Ferdinand 6

Ferdinand 6

King of Spain since 1746
Date of Birth: 23.09.1713
Country: Spain

Biography of Ferdinand VI of Spain

Ferdinand VI of Spain was born on September 23, 1713, as the fourth son of King Philip V of Spain and his first wife, Maria Luisa of Savoy. Unfortunately, Ferdinand's mother passed away just a few months after his birth on February 14, 1714. His father remarried to Elizabeth Farnese, who had a hostile attitude towards Philip's children from his first marriage.

As a young child, Ferdinand grew up under the care of his stepmother Elizabeth Farnese. Out of his three half-brothers from his father's first marriage, only the eldest, Louis I, survived childhood. Ferdinand remained close to his six half-siblings until he ascended to the throne. Initially, Ferdinand held the title of Infante of Castile as the youngest son.

In 1724, Ferdinand's father abdicated the throne, and his seventeen-year-old brother, Louis I, became king. However, Louis I tragically died of smallpox on August 31, 1724. After much deliberation, Philip V resumed his reign, and on November 25, 1724, eleven-year-old Ferdinand was declared the Prince of Asturias, the heir to the Spanish throne. From then on, the search for a suitable spouse for the future Spanish king began.

After prolonged negotiations, the kings of Spain and Portugal agreed to a double wedding. On January 11, 1728, the Spanish heir to the throne, Ferdinand, became engaged to the eldest daughter of the Portuguese king, Maria Barbara of Braganza. The Portuguese heir, Joseph, Prince of Brazil, became engaged to the eldest daughter of the Spanish king, Maria Anna Victoria. The weddings took place on January 19, 1729, in poor weather conditions on a bridge over the Caya River, near the city of Elvas, on the border between Portugal and Spain. There, eleven-year-old Maria Anna Victoria and seventeen-year-old Barbara bid farewell to their parents, sisters, and brothers, and hand in hand with their fifteen-year-old husbands, they set off to new courts and new countries.

At their first meeting, Ferdinand developed such a strong aversion towards his wife, who had a tall and stooped figure with a disfigured face from smallpox, that he initially wanted to annul the marriage. Despite Ferdinand's initial dislike, Barbara, born on December 4, 1711, in Lisbon, was known to foreign ambassadors as being as amiable, educated, and musical as Ferdinand. However, she differed from her husband in terms of intelligence, willpower, education, and political astuteness. Like Ferdinand, she also had weak health. Their childless marriage caused Barbara of Braganza to fear becoming a widow without means of support, which led to her behavior being perceived as courtly self-interest.

Despite Ferdinand's initial antipathy, Barbara's determined and sensitive nature soon won the trust of her weak-willed and emotionally unstable husband, becoming his reliable support. Although Ferdinand was proclaimed the Prince of Asturias, Queen Elizabeth Farnese made every effort to prevent the prince and his wife from participating in state affairs until King Philip V's death. The inclinations of Ferdinand may have played a decisive role in this. However, it is unclear why Elizabeth Farnese denied the prince and his wife any contact with foreign ambassadors and banned them from leaving their chambers in the Buen Retiro Royal Palace in Madrid in 1733.

When King Philip V suddenly passed away from a heart attack on July 9, 1746, Ferdinand and Barbara were unprepared in terms of political preparation and experience.

Source: Spanish Kings, edited by V.L. Berneker; "Phoenix," Rostov-on-Don, 1998.