Archduchess Maria Josepha (painting c. 1710)
Maria Josepha was born in Vienna, an Archduchess of Austria, the eldest child of Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor and Princess Wilhelmina Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg. She was named for her father. During the reign of her grandfather, Maria Josepha's father and uncle signed the Mutual Pact of Succession of 1703, which was issued by her grandfather, Emperor Leopold I, and effectively made Maria Josepha the heiress presumptive to her uncle, Emperor Charles VI; However, Charles VI's Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 annulled the earlier agreement and made his daughter Maria Theresa his successor instead of Maria Josepha.
A marriage between Maria Josepha and Frederick Augustus II, Elector of Saxony (1696–1763) had been suggested by Frederick's father, August II the Strong, since 1704. The fact that Maria Josepha was not allowed to marry a non-Catholic, however, prevented the marriage. When Augustus converted to Catholicism in 1712, the negotiations became serious. On 20 August 1719, Maria Josepha and Frederick Augustus married. Through this marriage between the Houses of Wettin and Habsburg, Frederick Augustus II's father hoped to place Saxony in a better position should there arise a war of succession to the Austrian territories. The couple's eldest surviving son, Frederick Christian, eventually succeeded his father as Elector of Saxony. In Saxony, the couple lived at Dresden Castle. The marriage has been described as a happy one, and Augustus was apparently never unfaithful.