Refereed Articles & Chapters


Mitchell, Silvia Z. “Cartas domésticas, cartas familiares: The Familial and the Political Networks of Queen Mariana of Austria (1665-1696),” In De puño y letra: cartas personales en las redes dinásticas de la Casa de Austria. Eds. Bernardo García García, Katrin Keller, and Andrea Sommer-Mathis. Madrid and Frankfurt: Iberoamericana Vervuet, 2019, pp. 249-274.

ISBN: 978-84-9192-022-9

The extant and non-extant letters of Queen Mariana of Austria (1634-1696) to relatives in Madrid and Vienna reveal key aspects of Habsburg epistolary practices. When Mariana wrote to her brother, Emperor Leopold I (r. 1657-1705), in her position as Governor of the Spanish monarchy during the minority of her son and king, Carlos II (r. 1665-1700), the cartas domésticas, as they were labeled in the documents, were openly discussed in the Council of State. Diplomats in charge of delivering the letters received elaborate instructions that shows how the letters worked in a much larger network that blurred boundaries between the familial and the political. Even in the more intimate type of letter exchange between Mariana and her son during her exile in Toledo (1677-1679), a number of figures at all levels of the court hierarchy added significance to the letters, which went back and forth with gifts, portraits, state documents, and oral messages. Mariana’s letters to the nuns at the royal convent of the Descalzas Reales in Madrid shows the queen in her most spontaneous self. Nevertheless, these letters, too, played important political functions. The designation of these letters as cartas domésticas or cartas familiares should not obscure their critical political and diplomatic purposes, which co-existed with personal and emotional ties among the letter writers.     


 Mitchell, Silvia Z. “Introduction: The Spanish Habsburg Court during the Reign of Carlos II (1665–1700).” The Court Historian: The International Journal of Court Studies vol. 23 no. 2 (2018): 107-12.

ISSN: 1462-9712 (Print) 2056-3450; DOI: 10.1080/14629712.2018.1539458

This issue of The Court Historian contributes to, but also highlights and hopes to stimulate, the growing body of revisionist literature on Carlos’s reign by focusing on the court. Covering chronologically the entirety of the reign, this special journal issue addresses familiar topics for readers of this journal: royal portraiture, rituals of kingship, royal minorities, queenship, royal households, royal entries, politics and diplomacy. As the culmination of a century and half of developing organisational, institutional, and etiquette traditions that began when the Habsburgs succeeded the Trastámara dynasty in 1516, understanding Carlos II’s court is essential for a full-fledged evaluation of the Spanish Habsburg court.

Mitchell, Silvia Z. “Women and Children First: Court Ceremonial during Carlos II’s Minority, 1665–1675.” The Court Historian: The International Journal of Court Studies vol. 23 no. 2 (2018): 135-51.

ISSN: 1462-9712 (Print) 2056-3450; DOI: 10.1080/14629712.2018.1539447


The Spanish Habsburg court underwent a substantial restructuring when Carlos II (b. 1661, r. 1665–1700) became king of Spain just before his fourth birthday (17 September 1665). In his testament, Philip IV (r. 1621–1665) required that the child-king remain under the jurisdiction of his mother, Queen Mariana of Austria (1634–1696), during his minority. This well-established tradition in Habsburg child-rearing practices had never been applied to a child who was already king; it meant that for nearly a decade, there was no king’s household in the court. This article investigates the impact of Philip IV’s testamentary mandate on court ceremonial and the strategies that Mariana, queen regent and king’s mother, implemented. The unprecedented situation marks an important moment in the history of the queen’s household; it is crucial to understand how Carlos II exercised the office of king during his minority, and critical to reinterpret the early years of his rule as an emancipated king.


Mitchell, Silvia Z. “Marriage Plots: Royal women, marriage diplomacy and international politics at the Spanish, French and Imperial Courts, 1665–1679.” In Women, Diplomacy and International Politics since 1500. Eds. Glenda Sluga and Carolyn James. London: Routledge, 2016, pp. 86-106.


The Peace of Nijmegen (1678-1679) ended a pan-European conflict known as the Dutch War (1672-1678) that involved Spain and France as main military and rival contenders. The ratification of the peace and the subsequent Franco-Spanish marriage between King Carlos II (r.1665-1700) and the French princess, Marie Louise of Orleans threatened a serious breach between the Spanish and Austrian branches of the Habsburg dynasty. Carlos II broke his engagement to Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria (1669-1692), the oldest daughter of Emperor Leopold I, in order to marry the niece of Louis XIV. This essay explores the process leading to the 1679 agreement between Spain and France as a series of complex diplomatic episodes orchestrated for and by royal women. Two royal matriarchs, Mariana of Austria and Maria Theresa of Austria, shaped the outcome of the negotiations, but discussions about the two young princesses recorded in State Council deliberations, reveal that dynastic capital, inheritance rights, and fertility potential fashioned early modern European diplomacy as well. 


Mitchell, Silvia Z. “Growing Up Carlos II: Political Childhood in the Court of the Spanish Habsburgs.” In The Formation of the Child in Early Modern Spain. Ed. Grace E. Coolidge. Aldershot, UK; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014; London: Routledge, 2016, pp. 189-206.

Associated with the end of the Habsburg dynasty in Spain, Carlos II has been the subject of major historical distortion. For nearly three centuries, he has been represented as a figure at the verge of dying. A distorted image of the king, however, can be traced back to rumors fabricated by the French Bourbons—Spain’s main rival—disseminated with the express purpose of weaken the Spanish Habsburgs at home and the international stage. Subsequent historians have taken this evidence at face value rather than critically. This essay deconstructs the negative reports by identifying and critically analyzing the rumors about Carlos II’s health. It reconstructs a new picture of the king based on new and reliable archival sources, including household records, private correspondence among people who had direct contact with Carlos, state council deliberations on his marriage, in which ministers discussed the king’s maturation process frankly and extensively, and his personal letters. This new evidence and new framework of interpretations reveal that Carlos II was a vivacious and intelligent child, one that adapted to the responsibilities of his office at a remarkable early age. This piece traces his development as king during his childhood and adolescence.


Mitchell, Silvia Z. “Habsburg Motherhood: The Power of Queen Mariana of Austria, Mother and Regent for Carlos II of Spain.” In Early Modern Habsburg Women : Transnational Contexts, Cultural Conflicts, Dynastic Continuities. Eds. Anne J. Cruz and Maria Galli Stampino. Aldershot, UK; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013; London: Routledge, 2016, pp. 175-196.

The Habsburgs relied on women of the family to advance the dynastic enterprise; since their rise to premier position in the continent (1516), they adopted a number of legal and political strategies that supported women’s participation in the formal aspects of ruling. This article identifies the legal, constitutional, and political frameworks of the regency of Queen Mariana of Austria, who ruled during Carlos II’s minority (1665-1675), as governor of the monarchy and tutor of the king. Habsburg motherhood was a complex and powerful construct in the Spanish court, giving Mariana extensive legitimate authority over the king. Mariana’s power as mother, however, provoked a dramatic change of regime that led the monarchy to near civil war.  

Prize: Best Collaborative Project of 2013 in Gender and Women’s Studies (Honorable Mention) from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women

Additional Scholarly Publications

Klein-Pejsová, Rebekah and Silvia Z. Mitchell, “Introduction.” In “Forum in Honor of Charles Ingrao.” Austrian History Yearbook 48 (2017): 129-30.

Mitchell, Silvia Z. “Habsburg Women in the Renaissance Society of America, Annual Meeting, Venice, Italy 8-10 April 2010,” Conference Report for H-Habsburg. (commissioned by Joseph Patrouch, posted January 23, 2011).

Mitchell, Silvia Z. “Conference Report: The Queen’s Household: Politics, Diplomacy and Culture,” The Court Historian: The International Journal of Court Studies 13:1 (June 2008): 91-95.

Book Reviews

Early Modern Dynastic Marriages and Cultural Transfer, by Joan-Lluís Palos and Magdalena S. Sánchez, eds. Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 71 no. 3 (Fall 2018): 1096-1097.

Queens Consort, Cultural Transfer and European Politics, c. 1500-1800, by Helen Watanabe-O’Kelly and Adam Morton, eds. Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 71 no. 1 (Spring 2018): 281-283.

La princesa de Éboli, cautiva del Rey. Vida de Ana de Mendoza y de la Cerda (1540-1592). By Helen H. Reed and Trevor J. Dadson. Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 70 n. 2 (Summer 2017): 728-729.

La Casa de Borgoña: La Casa del Rey de España. Edited by José Eloy Hortal Muñoz and Félix Labrador Arroyo. The Journal of Modern History, vol. 88 n. 1(March 2016): 219-220.

The Iron Princess: Amalia Elisabeth and the Thirty Years War. By Tryntje Helfferich. Early Modern Women Journal, vol. 9 (Fall 2014): 224-227.

Dynastic Marriages 1612/1615: A Celebration of the Habsburg and Bourbon Unions. Edited by Margaret M. McGowan. European History Quarterly, vol. 44 n. 4. (2014): 758-759.