The Coronation of the Virgin, 1635-36

Museo del Prado, Madrid

This was one of Élisabeth de France (King Felipe IV’s first wife) private devotional paintings, and it was painted for the chapel in the Queen’s chambers at Madrid’s Alcázar Palace.

Its composition (that mimics the Holy Trinity and its Scutum Fidei) is outstanding for its balance and serenity, which calls for calm and intimate meditation. Both the placement of the sacred figures and the Virgin’s gesture, as well as the reddish tone of her robes may be a subtle allusion to the early cult of the Sacred Heart of Mary.

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Elisabeth of France was the sister of Louis XVI of France, who was guillotined during the French Revolution, or Isabella of Bourbon, mother of Mary of Burgundy.

Elisabeth of France was born at the medieval castle of Château de Fontainebleau on 22 November 1602.  

She was the eldest daughter of King Henry IV of France and his second spouse Marie de’ Medici. As a daughter of the King of France, she was born a Fille de France. As the eldest daughter of the king, she was known at court by the traditional honorific of Madame Royale.

When her father Henry IV was assassinated outside the Palais du Louvre in Paris on 14 May 1610, her brother succeeded him to the throne as King Louis XIII of France under the Regency of their mother Marie de’ Medici.  When Elisabeth was ten years old, negotiations were begun for a double marriage between the royal families of France and Spain; Elisabeth would marry the Prince of Asturias (the future Philip IV of Spain) and her brother Louis the Spanish Infanta Anne.


Elisabeth as young girl in France

In Spain, Elisabeth’s French name took on the Spanish form of Isabel. The religious ceremony took place in the Saint Mary Cathedral in Burgos. At the time of her marriage, the thirteen-year-old Isabel became the new Princess of Asturias.  Elisabeth was Queen consort of Spain (1621 to 1644) and Portugal (1621 to 1640)

In 1621, by the time of the birth of the couple’s first child, the couple had ascended to the throne of Spain upon the death of Philip III of Spain. The new queen of Spain was aware that her husband had mistresses {Memoirs of Madame de Mottville}.  However, Elisabeth too  was the subject of rumors about her relations with the noted poet Peralta (Juan de Tassis, 2nd Count of Villamediana), who was her gentleman-in-waiting.   Peralta neglected a significant warning that his life was in peril, and “he was murdered as he stepped out of his coach. The responsibility for his death was divided between Philip IV and Olivares” (at the time, Prime Minister and King’s favorite).

Elisabeth’s last child, Infanta Maria Theresa of Spain, would later become Queen of France as the wife of her nephew, the future Louis XIV. Unlike her husband and sister-in-law, she would not see the wedding that cemented the peace between her homeland and adopted country, Spain; the countries would be at war until 1660.  Queen Elisabeth gave birth to eight children:

  • Infanta Maria Margaret of Spain (14 August 1621 – 15 August 1621)
  • Infanta Margaret Maria Catherine of Spain (25 November 1623 – 22 December 1623)
  • Infanta Maria Eugenia of Spain (21 November 1625 – 21 August 1627)
  • Infanta Isabella Maria Theresa of Spain (31 October 1627 – 1 November 1627)
  • Balthasar Charles (17 October 1629 – 9 October 1646), Prince of Asturias
  • Infante Francis Ferdinand (12 March 1634)
  • Infanta Maria Anna “Mariana” Antonia of Spain (17 January 1636 – 5 December 1636)
  • Infanta Maria Theresa of Spain (1638–1683), married Louis XIV of France and had issue.

Elisabeth was renowned for her beauty, intelligence and noble personality, which made her very popular with the Spanish people.  

Spain died in Madrid on 6 October 1644 at the age of forty-one, leaving two small children: Balthasar Charles and Maria Theresa. After her death, her husband married his niece Mariana of Austria. One of her great-grandsons, Philip, Duke of Anjou, became King Philip V of Spain, and through him, Elisabeth is an ancestor of the present king of Spain Felipe VI of Spain.


Coat of Arms of Elisabeth of France as Queen Consort of Spain
Sources: Wikipedia