Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies
( , ; 27 April
1806–22 August 1878) was Queen Consort of Spain (1829 to 1833) and
Queen Regent of Spain (1833 to 1840).
Originally titled Her Royal Highness
Christina of Naples and Sicily, on 18 December 1816 her title was
changed to Princess Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies when her
father changed the name of his kingdom. Her Spanish name was
María Cristina de las Dos Sicilias
Palermo, Sicily, Italy on 27 April
1806, she was the daughter of King Francis I (In Italian,
Francesco I) of the Two Sicilies by his second wife, Maria Isabella of Spain.
also descended from the Austrian Habsburgs as her grandmother was
Queen Marie Caroline
her grandaunt was Marie
First marriage and regency
Maria Christina married King Ferdinand VII of Spain
on 11 December
1829 in Madrid. Ferdinand was her uncle by birth and by marriage.
Like her mother Maria Isabella, Ferdinand was a child of King
Charles IV of Spain
wife, Maria Luisa of Parma
With death of King's third wife on 27 May 1829, Ferdinand's
desperation to father an heir for his crown resulted in his fourth
marriage just seven months later.
The new queen, Maria Christina, rapidly gave birth to two
daughters, Isabella (the future Queen Isabella
, 1830–1904) and the
Doña María Luísa Fernanda
(1832-1897). When Ferdinand died on
29 September 1833, Maria Christina became regent for their daughter
Isabella. Isabella's claim to the throne was disputed by her uncle,
the Infante Don Carlos
María Isidro Benito, Count de Molina
, who claimed that his
brother Ferdinand had unlawfully changed the succession law to
permit females to inherit the crown (see Carlism
). Some supporters of Don Carlos went so far
as to claim that Ferdinand had actually bequeathed the crown to his
brother but that Maria Christina had suppressed that fact. It was
further alleged that the Queen had signed her dead husband's name
to a decree recognizing Isabella as heir.
Carlos' attempt to seize power resulted in the Carlist Wars
. Despite considerable support for
Carlos from the Roman Catholic Church and conservative elements in
Spain, Maria Christina successfully retained the throne for her
daughter. The Carlist Wars grew from a dispute about the succession
into a dispute over the future of Spain. The supporters of Maria
Christina and her daughter favored a liberal constitution and
progressive social policies. In contrast, Carlos' supporters
) favored a return to
traditional society and an absolute monarchy. Ultimately, the
army's loyalty to Isabella II proved the decisive issue in the
Remarriage and downfall
On 28 December 1833, shortly after the death of Ferdinand VII,
Maria Christina had secretly married an ex-sergeant from the royal
Fernández Muñoz, Duke of Riansares
(1808-1873). Muñoz was given
the title Duke of Riansares. Maria Christina and Muñoz had several
children together while trying to keep their marriage a secret.
Eventually, news of Maria Christina's marriage to this low-ranking
soldier became public. That news made the Duchess of Riansares
deeply unpopular. Her position was undermined by news of her
remarriage and concerns that she was not actually supportive of her
liberal ministers and their policies. Eventually, the army, which
was the backbone of Isabella II's support, and the liberal
leadership in the Cortes
to demand that Maria Christina stand aside from the regency. In
1840, the army commander, General Baldomero Espartero,
Count of Luchana
, replaced her as regent.
Queen Maria Christina
The new government required the ex-regent to leave Spain. After an
unsuccessful attempt to return to power, Maria Christina retired
permanently to exile in France after 1844. France remained her
primary residence for the remainder of her life.
A revolution forced daughter Isabella II from her throne on 30
September 1868 and she joined her mother in exile in France.
Isabella II renounced the throne in favor of her son, Alfonso XII
, on 25 June 1870.
Supporters of Alfonso XII made it clear that neither his mother nor
grandmother could play an active role in the effort to restore the
monarchy. When Alfonso XII regained the Spanish crown on 29
December 1874, Maria Christina and Isabella II were permitted to
return to Spain as visitors but denied permission to live there
permanently. Neither was allowed to exercise influence in the
The marriage to Muñoz and the events of Maria Christina's turbulent
regency drove a permanent wedge between her and her Spanish royal
offspring. Neither Isabella II nor Alphonso XII had much interest
in a relationship with the former Queen Regent.
Death and burial
Christina died in Le
Havre, France on 22 August
1878. As the widow of Ferdinand VII and the mother of
Isabella II, Maria Christina
was buried in the royal crypt of El Escorial monastery.