Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World: A Biographical Dictionary

By Carole Levin; Debra Barrett-Graves et al. | Go to book overview

MARY OF HUNGARY
(1505-1558)

Hungary
Queen and Regent

Given her illustrious family connections, it is not surprising that Mary would be thrust into the political world of Renaissance Europe, but she became more than just a queen by virtue of a political marriage; she became an important ruler in her own right.

As the daughter of Juana, Queen of Castile, and Philip of Burgundy, the only son of Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor, Mary was born into the most powerful dynasty of the Renaissance. Her parents, better known by their nicknames, Juana the Mad and Philip the Handsome, had five other children who would also play important roles on the European political stage. As was customary for daughters of royalty, important political marriages were arranged for Mary and her three sisters. When she was only an infant, Mary was promised in marriage to the yet unborn heir to the throne of Hungary and Bohemia. The expected male heir arrived, though prematurely, so his physicians put him in an incubator of freshly killed pigs to keep him warm. The young prince, Lajos, or Louis, survived, and when Mary was ten years old and Louis of Hungary was nine, they were officially betrothed. This union between the Hapsburgs and the Hungarian and Bohemian Crown was further cemented with a marriage between Mary's brother Ferdinand and Louis's sister Anna. Politically advantageous marriages were also arranged for Mary's three sisters: Isabel was married to Christian II of Denmark; Eleanor was the queen of Francis I of France; and Catherine was the bride of John III of Portugal. Mary's two brothers were destined for even greater positions of power: Ferdinand as the Archduke of Austria and Charles as Europe's most powerful leader, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

Mary was only a few months old when her father Philip died suddenly of an illness, and her mother, in precarious mental health, spent the rest of her life in Spain. Mary grew up in the Netherlands under

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