Maria Christina of Naples and Sicily (1806-1878)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Portrait, Vicente López Portaña , 1830
Portrait, Franz Xaver Winterhalter , Paris, 1841

Maria Christina von Bourbon, Princess Beider Sicily (Spanish María Cristina de Borbón, princesa de las Dos Sicilias ; German also (Marie) Christine von Neapel ; * April 27, 1806 in Palermo ; † August 22, 1878 in Le Havre ) was the fourth Wife of King Ferdinand VII of Spain from 1829 to 1833 Queen of Spain and mother of Queen Isabella II. After the death of her husband (1833), she acted as regent for her minor daughter until 1840 , before handing over the reign to General Baldomero Espartero had to. After the fall of Espartero, from 1843 until her exile in 1854, as queen mother, she exercised influence on her daughter, who was now formally independent. From 1854 she lived mostly outside of Spain.


Origin and youth

Maria Christina was born as the second daughter from the second marriage of the then Crown Prince and later King Francis I of Sicily and Naples to the Infanta Maria Isabel of Spain . She grew up in a large family as she had seven brothers and seven sisters. The Countess of Blessington liked her appearance: she had nearly flawless features, beautiful teeth, expressive eyes and a charming smile. The lively, cheerful princess showed early on a preference for hunting and festivities as well as a certain talent for the art of painting.

Wife of Ferdinand VII, Queen of Spain (1829–1833)

When the three times widowed King Ferdinand VII of Spain was asked by the Castilian councilors in 1829 to enter into a fourth marriage for the sake of his country, the Neapolitan Infanta Luisa Carlota , wife of Ferdinand's brother Don Francisco de Paula , had a portrait of her younger sister Maria Christina made and proposed her as a candidate for marriage. In fact, the 45-year-old Spanish king, aged prematurely and suffering from gout, decided in favor of Luisa Carlota's only 23-year-old sister and asked envoys for her hand. The Naples court agreed and Maria Christina traveled to Madrid. There, on December 11th, 1829, her wedding with Ferdinand VII took place, which was celebrated with great pomp and which was followed by celebrations that lasted into the New Year. Her husband was closely related to her because he was her maternal uncle (her mother was a younger sister of Ferdinand and like him a child of Charles IV of Spain ). Her paternal grandfather, Ferdinand IV of Naples , was also a brother of Charles IV. Ferdinand VII's first wife, Maria Antonia of Naples-Sicily (1784–1806) was a sister of Maria Christina's father, Franz I.

The Spanish king was delighted with his young wife, who soon had a great influence on him. Until his marriage to Maria Christina, he had not fathered a surviving child. While the moderate and liberal parties were now hoping for an heir to the throne from the expected descendants of the new queen, the absolutists favored the Infante Don Carlos , who was Ferdinand's younger brother, as heir to the throne . Maria Francisca of Portugal , the wife of Don Carlos, and her sister, Maria Teresa , Princess of Beira, rivaled Maria Christina and her sister Luisa Carlota for influence at court. Soon after their marriage, the queen became pregnant and managed to get her husband to change the rules of succession on March 29, 1830 to allow female succession to the throne again (see Carlism ). As early as 1789, Charles IV had repealed the Salic law , which only allowed male succession ; however, this decree had not gained formal legal validity. Ferdinand VII now put this pragmatic sanction, which had been kept secret, into force by publishing it. The Infant Don Carlos, deprived of the succession to the throne, and his followers, the Carlist , offered bitter resistance to this decision. As a result, Maria Christina gave birth to two daughters to her husband:

  • Isabella , as Isabella II. 1833–1868 Queen of Spain (* October 10, 1830, † April 10, 1904)
  • Luisa Fernanda , Countess of Montpensier (* January 30, 1832, † February 2, 1897)

In 1832 Ferdinand VII suffered severe head injuries in a carriage accident on the way to his summer palace La Granja . His wife looked after him devotedly. A few months later, on September 14, 1832, the king became so seriously ill that his doctors diagnosed that his life was in danger. Maria Christina consulted with the conservative Justice Minister Francisco Tadeo Calomarde . He warned that in the event of her daughter's succession, there was a risk of civil war. The frightened queen asked her husband, as soon as he had recovered somewhat, to withdraw his succession to the throne and to restore Sali's law. Ferdinand VII signed a relevant decree on September 18, which was to be kept secret until his death, but which soon became public. Her sister Luisa Carlota, who hurried to La Granja, criticized her cowardice and made her change her mind. The king, who was on the way to recovery and who had also changed his mind, proclaimed Maria Christina regent on October 4th for the duration of his convalescence. She dismissed the previous cabinet and appointed a new one, which was chaired by Francisco Cea Bermúdez from November 29th . To strengthen its position, it relied on cooperation with the liberals, although it was by no means liberal-minded. Among other things, she issued a general amnesty in order to gain broad support against possible future resistance from the Carlist. She also sought to put her well-rounded men in high military and administrative posts. Ferdinand VII annulled his decree of September 18, 1832, and took over the management of state affairs on January 4, 1833, but died on September 29 of the same year. With his death he left the throne of his three-year-old daughter Isabella II, who was now proclaimed queen, for whom Maria Christina reigned. This was initially supported by the government chaired by Cea Bermudez.

Regent of Spain (1833-1840)

Queen Maria Christina coat of arms.

Don Carlos, who lived in exile in Portugal, continued to deny Isabella's claim to the throne and proclaimed himself king as Carlos V. His supporters aroused uprisings in Navarre and the Basque Country of northern Spain in particular , so that the First Carlist War (1833-1840), which lasted for years, developed immediately after the death of Ferdinand VII . Russia , Prussia , Austria , the Pope and the Bourbon states in Italy did not recognize the rule of Maria Christina, but France and England did . Domestically, she preferred support from the oligarchic right-wing liberal moderados ("moderates"), but during her reign she had to respond to the often contrary government programs of her respective ministries and the left-liberal progresses who were in constant conflict with the moderate party ( "Progressive") often meet. The latter relied on the urban lower and middle classes and campaigned for popular sovereignty .

Family Franz I of the Two Sicilies , Maria Christina to the left of the bust

On December 28, 1833, Maria Christina secretly married a non-commissioned officer of the royal bodyguard, Agustín Fernando Muñoz y Sánchez . According to one version, she became aware of the young man when he gave her his handkerchief to stop a small nosebleed, according to another version he is said to have saved her life on a trip to La Granja when the horses in her carriage ran away. Her second marriage did not remain a secret at the Spanish court and was to contribute significantly to the increasing unpopularity of Maria Christina. She had several children with Muñoz:

  • María Amparo Muñoz, Countess of Vista Alegre (born November 17, 1834, † August 19, 1864)
  • María de los Milagros Muñoz, Marquesa de Castillejo (* November 8, 1835, † July 9, 1903)
  • Agustín Muñoz, Duke of Tarancón (born March 15, 1837, † July 15, 1855)
  • Fernando Muñoz, Duke of Riánsares and Tarancón (* April 27, 1838, † December 7, 1910)
  • María Cristina Muñoz, Marquesa de la Isabela (* April 19, 1840, † December 20, 1921)
  • Antonio de Padua Muñoz (* December 23, 1842, † 1847)
  • Juan Muñoz, Count of Recuerdo (born August 29, 1844, † April 2, 1863)
  • José Muñoz, Count of Gracía (* December 21, 1846, † December 17, 1863)

On January 15, 1834, Cea Bermúdez had to give way to the moderate liberal Francisco Martínez de la Rosa as government president. This led Spain on the way to a constitutional monarchy . He drafted a constitution ( Estatuto Real ) that was put into effect by the regent on April 10, 1834 and modeled on the French Charter of 1814 . It only regulated the composition and order of the Cortes , but limited the absolute power of the crown relatively little. For example, the regent continued to have the right to initiate legislation. Due to an extreme census, only the wealthiest sections of the population were represented in the Cortes. The progressives were not satisfied with this and demanded the reintroduction of the more liberal constitution of 1812 . In terms of foreign policy, the regent operated a rapprochement with Great Britain and France. With these countries and Portugal, also suffering from dynastic turmoil, Spain concluded the Quadruple Alliance, which was signed in London on April 22nd and directed against the Restorative Holy Alliance . On July 24, 1834, Maria Christina personally opened the new Cortes in the Buen Retiro Palace. In the same month, Don Carlos came to Navarre to join his troops. The spreading civil war, in which foreign auxiliary troops also fought on both sides, was waged extremely cruelly.

Martinez de la Rosa, who had become increasingly unpopular, handed over the presidential post of the government on June 7, 1835 to the previous finance minister and Count of Toreno, José María Queipo de Llano Ruiz de Saravia , whose portfolio was now taken over as minister by Juan Álvarez Mendizábal . This representative of the Progresistas became the new Prime Minister on September 25 of the same year, after he had been able to appease the uprising movements sparked by supporters of the Constitution of 1812 in several cities. At his instigation in October 1835, by a decree of Maria Christina, numerous monasteries were abolished and their confiscated goods were intended for sale to improve the state finances, which had been shattered by the civil war. In the spring of 1836, however, the regent refused to put into effect the inadequate measures he proposed to remedy the economic crisis. After his release on May 15, the moderado Francisco Javier Istúriz Montero took his place. On the night of August 13, 1836, one of the militia regiments stationed in San Ildefonso mutinied , moved to the La Granja summer residence, where Maria Christina was staying, and forced her to adhere to the 1812 constitution, allegedly by threatening the life of her second husband Muñoz to accept. She authorized the formation of a new cabinet chaired by the progressive politician José María Calatrava and entered Madrid on August 17th. Istúriz and the other ministers of the previous government had already fled. Calatrava convened the Cortes on October 24, 1836, who confirmed Maria Christina as regent on November 19, 1836 and revised the constitution of 1812 in a moderate sense. On June 18, 1837, Maria Christina swore the oath on this amended constitution.

In the summer of 1837, Don Carlos managed to advance personally with his troops against Madrid. But the hoped-for uprising in the capital did not materialize. A general of the Cristinos , Baldomero Espartero , arrived with relief troops after forced marches on August 12th in Madrid, also recaptured Segovia , which had been captured by the Carlist, and finally forced the crown pretender to retreat in September. At that time, Espartero overthrew Calatrava's cabinet and for a short time (August 18 to October 18, 1837) himself acted as district president. Then several ministries led by moderados , Maria Christina's political intentions more accommodating and the influence of France, alternated. Eusebio Bardají Azara first became head of such a government on October 18. This was replaced after the early elections of the Cortes by an even more in the spirit of moderados acting cabinet, whose president on December 16, 1837 Narciso Heredia Begines , Count of Ofalia, was. After this, Bernardino Fernández de Velasco , Duke of Frias, took over on September 6, 1838 , and Evaristo Pérez de Castro Brito on December 9, 1838 . All of these governments have faced stiff opposition from progressives.

There was also great disagreement between the regent and her sister Luisa Carlota, who declared that Maria Christina was not able to raise children and, admittedly, in vain, demanded guardianship for the daughters of her sister from her marriage to Ferdinand VII. Maria Christina embittered the Progresistas not only because of her affection for the moderados , but also because of her lush court life full of amusements in the midst of the war misery . This party increasingly won the sympathies of the successful general Espartero and at that time relied on English support for foreign policy, while the regent on French support.

Espartero sealed the increasing military successes of the Cristinos on August 31, 1839 with an agreement with the leading Carlist general Rafael Maroto ( Abrazo de Vergara , ie "Fraternization of Vergara"). Thus the civil war was essentially decided in favor of Maria Christina. However, there were rumors that the regent had bribed Maroto with large sums of money. Don Carlos fled to France in September 1839; only a small contingent of radical Carlist under Ramón Cabrera fought on until the final defeat in mid-1840.

Fall and Exile (1840–1843)

In the autumn of 1839, the moderadist government planned a law that was to restrict the participation of the urban population in the occupation of the municipal governments ( Ayuntamientos ) in order to permanently deprive the Progresistas of their bases of power in the municipalities. The Cortes, then ruled by the Progresistas , protested and were therefore dissolved on November 18, 1839. In the following elections, the moderados received a majority of the votes. The speech from the throne given by Maria Christina on February 18, 1840 on the occasion of the opening of the new Cortes evoked praise from France, but rebuke from England and the progressives. When the Cortes approved the municipal law in June 1840, there was great unrest. Against the advice of Espartero, the regent signed this law. A revolt then broke out in Barcelona, claiming many victims. Espartero refused a military operation against the insurgents as long as Maria Christina did not repeal the Ayuntamiento law, which dissolved Cortes and dismissed her ministers. The regent did not want to comply with this request, but on July 20 appointed a progressive , Antonio González González , as the new head of government, followed by several other short-term prime ministers.

At the end of August, Madrid and other cities rebelled. When Maria Christina again appealed to Espartero to end the uprising, the general insisted on his earlier demands in a September 7th manifesto. Finally, on September 16, the regent had to make do with appointing Espartero Prime Minister and giving her a free hand in forming his cabinet. On October 9th, he met his ministers in Valencia , where he was received with honor, and spoke with Maria Christina. As Espartero presented her an unacceptable government program, the Regent said on October 12, 1840 her abdication, leaving her children from her first marriage, the Queen Isabella and her sister Maria Luisa Fernanda, in Esparteros custody and two days to set sail later on the steamer Mercurio after France a. She took a very significant fortune with her and was accompanied into exile by her second husband Muñoz and their children. In France, various moderados who had also emigrated, such as Cea Bermúdez, Perez de Castro and Martinez de la Rosa, as well as generals such as Leopoldo O'Donnell and Ramón María Narváez, gathered around them .

From Marseille , the ex-regent confirmed her abdication in a manifesto dated November 8, 1840 and sent farewell greetings to the Spaniards. Then she came to Rome for a short time , where she was met by Pope Gregory XVI. received dispensation for her morganatic marriage to Muñoz. She then visited her parents in Naples and then settled in Paris , where she was received with military honors by King Louis Philippe on her arrival . She continued to be on friendly terms with the French monarch. She was given the Palais Royal as her residence . In 1842 she rented Malmaison Castle , which she later acquired. From Paris she intrigued against the Espartero government in Spain.

In May 1841, the Cortes Espartero appointed the sole regent of Spain while Queen Isabella was a minor, revoked her mother's guardianship and instead appointed the President of the Cortes, Agustín Argüelles , as her guardian. Antonio González González was again Prime Minister. On July 19, 1841, Maria Christina, who had only been granted a modest pension by the Cortes, protested from Paris - albeit in vain - against the appointment of Argüelles as Isabella's guardian and declared that her resignation had been forced by the regency. Her supporters considered plans to overthrow Espartero. In October 1841, General Diego de León and a conspiratorial group tried to kidnap Queen Isabella from the Madrid royal palace and use her as a hostage to force her mother to return. But this attack failed and the captured León was shot dead. At about the same time, General O'Donnell had seized the citadel of Pamplona and aroused an uprising in the region in favor of the ex-regent, which was soon suppressed; O'Donnell managed to escape to France. The demand made by the Spanish ambassador in Paris, Salustiano Olózaga , to expel Maria Christina from France was unsuccessful. The Spanish money transfers to the ex-regent were stopped and her correspondence with her daughters was strictly monitored.

Return to Spain as a queen mother (1843-1854)

At the end of July 1843, a rebellion led by Ramón María Narváez brought down Espartero. Isabella II was declared early on November 8, 1843, despite her only 13 years of age. After her daughter officially took over the rule, Maria Christina returned to Spain and settled in Madrid. She tried to influence the government measures of her daughter and to push them in an absolutist direction. She played a key role in the country's political life. Her husband, Muñoz, had her daughter make her Duke of Riánsares in 1844, and her marriage was legitimized by a royal decree. Thereupon her church wedding with Muñoz took place on October 13, 1844, led by the Bishop of Córdoba.

Now Maria Christina tried to marry Isabella II and her younger sister Maria Luisa Fernanda as appropriately as possible. There were several noble candidates as spouses and the marriage question led to disputes and entanglements both domestically and on the European stage. The Queen Mother, who felt herself to be connected to France, tried to counteract English policy in this matter. Finally, Isabella II became on October 10, 1846 with Francisco de Asis , a son of Maria Christina's sister Luisa Carlota and the Infante Francisco de Paula, and at the same time Maria Luisa Fernanda with the Duke of Montpensier, Antoine d'Orléans , a son of the French King Louis Philippe, married. Isabella II's reluctance to marry was unhappy from the start. Maria Christina sharply criticized her daughter's early, publicly known infidelity.

Together with her husband, Maria Christina started business activities in the salt and railway concessions sectors , in which Narváez was also involved. She made further financial gain through speculation on the stock market. She gained the reputation that there was no industrial project in Spain in which the queen mother was not involved. This led to a growing unpopularity of Maria Christina, to which the person of her husband also contributed. A riot broke out in Spain in July 1854, during which a crowd broke into the Queen Mother's residence, labeled her a thief, and smashed the facility. Some women even helped themselves from their elegant wardrobe. She only escaped the danger with great difficulty. To save her throne, Isabella II turned to the already retired Espartero, who put down the revolution, but also took action against the unpopular Maria Christina. At first he wanted to have her arrested in Madrid; then he allowed her to leave for Portugal and, by a government decision of August 27, 1854, pronounced her banishment from Spain. Her pension payments were suspended and her property in Spain was confiscated, but released again in 1856.

Renewed exile in France (1854–1878)

Maria Christina, ca.1870

Maria Christina traveled back to France with her husband via Portugal and lived partly in this country and partly in Italy for the next ten years. In November 1854 she came to Paris, where she married her eldest daughter from a second marriage, María Amparo Muñoz, in March 1855 to the exiled Polish nobleman Wladislaw Czartoryski. In 1856 she visited Florence , Bologna and Rome, among others . She was only allowed to return to Spain at the end of September 1864, but since then she has mostly lived in France. Isabella II was deposed in 1868 and has since been in France as well. Maria Christina came to Spain again temporarily in 1874 when her grandson Alfonso XII. was proclaimed king. Like Isabella, she was forbidden to settle permanently in Spain. She outlived her husband by five years and died in Le Havre in 1878 at the age of 72. She was later buried in the Pantheon of the Kings of El Escorial Monastery.


Web links

Commons : Maria Christina of Sicily  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : Iconography: The First Carlist War  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Angel Martínez de Velasco: Ferdinand VII. In: The Spanish kings . CH Beck, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-406-42782-0 , p. 221ff.
  2. Maria Cristina di Borbone, Principessa delle Due Sicilie on , accessed on September 10, 2016.
  3. Martin Baumeister: Isabella II. In: The Spanish Kings . Pp. 225-228.
  4. ^ Spain (history) . In: Universal Lexicon of the Present and Past . 4th Edition, Vol. 16 (1862), pp. 391-399.
  5. ^ Spain (history) . In: Universal Lexicon of the Present and Past . 4th edition, Vol. 16 (1862), pp. 400ff.
  6. ^ L. Louvet: Marie-Christine de Bourbon . In: Nouvelle biography générale , vol. 33, col. 672f.
predecessor Office successor
Maria Josepha of Saxony Queen of Spain
Francisco de Asís de Borbón