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Her mother educated her in strict seclusion, but seclusion altogether failed to tame her imperious and ambitious temper. At the age of twenty-one (1714) she was married by proxy at Parma to Philip V of Spain. The marriage was arranged by Cardinal Alberoni, with the concurrence of the Princess des Ursins, the Camerara Mayor.
On arriving at the borders of Spain, Elizabeth was met by the Princess des Ursins, but received her sternly, and, perhaps in accordance with a plan previously concerted with the king, at once ordered her to be removed from her presence and from Spain. Over the weak king Elizabeth quickly obtained complete influence. This influence was exerted altogether in support of the policy of Alberoni, one chief aim of which was to recover the ancient Italian possessions of Spain, and which actually resulted in the seizure of Sardinia and Sicily. So vigorously did she enter into this policy that, when the French forces advanced to the Pyrenees, she placed herself at the head of one division of the Spanish army.
But Elizabeth's ambition was grievously disappointed. The Triple Alliance thwarted her plans, and at length in 1720 the allies made the banishment of Alberoni a condition of peace. Sicily also had to be evacuated. And finally, all her entreaties failed to prevent the abdication of Philip, who in 1724 gave up the throne to his heir, and retired to the palace of La Granja.
Seven months later, however, the death of the young king recalled him to the throne. During his later years, when he was nearly imbecile, she directed the whole policy of Spain so as to secure thrones in Italy for her sons. In 1736 she had the satisfaction of seeing her favorite scheme realized in the accession of her son Don Carlos (afterwards Charles III of Spain) to the throne of the Two Sicilies and his recognition by the powers in the treaty of Vienna . Her second son, Philip, became duke of Parma. Elizabeth survived her husband twenty years.
See Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire d'Espagne sous le régne de Philippe V by the Marquis de St Philippe, translated by Maudave (Paris, 1756); Memoirs of Elizabeth Farnese (London, 1746); and E Armstrong, Elizabeth Farnese, the Termagant of Spain (1892).
- This entry incorporates public domain text originally from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.
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