25 January 2015

Today's Princess: Maria Josepha of Bavaria

By Mitjens via Wikimedia Commons
When the future Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II first met his unwanted second wife, he was not terribly impressed: she was old (25), short and pudgy with bad skin and worse teeth. He also noted that Maria Josepha of Bavaria had never had smallpox, a disease which he greatly feared having lost his beloved first wife to it. They married in Vienna 250 years ago today.

The youngest child of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII (the only non-Hapsburg Emperor) and his Austrian wife Maria Amalia, Maria Josepha was, despite her physical failings, a very pleasant person, kind and tender hearted. She greatly loved her husband, as he admitted, and was hurt by his lack of affection for her. Throughout their marriage, he saw her only at dinner and touched her only in bed (to produce an heir) but carried on his life as, in his words, a "bachelor husband." His own sister, Archduchess Marie Christine, remarked that if her husband treated her as badly, she would hang herself from a tree.

Alas, Maria Josepha found little loving kindness from any of her in-laws. Her father-in-law had been the friendliest, but he died soon after she married. When she came down with the dreaded smallpox, her horrified husband refused to visit her. Her mother-in-law, Empress Maria Theresa, came to her and by doing so contracted the disease herself. Maria Theresa survived, Maria Josepha did not. She died childless after just two years of marriage. Her husband, whose letters reveal regrets that he was so unkind to her, did not even attend her burial. He never remarried.

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