Queen, Mother, & Stateswoman by Sylvia Z. Mitchell (2019)


I have just finished reading this academic work written about Mariana of Austria, Queen of Spain (1634-1696). It was recommended to those of us who attended a gallery talk given by Rebecca Quinn Teresi at the Meadows Museum on the campus of SMU. The museum has a painting of Mariana early in her life by Velázquez and a painting of her by Claudio Coello (from much later) is currently visiting from the Bowes Museum in England. So, Teresi took the opportunity to focus on her place in the history of Spain.

I had bought into the Wikipedia view of both Mariana and her son, Charles II, in which her role is stated simply as regent to Charles II who was Age 3 when his father, Philip IV, died. Charles has been most often depicted as the victim of Habsburg in-breeding, sickly and incompetent. I’m sure you can tell that there is much more to this story, and the details are eye-opening. Mariana had full confidence of Philip IV, who made it clear in his testament that she was to operate with the same degree of power and responsibility he had as King of Spain until Charles reached the age of 14 (the customary age of maturity in Spain). She was fully involved in quite complicated matters of state of the vast Spanish empire, and was quite successful at it. (Louis XIV of France, Leopold I of Austria (her brother), and Charles II of England are the other major players in the drama.)

Mariana was human, and therefore not perfect. Her transfer of power to her son was messy, resulting in a 2-1/2 year period during which she was involuntarily “retired” from Madrid to a royal palace in Toledo. Charles permitted correspondence but refused to see her during that period of time. Happy ending: her continued support of Charles and other circumstances resulted in their reunion, with Mariana taking up the position of Queen Mother in a separate, but connected, residence. Sad ending: Charles died without issue, and the Habsburg Dynasty of Spain ended.

This is not a dry academic text, but I realize that audience for this subject matter is limited. 🙂

6 comments on “Queen, Mother, & Stateswoman by Sylvia Z. Mitchell (2019)”

  1. This– “I had bought into the Wikipedia view” — so important to acknowledge and revealing to myself as a reader that your exploration into this book not only enhanced your view of the artwork that you discuss, but also expands all of our minds to go beyond the easy reach of what we might accidentally call perspective or understanding. You know I always dig your connection between art and books, right? I am impressed with your reach and sticktoitiveness with respect to your studies of all things art. You inspire me, T!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My investigations of art are pure pleasure for me, B, and it’s a pleasure to think that I could inspire you in some way. I knew next to nothing about Spanish history & only the big names in Spanish art (nor did I think I was particularly interested in Spanish art) until my association with the Meadows. Religious art was not my cup of tea, either, but I’ve found a way into it by learning about the techniques involved.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Teri, you write such excellent reviews that they always make me want to read what you are reading. Your enthusiasm and observations are always a treat.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is mightily encouraging, Barbara. I sometimes wonder if my comments lean toward the uninteresting side of the scale. So, yeah, thanks for this!

      Liked by 3 people

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