The Queen Who Ruled the World

Reviews and Opinions

Queen, Mother, and Stateswoman: Mariana of Austria and the Government of Spain by Silvia Mitchell, an Associate Professor of History at Purdue University, revisit our understanding of how the Spanish global empire relied on the international relationships created by the noblewomen in modern Europe. The volume is the first in-depth study of Mariana of Austria’s ten-year regency of the global Spanish Empire and her subsequent role as queen mother. In Mitchell’s revisionist account, Mariana emerges as a towering figure at court and on the international stage, and her key collaborators—the secretaries, ministers, and diplomats who have previously been ignored or undervalued—take their rightful place in history.

Mariana of Austria (1634-1696) ruled the Spanish global empire during the minority of her son, Carlos II from 1665 to 1676, at one of the monarchy’s most difficult junctures. Spain’s war against Portugal’s bid for independence was essentially lost; decades of enormous military commitments had left Mariana saddled with a virtually bankrupt state, vulnerable frontiers, and a substantially reduced army. Spain’s traditional enemy, the Bourbons of France, was poised to attack. Compounding these challenges was the looming threat of a dynastic crisis. Carlos II was king, but he was three-years-old in an era in which children often died young.

Drawing from previously unmined primary sources, including Council of State deliberations, diplomatic correspondence, Mariana’s and Carlos’s letters, royal household papers, manuscripts, and legal documents, Mitchell presents a new narrative of the Spanish Hapsburg monarchy in the later seventeenth century, while advancing our knowledge of women’s legitimate political entitlement in the early modern period.

Professor Mitchell at 2016 MARS Symposium

Silvia Z. Mitchell specializes in early modern European history with a particular focus on the history of the Spanish Monarchy, queenship, and court studies. Mitchell is also the guest editor of the December 2018 special issue of The Court Historian: The International Journal of Court Studies, on “The Spanish Hapsburg Court during the Reign of Carlos II.”

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