ELISABETH FARNESE (Italian : Elisabetta Farnese, Spanish : Isabel de Farnesio; 25 October 1692 – 11 July 1766) was Queen of Spain by marriage to King Philip V . She exerted great influence over Spain's foreign policy and was the de facto ruler of Spain from 1714 until 1746. From 1759 until 1760, she governed as regent.
Elisabeth was born at the
Palazzo della Pilotta
Elisabeth was raised in seclusion in an apartment in the Palace in
Parma. She had a difficult relationship with her mother, but was
reportedly deeply devoted to her uncle-stepfather. She could speak and
write Latin, French, and German and was schooled in rhetoric,
philosophy, geography and history, but, reportedly, she found no
interest in her studies and lacked intellectual interests. She was a
better student within dance, studied painting under Pierantonio
Avanzini and enjoyed music and embroidery. She survived a virulent
attack of smallpox shortly after the
War of the Spanish Succession
Because of the lack of male heirs of her father, her
uncle-stepfather, and her youngest uncle, who all succeeded one
another, preparations were done for succession of the Duchy of Parma
in the female line through her. She was therefore made many marriage
Victor Amadeus, Prince of Piedmont
On 16 September 1714 she was married by proxy at
The marriage was arranged much because of the sexual need of Philip V, as his religious scruples prevented him from having a sexual life outside of marriage and he had insisted upon his conjugal rights almost until the last days of his previous consort's life. Elisabeth was a natural choice for Philip V because of the traditional Spanish interests in Italian provinces, as she was the heir of the Parmesan throne. The Parmese ambassador convinced the all-powerful Princess des Ursins to give her crucial consent to the marriage by convincing her that Elisabeth was a simple minded person, accustomed to nothing but needlework and embroidery and easy to control and dominate as a replacement for the previous, cooperative queen consort. In parallel, Alberoni informed Elisabeth that the king "wishes to be governed" by others and that she would be an unhappy queen unless she swiftly took control, and that she would also be liked by the Spaniards if the removed the influence of the French party headed by the princess des Ursins.
QUEEN OF SPAIN
On 23 December at
Jadraque , Elisabeth met the
Princesse des Ursins ,
who as her newly appointed Mistress of the Robes wished to present
herself before Elisabeth met Philip V at
With the advice of Alberoni and cardinal de Guidice, Elisabeth became the confidante of Philip and proceed to eliminate the French party at court and replacing it with her own followers through a net-work of clients and supporters, created with the help of among others her Italian nurse Laura Pescatori . Her chief adviser was Alberoni, who guided her as how to protect the interests of herself and Parma, while he himself, as a foreigner, had only her to rely on for his power.
Queen Elisabeth quickly obtained complete influence over Philip, who himself wished to be dominated. Reportedly she had physical charm and purposefulness, she was intelligent and could converse, be gay, jovial and charming, but also ambitions for glory, approval and popularity. According to the French ambassador the Duke of Saint-Aignan, she got the king to believe that what she willed what was he wanted, and she shared his tastes and eccentricities; he was also strongly sexually dependent on her, because of his scruples against sex outside of marriage. The bipolar depressions of Philip V periodically left him paralyzed and unable to handle government affairs, during which she herself handled them: such periods occurred in 1717, 1732, 1728, 1731, 1732–33 and 1737. In contrast to what was normal for a Spanish monarch, Philip preferred to share the queen's apartments rather than to have his own separate ones, and it was in the queen's apartments he met with his ministers. Elisabeth was thereby present at all government meetings from the start, and while she initially sat by the side embroidering, she soon participated more and more and eventually speaking for her spouse while he sat quiet. The king did not live in his own apartments but in the queen's, where he spent the whole night. When he awoke, he discussed the government business with the queen, after which the couple, still in their dressing gowns, conferred with their ministers in the queen's bedroom while the government business was spread over the queen's bed by her ladies-in-waiting. From 1729, they seldom emerged from the queen's quarter before two in the afternoon, after which they very swiftly performed their official functions. Philip did not like ceremonial court life or representation at all, and preferred to live in the smaller hunting palaces such as Pardo or Aranjuez, where ceremonial court life could not properly occur, than in Madrid, and their absence from physical presence in court life and public visibility became so marked that they were criticized for it, especially Elisabeth. After the dismissal of Alberoni in 1719 she was effectively the sole ruler in Spain. Initially, she was popular because her dismissal of des Ursins made her seem as the savior of Spain from French dominance, but her complete dominance of the monarch soon made her as unpopular as des Ursins. Elisabeth was also unpopular among the Spanish nobility for the decline of formal Spanish etiquette court life, and pamphlets of the "Spanish party" typically accused her of keeping the king in slavery, benefiting foreigners and trying to murder her step-sons.
Elisabeth enjoyed hunting and wore male riding attire while doing so. She was described as an excellent shot and rider, and often hunted with the king. Early on, she became overweight because of her great appetite. She spent extravagantly, both on herself and upon her confidants. Her circle of confidants consisted, except her nurse Laura Pescatori, of her Italian doctor Cervi and Marquis Scotti, who were also a part of her Italian retinue. Her favorites among her ladies-in-waiting was first her Flemish attendant La Pellegrina, who acted as the go-between for her and minister Patino, and the Duchess of Saint-Pierre; after the former had married and the latter departed for France in 1727, she favored the Marchioness Las Nieves, who had the task of regularly informing the queen of gossip and who by 1736 was said to be the one who should be courted for supplicants to the queen. She respected her chief lady-in-waiting, Countess de Altamira, who managed her ladies-in-waiting very strictly.
Queen Elisabeth was disinterested in domestic policy and preferred
foreign policy, where her goal was to enforce the Spanish presence in
the Italian states, combined with her ambition for her own sons, who
were initially not expected to succeed in Spain because of the
existence of her step-sons. Elisabeth's influence was exerted
altogether in support of Alberoni's policy, one chief aim of which was
to recover the ancient Italian possessions of Spain, and which
actually resulted in the seizure of
Her ambition, however, was grievously disappointed. The Triple
Alliance thwarted her plans when British troops raided Vigo , and by
1720 the allies made the banishment of Alberoni a condition of peace.
In 1724, entreaties failed to prevent the abdication of Philip, who
gave up the throne in favour of his firstborn (Louis I ) heir from his
first marriage. Phillip then retired to the palace of La Granja . Also
in 1724, she acquired the San Ildefonso Group for him from the
On 9 July 1746, the reign of Elisabeth ended with the death of Philip V and the succession of her stepson Ferdinand . As Ferdinand, like his father, left the government business to his spouse, Maria Barbara, the French ambassador remarked that: "it is rather Barbara who succeeds Elisabeth than Ferdinand succeeding Philip."
As queen dowager, Elisabeth initially did not agree to surrender the reins of power. She settled with a court of supporters in a rented mansion in Madrid, and demanded to be kept informed of government policy and openly criticized the new monarchs. By mid 1747, queen Barbara was encouraged to deal with her by Portugal and Carvajal, and on 23 July 1747, Elisabeth was exiled with her court to La Granja, where she spent the rest of her step-son's reign exiled from the royal court and any influence on politics. She hosted grand receptions where she welcomed foreign diplomats and encouraged the criticism of the opposition toward her step-son.
The last time
In the time between her husband's death in 1746 and her own in 1766,
she witnessed many events: the accession to the Spanish throne of her
stepson, Ferdinand VI and
Barbara of Portugal
She later spent much of her time at the palaces of La Granja and Aranjuez . It was there that she died in 1766 at the age of 73. She was buried next to her husband in the Colegiata of San Ildefonso .
Charles III of Spain
ANCESTORS OF ELISABETH FARNESE
16. Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of
8. Odoardo Farnese, Duke of
4. Ranuccio II Farnese, Duke of
18. Cosimo II de\' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany
9. Margherita de\' Medici
19. Maria Magdalena of Austria
20. Alfonso III d\'Este, Duke of Modena
10. Francesco I d\'Este, Duke of Modena
5. Isabella d\'Este
22. Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of
1. ELISABETH FARNESE
25. Anna of Jülich-Cleves-Berg
29. Magdalena of Brandenburg
7. Elisabeth Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt
* ^ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O Clarissa Campbell Orr: Queenship in Europe 1660-1815: The Role of the Consort. Cambridge University Press (2004) * ^ A B C D E Armstrong, Edward: Elisabeth Farnese, the termagant of Spain (1892)
* Petrie, Charles : King
Charles III of Spain