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Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain
Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain (Segovia 12 August 1566 – 1 December 1633) was Infanta of Spain, Archduchess of Austria and the joint sovereign of the Seventeen Provinces. In some sources, she is referred to as "Clara Isabella Eugenia".
Youth and family
Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain was born in Segovia on 12 August 1566 as the daughter of Phillip II of Spain and his third wife Elizabeth of Valois. Hence her grandfather was Emperor Charles V, and her grandmother was Catherine de' Medici. Her father Phillip II of Spain was overjoyed over her birth and declared that he is more happy about her birth than the birth of a son. This was a surprise to many, since at that time sons were generally valued much higher than daughters. On the other hand, Phillip did not develop a deep relationship to his son Don Carlos of Spain from his first marriage with Princess Maria of Portugal , and at some times they even worked against each other. Isabella's mother and Phillips wife Elizabeth of Valois was actually initially destined to be the bride of Phillips son Don Carlos. While this marriage naturally also had the political aim to improve the relations between Spain and France, Phillip actually did fall deeply in love with his most beautiful wife, staying at her side even when she had chickenpox and later the highly contagious smallpox. Despite initial hesitations, Elizabeth eventually returned the love of her husband. Elizabeth's first pregnancy in 1564 ended with a miscarriage of twin girls. On 12 August 1566 Elizabeth gave birth to her first child Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain. Isabella got a sister Catherine Micaela on October 10 1567. Elizabeth had another a miscarriage on October 3 1568, and died herself due to the complications on the same day.
Isabella grew up together with her sister Catalina, beloved by her father and her stepmother Anna von Österreich , Phillip's fourth wife. Anna also gave birth to five more children of Phillip, most of whom died at an early age, except for his heir Philip III of Spain. However, there was nothing in the world that Philip II loved more than his two daughters Isabella and Catalina, especially Isabella. While Philip II had a reputation of being cold, numerous affectionate letters between him and his daughters show a deep fatherly love, with him always signing his letters with Your good father.
Isabella was also the only person that was allowed to help Philip II with his work, sorting his papers and frequently translating Italian documents into Spanish. Isabella stayed at her fathers side, especially during his last three years, where he was plagued by the gout and heavy fever before Philip II died on September 13 1598.
Since 1568, at her age of two, Isabella was promised to marry Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor (July 18, 1552, - January 20, 1612), son of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor and Maria, a daughter of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Isabella, however had to wait for more than 20 years before the eccentric Rudolf declared that he has no intention to ever marry anybody.
After the death of her uncle Henry III of France on August 2, 1589, assassinated by a young fanatical monk Jacques Clément, Phillip II claimed the French crown for his daughter Isabella. However, he had no right to this claim, since France was under the Salic Law, which forbade succession in the female line, and at any rate Philip's second wife and Isabella's mother Elizabeth had to abjure any claims to the French crown with her marriage to Philip II. The Huguenot leader, Henry of Navarre, the rightful king by traditional French inheritance laws, ultimately made good his claim to the throne, converted to Catholicism, and was crowned in 1594.
At age 31 Isabella finally found a husband, and on 18 April 1599 she married her cousin Archduke Albert of Austria, the younger brother of her former fiancé Rudolf II. Albert was the joint sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands and also the former viceroy of Portugal. As Albert also was the Archbishop of Toledo , he had to be released from his religious commitments by the Pope. Shortly before Philip II died on September 13, 1598, he renounced his rights to the Netherlands in favor of his daughter Isabella and her husband.
Isabella's marriage with Albert is said to have been a happy marriage. However, there were no children in this marriage, and it was rumored that they had a platonic marriage.
From 1601 they ruled the Spanish Netherlands together, and after Albert's death Isabella became the governor of the Netherlands herself on behalf of the King of Spain. The reign of Albert's and Isabella's is considered the Golden Age of the Netherlands.
The reign of the Archdukes Isabella Clara Eugenia and Albert of Austria is a key period in the history of the Low Countries. After fort decades of war it brought a period of much needed peace and stability to the economy of the Southern Netherlands. In addition to economic prosperity, actions of archdukes stimulated the growth of a separate South-Netherlandish identity, and built the foundations for the independence of the Netherlands. The Archdukes consolidated the authority of the House of Habsburg over the territory of the Southern Netherlands and largely succeeded in reconciling previous anti-Spanish sentiments.
When it became clear that independence would not be possible, Archdukes goal became to reincorporate the Southern Provinces into the Spanish monarchy. In pursuit of that goal and to get their political agenda to all Flemish social classes, the Archdukes used the most diverse mediums. The visual arts, with the baroque popularized in the wake of the Catholic Reformation, was the perfect tool. Thus Isabella and her husband stimulated the growth of this artistic movement, which resulted in the creation of the Flemish Baroque .
Their patronage of such artists as Rubens, Brueghel, Coebergher , the De Nole family, the Van Veens and many others were the beginning of a Golden Age in the Southern Netherlands. This coupled with the political configuration of the period made the Archdukes Court at Brussels one of the foremost political and artistic centers in Europe of that time. It became the testing ground for the Spanish Monarchy's European plans, boiling pot full of people of all sorts: from artists and diplomats to defectors, spies and penitent traitors, from Spanish confessors, Italian counselors, Burgundian functionaries, English musicians, German bodyguards to the Belgian nobles. The Treaty of London and the Twelve Years Truce were brought about thanks to the active involvement of the Archdukes in the negotiations. Brussels became a vital link in the chain of Habsburg courts and the diplomatic conduits between Madrid, Vienna, Paris, London, Lisbon, Graz, Innsbruck, Prague and The Hague could be said to run through Brussels.
When Albert died in 1621, Isabella joined the order of the Sisters of St. Clare , and became the governor of the Netherlands on behalf of the King of Spain. She was succeded as Governor by Philip IV's brother, the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand in 1633.
| width="30%" align="center" | Preceded by:
Archduke Albert of Austria | width="40%" align="center" | Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands | width="30%" align="center" | Succeeded by:
Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand |}
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