Charles II of Spain

King Charles II of Spain was the last king of Spain from the Habsburg dynasty.  How did he get so ugly? And how come he had no heir, when he was mariied twice. Read the sad history of this infamous last habsburger on the Spanish throne.

How King Charles II got his looks

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"Charles II of Spain" by Juan Carreño De Miranda, ca 1650

The Spanish Habsburgs married heavily between each other, which finally resulted in the birth of this Prince of Asturias, the title given to the person first in line to the Spanish throne, in 1661. If you look at the paintings he was not a real handsome guy. And just think, the painters back than often painted a much nicer picture than the subject would deserve, so how realistic are these images? Reality could have been even worse.

Charles II of Spain only lived to be 39 and had a hard life. He was mentally and physically handicapped, and his enormous Habsburg jaw made that he was unable to chew. Because of an abnormal big tongue he was also barely able to speak. 

On top of this he did not get a proper education, so he spent his adult life, just a brief period of time from prolonged infancy to premature senility, under other people’s influence, first and foremost that of his mother. 

Family tree of Charles II of Spain.

How did he get this way? For a start:

Charles’ own mother was the niece of his father, so his grandmother was also his aunt. To go even further down the line, he did not have 4 grandparents like most of us. Okay, that’s complicated let’s see how that works….

Mariana of Austria, Queen of Spain, mother of Charles II of SpainMariana of Austria, Queen of Spain

This is Charles’s Mother, Mariana of Austria Queen of Spain.

This is Philip IV of Spain, also a very handsome guy! He is the father of Charles II and the uncle of Mariana.

In 1649 Mariana, fourteen years old, married her uncle, after he became a widower when his first wife Elisabeth of France died. He was forty-four-year’s old at the time. 

If we take a look further up the line of Charles’s father we can see the same thing happening again.

Ferdinand III, Holy Roman EmperorFerdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor

Charles' Grandfather on mother’s side. Ferdinand III (13 July 1608 – 2 April 1657) Holy Roman Emperor 

Maria Anna of Spain, grandmother and aunt of Charles IIMaria Anna of Spain, grandmother and aunt of Charles II

And this is his maternal Grandmother, Maria Anna of Spain (18 August 1606 – 13 May 1646) the youngest daughter of King Philip III of Spain and Margaret of Austria.

But her we go, Maria Anna of Spain was the sister of Philip IV of Spain, who is Charles’s dad! 

So Charles’s father and his grandmother are brother and sister.



His grandmother on father’s side was Margaret of Austria (25 December 1584 – 3 October 1611) Queen consort of Spain, and his Grandfather of father’s side was Philip III of Spain (14 April 1578 – 31 March 1621), King of Spain. (They were ofcourse also his great grandparents from mother’s side!)

Margaret of AustriaMargaret of Austria
Philip III of SpainPhilip III of Spain

Margaret of Austria and Philip III of Spain; grandparents and great-grandparents of Charles II


Anne of Austria, Queen of spain. By Alonso Sánchez CoelloAnne of Austria, Queen of spain
Philip II of Spain by Sofonisba AnguissolaPhilip II of Spain

The father of Philip III was Phillip II, and he also married his nice.

This was Anne of Austria, the eldest daughter of his sister Archduchess Maria of Austria and Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor.

Anne was suposed to marry her cousin Don Carlos of Spain, the only son of her maternal uncle Philip II, but unfortunately he died in 1568.  Philip desides to marry his nice himself, since he had no male heirs yet. He was 22 years older than her.

The father of Philllp II was King Charles V, who married his first cousin Isabella of Portugal!


Emperor Charles V by Juan Pantoja de la CruzEmperor Charles V by Juan Pantoja de la Cruz
Isabella of Portugal by TitianIsabella of Portugal by Titian

It goes on and on, as the Royal families of those times tried to strengthening the bloodlines and therefore forging political alliances by strategic marriages.

They had never heard of dna and genetic defects and could not see any harm in this other than what the bible had to say about it.

As long as the pope gave dispensation, there was no obstacle for marriages between close relatives.

All this inbreeding finally is thought to have resulted in the downfall of the Spanish Habsburg Dynasty, followed by a European war that lasted for 14 years. As always, the marriage strategies of the European royalty could not prevent war, and as a result different royal houses fought each other, despite the fact that somewhere down the line, they all were (and are) related.


The wifes of Charles II of Spain

Charles II of Spain, the last of the Spanish Hapsburgs.

Although Charles II of Spain married twice, he did not produce any issue. It was thought that, amongst his other numerous health problems, he was impotent. He died childless at the age of 39, naming  Philip of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV, as his sole heir.

Marie Louise d'Orléans, first wife of Charles II of SpainMarie Louise d'Orléans

Marie Louise d'Orléans married the 18-year-old Charles II when she herself was 17. Charles really loved his first wife, but they were not able to have children. Marie Louise died 10 years later, only 27 years old, probably of Appendicitis.

Charles was hardbroken when his first wife died, but had to marry again, there was no heir yet!

Maria Anna of Neuburg, second wife of Charles II of SpainMaria Anna of Neuburg

He married princess Maria Anna of Neuburg within a year after the dead of Marie Louise. She outlived Charles many years. Charles died in 1700, Maria Anna lived until 1740. She spend most of those years in excile. since he new Spanish king banished her.


A lot of European countries did not much look forward to a Bourbon king on the Spanish throne, so this was the start of the war of the Spanish succession, in order to restore the balance of power in Europe. In the end Philip of Anjou remained king of Spain as Philip V until 1724, but a treaty (treaty of Utrecht) was drawn up that strongly forbade a single ruler on the Spanish and French throne.  

Charles II of Spain lived in the Royal Palace of Madrid. It is still the official residence of the Spanish Royal family, but when not in use it is open to visitors.

You can  learn all about the rise and fall of Spain’s Habsburg and Bourbon dynasties on this city walking tour in Madrid. Including a skip-the-line visit to the Royal Palace of Madrid.


Books and series on the Spanish Habsburgs:


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