Portrait of Catherine Michelle of Spain (1567-1597), Duchess consort of Savoy (1585-1597), 1585
Catherine Michelle of Spain (Spanish: Catalina Micaela de Austria; 10 October 1567 – 6 November 1597) was a Duchess consort of Savoy who served as Regent of Savoy several times during the absence of her spouse, Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy. As the youngest surviving daughter of Philip II of Spain and Elisabeth of Valois, she was the sister of Isabella Clara Eugenia, Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands. Catherine Michelle was described as beautiful, intelligent, arrogant and well aware of her high social status. She had a good relationship with her father and exchanged letters with him after her marriage. Charles Emmanuel I suggested the marriage as a way of gaining Spanish support for his plans to expand Savoy on the coast of the then weakened France. The wedding took place in Zaragoza on 11 March 1585 and the couple made their entrance to Turin in Savoy 10 August 1585. Catherine Michelle was initially unpopular because of her arrogance and attempts to introduce Spanish pomp, ceremony and way of dress to the Court in Turin. However, she soon gained respect because of her political and diplomatic skill, which she used to defend the autonomy of Savoy against Spain. She refused the Spanish offer to install a Spanish garrison in Turin from Milan with the excuse of giving her a life guard. She is reported to have had great influence on Charles Emmanuel I and to have reformed him for the better. She also served as regent several times during the absence of the duke on military campaigns, such as during the Lyon campaign in 1594. Catherine Michelle also benefited cultural life in Savoy, founded many new buildings including an art gallery and invited several artists such as Torquato Tasso, Chiabrera, Marini, Tassoni and Botero. Catherine Michelle died near the end of 1597; she had miscarried earlier that year. Her father died the following year. Her sister Isabella married Albert VII, Archduke of Austria, and later became Governess of the Netherlands.
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