European Marital Alliances

Chapter 2 : 1500 - 1530


The first important marriage of the new century was that of Maria of Aragon, to Manuel of Portugal her sister Isabella’s widower in 1500. Once again a papal dispensation was required and this one was of some moment as it permitted Maria to marry her dead sister’s husband. During the 1520s this case was considered by the supporters of Katharine of Aragon to be analogous to the dispensation granted for her to marry Henry VIII. The significant aspect of it was that Maria gave birth to 8 children who lived to marriageable age. Of those children four are important for the purposes of this topic:

  1. Joao or John III, King of Portugal (1502 – 1557)
  2. Isabella of Portugal, Holy Roman Empress (1503 – 1539)
  3. Beatriz of Portugal, Duchess of Savoy (1504 – 1538)
  4. Luis of Portugal (1506 – 1555)

The next marriage to take place was that of Katharine, youngest daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, to Arthur, Prince of Wales on 14th November 1501 (see above). Arthur died on 2nd April 1502 and a betrothal was agreed to his younger brother, Henry, Duke of York. As this was yet another prohibited match, a further dispensation was requested from Pope Julius II. It covered the case for Katharine and Henry to marry even if her previous marriage had been consummated, although her father believed at the time that it had not.The marriage between Katharine and Henry took place on 11th June 1509. They had one living child:

  1. Mary, Queen of England, Queen of Spain, Naples, Sicily, Archduchess of Austria, Duchess of Burgundy etc. (1516 - 1558)

Peace between England and Scotland was established by the marriage in 1503 of Margaret of England to James IV of Scotland. They were third cousins, both being descended from John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset and his wife, Margaret Holland. The couple had one child who lived to adulthood:

  1. James V, King of Scots (1512 – 1542)


With France being surrounded by the growing spread of Hapsburg influence, Louis XII (who claimed the Duchy of Milan, through his descent from the Visconti Dukes) needed to find friends. In 1514, newly widowed, he married Mary of England, sister of Henry VIII. Mary had been betrothed for seven years to Charles, Duke of Burgundy (see above) but he and Maximilian had prevaricated to such an extent that Henry had decided to pay them in their own coin and allied his sister to France.

Louis’ elder daughter, Claude, Duchess of Brittany, had been married in early May 1514 to her second cousin, Francois d’Angouleme. If Louis and Mary had no sons, Francois would inherit the French throne. Louis died, apparently trying too hard to have a male heir, and Francois became Francois I. He and Claude had several children who reached marriageable age:

  1. François, Dauphin of France, Duke of Brittany (1518 – 1536)
  2. Henri II, Duke of Orleans, King of France (1519 – 1559)
  3. Madeleine of France, Queen of Scots (1520 – 1537)
  4. Marguerite of France, Duchess of Berry, Duchess of Savoy (1523 – 1574)

During this decade, the daughter of Henry VIII and Katharine of Aragon was betrothed to the Dauphin François. In the following decade, she was betrothed to both his widowed father, and to his brother, Henri, Duke of Orleans.

In 1514, Margaret, the widowed Queen of Scots, married a second time, and produced a daughter, Lady Margaret Douglas, whose later marriage would prove an important link in union of the English and Scottish crowns.

In 1515, Isabel, Archduchess of Austria, daughter of Philip the Fair and Juana, Queen of Castile, married Christian II of Denmark. King Christian was first cousin once removed of James V of Scotland. He and Isabel had five children, only one of whom had children of her own, Christina of Denmark.

Maria of Aragon and Manuel I of Portugal had numerous children, as mentioned above. In 1517, she died, probably worn out and in 1518 Manuel swiftly obtained a dispensation to marry his wife’s nineteen year old niece, Leonor of Austria (see above). This preserved the alliance between Spain, where Leonor’s brother, Charles, was now king, and Portugal. There were two children of the marriage, but neither married.


The 1520s, too, were busy years for the House of Hapsburg. In 1521 and 1522, Ferdinand and Mary, son and daughter of Philip the Fair (see above) married another pair of siblings, Anne and Louis of Bohemia and Hungary. Mary had no children before being widowed at the Battle of Mohacs. Her sister-in-law therefore passed the crowns of Bohemia and Hungary to Ferdinand, although the encroaching Ottoman Empire made maintaining their borders impossible.

Ferdinand’s marriage to Anne was very happy and extremely fruitful. Although they were related by blood (they had a common ancestor in Juan II of Aragon) they had nine children who lived to adulthood, of whom several are worth noting:

  1. Maximilian, Archduke of Austria, Holy Roman Emperor (1527 – 1576)
  2. Anna, Archduchess of Austria, Duchess of Bavaria (1528 – 1576)
  3. Maria, Archduchess of Austria, Duchess of Julich-Cleves-Berg (1531 – 1581)
  4. Eleonora, Archduchess of Austria, Duchess of Mantua (1534 – 1594)
  5. Barbara, Archduchess of Austria, Duchess of Ferrara (1539 – 1572)
  6. Charles, Archduke of Austria (1540 – 1590)
  7. Johanna, Archduchess of Austria, Grand Duchess of Tuscany (1547 – 1578)

The alliances this next generation of Hapsburgs made were the backdrop to the second half of the sixteenth century.

Moving back to the Spanish branch of the family, Catherine, Archduchess of Austria, youngest daughter of Philip and Juana, married her first cousin, Joao II of Portugal in 1525 (who was also her sister, Leonor’s step-son).They had two children:

  1. Maria Manuela of Portugal, Princess of Spain (1527 – 1545)
  2. Joao Manuel of Portugal (1537 – 1554)

In 1526, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor was the last of the children of Philip the Fair to marry. His bride was his cousin, Isabella of Portugal, daughter of Manuel I and Maria of Aragon. For this marriage, he had jilted his other cousin, Mary of England, daughter of Henry VIII and Katharine of Aragon. The couple were devoted to each other and produced three surviving children, of whom two are of interest:

  1. Philip, King of Spain, Naples, Sicily, Duke of Burgundy etc. King of England (1527 – 1598)
  2. Maria, Archduchess of Austria, Holy Roman Empress (1528 – 1603)


Charles V’s sister, Leonor, Queen of Portugal was widowed in 1521. As part of the peace negotiations following the Battle of Pavia, she remarried in 1530 to François I of France (see above). The marriage was forced on the king, and they remained childless.

When Henry VIII of England tried to have his marriage to Katharine of Aragon annulled, he risked alienating a large swathe of European royalty.

Katharine’s nephews and nieces were:

  1. Charles V Holy Roman Emperor
  2. Ferdinand, King of the Romans, King of Hungary & Bohemia
  3. Joao II, King of Portugal
  4. Isabel, Queen of Denmark
  5. Leonor, Queen of France
  6. Mary, Queen of Hungary
  7. Catherine, Queen of Portugal
  8. Beatriz, Duchess of Savoy