Elisabeth of Austria, Queen of France Biography

A portrait of Elisabeth of Austria, Queen of France.
A portrait of Elisabeth of Austria, Queen of France.

The Kingdom of France was ruled by monarchs from its establishment in 486 as the Kingdom of Franks until the fall of the Second French Empire. One of the monarchs was King Charles IX who ruled the kingdom from 1560 to 1574. Ten years into his reign, the king married an Austrian lady by the name Elisabeth. Elisabeth of Austria effectively became the Queen of France from November 26, 1570, until her husband’s death on May 30, 1574. The king fathered one daughter with the queen, Marie Elisabeth of Valois. Because Charles IX had no legitimate son, he was succeeded by his brother, Henry III.

Early Life Of Elisabeth Of Austria

Elisabeth of Austria was born on July 5, 1554, in Vienna, Austria, to Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor, and Maria of Spain. She was the fifth child in a family of 16 children, and one of the only eight children who survived infancy. Elisabeth was the second daughter in the family. She spent her childhood years living with her elder sister Ann and younger brother Matthias in Stallburg which was part of the Hofburg Palace complex. The three siblings lived a secluded childhood and enjoyed the privileges of living in a palace. They were Roman Catholics. Elisabeth was particularly outstanding because of her beauty, perfect physique, and flawless white skin. She was also warmhearted and pious but naïve because of her upbringing. Elisabeth of Austria admired and considered her namesake, Elisabeth of Hungary, as her role model.

Interest From France

The match between King Charles IX of France (who was then the Duke of Orleans) and Elisabeth of Austria was suggested as early as 1559. In 1562, one of the members of the French delegation by the name Maréchal de Vieilleville was set to Vienna. When he saw the young princess who was only eight years old, he was awe-struck and referred to her as “the future queen of France.” Although Veiilleville did not make an offer as he was not entitled to do so, Elisabeth’s grandfather, Ferdinand I, showed some interest. Immediately, contact between the two courts was initiated.

Becoming The Queen Of France

Although there was interest from France, there were also marriage plans from Sebastian of Portugal and Frederick II of Denmark which did not go through. It was after the failed marriage plans that the offer from France was seriously considered. Initially, Charles IX’s mother and power behind the throne preferred Anna (Elisabeth’s older sister). However, she was already chosen as the wife of King Philip II of Spain. Catherine, king’s mother, agreed to the marriage between her son and Elisabeth as a way of cementing an alliance between the French Crown and Habsburg. On October 22, 1570, Elisabeth got married by proxy with her uncle standing as proxy for the king. King Charles IX formally married Elisabeth on November 26, 1570, in Mezieres. Elisabeth was consecrated Queen of France on March 25, 1571. The Queen gave birth to a daughter named Marie Elisabeth.

Return To Vienna And Death

After the death of King Charles IX, Queen Elisabeth left Paris for Vienna on December 5, 1575. In October 1576, her father Maximilian II died, followed by her daughter Marie Elisabeth in April 1578. In 1580, Elisabeth founded the Covenant of Poor Clare Mary Queen of Angels and dedicated her life to the convent until her death on January 22, 1592. She was buried at the convent.


More in World Facts