Maria Theresia, daughter of Karl VI and Elisabeth Christina (Elisabeth Christina of Brunwick-Wolfenbuettel), married Francis Stephen of Lorraine (Franz Stephan von Lothringen) in 1736.
The happily married couple had sixteen children, eleven daughters and five sons.
Francis Stephen was elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1745. Maria Theresia carried the titles of the Habsburg-crown lands and was Archduchess of Austria. As such she was responsible for the decisions made within the Habsburg provinces and, together with her excellent advisors, led the Empire into a never-to-be-forgotten era in which many reforms took place.
The reforms included a higher standard of education and a centralisation of the administration together with the reformation of the judiciary and finance.
Her physician, van Swieten, reformed the universities, introduced textbooks and linked the medical school of the University of Vienna with the newly introduced public health service.
The majority of Maria Theresia’s children had pre-arranged political marriages according to the motto “Bella gerant alii, tu, felix Austria, nube” (“Let others wage war: thou, happy Austria, marry”) and accepted their destinies.
The death of Francis Stephen of Lorraine was a tremendous shock for his wife, the Archduchess Maria Theresia and plunged her into a long period of grief from which emerged greater and stronger than ever before.
Her eldest son Joseph was elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1765 and became co-regent of the Habsburg provinces.
Toward the end of her life, Maria Theresia had become extremely stout and was in very poor health, consequently spending more and more of her time at her favourite residence, Schönbrunn Palace.