Eleonora Gonzaga

18 Nov 1630
6 Dec 1686
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Eleonora Gonzaga (18 November 1630 – 6 December 1686) was Holy Roman Empress as the wife of Emperor Ferdinand III.

She was a daughter of Charles Gonzaga (1609–1631) and his wife and cousin Maria Gonzaga, heiress to the Duchy of Mantua.

Her father was a son and co-ruler of Charles I, Duke of Mantua but predeceased his father. Her paternal grandmother was Catherine of Mayenne. Her maternal grandparents were Francesco IV Gonzaga and Margaret of Savoy.

Catherine of Mayenne was a daughter of Charles of Lorraine, Duke of Mayenne and Henriette of Savoy, Marquise de Villars. Margaret was a daughter of Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy and Catherine Michelle of Spain.

Catherine Michelle was in turn the second and last daughter of Philip II of Spain and Elisabeth of Valois.

She was born on 18 November 1630 in Mantua. On 30 April 1651 in Vienna, she married the Emperor Ferdinand III,
thus becoming Empress of the Holy Roman Empire. She died in Vienna, surviving her husband by 29 years.

She bore Ferdinand four children, two of whom survived into adulthood:

Theresa Maria Josepha, Archduchess of Austria (27 March 1652 – 26 July 1653)

Eleonora Maria of Austria (21 May 1653 – 17 December 1697), who married first Michael Korybut Wiśniowiecki, King of Poland, and then Charles Léopold, Duke of Lorraine.

Maria Anna Josepha of Austria (30 December 1654 – 4 April 1689), who married John William, Elector Palatine.

Ferdinand Joseph Alois, Archduke of Austria (11 February 1657 – 16 June 1658).

Eleanor is described as cultivated and religious. She protected and developed the cultural establishment in Vienna : she wrote Italian poems, founded a literary academy and despite her strict personal Catholicism, she did not discriminate against Protestant writers.

She continued to play a very important part of the court also as a Dowager Empress after 1657, was active as a patron of culture, arranging ballets and festivals.

She had the imperial palace, the Hofburg, expanded. She was also active in religion and founded several convents, such as an Ursuline convent in Vienna (1663).

She founded the orders Sklavinnen der Tugend for noble ladies (1662) and served as Kaiserin of the Sternkreuzorden, the “Order of the Starry Cross” (1668).

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