Maria Theresia

Archduchess Maria Theresia


Maria Theresia

Maria Theresia, daughter of Karl VI and Elisabeth Christina (Elisabeth Christina of Brunswick-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.


Maria Theresia




In celebration of the Tricentennial
of Archduchess Maria Theresia

Many powerful women have helped to shape European history.
Women such as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella I of Castile, Elizabeth I of England, Catherine the Great of Russia, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, all had power and were prepared to use it.
Maria Theresia of Austria also fully deserves a place on this list.
As Maria grew she developed into a good-looking, brave, determined young girl who quickly became a politically astute woman.
The young Archduchess preferred to speak German in a Viennese dialect, and when she became Empress she was not familiar with the affairs of state so sought advice and reassurance from her ministers and husband. However, she soon realised that to succeed she had to rely on her own judgment and strength of character and later recalled that when she ascended to the throne, "I found myself without money, without credit, without an army, without experience and knowledge of my own, and finally without any counsel because each one of my ministers wanted to wait and see how things would develop."
Her forty-year reign covered one of the most crucial periods of European history in the 18th century. She was forced to defend her claim to the Habsburg Hereditary Lands and this action thrust her into the maelstrom of European politics.
She not only ruled over the Habsburg controlled-lands of Central Europe but also fought two major wars, which made her a force to be reckoned with and still found time to give birth to sixteen children.
She was responsible for all the decisions made within the Habsburg provinces and, together with her excellent advisors, led her dominions into a never-to-be-forgotten era in which many reforms took place. These reforms included raising the standard of education, centralisation of the administration, the reformation of the judiciary and stabilising the financial situation.
However, in order to fully appreciate this great woman a short account of the history of the Habsburgs prior to her reign will help to understand the factors that led to her ascending the throne and fighting two major wars.

The Habichtsburg

The House of Habsburg derives its name from the Habichtsburg, a castle built in the 11th century in Aargau, Switzerland. The power of the Habsburgs dynasty grew through the following centuries and in 1276, Rudolph of Habsburg founded the Duchy of Austria that later the 'Archduchy of Austria'.
The family expanded its domains and in the 16th century, the House of Habsburg was divided into two branches, the Senior Habsburgs of Spain and the Junior House of Austria.
The Senior branch ended on the death of Carlos II of Spain in 1700.
The Junior branch ceased to exist after the death of Karl VI in 1740 when his daughter, Maria Theresia married into the House of Lorraine and the new house became known as the House of Habsburg-Lorraine (Habsburg-Lothringen), although it is often referred to as the House of Habsburg.

Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs

House of Austria
The name Ostarrîchi (Austria) was first mentioned in the year 996 AD.
The Duchy of Austria in the eastern Alpine region was established in 1156. The name Austria was used for all the lands possessed by the House of Austria and not just a specific area.
Over the centuries the Austrian Habsburgs were nearly always elected Holy Roman Emperors until the dissolution of the Empire in 1806.
Under the rule of the Habsburg's Austria became one of the most stable parts of Europe.
Habsburg Spain
Spain was ruled from 1506 until 1700 by the Senior branch of the Habsburg dynasty.
During the rule of the Spanish Habsburgs Spain became a great global power and possessed an Empire on which the sun never set.
However, the Spanish Empire suffered a decline of influence and power during the latter part of the seventeenth century.

The Last Habsburg King of Spain

King Carlos II of Spain

Carlos was born on the 6th November 1661 and died on the 1st November 1700. He was the only surviving son of Philip IV of Spain and Mariana of Austria.
His father, Philip IV, died on the 17th September 1665 at the age of 60.
Carlos was only three-years-old when he became king, so the Council of Castile (Regency Council) appointed his mother, Mariana of Austria, to rule in the name of the young king. As the years passed by it became obvious that the young mentally retarded and physically disabled King was not capable of ruling in his own right and his mother continued to serve as regent for most of his reign.
The unfortunate young, disabled king was in a poor state of health and sadly degenerated. He had a large head and Habsburg jaw and his legs could not support him so he was unable to walk properly.
His education was inadequate and he was very dependent upon his mother.
Carlos married Marie Louise d'Orléans, the niece of Louis XIV of France in 1679.
The 'proxy' marriage ceremony took place at the Palace of Fontainebleau on the 30th August 1679, and on the 19th November 1679, Marie Louise married Carlos in person in Quintanapalla, Spain.
Marie Louise, a very pretty young lady of seventeen years, became a political pawn as her marriage to Carlos was intended to encourage better relations between France and Spain.
Her marriage in 1679 was the beginning of a very isolated life at the Spanish court which she hated.
Carlos was madly in love with her, but the young Queen was severely depressed and dismayed because after many unsuccessful attempts to bear a child she eventually lost hope of becoming pregnant. Carlos is assumed to have been infertile if not actually impotent. His physical health and mental deficiency earned him the nickname "El Hechizado" (The Bewitched or Hexed).
The life at Spanish Court with its very strict and confining etiquette became a cause for distress, which only deepened her depression. Marie Louise had been much happier as a child in France and became homesick. She had arrived in Spain as a young and beautiful princess, but she became increasingly overweight and could find no happiness or peace of mind. The King was in love with his wife but could do little to help her.
On the 11th February 1689, she fell ill with extreme stomach pains and died the next night. There were rumours that Marie Louise had been poisoned, but it seems most probable that the cause of her death was appendicitis.
Carlos was heartbroken after the death of his young wife, but he needed an heir and had to remarry immediately.
Maria Anna of Neuberg, a Wittelsbach, was chosen to become his second wife.
The 'proxy' marriage took place on the 28th August 1689 in Ingolstadt, Germany, but Maria Anna did not arrive in Spain until the spring of 1690 when she married Carlos in person on the 14th May 1690 in San Diego.
Their marriage also remained childless.
Maria Anna easily dominated her husband and was actively involved in several intrigues in the Spanish Court, and she too despised Spain and her life at the Spanish court as Marie Louise had done.
In 1698, Carlos became gravely ill. The young King was still in his thirties but his health was rapidly getting worse and on the 1st November 1700, he died.
Carlos was the last Habsburg King of Spain and ruler of an Empire upon which the sun never set.

The War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714)

Carlos died without an heir but he had named Philippe Duke of Anjou to be his successor to the Spanish throne. However, the other major European powers saw the link between France and Spain as a threat to the balance of power in Europe and this was the trigger for the War of Spanish Succession (1702 - 1713).
The prospect of Spain and its huge Empire coming under the control of Louis XIV of France led to many of the European Powers opposing Philip's succession.
Meanwhile, the Austrian Emperor Leopold I, in his war against the Ottoman Empire, managed to stabilise the situation on Austria's eastern frontier and this enabled him to turn his attention to the crisis confronting the Habsburg dynasty in Spain.
Emperor Leopold I (Habsburg) and the French King, Louis XIV (Bourbon) both had claims to the Spanish throne and wanted to establish their dynasty in Spain.
Karl (Charles), Leopold's second son, and Carlos were both members of the House of Habsburg, and immediately after the death of Carlos II in 1700, Karl declared himself King of Spain.
Many of the European powers and the majority of the Holy Roman Empire supported Karl as Carlos III of Spain. Although Karl was in Spain from 1705 until 1711 he was only able to exercise his rule in Catalonia. During this time Karl married Elisabeth Christine of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel on the 1st August 1708 in Barcelona, Spain.
In 1711, Karl's brother Joseph died unexpectedly in Vienna and Karl became Holy Roman Emperor, and the political possibility of a unification of the Habsburg lines under Karl VI suddenly became a major threat to the other European powers.
This new situation led to the newly formed Kingdom of Great Britain to withdraw its support from the Austrian coalition.
Austria's other allies backed out of the War of the Spanish Succession and made peace with France in 1713.
Karl VI was extremely discontented at the loss of Spain and hostilities between France and Austria continued until 1714 before an agreement was reached with the signing of the Treaties of Rastatt and Baden that marked the end of the War of the Spanish Succession.
After thirteen years of war, Philip V was confirmed as King of Spain but was forced to renounce his right to succeed to his grandfather's throne in France.
Philip V, Duke of Anjou, became the first Bourbon King of Spain.
The Austrian Habsburgs lost Spain and Spanish America but gained the Spanish possessions in Italy and the Spanish Netherlands, which then became known as the Austrian Netherlands.

Austria during the War of the Spanish Succession

In 1705, during the War of the Spanish Succession, Emperor Leopold I died and his eldest son Joseph I became Holy Roman Emperor.
Joseph was an ambitious, keen, and forward-looking ruler, and he had advisers who were willing to back his reforms.
He tried to make the bureaucracy more efficient and he achieved a certain amount of success in stabilising the financial situation of the Habsburgs during his short reign.
In 1702, during the War of the Spanish Succession, he took an active part in the siege of Landau and continued the war against Louis XIV of France in an attempt to assist his brother Karl to become King of Spain.
Between 1703 and 1709, an uprising against the Habsburgs orchestrated by Ferenc II Rákóczi led to devastating attacks on parts of Lower Austria, Burgenland and Styria, and became a threat to Vienna.
Emperor Joseph was forced to take military action and finally, he agreed to a compromise that eventually led to the integration of Hungary into the Habsburg domains.
Unfortunately, Joseph died on the 17th April 1711 in the Hofburg Palace during an outbreak of smallpox that struck the city.
After Joseph's death, his brother Karl returned to Austria and claimed his right to the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire.

Emperor Karl VI

Karl continued a very successful war against the Ottoman Empire and made large military gains in Hungary and Serbia.
The lucrative 'Imperial Ostend Company' (Kaiserliche Ostender Kompanie) an Austrian/Flemish private company was established in 1722 and traded with the East and West Indies, and this led to Triest developing into an important port.
The Company competed with the British and was closed down in 1731 in exchange for Britain recognising the Pragmatic Sanction, thus creating an alliance between the two states.
The Habsburg Empire had achieved its greatest expansion during Karl's reign. The Spanish Netherlands (Belgium) and the Italian provinces Mantua, Milan, Parma, Piacenza and Tuscany all came under Habsburg rule.
Karl VI saw that Austria required far more economic and political centralisation to be able to cope with the economic needs and organisation of the growing empire.
The outbreak of the War of the Polish Succession (1733-1738) weakened Austria, and toward the end of his reign, new conflicts against the Ottoman Empire resulted in the loss of most of the south-eastern territories that had been gained in 1718.
In 1740, the Habsburg lands were deep in debt and the army was ineffectively spread across the Empire.

The Pragmatic Sanction

Karl VI and the Pragmatic Sanction

One of Karl's prime concerns was the regulation of the Habsburg line of succession.
Emperor Karl VI was the sole remaining male Habsburg and was afraid that he might not produce a son, so as early as 1713, well before Maria Theresia was even born, he had decided to reform the Habsburg Hereditary Law that prevented the succession of a female heir.
Karl VI realised that the lack of a male heir to the throne was a threat to the unity of the Habsburg Empire, and in 1713 promulgated the "Pragmatic Sanction" to allow a female heir to inherit the Habsburg Lands. This new treaty would ensure that after his death if he had no son, his eldest daughter would have the right to succeed to the throne.
The Emperor wanted to ensure the future of the Habsburg Hereditary Lands and the succession of a female heir, and he worked hard to gain support for the Pragmatic Sanction from his Crown Lands and the major European powers.
The Emperor worked hard to gain support for the Pragmatic Sanction from his Crown Lands and the major European powers.
After eight years of marriage, Karl and Elisabeth Christine became parents.
On the 13th April 1716, the long-awaited heir to the throne was born, but their first child Archduke Leopold Johann died only six months later on the 4th November 1716.
For a short time, it had seemed as though the Pragmatic Sanction would not be needed, but the death of their first child made Karl even more determined in his efforts regarding a regulation of the Habsburg succession.
The Treaty was confirmed by the diets (Landtage) of the Hereditary Lands in the years 1720-1723.
The Hungarian Parliament voted for its own Pragmatic Sanction in 1723, and the Kingdom of Hungary accepted and supported Maria Theresia's hereditary right to become "King" of Hungary by simply ignoring the fact that she was a woman.
During the 1720s, most of the major foreign powers accepted the Pragmatic Sanction but reneged on their promises after the sudden death of the Emperor in 1740.
The price Austria had to pay to the other European powers for their approval of the Treaty was high and led to the abandonment of many centralising reforms. What Austria failed to realise at the time that these concessions were made was they would not prevent the War of the Austrian Succession from breaking out when Karl died.

Maria Theresia (1)

Just a little story before we begin.....
Three hundred years ago, early in the morning of the 13th May 1717, the Imperial household nervously waited outside the chamber of Empress Elisabeth Christine who was about to give birth to her second child.
People were passing by the Imperial Palace (Hofburg) busily nattering and speculating the gender of the soon-to-be newborn Imperial child.
Everyone was hoping for a boy, an Archduke and heir. People will soon be flocking into the city, celebrating, rejoicing, singing and dancing in the streets of old Vienna to welcome the newborn child.
Soon the chamber doors were opened allowing the wet nurses to enter the room and the ladies in waiting to rush in to pay tribute to the new baby - a girl
The military commanders standing outside of the palace were notified and then ordered the cannons of the walled city to be fired to honour the tremendous event.
The mighty 'Pummerin', the largest bell of St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom) started to ring majestically and was soon joined with the sound of St. Peters (Peterskirche) and the bells of the numerous churches of the city which resonated throughout the city.
The city awakened to the sound of thousands of chiming bells which wordlessly announced the news as everyone started to join the never-ending flow of people rushing through the city streets to gather together on the main square in front of St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansplatz) to hear the news.
The little Archduchess was the second child of Karl VI and Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Their first child, Archduke Leopold Johann was born on the 13th April 1716 and died on the 4th November 1716.
The still mourning Imperial family was now rejoicing the birth of a new member of the Habsburg dynasty.
The Rittersaal (Hall of Knights) of the Imperial Palace was used as a chapel for the christening of the baby Archduchess.
Drummers and trumpeters lined the aisles of the Rittersaal and the sound of fanfares filled the candlelit magnificent hall.
The little Archduchess was baptised - Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina - and after the christening, she was returned back to her mother in the Imperial Apartments.

A new era was about to begin, a golden era of which the young Archduchess would become the undisputed monarch, a sovereign, a mother - she carried the titles of the Habsburg-crown lands and was Archduchess of Austria.
The Imperial couple had three more children:
* date of birth
  • Maria Theresia * 13th May 1717
  • Maria Anna * 26th September 1718
  • Maria Amalia * 5th April 1724
Maria Theresia was the second child of Karl VI and Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel.
She was born in the Imperial Residence in Vienna (Hofburg) in the early morning of the 13th May 1717 and was baptised Maria Theresia Walburga Amalia Christina in the evening of the same day.
Her aunt Wilhelmine Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and grandmother Eleonor Magdalene of the Palatinate-Neuburg were her godmothers.
Karl had placed his nieces behind his daughter in the line of succession and therefore Maria Theresia immediately became heiress presumptive to the Habsburg Hereditary Lands.
The young Archduchess was a very pretty little girl and she had an adequate but not very thorough education. Her spelling and punctuation were not too good, and she had problems speaking in a formal manner and preferred speaking Viennese German.
She had received her formal education from members of the Jesuit order. The Jesuits were both powerful and influential and would later pose a danger to her authority. In later years Maria Theresia did not hesitate to issue a decree that removed the Jesuits from all the institutions, which led to the abolition of the Jesuit Order in 1773.
At the age of nineteen, the young archduchess was tall, slender, and very attractive with sparkling grey eyes and an abundance of golden wavy hair. She had an aquiline nose and a beautiful mouth.
She spoke quickly and gestured in an ardent and impetuous manner, but never lost her dignity.
She could lose her patience quickly and be short-tempered, but her anger soon subsided especially when she realised that she had been ill-tempered and then she often tried to make amends for her outburst with overflowing kindness.

Countess Marie Karoline von Fuchs-Mollard (Charlotte) was the governess of Maria Theresia.

Countess Marie Karoline von Fuchs-Mollard was entrusted with the education and upbringing of the young Archduchess and taught her etiquette. Maria Theresia received the education and upbringing that was thought to be fitting for a young princess of the eighteenth century and was, therefore, taught the skills of drawing, painting, music and dancing.
Maria Theresia developed an affectionate and close relationship with Countess Fuchs, and when the countess died she showed her gratitude by allowing her to be buried in the Imperial Crypt.

Maria Theresia (2)

As time passed by it became obvious that Maria Theresia was to inherit the Habsburg Hereditary Lands, but she was not very acquainted with politics and the affairs of state.
As a young Archduchess of fourteen years of age, she was allowed to attend meetings of the council, but her father would never discuss the affairs of state with her.
Maria Theresia was engaged to be married to Leopold Clement of Lorraine.
In 1723 the young man was sent to Vienna to continue his education, but suddenly he caught smallpox and died.
His younger brother Franz Stephan was invited to Vienna and remained at the Imperial Court until 1729 and was surely the favourite candidate for a marriage with Maria Theresia. However, at the same time her father Karl VI wanted to use his daughter as a political pawn and, amongst other possibilities, contemplated marrying her to one of the Spanish royals thereby forming a union with Spain, but was forced to drop his plans due to the negative response of the other major powers who saw such a union as a threat to the European balance of power.
In the meantime, Maria Theresia had become very fond of the nine-year older Franz Stephan (Francis Stephen of Lorraine).
In 1729, Franz Stephan ascended the throne of Lorraine but had to wait until 1736 before he was formally promised Maria Theresia's hand.
On the 31st January 1736, Franz Stephan was obliged to sign the declaration of renunciation of the Duchy of Lorraine and comply with the demands of France that he should exchange his Duchy for the right of succession to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
At first, he hesitated and laid the quill on the table a few times before finally signing the document as he was confronted with the choice of "No signature - No Archduchess"
Maria Theresia and Franz Stephan of Lorraine married on the 12th February 1736 in the Augustinian Church in Vienna. He and his wife became the founders of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty.
Franz Stephan was officially joint ruler of the Habsburg Hereditary Lands. However, in reality, he was merely the prince consort and had very little say in the affairs of state.
He was not unimportant, he just happened to be married to a famous woman.
The nineteen-year-old Maria Theresia was deeply in love with Franz Stephan and during his absences wrote many letters in which she expressed her eagerness to see him, whereas Franz Stephan wrote letters which were in comparison very formal.
Franz Stephan was not averse to extramarital amusements and had several affairs. He had to be very discreet and was under the constant observation of his very jealous wife who, for her part, tried to give him very few opportunities, and his infidelity became a tremendous problem during their marriage.
The sexual morality of the Imperial Court of Vienna during the 18th century was one-sided. Mistresses were not unknown, and infidelity was common amongst men but frowned upon for female members of the Imperial family who were expected to comply with the rigid moral standards of the day.
In 1745, Franz Stephan was able to emerge from the shadow of his wife and was elected Holy Roman Emperor, Franz I.

The Imperial Couple

Franz Stephan was a financial wizard and managed to amass a large private fortune.
He purchased estates in Lower Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, and Moravia, and he created a very profitable industrial empire by building textile and pottery factories. He was able to give financial support to the State, and he himself benefited from the modernisation and the resulting needs of the Austrian army.
These assets gave his son and successor Joseph II the means to settle the debts caused by the wars.
KarlV1 died on the 20th October 1740 at the Favorita Palace in Vienna, probably as a result of mushroom poisoning.
After the death of her father, Archduchess Maria Theresia became; Sovereign of Hungary and Bohemia, of Dalmatia, of Croatia, of Slavonia, of Galicia, of Lodomeria, etc.; Archduchess of Austria; Duchess of Burgundy, of Styria, of Carinthia and of Carniola; Grand Princess of Transylvania; Margravine of Moravia; Duchess of Brabant, of Limburg, of Luxemburg, of Guelders, of Württemberg, of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Milan, of Mantua, of Parma, of Piacenza, of Guastalla, of Auschwitz and of Zator; Princess of Swabia; Princely Countess of Habsburg, of Flanders, of Tyrol, of Hainault, of Kyburg, of Gorizia and of Gradisca; Margravine of Burgau, of Upper and Lower Lusatia; Countess of Namur; Lady of the Wendish Mark and of Mechlin; Duchess of Lorraine and Bar, Grand Duchess of Tuscany.

Karl VI had left a weakened army and during the last years of his reign, the financial situation within his domains was in a poor state. He had not taken the time to introduce his daughter into the workings of the affairs of state because he presumed she would hand the ruling of her dominions to her husband.
After her accession to the throne, the twenty-three-year-old Maria Theresia made her husband co-ruler of the Austrian and Bohemian Lands, but it took over a year before Hungary accepted Franz Stephan as co-ruler.
The Austrian Succession War broke out shortly after Maria Theresia ascended the throne because the neighbouring powers refused to accept the principles of the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713, which it turned out to be nothing more than a useless piece of paper, but it thrust Maria Theresia into the thick of European politics. Maria Theresia was suddenly forced to defend her inheritance against Prussia, Bavaria, France, Poland, Saxony and Spain.
During the next twenty years, Maria Theresia fought two major wars and gave birth to sixteen children.
The first three children were girls and the Imperial couple had to wait until 1741 before the first boy was born, and by this time Maria Theresia was fighting to preserve her inheritance. Three of her children were born before the Austrian Succession War began, and five children were born during the peace between the Austrian Succession War and the Seven Years War. She was pregnant or shall we say child-bearing throughout the Austrian Succession War and gave birth to her last child at the age of thirty-nine in 1756 at the beginning of the Seven Years War.
Maria Theresia was definitely a good mother and treated her children well, but at the same time, she saw them as political pawns in a dynastic game and soon started negotiations regarding the future marriages of the Imperial children. These talks were held in conjunction with those needed to keep up the war effort and all other affairs of state.

The Imperial Children

In spite of his infidelity, Franz Stephan and Maria Theresia were very happily married.
Over the following two decades she gave birth to sixteen children, eleven daughters, and five sons.


Archduchess Maria Elisabeth Amalia Antonia Josepha Gabriele Johanna Agathe was born on the 5th February 1737 and died in the arms of her father on the 7th June 1740 after a sudden illness.


Archduchess Maria Anna Josepha Antonia was born on the 6th October 1738 and died on the 19th November 1789. She was born with a slight physical disability and suffered from a fusion of her spine that caused her to develop a hunched-back later in her life making her unsuitable for marriage.
In 1766, she became the abbess of the Imperial and Royal Convent for Noble Ladies in Prague and later became an abbess in a convent in Klagenfurt together with her younger sister Maria Elisabeth.
Maria Anna (Marianna) was very intelligent with a keen interest in science and conducted many experiments. She was very active in supporting archaeology, the arts, science and social projects.


Archduchess Maria Carolina Ernestina Antonia Johanna Josepha was born on the 12th January 1740, and on the 24th January 1741 she suddenly became very ill, possibly with smallpox and died the next day.


Archduke Joseph Benedikt Anton Michael Adam was born on the 13th March 1741 and died on the 20th February 1790.
Maria Theresia had already given birth to three daughters, two of whom had already died, so when she gave birth to her first-born son Joseph his birth was a great event and was duly celebrated by the Imperial family.
In 1764, Joseph was elected King of the Holy Roman Empire and in 1765, after the sudden death of his father, he succeeded to the throne becoming Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. His mother remained responsible for the affairs of State and procedures made in regard to the Habsburg crown-lands and other important decisions.
Joseph's first wife Isabella of Parma, whom he loved passionately, died of smallpox about three years after their marriage.
Joseph acted as co-regent of the Habsburg dynasty together with Maria Theresia until her death in 1780.
In 1765, he married Maria Josepha of Bavaria, which was more of a political marriage than one born out of love.
Maria Josepha died during an outbreak of smallpox in 1767.
During the co-regency, and after Maria Theresia's death, Joseph continued the reforms along the lines pursued by his mother. Compared to his mother Joseph was more ideological, less flexible and often less successful. However, he managed to balance Austria's finances, reorganise the army, and made secure Austria's position in Europe.


Archduchess Maria Christina Johanna Josepha Antonia was born on the 13th May 1742 and died on the 24th June 1798.
Maria Theresia gave birth to Maria Christina (Mimi) on her twenty-fifth birthday. Mimi was a very talented artist and Maria Theresia's favourite child.
Of all Maria Theresia's married children Mimi's marriage to Albert von Saxon-Teschen was the only non-political marriage. Albert came to Vienna in 1760 and fell in love with Mimi, but Maria Theresia's husband Franz Stephan was not in favour of the marriage.
After the sudden death of Franz Stephan, the young couple were allowed to marry.
They were later appointed joint governors of the Austrian Netherlands, but in the summer of 1789, after the outbreak of the French Revolution, a revolt also began in the Austrian Netherlands. In November 1792, Albert and Mimi had to leave the country for the second time and returned to Vienna after the French occupation of the country.
Albert was passionately devoted to the Arts. Together with his wife, he founded the Albertina in Vienna which, even today, holds one of the largest collections of graphic sketches and artwork in the world.


Archduchess Maria Elisabeth Josepha was born on the 13th August 1743 and died on the 22nd September 1808.
Maria Elizabeth (Liesl) was obliged to stay in Vienna because she was marked by smallpox which lessened her hopes of getting married. She was appointed abbess of the Convent for Noble Ladies in Innsbruck from 1780 until 1806.
Maria Elisabeth was forced to leave Innsbruck after Tyrol had been captured by Napoleon's ally the King of Bavaria and she later moved to the city of Linz.


Archduke Karl Joseph Emanuel Johann Nepomuk Anton Prokop was born on the 1st February 1745 and died on the 18th February January 1761.
Karl Joseph was the favourite son and won the affection and respect of his siblings and the entire court with his charm and intelligence. This led to a great deal of rivalry between Karl Joseph and his elder brother.
It was intended that Karl Joseph should succeed his father as Duke of Tuscany, but he fell ill at the age of fifteen and died of smallpox.


Maria Amalia Josepha Johanna Antonia was born on the 26th February 1746 and died on the 18th June 1804.
Maria Amalia was married to Ferdinand of Parma. The pre-arranged marriage was part of a complicated series of political marriages between the House of Habsburg-Lorraine and the House of Bourbon.
When Napoleon invaded Italy he expelled her from Parma in October 1802.
Maria Amalia then moved to Prague where she died in 1804.


Archduke Peter Leopold Joseph Anton Joachim Pius Gotthard was born on the 5th May 1747 and died on the 1st March 1792.
Leopold was Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1765 to 1790, and Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary and Bohemia from 1790 to 1792.
He had to reverse many of the earlier reforms and offer new concessions to restore law and order including giving back the church and the regional governing bodies many of their old powers.


Archduchess Maria Carolina was born on the 17th September 1748 and died later the same day.

The baby girl was hurriedly baptised and named Maria Carolina in memory of her deceased sister.


Archduchess Maria Johanna Gabriele Josefa Antonia was born on the 4th February 1750 and died on the 23rd December 1762.
She was described as likeable and good-natured.
After the death of Karl Joseph in 1761, Maria Theresia wanted all of her remaining children to be inoculated against smallpox, but Johanna became ill after the inoculation and the young Archduchess died of the dreaded disease at the age of twelve.


Archduchess Maria Josepha Gabriela Johanna Antonia Anna was born on the 19th March 1751 and died on the 15th October 1767.
Maria Theresia wanted to marry Maria Josepha to Ferdinand of Naples and Sicily, but shortly before she was to leave Austria to marry Ferdinand she contracted smallpox and died aged sixteen.


Archduchess Maria Carolina Louise Josepha Johanna Antonia was born on the 13th August 1752 and died on the 8th September 1814.
Maria Carolina was married to King Ferdinand IV of Naples (Ferdinand I of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies) in 1768.
In 1798, the French invaded Naples and formed the Parthenopean Republic.
Ferdinand and Caroline fled to Sicily and returned to Naples in 1799 after the defeat of the Republic.
In 1806, Napoleon captured Naples and forced the royal family to seek refuge once again in Sicily. Ferdinand was obliged to appoint his son Franz as regent and granted Sicily a constitution.
In 1813, Maria Caroline returned to Vienna and died shortly before the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) agreed to return the kingdom to her husband.


Archduke Ferdinand Karl Anton Joseph Johann Stanislaus was born on the 1st June 1754 and died on the 24th December 1806.
In 1763 the nine-year-old Ferdinand was engaged to Maria Beatrice Ricciarda d'Este the daughter of Ercole III d'Este, Duke of Modena, and the young couple married on the 15th October 1771.
Ferdinand became Governor of the Duchy of Milan in 1771.
In 1796, during the Napoleonic Wars, the family was forced to flee Milan.
Duke Ercole III was later granted the Duchy of Breisgau and after his death in 1803 Ferdinand succeeded as Duke of Breisgau but had to cede the Duchy to the Grand Duchy of Baden (Treaty of Pressburg) in 1805.
Ferdinand died the following year in Vienna.
After the Congress of Vienna in 1814, Ferdinand's son, Franz IV became Duke of Modena.


Archduchess Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna was born on the 2nd November 1755 and died on the 16th October 1793.
Maria Antonia (Marie Antoinette) married the Dauphin (crown prince) of France in 1770.
Four years later when her husband was crowned King Louis XVI (House of Bourbon) she became Queen of France. Marie Antoinette and Louis were confronted with the political and social changes taking place in France during the 18th century.
In 1792, the royal family were accused of high treason and imprisoned.
In 1789, a mob of revolutionists (The Women's March to Versailles) forced its way into the Palace of Versailles demanding that the royal family be removed to the Tuilerie Palace in Paris where the King and Queen were virtual prisoners.
Marie Antoinette sought help from other European rulers including her brother the Austrian Emperor Joseph II and her sister Maria Caroline, Queen of Naples.
King Louis and his family attempted to flee France but were recognised and brought back to Paris.
Austria and Prussia declared war on France and Marie Antoinette was accused of passing military secrets to the enemy.
On the 21st January 1793, Louis XVI was convicted of treason and executed on the guillotine.
Marie Antoinette suffered much during her final weeks of imprisonment.
The revolutionists took her children away from her and her best friend, the Princess de Lambelle, was killed and her severed head was put on a pole and paraded in front of the Queen's prison window.
Marie Antoinette followed her husband to the guillotine on the 16th October 1793.


Archduke Maximilian Franz Xaver Joseph Johann Anton de Paula Wenzel was born on the 8th December 1756 and died on the 26th July 1801.
Maximilian Franz became Archbishop-Elector of Cologne in 1784.
A keen patron of music, Maximilian Franz maintained and played an important role in the early career of Ludwig van Beethoven.
In October and November 1794, during the Napoleonic Wars, Cologne and Bonn were occupied by the French and Maximilian Franz left Bonn and the Archbishop's court was dissolved.
In later life, he resided at Hetzendorf Palace in Vienna.
He suffered from ill-health and put on an enormous amount of weight.
Beethoven visited him shortly before his death in Vienna and planned to dedicate his First Symphony to his former patron, but Maximilian Franz died before it was completed.

Gerard van Swieten

Gerard van Swieten was born on the 7th May 1700 and died on the 18th June 1772.

Maria Theresia brought knowledgeable people to Vienna and the Dutch physician Gerard van Swieten was definitely one of the most important of those she recruited.
In 1745, Gerard van Swieten was appointed as the personal physician of Maria Theresia. During the years that followed he transformed the health service and university medical education in Austria.
In 1749, he planned the reorganisation of the faculty of medicine and was able to establish the Vienna School of Medicine that became a highly respected institution.

He was also the Director of the Imperial Library in Vienna and was President of the Censorship Committee. He reformed censorship for the judgement of literature and was responsible for the documentation and listing of books that the committee read in Supplementum Librorum Prohibitorum.



Van Swieten is also known for his fight against superstition, especially vampires. There had been many reports of vampires in newly acquired parts of the realm on the Ottoman border area in the east.
Settlers had received a special status of duty-free farmers in exchange for their agricultural development and the securing of the border areas.

The reports of vampires quickly reached Vienna and in 1755 Gerard van Swieten was sent to investigate the situation.

His report ‘Abhandlung des Daseyns der Gespenster’ (Discourse on the Existence of Ghosts) was aimed at eradicating superstition and gave a natural explanation for the belief in vampires.


Van Swieten’s Pail

One evening, during an evening meal with her Majesty, van Swieten ordered a pail to be placed next to him.

Maria Theresia was surprised and asked of his intentions but the physician asked for her patience.
During the evening, whilst dining, he put the same amount of food and drink that her majesty had consumed into the pail. Then he requested her majesty to look into the bucket with the unsavoury mess of various foods and drinks and said:

„So sieht es jetzt in Eurer Majestät Magen aus! “
"It looks now stomach in your Majesty!"
This is said to have impressed Maria Theresia more than all of the reminders to moderate her consummation.

Count Wenzel Anton Kaunitz 

Count Wenzel Anton Kaunitz wanted to change Austria's alliances and bringe France and Russia onto the side of Austria but failed to manage this during his time as ambassador in Paris.
An alliance was very important to him and he tried to gain the support of King Louis XV for the impending war, but during his time in Paris he began to lay the foundations for a future treaty.
In 1753 Kaunitz became chancellor of state and minister of foreign affairs and soon entered negotiations with France concerning a defensive alliance, and in 1756 Austria and France signed the treaty of Versailles.

A similar alliance was made with Russia in 1757.

This reversal of alliances was sealed with the promise to marry Maria Theresia's youngest daughter Maria Antonia (Marie Antoinette) to the future Louis XVI of France.

Austria abandoned her partnership with Britain in 1756 in favour of an alliance with France and Russia.
This forced Britain, Austria's 'old ally', to leave the alliance and link up with Prussia in order to protect Britain's interests in Hanover from the French.

In December 1744, an edict was issued regarding an immediate expulsion of Jews from Prague and further edicts were planned to follow throughout Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. Maria Theresia accused the Jews of treacherous behaviour during the War of Austrian Succession.

The Seven Years' War

The loss of Silesia was a tremendous blow to Maria Theresia who always cherished the hope of being able to regain the lost province. Her new chancellor, Kaunitz, supported her determination to recover Silesia from Prussia and started to plan future alliances.

In 1756 Maria Theresia started a full-scale war against Prussia with the intention of regaining the lost provinces.

Reforms were underway as soon as the War of the Austrian Succession was over.

The main problem was how to raise and maintain an army that can defeat Prussia?

Maria Theresia had to deal with this issue and accepted the plans of Count Friedrich Wilhelm Haugwitz. He wanted to put an end to the annual negotiations with the estates which were the basis for the financial support (taxation) and to replace them with negotiations every ten years.
This would give the central government regular annual revenue from the estates for a ten-year period and a constant flow of revenue. This revenue together with many reforms in regard to the centralisation of many functions of government enabled Maria Theresia to raise a 'peacetime' army of some 110,000 men.

In 1756, Prussia allied itself with Britain removing the 'old' ally from its alliance with Austria.

In an effort to win back the rich province of Silesia, Austria formed a new alliance with France, Saxony, Sweden and Russia - against Prussia, Hanover and Britain.
The Austrian chancellor, Count Wenzel Anton Kaunitz was a master of foreign policy and a brilliant adviser and managed to establish an alliance between Austria and France. This reversal of alliances brought Austria into a strong position in comparison to Prussia.
By the summer of 1756, the Austrian alliance was ready to attack Prussia, but Prussia, attacked first and launched an attack on Saxony in August 1756 in an attempt to detach Saxony from its alliance with the Austrians.
The Prussians occupied Dresden and Saxony capitulated and this action signalled the beginning of the Seven Years War (1756-1763).

The 'Haugwitz' reforms had led to a vast improvement in the state of the Austrian army, but these changes were intended for peacetime army and not for war. Austria was forced to abandon a number of projects to gain assets to maintain the war effort.

Austria's allies were having their difficulties too.

France was fighting not just in Europe but also in other parts of the world against the British.

In the spring of 1757, Prussia advanced into Bohemia and defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Prague in May 1757.

The war had raged for more than a year when the Austrian army, under the command of Prince Karl of Lorraine, having already lost the Battle of Prague, withdrew to the city of Prague with the remaining units of his army.

At this critical point Maria Theresia gave the order -

"...the army shall face the enemy and wage a battle"

An Austrian counter-attack a month later in the Battle of Kolín, led by the Austrian Field Marshal Count Leopold Joseph von Daun, forced the Prussians to retreat from Bohemia.

Prussia was now facing a war on several fronts:

The French advanced towards Prussia's western frontier;
Sweden joined the Austrian alliance against Prussia;
Austria moved into Silesia and the Russian army entered into East Prussia

In November 1757, Prussia faced a Franco-German army at Rossbach in Thuringia. Although heavily outnumbered the Prussian army inflicted heavy losses on its enemies without suffering any substantial losses itself. The Prussian army then turned to meet the Austrians in Silesia and although again heavily outnumbered they still managed to win the Battle of Leuthen at the end of that year.
Between 1758 and 1761 the fortunes of war swung back and forth between the adversaries until the assassination of Tsar Peter of Russia made way for Tsar Catherine the Great, who immediately put an end to the conflict.

Prussia was still able to make gains against the French and Saxons and captured the important town of Göttingen, finally managing to drive the Austrians out of Silesia.
Frederick II was a formidable enemy and managed to hold his enemies at bay until the end of the war. The Treaty of Hubertusburg, in which Silesia (Schlesien) fell to Prussia, brought an end to the Seven Years War in February 1763.

The Seven Years War was the last major conflict for Maria Theresia.

The Post War Era

After the two major wars, Maria Theresia continued with her reforms and concentrated on the health and well-being of her people, and the wealth of the Empire as a whole. Never-the-less the education reforms did not bring the results wanted and in some parts of the dominions half of the population was illiterate.

She started to improve the life of the peasants and the conditions that the serfs were exposed to in the crown-lands by imposing restrictions that were intended to regulate their treatment.
The heavy burdens of her life were now over and her careful planning had started to show fruit and a long period of tranquillity had begun.Maria Theresia was a devout and very conservative Roman Catholic and opposed any religious pluralism, believing that religious unity was needed and therefore she rejected the idea of religious toleration. In particular she regarded the Jews and Protestants as a threat and tried to suppress them. She wanted the church to be a benefit to her people and instigated a number of policies to achieve her pragmatic desire to improve the lot of her subjects. She carefully controlled the selection of archbishops, bishops and abbots and did not allow the Church to interfere in such affairs that she believed to be the right of the monarch and not that of Rome.She forced the church to reduce the number of monks, allowed the clergy to be taxed and created more parishes and gave more support to those parishes that already existed.After the Jesuit Order had been abolished by the Pope in 1773, Maria Theresia gained papal permission to use the property of the Jesuits to establish a system of public education.In 1775, a new compulsory school system for children between the age of six and twelve was introduced and any opposition to the new scheme was crushed by the authorities. A number of reforms were made to encourage the peasantry to be more productive and, by doing so, gain more revenue for the state.

Her daily life ran like clockwork.She rose early in the morning and spent the day with her early morning prayer and then dressing to go to holy mass. She then had breakfast and spent time until about nine o'clock working on petitions and reports before attending a second holy mass.
Her morning was full of work on despatches and the making of decisions of importance until dinner gave her a short midday break before returning to her work or even leaving the palace carrying her paperwork in a tray which hung from her neck as she strolled into the park and probably worked in the shade of one of the treillage pavilions.The day slowly came to an end and in the early evening at six o'clock she would attend Vespers and would enjoy an evening game of cards before going to supper and taking a walk before going to bed.Her children had always been of great importance and she dedicated herself to their care, education and well-being.As time passed the children left Vienna one by one and she started to correspond with them and was tireless in giving them advice.Marie Antoinette caused much anxiety and Maria Theresia corresponded with her once a fortnight and often reproached her.
She also criticised Joseph, Leopold, Maria Carolina, Ferdinand and Maria Amalia but her favourite daughter, Maria Christina enjoyed her complete confidence.

The Final Years

Maria Theresia had fought two major wars with all her heart and had hoped to be able to regain the lost province of Silesia that Frederick of Prussia had taken in 1740 but although the war was not a defeat for Austria, it had not been possible to win the necessary battles to call it a victory.

The Seven Year's War was to be the last major conflicti. 
Maria Theresia's reforms were aimed to improve the welfare, health and well-being of her people and became her main concern.

Innsbruck 1765

On the 5th August 1765, Maria Theresia and her husband attended the wedding of Leopold and his bride Maria Ludovica of Bourbon-Spain which took place in Innsbruck, Tyrol.

The Imperial family resided in the Imperial Palace (Hofburg) in Innsbruck during the celebrations for the wedding.

The opulent wedding celebrations continued for two weeks and the entertainment consisted of Opera performances, hunting, and other amusements.

Unfortunately, Franz Stephan died on the 18th August 1765. The Emperor felt ill whilst attending an opera that had been arranged as part of the celebrations that took place for the wedding. 
He left the opera house early but collapsed in the Imperial Palace and died presumably of a heart attack.

The Imperial family returned to Vienna and the Emperor was duly placed to rest in the Imperial Crypt.

Maria Theresia was deeply in love with her husband and dressed in mourning clothes for the rest of her life.

Throughout her widowhood, Maria Theresia often visited the Imperial Crypt.

She commemorated the eighteenth day of each month and observed the month of August as an anniversary of the death of her husband and withdrew herself to her rooms.

She completely withdrew from court life, public events, and the theatre.

Her eldest son, Joseph, became Holy Roman Emperor. Maria Theresia declared her son Joseph to be her new co-ruler but she and her son frequently differed in their opinions and she soon felt obliged to limit his authority to military matters and foreign policy. 
She had at one point even considered abdicating but eventually decided to carry on.Joseph was Holy Roman Emperor but as before his mother remained responsible for the affairs of state and procedures made in regard to the Habsburg Hereditary Lands and other important decisions.

She did not give up the reins, but it was difficult for her to make headway or entirely carry out her own views. 

The 'Theresian' era slowly but surely came to an end and the 'Josephine' era began.  
Her ambitious son was full of ideas and as such t
he liberal-minded co-regent had good intentions but in many respects, their views varied.
She did not approve of the War of the Bavarian Succession and foresaw the fact that Prussia would get involved.

The last ten years of her life were dedicated to the improvement of the education system and schools. She also tried to improve the life of the peasantry, and to put an end to their oppression. 
Joseph hesitated in regard to the abolishment of serfdom in Bohemia due to the opposition made by the Bohemian gentry.

In 1767 smallpox ravaged its way through the Empire. 

This very contagious disease was looked upon with dread during the eighteenth century. 
Most of its victims either died or were disfigured and many members of the Imperial family caught this dreadful disease.
Maria Theresia became seriously ill with smallpox just after her fiftieth birthday in May 1767, and it is thought she never fully recovered from the disease which she had contracted from her daughter-in-law, Maria Josepha of Bavaria who died on the 28th May 1767.

In 1772, at fifty-five years of age, Maria Theresia became, despite her criticism, reluctantly involved in the first partition of the Poland.

The Austrian statesman Wenzel Anton Graf Kaunitz was proud of the Austrian gains. 
After the pre-arranged partition, Galicia became part of the Realm at the cost of the waning Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth which lost about a third of its territory and half of its population to Austria, Prussia and Russia.

A conflict of views between mother and son began. 

Maria Theresia was opposed to the acquisition of Polish territory but she eventually gave way and yielded. Maria Theresia wrote:

"Placet, because so many great and learned men wish it; but when I have been long dead, people will see what must come from the violation of everything that until now has been deemed holy and right." 

In 1778, the War of the Bavarian Succession (1778-1779) began.

Joseph wanted to expand his influence in Central Europe but this was a threat for Frederick II.

Maria Theresia and Frederick saw no point in pursuing hostilities but Joseph went on despite the opinion of his mother.

The conflict had been encouraged by her son and co-ruler, Joseph II and was about to become another major war against Prussia but Maria Theresia craved for peace and promoted a diplomatic solution and intervened and stopped the conflict gaining ground.

Maria Theresia's last day

She visited the Imperial Crypt for the last time on the 18th November 1780.

Towards the end of her life, she became very stout and walked with difficulty and was in a bad state of health. She had great difficulty climbing or descending the stairs was very hard for her and therefore a seat had been constructed to enable her to be raised or lowered slowly into the vault.

During her last visit to the crypt, an accident happened as she was being lowered into the vault.

She had almost reached the floor when the strong rope which held the construction suddenly broke. The chair fell but she was not hurt but was shocked because she regarded the incident as a bad omen and a sign that she was soon be consigned to join her beloved husband in this eternal place of rest.

She had most probably caught a cold whilst visiting the tomb and became very ill. The illness was at first regarded as being a cold but her coughing increased and she could barely breathe.

Her personal physician, Anton von Störck, who had treated Maria Theresia for smallpox in 1867, diagnosed her condition as very serious.

Within a few days, her health deteriorated to such an extent and she developed pleurisy which made her sit upright in an armchair to ease her breathing.

She suffered bravely and did not complain but the difficulty to breathe finally made her to perceive her approaching death and called for the last sacrament. She then summoned all the members of the Imperial family who were in Vienna to be with her and after speaking to her children she bestowed a maternal blessing upon each of them and upon those of her children who were absent.

She then suddenly rose from her chair - her eldest son Joseph quickly supported her gently and asked her of her intentions.

Maria Theresia raised her eyes and cried, "Ich komme zu dir, mein Gott!" ("To Thee! I come! O Lord") and sank back in the chair and died.

Maria Theresia passed away on the 29th November 1780 at about nine o'clock in the evening in the Hofburg in Vienna.
The Imperial heart of the House of Habsburg had ceased to beat.

The House of Habsburg had ceased to exist and was replaced by the House of Habsburg-Lorraine.


Frederick the Great spoke of Maria Theresia with the words:

"Sie hat ihrem Thron und ihrem Geschlechte Ehre gemacht.
Ich habe mit ihr Krieg geführt, aber nie war ich ihr Feind." -

"She has done honour to the throne and to her sex.
I have warred with her but I have never been her enemy."