When you think of princesses, you typically think of romance, riches, and fun. However, Anne of Austria’s life was no fairy tale. Many people loved her, some hated her, and one very important man ignored her. In the end, Anne of Austria defied the odds to become one of the most iconic—and most infamous—Queens of France.
1. She Was Close With Her Family
Anne of Austria grew up very close to both of her parents, something quite peculiar for a royal princess. Most young royals lived isolated, lonely existences, but Anne's parents were the "hands-on" type. They even took her on vacations to visit monasteries as a child, something she enjoyed doing later on in her life. Her early days were maybe like the fairy tale you'd imagine for a princess—until a terrible tragedy changed everything.
2. She Lost Her Mother
Anne may have been close to her parents when she was a girl, but it couldn't last forever. Her mother lost her life in childbirth when Anne was still young. Not only did she have to deal with losing a parent when she just a child, but she was also forced to take up the burden of raising her younger siblings. But at least Anne of Austria had one thing going for her...
3. She Has A Strange Origin Story
Anne of Austria, the eventual Queen consort of France, wasn’t actually born in Austria. She was born in Spain and considered a Spanish princess. Although initially confusing, there’s an easy explanation for her given name: her Austrian ancestry. She was also an Austrian archduchess of the House of Hapsburg. Her royal heritage gave her both her name and unimaginable wealth. And that's not all she had to thank her parents for.
4. She Had Many Admirers
Anne was thought to be very beautiful while she was a young girl. With blond hair, green eyes, and an oval face, she was definitely the picture of European beauty. She was also known to be quite the equestrian. Let's just say it: Anne of Austria was the whole package. Because of her beauty in her youth, she had an abundance of admirers—some more persistent than others...
5. She Had A French “Prince Charming”
From birth, Anne of Austria’s family expected her to marry someone of their choosing. Their choice, King Louis XIII of France, was purely a political decision. They wanted to ensure a marriage alliance between France and Spain, the two major Catholic nations in Europe. But despite the pragmatic origins of their relationship, maybe the pair could learn to love each other anyway? Sadly, it wasn't meant to be. The marriage would be a complete disaster.
6. She Married Young
Anne of Austria was incredibly young when she married King Louis XIII of France. The pair were only 14 years old at the time, yet their families wanted to get their political alliance settled as soon as possible. Unfortunately, Louis was your typical 14-year-old boy, in that he had no idea how to talk to girls. He treated Anne indifferently in their first years together. Maybe Anne hoped he'd grow more affectionate with time. If she did, she was sorely mistaken.
7. Her Dowry Was Massive
Marrying the King of France didn't come cheap. Anne's father gave the French a hefty dowry of 500,000 crowns, on top of piles of fabulous jewels. He must have really wanted her married and off to France. There was a condition, though: In the event that Louis suffered an early passing, Anne had to return to Spain with the dowry and jewels, as per the Spanish court’s instructions.
At least she had an exit plan?
8. She Went Through A Strange Tradition
Louis and Anne married by proxy in Burgos, just as their siblings (Elisabeth of France and Philip IV of Spain) married by proxy in Bordeaux. The families “exchanged” the two girls on a small island at the border between France and Spain, because you know, symbolism. Yes, you heard that right, they actually exchanged two human beings, young girls who definitely had no say in the matter.
Not exactly the best start to a relationship—and it all went downhill from there.
9. She Got The Cold Shoulder
Even though Anne married Louis, he had an immense distaste for Spaniards and immediately fired most of Anne’s Spanish servants. Anne of Austria was a stranger in a foreign land, and her husband instantly made her even more isolated. But he was just getting started. After the pair consummated their marriage on their wedding night, Louis allegedly refused to sleep with Anne for years afterward.
In case you can't tell, Louis wasn't a great guy. He eventually caved, but only because he was forced to.
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10. She Was Under Immense Pressure
When Anne and Louis both turned 17 years old, the court pressured them to definitively consummate their marriage and produce an heir. Sure, it was obvious to anyone with eyes that they didn’t love each other. That didn't change the fact that France needed a baby to ensure there was no possibility of annulling the marriage and losing the dowry.
For the good of a political alliance between Spain and France, Anne and Louis stuck with each other—but their marriage was going to get worse before it got better.
11. She Had Odd Living Arrangements
After Anne and Louis first consummated their marriage to protect the political alliance, it's said that Louis continued to ignore his wife. He even went as far as choosing to live separately from Anne for many years. This made it increasingly difficult to conceive an heir to the throne and carry on Louis’ dynasty. It didn't take long before Louis' disdain started taking a serious toll on poor Anne of Austria.
12. She Couldn’t Get Comfortable
No matter what Anne did, she could not seem to remedy the distance between herself and her husband. Though, to be fair, she could have tried a little harder. The French always considered her the “foreign queen” because she surrounded herself only with her Spanish ladies-in-waiting and never fully learned the French language. That's right: Anne was the Queen of France and couldn’t speak French.
13. She Lost Her Independence
It was obvious that Louis and Anne’s marriage needed help. The King’s closest friend and advisor, the Duke of Luynes, saw that the distance between the couple needed remedying. His solution, however, was cruel. In one fell swoop, he sent away all Anne’s familiar Spanish ladies, including the head of her ladies-in-waiting, Inés de la Torre. He then replaced them with French ladies instead, including putting his own wife in the most influential position.
If Anne of Austria was lonely before, now she was completely alone. But the Duke didn't stop there.
14. She Was Forced To Change Her Wardrobe
In order to assimilate with French culture and the people around her, Luynes made Anne style herself in the French manner. At this point, it seems that the Duke stripped her of her entire Spanish heritage. He forced her to speak French, surrounded her with French ladies, and even made her dress French too. I’m sure this must have been absolutely heartbreaking for the Spanish Anne.
But do you want to know the craziest part? It actually seemed to work.
15. She Had A Brief Reconciliation
It seems that Duke of Luynes' meddling did the trick, as Louis and Anne did appear to develop some affection between them. When Anne fell ill in the spring of 1620, the king allegedly seemed genuinely worried about her. Louis even grew so distracted that he neglected his duties until he knew that Anne had recovered. If that isn’t love, what is?
It seemed like maybe Anne and Louis were finally through their rough patch. They weren't.
16. She Had A Surprising Admirer
Although Louis may have felt indifferent about Anne, that doesn’t mean no one sought after her. Known for his continuous string of mistresses, an Englishman named George Villiers, the first Duke of Buckingham, allegedly pursued Anne relentlessly. This went on regardless of the fact that she was already married to the King of France. Hey, she had to get some attention from someone!
17. Her Admirer Was Extremely Bold
Anne’s admirer, George Villiers, scandalized the French Court by professing his love for the Queen consort publicly. As shocking as this may have been at the time, it was just the beginning of Anne’s dramatic struggles, with the scandalous George and without. Most of her problems had been private so far—but they were about to get a whole lot more public.
18. She Was Nearly Barren
The pressure on Anne and Louis to conceive a child grew with each passing year, but there seemed to be no salvation in sight. Anne kept getting pregnant, then miscarrying, only doubling the couple's misery. After 16 years, the couple still had no child. People started to whisper that a queen who couldn't produce heirs wasn't of much use at all—and soon enough, Anne began to make enemies in the French court.
19. She Made A Powerful Enemy
Anne of Austria politically opposed the king's powerful and infamous advisor, Cardinal Richelieu. The pair got into many fights over his policies, which frequently put France at odds with the Hapsburgs. With such a powerful enemy, dark rumors started swirling around Anne. Many came to believe that she was secretly betraying the king. Word had it that she was involved with the Comte de Chalais, a noble whom Richelieu had accused of treachery and beheaded.
Chalais' execution became infamous for its brutality. Allegedly, the headsman didn't know his trade, and it took 30 strikes to sever the Count's head. Anne was spared that gruesome fate, but she was definitely in Richelieu's crosshairs.
20. She Couldn’t Be Trusted
Cardinal Richelieu decided that he would spy on Anne through her Dame d’atour, one of the highest-ranking ladies in the queen's household. He had Madeleine du Fargis, a French courtier and agent, become great friends with the queen, hoping that she would spill Anne’s secrets. Talk about a gross invasion of privacy. Too bad his plan completely backfired. Madeleine actually came to like the queen. Score one for Anne of Austria.
21. She Staged A Failed Coup
Anne of Austria wasn't completely helpless. She tried to plot with the ruthless queen dowager Marie de’ Medici, Louis’ mother, to have Cardinal Richelieu deposed. Yes, they both hated him that much. Unfortunately, they failed miserably, and their actions actually made Louis come to rely on Richelieu even more. Whoops. Anne ended up on her husband's bad side yet again. As if life couldn't get any worse...
In retribution, Louis reduced Anne’s court and fired many of her ladies, including Madeleine du Fargis. This time, Anne tried to stick up for herself, but that didn't exactly work out...
22. She Tried To Save Her Friend
Despite the fact that du Fargis had arrived as a spy, she and Anne became nigh inseparable. When Louis announced he was firing half her court, including du Fargis, Anne was forced to resort to desperate measures. She ran to Cardinal Richelieu himself and begged him to convince Louis to let du Fargis. How do you think that went?
Cardinal Richelieu obviously didn't like that his "spy" had turned into Anne's best friend. He refused her, du Fargis got the sack, and Anne told Richelieu that she'd never forgive him. Not that she ever really seemed to like him anyway.
23. She Was Involved In A Scandalous Plot
Even though Madeleine du Fargis left Anne, she still played a big part in Anne's life—though it almost cost the queen dearly. See, both du Fargis’s husband and Louis’ brother Gaston opposed the king. Then, in 1632, Louis' agents uncovered a shocking letter from du Fargis. It detailed a plan to have Gaston marry Anne and become king if Louis ever croaked. Now, I don't know about you, but if I were a paranoid king, that would sound a whole lot like treachery to me.
Anne would have to do some serious talking to get herself out of this one.
24. She Was In Hot Water
Following the discovery of the letters describing a plan of marriage for Gaston and Anne, Cardinal Richelieu questioned the queen over her role in the plot. Anne confirmed that du Fargis penned the letters, but claimed she didn’t know anything about the plans. That either means that du Fargis was already planning for Anne’s remarriage without her knowing, or Anne was just a good liar.
Either way, Anne was off the hook for now—but even more struggles lay ahead.
25. She Kept Spanish Connections
When France fought with Spain in 1635, Anne found herself in a delicate situation. She kept up a secret correspondence with both her brother, the King of Spain, and other French ambassadors. Before the conflict, this wasn't exactly a huge deal, but now she was technically communicating with the enemy. I doubt that Louis would give his hated wife the benefit of the doubt if those letters ever came to light.
Anne was playing a dangerous game—and it nearly cost her everything.
26. Her Nemesis Struck Again
It was only a matter of time before someone in France got suspicious of their Spanish Queen. In 1637, Anne’s arch-nemesis Richelieu began investigating her under suspicion of participating in secret correspondence. Now, as we know, Anne was very much guilty of what Richelieu suspected. But apparently years of mistreatment had given her some backbone. This time, Anne was going to fight back the only way she knew how.
27. She Lied Through Her Teeth
While Anne’s various helpers quickly admitted that they took part in her secret correspondence, Anne bald-faced lied about it. She simply said she'd never sent any letters to Spain and prayed that they'd just take her word for it. How do you think that worked out?
28. She Cracked
Eventually, Anne cracked under the guilt of sending her secret letters and admitted that she corresponded with the Spaniards. I mean, it only went on for multiple years and threatened the security of France, the country where she was the queen. What's the big deal? The king had hated Anne before, but now her standing fell lower than it ever had. And just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, they did.
29. Her Husband Read Her Mail
You might think that Anne felt like a prisoner during her years as the neglected Queen of France. Well, it got a whole lot worse after the whole "secret letters" affair. From that point on, Louis had every single letter she wrote inspected before it went anywhere. Privacy? He wasn't taking any chances on that. And that's not all Louis did.
30. She Lost Her Privileges
On top of monitoring her letters, Louis placed severe restrictions on where Anne could travel. Anne had done most of her secret correspondence in convents away from the prying eyes of the court. Even worse, the staff at those convents had acted as messengers, getting the letters in and out of France. Well, not anymore. This must have been particularly painful for Anne, as those convents were one of the only places she felt truly at home in France. But still, Anne's final punishment was by far the worst.
31. She Was Never Alone
Whenever he thought Anne stepped out of line, Louis fired half her staff. Well, this time was no different. He got rid of anyone he thought might help Anne, and commanded the new staff—loyal to him, of course—to never let her be alone. Ever. That’s right, she really had no privacy. Her ladies-in-waiting always stayed with her, no matter what.
The last time Anne found a spy in her household, she befriended her. You'd think she'd try the same thing this time. Except, Cardinal Richelieu had other plans…
32. She Lost All Her Allies
Of course, Richelieu wanted Anne’s household to only include people that he and the king could trust, starting with his own spouse, Catherine de Brassac. Essentially, Richelieu wanted to keep Anne under his and the king’s control. Talk about a deja vu from Anne’s time under the Duke of Luynes. Was Anne ever going to catch a break? Well, now that you mention it...
33. She Finally Had Some Luck
After many years of trying for an heir and sadly not succeeding, then entirely ignoring each other for even more years, Anne once again got pregnant. According to rumors, she had bad weather to thank for the child in her womb. King Louis, who almost never stayed with her, ended up staying the night with her during a bitter storm. The long-bitter couple did their marital duty, I assume very reluctantly, and boom, Anne became pregnant.
Now, she'd been pregnant several times before and none of the children had lived. I bet her excitement was met with equal parts anxiety—but this time was different.
34. She Had A Miracle
Anne birthed her first son and heir to the throne, Louis XIV, in 1638 at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. She named him Louis Dieudonné, or Louis “God-Given,” because she saw him as a miracle after struggling to conceive for so many years. The nation rejoiced and agreed with the name, considering the boy a divine gift from God.
Louis XIV's birth marked a turning point in Anne's life—for better and for worse.
35. She Had An Affectionate Relationship
Anne and Louis XIV had an uncommonly affectionate relationship. Unsurprisingly, based on how everyone else in court treated her, Anne liked to spend almost all her time with young Louis. This maternal influence strongly shaped Louis' interests in food and theatre. Anne thought Louis truly was a gift from God—so it's no surprise it went to his head. Louis firmly believed he possessed absolute and divine power in his monarchical rule, something he put to use as France's extravagant Sun King.
36. Her Marriage Was Still Tragic
Even though Anne had finally produced an heir for Louis XIII and the French monarchy, there was still a high level of distrust between husband and wife. No matter what, they could not get along, even with an immense amount of pressure lifted from their shoulders. But this didn’t stop them from spending a few more nights together…
37. She Defied the Odds
Despite having immense difficulty conceiving their first child, Anne and Louis conceived a second baby only 15 months after their first. No one expected this sudden burst in virility, as Anne was already 38 years old at the time. Anne was able to take her children away from the Louvre Palace and move into the Palais Cardinal. Things were finally starting to look up for Anne of Austria—and they were about to get even better.
38. Her Husband Croaked
Louis XIII succumbed to tuberculosis in 1643, at just 41 years old. Though he and Anne had spent more time together in his final years, I doubt Anne was too broken up about it considering his decades of mistreatment. The fact that Louis had tried to make sure she wouldn't become regent when he passed certainly didn't help. But Anne of Austria was finally done putting up with the men who pushed her around.
39. She Became More Powerful
One of Louis XIII's final acts was to stick it to his wife. He tried his best to make sure she never saw an ounce of power—but that didn't stop Anne of Austria. She convinced the Parlement of Paris to revoke Louis' will and install her as regent for her son, now King Louis XIV of France. It was time to start throwing her weight around.
40. She Had New Ventures
Remember how Louis had stopped Anne from visiting the convents that she loved so much? Well, now Anne was in charge, and she hadn't forgotten about them. In 1645, Anne commissioned a new Val-de-Grâce church on the land of a Benedictine convent. This is where Anne regularly went to pray and worship as the Regent of France. She had it built to show thanks to the Virgin Mary for her ability to have her two children after so many childless years. And was it a little bit of a middle finger to her deceased husband? I'll let you decide.
41. She Surprised Many People
Anne of Austria may have been the Regent of France, but she was smart enough to know she wasn't the right person to actually run the country. She entrusted the French government to Cardinal Mazarin, her chief minister and, oddly enough, a protégé of her arch-nemesis, Richelieu. Surprisingly, they worked well together and he remained loyal to the queen for years. Mazarin helped her through a number of serious political issues.
42. She May Have Had A Secret Romance
Well, maybe they worked just a little too well together. Citizens believed that Anne and Mazarin secretly became lovers. The rumors got a whole lot louder during the Fronde, an aristocratic revolt in France, when pamphlets came out accusing them of such. The pamphlets even claimed that the pair had married in secret. A revolt? Rumors of an affair? Things were getting dicey for Anne, but she wasn't the same pushover she once was.
43. She Overcame Trouble
When the Prince de Condé led the Fronde against the monarchy, Anne, as the regent, was able to overcome it with Mazarin's support. A shrewd political mind, Mazarin raised money to support the Hapsburgs and imposed fines on those who lived outside the Paris wall. Whether the couple really loved each other or not, it seems that Mazarin was always there for her when it came to politics.
44. She Lost Her “Crown”
After many years of acting as the Regent of France, Anne’s son Louis XIV officially came of age in 1651. This meant that Anne no longer held official power over the government. However, Anne and Mazarin maintained a lot of influence over Louis and helped him make many of his political decisions—until they suffered a terrible loss.
45. She Lost Her Right Hand Man
In 1661, Anne and Louis XIV lost Cardinal Mazarin. His health had allegedly been in decline ever since a fire at his beloved Gallery of Apollo in the Louvre Palace. The blaze destroyed many priceless works of art, and Mazarin took the loss hard, succumbing to an unknown illness not long after. In his public will, he left all of his money to Louis. He also left Anne a 14-carat diamond called The Rose of England. If Mazarin and Anne really were lovers and married as rumors said, she must have suffered a great loss. He'd definitely done a lot more for her than Louis XIII ever had!
46. She Reconnected With Her Roots
When Anne could take a step back from the regency, she was able to enjoy corresponding with her family again. That’s right, after many years of being restricted from speaking with her natal family, she was once again able to enjoy their company. She even negotiated a marriage between her niece and eldest son.
47. She Had a Comeback
After having a successful regency era, re-establishing a relationship with her natal family, and negotiating the marriage between her eldest son and niece, Anne had made a comeback in the eyes of the French people. She had become much more popular and esteemed than when her husband was still the reigning king. After putting up with the worst from her husband, his cronies, and essentially everyone around her, Anne of Austria got the last laugh.
48. She Decided to Retire
After the political struggles with Spain ended and they established the Treaty of the Pyrenees, Anne's eldest son married and had children. It finally seemed like Anne's work was done. She was able to retire to the convent she loved most, the Val-de-Grâce in Paris. She lived there up until the very end of her life…
49. She Faced Her End
Anne, who had clearly lived a long and scandalous life as an unconventional queen and regent of France, eventually lost her life to breast cancer, five years after retiring to the convent of Val-de-Grâce in Paris. She was 65.
50. She Went Through A Terrible Loss
The lowest point in Anne and Louis' marriage came after an unbearable tragedy. See, remember Louis spent so many years not sleeping with Anne out of spite? Well, once they finally started trying, disaster struck. Anne and Louis suffered a devastating series of stillbirths while attempting to produce an heir to the French throne. On the second occasion, Anne accidentally fell down the stairs, losing her baby. The king's reaction was chilling.
Louis angrily blamed Anne for the tragedy, pushing them even further apart.