Sunday, January 17, 2010

Who Are You?

Yesterday I went sleuthing. I'm reading A Thousand Orange Trees which has this delightful portrait of a little blonde girl on the cover and at first I assumed she must be Marie Louise d'Orleans because that is who the book is about. But the more I read of Marie Louise's long, dark hair, the more I began to doubt this was so.

I knew the cover image was part of a larger painting - it's very well known and wasn't hard to find.

Las Meninas - Diego Velazquez

Painted in 1656 it depicts the Spanish Court and a young princess surrounded by her ladies-in-waiting. She is the Infanta Margarita Teresa ( 1651-73) daughter of Philip IV of Spain. Marie Louise d'Orleans would one day marry her brother Carlos and become Queen of Spain.

Unlike her brother and other family members Margarita Teresa was spared the awful genetic defects caused by royal inbreeding and Velazquez was to paint this beautiful child many times . At the age of fifteen she left Spain and travelled to Austria to become the wife of the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I to whom she'd been betrothed as a child.
Terrible.............more inbreeding.....the man was her maternal uncle and a paternal first cousin.

I like reading they were apparently very happy together because so often these political marriages were a disaster.  There was an age difference and she always called him Uncle so perhaps she went from being the joy of her father's life to a similar relationship with her husband. They both shared a love of music and theatre and the beautiful city of Vienna would have provided many occasions to enjoy operas and concerts.

In spite of this I would say they also shared a great deal of sadness. Between the ages of 15 and 21, Margarita Teresa gave birth to six children of which only one survived, and suffered many miscarriages.
In only six years!

And then she died - presumably of complications following the birth of her last child.
Very sad , the lives of some of these young royal women.


  1. Good work super sleuth...I wonder why her portrait was chosen for the cover then? Very interesting...I wonder if these young royal girls had a sudden awful realisation that they would be or were being used as political pawns or whether it was just accepted as matter of fact that this was their purpose and just how things were...
    I think I would rather have been a peasant farmers daughter somewhere than a royal princess lol!

  2. Probably because Marie d'Orleans married her brother and became Queen of Spain. I would think these girls always knew their fate as most of them were betrothed in the cradle.
    And the peasant girl in the book doesn't have much fun either!! :(