Maria Theresa

Maria Theresa
Kaiserin Maria Theresia (HRR).jpg
Portrait by Martin van Meytens, 1759
Holy Roman Empress
German Queen
Reign13 September 1745 – 18 August 1765
Coronation13 September 1745
Archduchess of Austria
Queen of Hungary and Croatia
Reign20 October 1740 – 29 November 1780
Coronation25 June 1741
PredecessorCharles III
SuccessorJoseph II
Queen of Bohemia
Reign20 October 1740 – 19 December 1741
PredecessorCharles II
SuccessorCharles Albert
Reign12 May 1743 – 29 November 1780
Coronation12 May 1743
PredecessorCharles Albert
SuccessorJoseph II
Born(1717-05-13)13 May 1717
Vienna, Austria
Died29 November 1780(1780-11-29) (aged 63)
Vienna, Austria
Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor
(m. 1736; died 1765)
Full name
Maria Theresia Walburga Amalia Christina
FatherCharles VI, Holy Roman Emperor
MotherElisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
ReligionRoman Catholicism
SignatureMaria Theresa's signature

Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina (German: Maria Theresia; 13 May 1717 – 29 November 1780) was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg. She was the sovereign of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Transylvania, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands, and Parma. By marriage, she was Duchess of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany and Holy Roman Empress.

She started her 40-year reign when her father, Emperor Charles VI, died in October 1740. Charles VI paved the way for her accession with the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 and spent his entire reign securing it. He neglected the advice of Prince Eugene of Savoy that a strong military and a rich treasury were more important than mere signatures. Eventually, he left behind a weakened and impoverished state, particularly due to the War of the Polish Succession and the Russo-Turkish War (1735–1739). Moreover, upon his death, Saxony, Prussia, Bavaria, and France all repudiated the sanction they had recognised during his lifetime. Frederick II of Prussia (who became Maria Theresa's greatest rival for most of her reign) promptly invaded and took the affluent Habsburg province of Silesia in the seven-year conflict known as the War of the Austrian Succession. In defiance of the grave situation, she managed to secure the vital support of the Hungarians for the war effort. Over the course of the war, despite the loss of Silesia and a few minor territories in Italy, Maria Theresa successfully defended her rule over most of the Habsburg empire. Maria Theresa later unsuccessfully tried to reconquer Silesia during the Seven Years' War.

Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, had eleven daughters, including the Queen of France, the Queen of Naples and Sicily, the Duchess of Parma, and five sons, including two Holy Roman Emperors, Joseph II and Leopold II. Of the sixteen children, ten survived to adulthood. Though she was expected to cede power to Francis and Joseph, both of whom were officially her co-rulers in Austria and Bohemia, Maria Theresa was the absolute sovereign who ruled with the counsel of her advisers.

Maria Theresa promulgated institutional, financial and educational reforms, with the assistance of Wenzel Anton of Kaunitz-Rietberg, Count Friedrich Wilhelm von Haugwitz and Gerard van Swieten. She also promoted commerce and the development of agriculture, and reorganised Austria's ramshackle military, all of which strengthened Austria's international standing. However, she despised the Jews and the Protestants, and on certain occasions she ordered their expulsion to remote parts of the realm. She also advocated for the state church and refused to allow religious pluralism. Consequently, her regime was branded as intolerant.

Birth and early life

Three-year-old Maria Theresa in the gardens of Hofburg Palace

The second and eldest surviving child of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI and Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Archduchess Maria Theresa was born on 13 May 1717 in Vienna, a year after the death of her elder brother, Archduke Leopold,[1] and was baptised on that same evening. The dowager empresses, her aunt Wilhelmine Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg and grandmother Eleonor Magdalene of the Palatinate-Neuburg, were her godmothers.[2] Most descriptions of her baptism stress that the infant was carried ahead of her cousins, Maria Josepha and Maria Amalia, the daughters of Charles VI's elder brother and predecessor, Joseph I, before the eyes of their mother, Wilhelmine Amalia.[3] It was clear that Maria Theresa would outrank them,[3] even though their grandfather, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, had his sons sign the Mutual Pact of Succession, which gave precedence to the daughters of the elder brother.[4] Her father was the only surviving male member of the House of Habsburg and hoped for a son who would prevent the extinction of his dynasty and succeed him. Thus, the birth of Maria Theresa was a great disappointment to him and the people of Vienna; Charles never managed to overcome this feeling.[4]

Maria Theresa replaced Maria Josepha as heir presumptive to the Habsburg realms the moment she was born; Charles VI had issued the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 which had placed his nieces behind his own daughters in the line of succession.[5] Charles sought the other European powers' approval for disinheriting his nieces. They exacted harsh terms: in the Treaty of Vienna (1731), Great Britain demanded that Austria abolish the Ostend Company in return for its recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction.[6] In total, Great Britain, France, Saxony, United Provinces, Spain, Prussia, Russia, Denmark, Sardinia, Bavaria and the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire recognised the sanction.[7] France, Spain, Saxony, Bavaria and Prussia later reneged.

Archduchess Maria Theresa, by Andreas Möller

Little more than a year after her birth, Maria Theresa was joined by a sister, Maria Anna, and another one, named Maria Amalia, was born in 1724.[8] The portraits of the imperial family show that Maria Theresa resembled Elisabeth Christine and Maria Anna.[9] The Prussian ambassador noted that she had large blue eyes, fair hair with a slight tinge of red, a wide mouth and a notably strong body.[10] Unlike many other members of the House of Habsburg, neither Maria Theresa's parents nor her grandparents were closely related to each other.[a]

Maria Theresa was a serious and reserved child who enjoyed singing and archery. She was barred from horse riding by her father, but she would later learn the basics for the sake of her Hungarian coronation ceremony. The imperial family staged opera productions, often conducted by Charles VI, in which she relished participating.[11] Her education was overseen by Jesuits. Contemporaries thought her Latin to be quite good, but in all else, the Jesuits did not educate her well. Her spelling and punctuation were unconventional and she lacked the formal manner and speech which had characterised her Habsburg predecessors.[b] Maria Theresa developed a close relationship with Countess Marie Karoline von Fuchs-Mollard, who taught her etiquette. She was educated in drawing, painting, music and dancing – the disciplines which would have prepared her for the role of queen consort.[12] Her father allowed her to attend meetings of the council from the age of 14 but never discussed the affairs of state with her.[13] Even though he had spent the last decades of his life securing Maria Theresa's inheritance, Charles never prepared his daughter for her future role as sovereign.[14]

Other Languages
العربية: ماريا تيريزا
azərbaycanca: Mariya Tereza
Bân-lâm-gú: Maria Theresa
башҡортса: Мария Терезия
беларуская: Марыя Тэрэзія
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Марыя Тэрэзія
Boarisch: Maria Theresia
brezhoneg: Maria Theresia
čeština: Marie Terezie
Ελληνικά: Μαρία Θηρεσία
հայերեն: Մարիա Թերեզա
Bahasa Indonesia: Maria Theresia
עברית: מריה תרזה
latviešu: Marija Terēzija
lietuvių: Marija Terezė
македонски: Марија Терезија
Malagasy: Maria Theresa
മലയാളം: മറിയ തെരേസ
русиньскый: Мария Терезия
संस्कृतम्: मारिया टेरेसा
Simple English: Maria Theresa
slovenčina: Mária Terézia
slovenščina: Marija Terezija
српски / srpski: Марија Терезија
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Maria Theresia
Türkçe: Maria Theresia
українська: Марія-Терезія
Tiếng Việt: Maria Theresia của Áo
Winaray: Maria Teresa