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Anna Maria Gonzaga (1616 – July 6 1684) was an Italian noblewoman. She was Countess Palatine of Simmern, called "Princess Palatine", as the wife of Edward of the Palatinate, a grandson of King James I of England and an uncle of King George I of Great Britain. She bore Edward three children, all daughters. Had she not converted Edward to Catholicism, the English throne might have passed to their descendants.

Anna was the youngest daughter of Charles I, Duke of Mantua and Catherine of Mayenne (daughter of Charles of Lorraine, Duke of Mayenne).

Early life

Anna was born in Parismarker, the youngest of the Duke of Mantua's six children. She had three brothers, including Charles II Gonzaga, and two sisters; the elder one, Marie Louise, would become Queen Ludwika Maria Gonzaga of Poland. Initially, Anna was intended for the nunnery, but was diverted from the vocation of nun after the death of her father in 1637, when she was 21 years old, and thereafter carried out an adventurous life.

The Duke of Guise

She fell passionately in love with her maternal second cousin Henry II, Duke of Guise; later, she claimed to have contracted a secret marriage with him in 1639, which he denied. In 1640, Anna disguised herself as a man to join him in Sedanmarker, but he gave her up the following year, in 1641. She brought a lawsuit against him, demanding recognition as his wife.

Marriage and children

On April 24 1645 in Parismarker, Anna was married, without much enthusiasm, to Edward, Count Palatine of Simmern, a nineteen-year-old, landless and penniless Bohemian nobleman who was ten years her junior. She became Countess Palatine of Simmern, and was known in German as Pfalzgräfin Anna and in English as Anna, Princess Palatine.

With Edward, she had three daughters:

The marriage of her second daughter, Anne Henriette, to Henri Jules of Bourbon-Condé, Duke of Enghien, came to restore her position. Her sister, the Polish queen, Ludwika Maria Gonzaga, had designated Anne Henriette as her heiress and was committed to supporting the candidature of the duke of Enghien for the Polish throne.

Princess Anna managed to marry her youngest daughter, Bénédicte (or Benedicta, or Benedictine), to the Duke of Brunswick and Hanover. The Princess Palatine was a confidante to Philippe I, Duke of Orléans. She arranged Monsieur's second marriage to her husband's nineteen-year-old niece, Liselotte, daughter of Charles Louis, Elector Palatine of the Rhine.


George L. Williams writes:

"Edward's younger sister Sophia married the Protestant Duke Ernest of Hanover.
They became the parents of King George I of Great Britain, from whom the present English royal family is descended.
If Sophia's elder brother Edward had not converted to Catholicism, it is possible that the English throne would have been held by his descendants."

Anna managed to convert her husband to Catholicism despite his mother Elizabeth Stuart's threats to strange any of her children who would become a Catholic. (Elizabeth forgave her son surprisingly quickly.)

Incidentally, Anna was a descendant of Pope Alexander VI.

In 1671, she converted and changed completely her manner of living. Anna died devoted to the Church in 1684. Bossuet pronounced her famous funeral oration.


Notes and References

  1. Wikipedia article on Philippe I, Duke of Orléans
  2. Williams, p. 66
  3. Through her mother, Caterina of Mayenne, granddaughter of Anna d'Este, she in turn granddaughter of Lucrezia Borgia.


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