The Habsburgs and the Maresme

The succession of Charles II of Spain, having had no descendants, seemed to be headed in the person of Prince Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria, grandson of the Holy Roman Emperor of the German Empire, Leopold I, and son of Maximilian of Bavaria, his son-in-law, and from his daughter Mª Antonia, niece of Carlos II.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
11 May 2024 Saturday 23:18
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The Habsburgs and the Maresme

The succession of Charles II of Spain, having had no descendants, seemed to be headed in the person of Prince Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria, grandson of the Holy Roman Emperor of the German Empire, Leopold I, and son of Maximilian of Bavaria, his son-in-law, and from his daughter Mª Antonia, niece of Carlos II. But the young heir died of chickenpox in 1699, a year before Charles II died, so half of Europe prepared to take sides for a new heir to the Spanish crown. France influenced Cardinal Portocarrero, the king's confessor, and managed to get Charles II to name a Bourbon heir, Philip, grandson of Louis XIV of France. Austria presented his candidate Charles, son of the emperor and his second wife, as well as grandson of Mary of Austria, daughter of Philip III of Spain.

In the year 1700, Charles II, the last Spanish Habsburg, died without issue. The French king proclaimed, in 1701, his grandson Philip V as king of Spain. The Austrians, the Dutch and the English did not agree. Then the War of Succession began.

The French legitimation to achieve the crown was based on the fact that Philip of Anjou (Philip V) was the grandson of Maria Teresa of Austria (daughter of Philip IV of Spain), married to Louis XIV of France.

At the end of 1705, Charles of Habsburg was proclaimed independent count of Barcelona and king of Aragon, a necessary step to become king of Spain. He fought on the peninsula, fought in Europe and fought at sea.

In 1705 Archduke Leopold I, father of Charles of Habsburg, died and was succeeded by his first-born son, Joseph I. Joseph was brother of Charles of Habsburg.

On land, the Austrians and the English had two soldiers of exceptional worth, John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, (ancestor of Winston Churchill) and Prince Eugene of Savoy, generalissimo of the imperial armies. These two soldiers consolidated positions in Tyrol, blocking the Bavarian expansion, then an ally of France, they prevented the French from entering Italy and conquered Flanders.

On July 2, 1706, Charles III of Habsburg was proclaimed king of Spain in Madrid.

On April 25, 1707, the battle of Almansa (Albacete) took place, which was key to shifting the forces in favor of the Bourbon monarchy. On Sant Jordi's Day in 1708, the marriage by proxy was signed in Vienna between Charles of Habsburg, who was in Barcelona, ​​and Isabel Cristina of Brunswick.

A young noblewoman from the German house of Brunswick, in German Braunschweig, of Protestant religion and whose family was related to almost all the ruling European houses.

Even the house of Brunswick came from the Bellónidas, descendants of the Count of Carcassonne, Bellón I, as were the counts of Barcelona, ​​from Count Sunifred I in the 9th century to King Martí el Humà, who died in 1410.

To belong to the Viennese imperial court, Isabel Cristina had to renounce her religion and embrace the Catholic faith, exactly like her cousin Wilhelmina Amalia, married in 1705 to her brother-in-law, Archduke Joseph.

Once married by proxy, the bride's royal entourage traveled from Vienna to Genoa, where they embarked on the HMS Prince George, flagship of the English fleet in the Mediterranean with 98 guns, 3 bridges and 1,421 tons, commanded by the Admiral Leake. Leake would take the island of Menorca and participate in the taking of Gibraltar. The extensive delegation of the British Navy was joined by 140 ships from the Dutch fleet, which sailed from the Genoese coast to the coasts of Maresme, diverting towards Menorca due to bad weather in the Gulf of Lion, and from Menorca they arrived in Mataró on the 24th. July 1708.

Charles III of Habsburg had chosen Mataró as a town close to Barcelona, ​​quiet and favorable to the Austrian bet. The city had no nobles or great palaces.

The King wanted his wife, whom he did not know, to rest and recover from the trip, away from the pressure of the court of Barcelona. Mataró lacked a port, so a large walkway had to be built on the beach so that the Queen could get off the Prince George's auxiliary boat and disembark on dry land. In Mataró they enabled the house of Jaume Baró, a hero with one of the best houses, in La Riera, in addition, the board of jurors, which was the organizing committee of the Queen's stay, bought the two adjacent houses for the royal entourage .

The cost of this entire reception and stay of the Queen exceeded 4,000 pounds, which due to its updating with the price of gold, which is not always representative but is a good reference point, would not reach today's 3 million euros. (The Pope's visit to Valencia a few years ago, once the amounts that could be elucidated as fraudulent in the Gurtel process had been deducted, entailed a cost of seven million euros). Mataró obtained several privileges due to these events.

King Charles entrusted his trusted man, Ramón de Vilana Perlas, to whom he would give the title of Marquis of Rialp, all these arrangements and the circumstance occurred that the trustees of Mataró were able to dispose of the income of the Milans family of the Bosch, landowners of Sant Vicenç de Llavaneres, today Sant Vicenç de Montalt, to finance part of the expenses.

Two days after the Queen's arrival in Mataró, the King traveled on horseback from Barcelona and with little escort, to meet her. He left Barcelona early and had lunch in Vilassar, then arriving in Mataró, where he dusted himself off and cleaned up in another bourgeois house, that of the Jofre family, and then went to the Baró house and met his wife. The King was very impressed by the beauty of her wife and on August 1st, a few days later, the Catholic wedding was celebrated in Santa María del Mar in Barcelona. A stained glass window in this beautiful Gothic church shows this.

The king presented his wife Isabel Cristina with an opera by Antonio Caldara (1670-1736), titled Il più bel nome, the full name was Il più bel nome nei festeggiarsi il Nome Felicissimo di Sua Maestà Cattolica Elisabetta Cristina Regina delle Spagne premiered in the Llotja de Mar, Barcelona, ​​on August 2, 1708.

It is considered the first Italian opera held in Barcelona.

But circumstances were going to change drastically, the imperial crown, which Charles's brother, Archduke Joseph, had worn since 1705, would change its holder. Joseph had no male descendants so upon his death, which occurred in 1711, the heir was his brother Charles, who was fighting against Philip of Anjou, Philip V, for the Spanish crown.

From that moment on, Charles III of Habsburg became Charles VI of Austria, Archduke and Emperor of the Holy Roman German Empire.

Charles III of Habsburg left for Vienna, leaving Queen Isabella Cristina in Barcelona. Isabel Cristina acted as regent and her leadership and prudence skills were evident and her empathy with the Catalan people was great.

On March 19, 1713, the Queen embarked for Genoa to later join her husband, the all-powerful Emperor, in Vienna. She thus left 5 years of her life in Catalonia, from her arrival in Mataró until this day when she abandoned her place and improved her position, now as empress consort.

As he left, he declared that he could never love another people as much as he had loved the Catalan people.

She had a long reign left with her husband, now Archduke and Emperor Charles VI. A large and immediate project was the construction and development of the Imperial Library of Vienna, one of the most important at the time. This library was public from its beginning, any person, identifying themselves and justifying their interest, could have access to the thousands of books that he treasured.

Carlos and his wife, Isabel Cristina, were good leaders, it was the beginning of the Enlightenment in Europe. They were the parents of Maria Theresa, the great Austrian empress, and Isabel Cristina's participation in the election of her daughter's husband, the Duke of Lorraine, was decisive, changing the name of the lineage to Habsburg-Lorraine ever since.

Maria Theresa was very loved in Austria. Her youngest daughter, Marie Antonia, married the heir to the French throne, Louis, who would be Louis XVI and she, Queen Marie Antoinette (a derivation of the French name but which is really Marie Antonia). Both lost their heads to the guillotine during the French Revolution.

Returning to Isabel Cristina, grandmother of Marie Antoinette, two details that denote her affection for the Catalans, the first, in her funeral mound, in the crypt of the Capuchins in Vienna, can be seen on the side of the bronze sarcophagus, the reproduction of the Engraving by Joseph Friderich Leopold from 1720 of the sea view of Barcelona. Here we reproduce both, the engraving and the high relief of the sarcophagus, in the latter, on the ship that leaves from Barcelona, ​​an eagle wears the imperial crown, easily recognizable by its superior roundness, implying that its departure is due to a higher cause. ; the second detail, the coat of arms of Isabel Cristina, which we also reproduce, with the four Catalan bars in a preferential place.

The end of the war is quite well known, the Peace of Utrecht was signed in 1713 and Barcelona and other Catalan cities would continue fighting until 1714. Philip V established himself as king of Spain. Barcelona had many consequences, the New Plant of Catalonia decree closed the Catalan universities which passed to Cervera, the only Catalan university until the mid-19th century. The Catalan jurisdictions were also repealed in a broad spectrum.

The Austrians controlled Flanders, the Spanish territories in Italy, and reinforced their borders in central Europe. France crowned a Bourbon as king of Spain. The English consolidated Menorca and Gibraltar and were on the verge of obtaining La Coruña, but they were especially favored by the French renunciation of trade in Hudson Bay, on the east coast of the current United States.

It was a war of great attrition, there was no clear winner. Catalonia and specifically Barcelona, ​​were the big losers of this war.

The 18th century began, which would be of great importance for the destiny of Europe.