific plans were made to marry Maria Barbaras. After lengthy negotiations, John V of Portugal and King Philip V of Spain agreed on a marriage alliance in the form of a double wedding for their children. On January 11, 1728, 16-year-old Maria Barbara was engaged to the Spanish heir to the throne Ferdinand (VI.) , Who was two years his junior, and her brother Joseph to Ferdinand's half-sister Maria Anna . The marriage of the two couples was celebrated on January 19, 1729 in a specially built wooden palace on a bridge over the Spanish-Portuguese border river Río Caya not far from Badajoz . Scarlatti follows Maria Barbara to Madrid after her marriage and wrote hundreds of sonatas for her.

When Ferdinand, then Prince of Asturias, saw his tall bride Maria Barbara at the first meeting on the occasion of the wedding, he thought she was so unattractive that he wanted to refrain from the wedding. According to his claim, he was misled about the appearance of his intended wife, whose face was pockmarked. In the end, however, he submitted to the raison d'être , and over time his initial antipathy turned into affection for his wife. The resolute and sensitive princess knew how to win the trust of her indecisive and melancholy husband. As a result, he saw her as a helpful support and sought her advice. He also shared her passion for music and art. Maria Barbara sponsored the Italian opera singer Farinelli , who appeared frequently at the Spanish court.

Maria Barbara was very concerned that her marriage would not have children. She and her husband had a tense relationship with Queen Elisabetta Farnese , Philip V's second wife. She forbade the royal couple from associating with foreign ambassadors. In 1733 the Queen even ordered Ferdinand and Maria Barbara, who were imprisoned in their premises in the Buen Retiro Palace in Madrid and were not allowed to appear in public until 1737, to be de facto house arrest . When Philip V died (1746), the heirs to the throne had no political experience. During her time as Princess of Asturias, Maria Barbara, who like her husband was in poor health, was at least able to deepen her relationship with Ferdinand.

Spanish queen

Louis-Michel van Loo : Maria Barbara de Bragança, Queen of Spain (c. 1750)

After the death of Philip V on July 9, 1746, the previous Prince of Asturias ascended as Ferdinand VI. the throne and Maria Barbara became Queen of Spain. Elisabetta Farnese was initially allowed to stay in Madrid, but now had to reside in the Palacio de los Afligidos. Maria Barbara, who was actually shy, has been politically active since her husband came to power and took part in his consultations with the ministers. However, she did not have as much political ambition as her predecessor Elisabetta Farnese. Tensions soon arose at court between a faction that was close to the Queen's widow and sympathetic to France and a party grouped around Maria Barbara, which favored a rapprochement between Spain and England and Portugal and a policy of peace. The Foreign and Justice Minister, Marquis of Villarías , tried to keep the Queen away from political activities, but was restricted to the Justice Department in December 1746. José de Carvajal y Lancaster , who was allied with Maria Barbara and who was anglophile and proportional , now advanced to the position of First Minister and, like the Marquis de Ensenada, who, in contrast to him, was more oriented towards France, had a decisive influence on Spanish politics under Ferdinand VI. In July 1747 Maria Barbara managed to have Elisabetta Farnese leave Madrid and move to the La Granja Palace in San Ildefonso.

During the reign of Ferdinand VI. a domestic reform policy was pursued on the one hand so that the Spanish economy could recover and the country could be modernized in the spirit of enlightened absolutism , and on the other hand a peace and neutrality policy was pursued in foreign policy. Maria Barbara was pro-British and took Portuguese interests into account, but she supported her husband in his foreign policy peace course. Their relationship with the Portuguese crown contributed to the negotiation of a treaty (January 1750) that settled the border conflicts between Spain and Portugal in their South American colonies. Ferdinand VI. also sought a settlement with Austria and the solution of the disputes existing with this power in Italy. As part of these reconciliation efforts, Empress Maria Theresa contacted the Spanish queen directly and suggested a defensive alliance related to Italy. Maria Barbara won her husband over to this plan, and on June 14, 1752 the Treaty of Aranjuez between Spain, Austria and Sardinia was signed. This reaffirmed the order established for the Apennine peninsula in the Treaty of Aachen (1748) . After Carvajal's death in 1754, the English ambassador Benjamin Keene intrigued against Ensenada and won over Maria Barbara, who in turn brought about the overthrow of the minister through her influence on the king. Now Ricardo Wall became first minister.


Maria Barbara suffered from asthma throughout her life and was overweight in her later years. To the courtiers she appeared greedy, but because of her childlessness she was afraid that after the death of Ferdinand VI. to have to live as a destitute widow. In the meantime, she died before her husband in the early morning hours of August 27, 1758 at the age of 47 in the royal palace of Aranjuez . Her body, clad in the Franciscan habit, was laid out in the hall of the palace and several masses were held in her memory. The next day her remains were transferred to Madrid and buried in the Convent of the Salesian Sisters ( Salesas Reales ) founded by her in 1748 . She left her brother a large fortune that, to the annoyance of the Spaniards, their land would now be missing. The demise of his wife shook Ferdinand VI. deeply.


  • Kendall W. Brown: Maria Barbara of Braganza , in: Women in World History , Vol. 10 (2001), ISBN 0-7876-4069-7 , pp. 313 f.
  • María de los Ángeles Pérez Samper: Bárbara de Braganza , in: Diccionario biográfico español , Madrid 2009–2013, online version.

Web links

Commons : Maria Barbara de Bragança  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f Kendall W. Brown: Maria Barbara of Braganza , in: Women in World History , Vol. 10, p. 314.
  2. ^ Kendall W. Brown: Maria Barbara of Braganza , in: Women in World History , Vol. 10, p. 313.
  3. Renate Pieper : Ferdinand VI. , in: Walther L. Bernecker, Carlos Collado Seidel and Paul Hoser (eds.): The Spanish Kings , CH Beck, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-406-42782-0 , p. 148.
  4. Renate Pieper: Ferdinand VI. , in: Walther L. Bernecker, Carlos Collado Seidel and Paul Hoser (eds.): The Spanish Kings , pp. 148–149.
  5. Renate Pieper: Ferdinand VI. , in: Walther L. Bernecker, Carlos Collado Seidel and Paul Hoser (eds.): The Spanish Kings , p. 149.
  6. Renate Pieper: Ferdinand VI. , in: Walther L. Bernecker, Carlos Collado Seidel and Paul Hoser (eds.): The Spanish Kings , p. 150 f.
  7. Renate Pieper: Ferdinand VI. , in: Walther L. Bernecker, Carlos Collado Seidel and Paul Hoser (eds.): The Spanish Kings , p. 154 f.
  8. Renate Pieper: Ferdinand VI. , in: Walther L. Bernecker, Carlos Collado Seidel and Paul Hoser (eds.): The Spanish Kings , pp. 149 and 156.
predecessor Office Successor
Elisabetta Farnese Queen of Spain
Maria Amalia of Saxony