Some notes on French history for 30 July

It was on this date in 1683 that the Queen of Louis XIV, Maria Theresa of Spain died. Born as Infanta María Teresa of Spain being paternal great-great-granddaughter of an Archduke of Austria, at the Royal Monastery of El Escorial, she was the daughter of Philip IV, King of Spain and his Queen consort, Elizabeth of France. Another Spanish infanta, her paternal aunt and mother-in-law, Anne of Austria, Queen of France, also used the Austrian archducal title, then still affected by the Spanish Habsburgs, denoting the origins of the family. María Teresa thus combined the blood of Philip III of Spain and Margarita of Austria, on her father's side, and that of Henry IV of France and Marie de' Medici, on her mother's side. In his turn, Philip III was the son of Philip II of Spain and Anna of Austria who was, herself, a daughter of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor and Maria of Spain. Philip II and Maria of Spain were siblings, being both children of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and Isabella of Portugal. María Teresa, therefore, like many Habsburgs, was a product of years and generations of royal intermarriage between cousins.

The negotiations for the marriage contract were intense. Eager to prevent a union of the two countries or crowns, especially one in which Spain would be subservient to France, the diplomats sought to include a renunciation clause which would deprieve María Teresa and her children of any rights to the Spanish succession. This was eventually done but, by the skill of Mazarin and his French diplomats, the renunciation and its validity were made conditional upon the payment of a large dowry. As it turned out, Spain, impoverished and bankrupt after decades of war, was unable to pay such a dowry, and France never received the agreed sum of 500,000 écus.

After a marriage by proxy to the French king in Burgos, María Teresa became known as Marie-Thérèse. Her father, Philip IV, and the entire Spanish court accompanied the bride to the Isle of Pheasants, in the Bidassoa, where Louis and his court met her. On 7 June 1660, she departed from her native country of Spain in a flood of tears, moaning to her chief lady, the Duchess of Molina: 'My father, my father...' Like her father, the new bride knew that they were unlikely to ever see each other again during their lifetime; it was not customary for foreign princesses to revisit the land of their birth: emotional ties were to be severed. It would take an extraordinary event for her to return to Spain, such as the annulment of her marriage. Two days later, on 9 June, the 'real' marriage or the French marriage, took place in Saint-Jean-de-Luz Saint Jean-Baptiste church, which had recently been rebuilt on the site of the former 13th century church burned several times in the 15th and 16th centuries. Marie-Thérèse, technically already Queen of France, wore a gown covered in the royal fleur-de-lys: her uncovered hair proved to be so thick that it was difficult to attach a crown to it. Her train was carried by two of the younger Orléans princesses. Louis wore black velvet and was richly jeweled.

After the marriage ceremony, Louis wanted to consummate the marriage as quickly as possible. Consummation of a royal marriage was quite important, as it confirmed the marriage, officially binding it. After dinner, he suggested retirement. Marie-Thérèse was quite nervous at first, and gave vent to a few maidenly demurs, claiming it to be too soon. But when she discovered Louis was awaiting, she quickly told her ladies-in-waiting to speed up the process of elaborate rituals, of dressings and undressings thought necessary for a queen to meet a king for the first time in bed. It was Louis's mother who closed the bed-curtains on the bride and groom before departing.

On this date in 1608, near Ticonderoga, the present day Crown Point NY Samuel de Champlain was attacked by a party of Iroquois. During this encounter he shot and killed two Iroquois chiefs, setting the tone for French-Iroquois relations for the next hundred years. The rift never healed and during the almost constant wars between the English and French in the quest for empire, the Iroquois never aligned themselves to the French. The lake near which this incident occured bears his name as Lake Champlain.

Here is an article in English and in French on the finding of Champlain's Astrolabe...


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