Monday, July 22, 2019
Biography - Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain 1566–1633 (and lots more ruffs, of course)
Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain (1566–1633) was sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands in the Low Countries & the north of modern France, together with her husband Albert, whom she did not marry until the age of 33.
She is often referred to as Clara Isabella Eugenia. By birth, she was an infanta of Spain & Portugal.
Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain was born in the city of Segovia in 1566, daughter of Philip II of Spain & his 3rd wife Elisabeth of Valois.
Her father, Philip II, was reportedly overjoyed at her birth & declared himself to be happier on the occasion than he would have been at the birth of a son. Philip already had a male heir, Don Carlos of Spain, the child of his 1st marriage to Infanta Maria of Portugal; however, father & son never developed a close relationship.
Isabella's mother, Elisabeth of Valois, gave birth to Isabella Clara Eugenia on 12 August 1566, & then to Isabella's younger sister Catherine Michelle 10 October 1567. Isabella did not get to know her mother, Elisabeth, who miscarried a son on 3 October 1568 & died the same day.
Isabella grew up with her sister Infanta Catherine Michelle of Spain, beloved by her father & her new stepmother Anna of Austria, Philip's 4th wife.
Isabella was also the only person whom Philip permitted to help him with his work, sorting his papers & translating Italian documents into Spanish. Isabella remained extremely close to her father, until his death in 1598. She served as his primary caretaker during the last 3 years of his life, when he was plagued by gout & frequent illness.
Since 1568, at the age of 2, Isabella was promised to marry Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor (1552 – 1612), son of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor, & Maria of Spain. Isabella, however, had to wait for more than 20 long years; before her eccentric intended Rudolf declared, that he had no intention of marrying anybody.
After her uncle, Henry III of France, was assassinated by the fanatical young monk Jacques Clément in 1589, Isabella's doting father Philip II claimed the French Crown on behalf of Isabella.
The Parlement de Paris, in power of the Catholic party, gave verdict that Isabella Clara Eugenia is "the legitimate sovereign" of France. However, the Huguenot leader, Henry of Navarre, the rightful King by traditional French inheritance laws, ultimately made good his claim to the throne, converted to Catholicism, & was crowned in 1594. Isabella was no longer the "legitimate sovereign" of France.
Angered by this turn of events, her father decided to cede the Spanish Netherlands to her on condition that she marry her cousin, Archduke Albert of Austria. They were to reign over the Netherlands jointly as duke/count & duchess/countess.
On 18 April 1599, by now 33 years old, she married Albert, who was also the younger brother of her former fiancé of 20 years, Rudolf II. Albert was the joint sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands & the former viceroy of Portugal.
Shortly before her father Philip II died in 1598, he renounced his rights to the Netherlands in favor of his daughter Isabella & her fiancé. Isabella bore 3 children, Archdukes Philip (1605) & Albert (1607) & Archduchess Anna Mauritia; however, all 3 of Isabella's children died in infancy. Beginning in 1601, the couple ruled the Spanish Netherlands together, & after her husband Albert's death, Isabella was appointed Governor of the Netherlands on behalf of the King of Spain.
The reign of the Archdukes Isabella Clara Eugenia & Albert of Austria was a calming period in the history of the Spanish Netherlands. Political upheavals slowed down & their court became a meeting place for intellectuals, artists, & political envoys.
Isabella & her husband stimulated the growth of the region's artistic movement, which resulted in the creation of the Flemish Baroque period.
Their patronage of such artists as Peter Paul Rubens, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Coebergher, the De Nole family, the Van Veens & many others were the beginning of a Golden Age in the Southern Netherlands.
Brussels became a vital link in the chain of Habsburg Courts & the diplomatic conduits between Madrid, Vienna, Paris, London, Lisbon, Graz, Innsbruck, Prague & The Hague.
When Albert died in 1621, Isabella joined the Third Order of St Francis & was appointed the Governor of the Netherlands on behalf of the King of Spain.
In September 1609, Rubens was appointed as court painter by Albert VII, Archduke of Austria & Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain, sovereigns of the Low Countries. He remained close to the Archduchess Isabella until her death in 1633, & was called upon not only as a painter but also as an ambassador.