Maria Christina: Spain’s Beloved Queen Regent
|Queen Maria Christina of Spain with her two daughters and the young King|
Alfonso XIII. Image: Wikimedia Commons
Maria Christina Henriette Desideria Felicitas Raineria would serve as Queen Consort of King Alfonso XII of Spain and, after his death and until his son, Alfonso XIII obtained majority, would become her kingdom's Queen Regent.
She was born at Židlochovice Castle near Brno, in Moravia, on July 21, 1858. Her father was daughter of Archduke Karl Ferdinand of Austria while her mother was Archduchess Elisabeth Franziska of Austria. In her youth, she was described as "tall, fair, sensible, and well educated".
On November 29, 1879, she married King Alfonso XII of Spain at the Basilica of Atocha, Madrid. Prior to their marriage, the King took for a wife Princess Mercedes of Orleans. However, their marriage only lasted for only less than a year following Mercedes' untimely death.
Christina gave the King two daughters: Infanta María de las Mercedes of Spain; married Prince Carlos of Bourbon-Two Sicilies; Infanta María Teresa of Spain; married Prince Ferdinand of Bavaria.
The Queen was pregnant with their third child when King Alfonso XIII died of dysentery. The throne was declared vacant until Maria Christina gave birth to their third child: if a male was to be born, that child would become king, if a female, her elder daughter, Infanta María Mercedes, would take the throne.
Eventually, a son was born who took the name Alfonso XIII. Maria Christina served as regent until he attained his majority in 1902. While her regency saw the loss of Cuba and the Philippines as Spanish colonies in 1898, she was nevertheless praised as for balance and respect for the constitutional rights. In fact, many political reforms were introduced during her regency to prevent political conflicts and chaos in a bid to preserve the crown for her son until he became an adult.
With King Alfonso XIII’s marriage to Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, Maria Christina lost her position as first lady at court, but she still continued to wield influence in court. Her death on February 6, 1929, due to heart disease was a serious blow on Alphonso XIII. Two years after, the monarchy collapsed and he was deposed after a plebiscite in favor of a republic.