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Maria Theresa  (German; Maria Theresia)

13 May 1717 – 29 November 1780


Emperor Charles Vll


Elizabeth of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel


Francis of Lorraine

on February 12th 1736

Gave birth to 16 children of which 10 survived to adulthood.

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Born at Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria

Died at Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria

Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria would have 2 sisters:

Archduchess Maria Anna Eleanor Wilhelmina (September 18th 1718-December 16th 1744)

Archduchess Maria Amalia (November 24th 1724-Septeber 27th 1760)

The birth of Maria Theresa, full name Maria Theresia Walburga Amalia Christina, was a momentous occasion since her father, Charles VI, would ensure at great cost, that she would be heiress to the Habsburg realms from the moment she was born.

Her father was the only surviving male member of the House of Habsburg and needed a son who would prevent the extinction of his dynasty and succeed him.

The birth of Maria Theresa was said to be a great disappointment not only to him but the people of Vienna, a disappointment which he would personally never overcome.

Reports which described her baptism, stressed that the child was carried ahead of her cousins, Maria Josepha and Maria Amalia (popular names), who were the daughters of her father’s elder brother Joseph 1, his predecessor. It was both a sign and unmistakable blatant show to others, to make it perfectly clear, that his daughter Maria Theresa would outrank them all.

Their grandfather, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, had his sons sign the Mutual Pact of Succession, a remarkable agreement of that time which gave precedence to the daughters of the elder brother in succession, but this was a political move just to make sure that everybody knew what the situation was as well as where the power lay.

Maria Theresa replaced Maria Josepha as heiress presumptive to the Habsburg realms the moment she was born. Charles VI had issued the Pragmatic Sanction of April 19th 1713 which proclaimed the indivisibility of his lands and placed his own daughters ahead of his nieces in the line of succession.

This was a time however of great upheaval with major parts of Europe being Dominions of the Habsburgs.

Charles VI was forced to seek the approval of other European powers in disinheriting his nieces for which they negotiated harsh terms in the 1731 Treaty of Vienna.

One of the demands from Great Britain was that Austria abolish the Ostend Company. Formed in 1722, the private trading company operated the hugely profitable trade route with the East and West Indies and was a major competition for Great Britain. This was agreed to in return for its recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction.

This expense showed just how vital it was that Maria Theresa would be next in line to rule the empire of Charles Vl.

Great Britain, France, Saxony-Poland, United Provinces, Spain, Venice, States of the Church, Prussia, Russia, Denmark, Savoy-Sardinia, Bavaria and the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire all recognised the sanction.

France, Spain, Saxony-Poland, Bavaria and Prussia would all renege on the terms, which did not go down well with others. Such was the background of a childhood that would produce one of the most powerful women in Europe and therefore the world.

There was a close resemblance between the 3 sisters as numerous portraits would depict.

A Prussian ambassador noted that Maria Theresa had large blue eyes, a wide mouth, fair hair tinged slightly red and a notably strong body.

At a time when large families of nobility would often marry relatives, neither of her parents nor grandparents were closely related to one another. This resulted in Maria Theresa being one of the few members of the House of Habsburg who were not inbred since her father Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor and her mother Princess Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel were only distantly related.

Maria Theresa’s grandfather Leopold l had

married his own niece Margaret Theresa of Spain. Whilst Philip ll of Spain also married his niece Anna of Austria, as did Philip lV of Spain with his niece Mariana of Austria, all members of the Habsburg dynasty. His 7th child would be Charles Vl, father of Maria Theresa.

Maria Theresa was said to be a serious and reserved child who enjoyed archery and singing. She also would speak and even write in Viennese German, which was spoken by her servants and some Ladies-In-Waiting, rather than the formal German which was the official and formal language. This too was a common occurrence in some instances across European nobility and would be referred to as ‘kitchen tongue’ (kitchen language).

Her father banned her from horse riding, thought to be due to the risks involved, it was however only realistic to protect her after all the political manoeuvring that had undergone since her birth. She would later take intense lessons in preparation for her Hungarian coronation ceremony. She would be crowned KING of Hungary as women were not considered fit to rule Hungary.

Her family would stage opera productions in their palaces, often conducted by her father Charles Vl, in which she immersed herself and relished every moment.

She was educated under the guidance of the Jesuit priests, which was strict in accordance with the church, but it was said that they failed to educate her to the level expected, with her spelling and punctuation being termed unconventional. Her Latin was said to be good, but that would be the end of positive comments. She lacked the formal manner and speech which had been so important and had characterized her Habsburg predecessors. It was largely thanks to Countess Marie Karoline Von Fuchs-Mollard, with whom she had formed a close personal relationship that her understanding of etiquette would flourish.

Maria Theresa loved the arts from an early age and was well educated in painting, drawing, dancing and music. These were the main requirements for any woman of the age preparing for the role of


However, her deep-seated and sincere interest in politics and her people, set her apart from other female royals and would go a long way to making her such a powerhouse.

SMartin van Meytenshe was only 14 years of age when her father allowed her to attend meetings of the council, although he would never actually discuss the affairs of state with her. Having spent his last years of life securing his daughter’s inheritance, Charles Vl still carried with him his disappointment of not having a son and failed to prepare his daughter for the role of Sovereign, let alone one  of a huge empire.

The question of Maria Theresa's marriage was raised early in her childhood. She would be first engaged to marry Leopold Clement of Lorraine, who was supposed to visit Vienna to meet the Archduchess in 1723 when she was just 6 years old. However, he died of smallpox before they would ever meet. Shortly after the death of Leopold Clement, his younger brother, Francis Stephen, was invited to Vienna.

The list of ‘candidates’ for the hand of Maria Theresa was not short. Unlike these days when royalty marry commoners (UK Prince Charles and Prince William), the eighteenth century was a minefield of alliances, much of which were through marriage.

Francis Stephen had been the favourite for Maria Theresa's hand but her father had to consider other possibilities. Religious differences prevented him from arranging his daughter's marriage to the Calvinist prince Frederick of Prussia, later to be known as Frederick The Great

Following battle victories during the 7 year war.

In 1725, she was betrothed to Charles of Spain and her sister, Maria Anna, to Philip of Spain. However, he was forced to renounce the pact by other European powers.

The pact, which had been made with the Dowager Queen of Spain, Elisabeth Farnese, would have resulted in the marriage of heirs to the thrones of Spain and Austria destroying the European balance of power.

Maria Theresa, who had become close to Francis Stephen, was relieved. Although Francis Stephen would remain at the Imperial Court until 1729, when he ascended the throne of Lorraine and became Duke Francis Stephen of Lorraine. He would only be formally accepted as suitor for Maria Theresa's hand on 31 January 1736 but the couple would marry on February 12th 1736.

A brief explanation to highlight the political complexities

Ever since the death of the Polish king Sigismund II Augustus in 1572, Polish kings were elected by Polish nobility and not through birth.

There was a war from 1733 – 1738 known as the


The war revolved around Poland, Rhineland and Italy and


Supporting Stanislas (Stanislaw) were France, Spain, Duchy of Parma and the Kingdom of Sardinia.

Supporting Augustus lll were Prussia, the Russian Empire, Saxony and the Habsburg monarchy.

During the war, Louis XV of France demanded that Francis Stephen, Maria Theresa’s fiancé, surrender his ancestral Duchy of Lorraine in order to support his own father-in-law who was none other than Stanslaw l and who had been deposed as King of Poland. In return, Francis Stephen would receive the Grand Duchy of Tuscany upon the death of the Grand Duke Gian Gastone de Medici, who was without heir.

The war ended with the Treaty of Vienna in 1738, and an estimated 100,000 dead and wounded. Augustus lll was confirmed as King of Poland and his opponent Stanislaw l was awarded the Duchy of Lorraine. The Duchy of Parma went to Austria while the crowns of Naples and Sicily would go to Charles of Parma, all resulting in territorial gains for the Bourbons.

Gian Gastone's death on 9 July 1737 (the end of the Medici dynasty) meant that Francis Stephen ceded Lorraine and became Grand Duke of Tuscany.

In 1738, Charles VI arranged for the Maria Theresa and Francis Stephen to make their formal entry into Florence, the regional capital of Tuscany where a triumphal arch was erected at the Porta Galla in celebration. Their time in Florence would be short-lived as Charles Vl feared of dying whilst his heiress was in Florence.

In 1738 Austria suffered humiliating defeats during the Russo-Turkish war, where the Turks had reversed earlier Austrian gains in Serbia, Wallachia and Bosnia, having entered the war in 1737 which Russia had been fighting since 1735.

Riots ensued across Vienna at the cost of the war, together with open hostility and hatred towards Francis Stephen who was seen as a cowardly French spy. The war was ended the following year with the treaty of Belgrade.

Maria Theresa with husband Francis Stephen and childrenMaria Theresa the Duchess of Lorraine, held true love for her husband which was described as being strong and possessive. Letters she had sent him just before their marriage, expressed her eagerness to see him. On the other hand, his letters were cold and formal. She was known to be extremely jealous of her husband and his infidelity, which would go on to become the greatest problem of their marriage. Maria Wilhelmina von Neipperg, later to become Princess of Auersperg, would become his best known mistress after making her appearance in court in 1755 at the age of 17.

Emperor Charles VI died on October 20 1740, most probably of mushroom poisoning. The advice of Prince Eugene of Savoy to concentrate on filling the treasury and equipping the military was ignored. Instead, Charles Vl gave more credence to gathering the support of fellow royals and making various pacts with no financial gain. He had spent virtually his entire reign securing the Pragmatic Sanction in order for Maria Theresa to succeed him, but had left Austria an impoverished nation. Bankrupted by the recent Turkish war and the earlier ware of the polish succession, the treasury held just 100,000 florins which was claimed by his widow. An 80,000 army, unpaid for months, remained impressively loyal and devoted to their new Sovereign.

Maria Theresa found herself in a desperate situation as her succession to the empire of her father found her at the young age of 23. She was unaware of the total ineptitude of her father’s ministers whilst herself not knowing enough on the matters of state. She took the earlier advice of her father to retain his councillors and defer to her husband, Francis Stephen, believing he held more experience, something she would later greatly regret.

Her regrets would be voiced Ten years later when Maria Theresa recalled in her Political Testament the circumstances under which she had ascended: "I found myself without money, without credit, without army, without experience and knowledge of my own and finally, also without any counsel because each one of them at first wanted to wait and see how things would develop."

She dismissed the concerns by others who voiced the possibility that other countries seizing her territories, and immediately started ensuring the imperial dignity for herself.

Portrait of Francis Stephen husband of Maria TheresaSince a woman could not be elected Holy Roman Empress, Maria Theresa wanted to secure the imperial office for her husband. However, Francis Stephen did not possess enough land or rank within the Holy Roman Empire. In order to make him eligible for the imperial throne and to enable him to vote in the imperial elections as elector of Bohemia, Maria Theresa made Francis Stephen co-ruler of the Austrian and Bohemian lands on November 21 1740.

However, it took more than a year for the Diet of Hungary (legislative institution in the medieval kingdom of Hungary since the 1290s) to accept Francis Stephen as co-ruler. Despite her love for him and his position as co-ruler, Maria Theresa never allowed her husband to decide matters of state and often dismissed him from council meetings when they disagreed.

The first display of the new queen's authority was the formal act of homage of the Lower Austrian Estates to her on 22 November 1740. It was an elaborate public event which served as a formal recognition and legitimation of her accession. The oath of fealty to Maria Theresa was taken on the same day in Hofburg.

IPainting of Maria Theresa empress.mmediately after her accession, a number of European sovereigns who had recognised Maria Theresa as heiress, then broke their promises. Queen Elisabeth of Spain and Elector Charles Albert of Bavaria, married to Maria Theresa's deprived cousin Maria Amalia and supported by Empress Wilhelmine Amalia, wanted portions of her own inheritance reinstated.

Maria Theresa secured the recognition of King Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia, in November 1740.

In December, just 2 months after the death of her father Charles VI, King Frederick II (the Great) of Prussia invaded the Duchy of Silesia and requested that Maria Theresa cede it, threatening to join her enemies if she refused. Maria Theresa decided to fight for the mineral-rich province and thus an 8 year war commenced known the War of Austrian Succession, which would last from 1740-1748.

Although the War of Austrian Succession included the fight for control of Silesia, the war was in fact a number of differing but merged wars. Many had started following the death of Maria Theresa's father Charles VI, often opportunist and underscored by the interests of the allies, it was a struggle for the control of a vast part of Central Europe, North America, the Netherlands, West Indies and even India (trade routes and empires well beyond domestic borders).

King Frederick II had offered a compromise, he would defend Maria Theresa's rights if she agreed to cede him at least a part of Silesia.

Whilst her weak husband Francis Stephen wanted to give the offer consideration, Queen Maria Theresa and her advisers were not, fearing that any violation of the Pragmatic Sanction would invalidate the entire document.

Maria Theresa's firmness soon assured Francis Stephen that they should fight for Silesia and she was confident that she would retain "the jewel of the House of Austria". The invasion of Silesia by Frederick was the start of a lifelong enmity; she referred to him as "that evil man".

Prussian ambassador's letter to Frederick the Great

‘She has, as you well know, a terrible hatred for France, with which nation it is most difficult for her to keep on good terms, but she controls this passion except when she thinks to her advantage to display it. She detests Your Majesty, but acknowledges your ability. She cannot forget the loss of Silesia, nor her grief over the soldiers she lost in wars with you’.

Austria lacked military commanders of experience.Painting of Marshall Neipperg, commander of Austrian troops Maria Theresa released Marshall Neipperg, who had been imprisoned by her father for his poor performance in the Turkish War.

Neipperg took command of the Austrian troops in March and in April 1741 the Austrians suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Mollwitz. France quickly drew up a plan to partition Austria between Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and Spain, throwing Vienna into a panic as none of Maria Theresa's advisors expected France to betray them.

Francis Stephen urged Maria Theresa to reach a rapprochement with Prussia, as did Great Britain. Maria Theresa reluctantly agreed to negotiations.

Painting of Maria Theresa being crowned as Queen of HungaryContrary to all expectations, a significant amount of support for the young Queen came from Hungary. Her coronation as Queen of Hungary took place in St. Martin's Cathedral, Pressburg, formerly  Pozsony on 25 June 1741 after she had spent months honing the equestrian skills necessary for the ceremony. Pozsony was renamed as Bratislava, now capital of Slovakia but which was Hungary before being given to Slovakia.

To appease those who considered her sex to be the most serious obstacle, Maria Theresa assumed masculine titles and Maria Theresa was thereafter archduke and king.. That was however the official standing and she would be addressed as Queen. No 18th-century commentary saw this crossing of gendered titles as inappropriate or impossible as it was accepted to be an official standing rather than personal. Hungary would grow and remain to be one of the greatest supporters of Maria Theresa, now Queen Maria Theresa of Hungary.

By July of 1741 all attempts at conciliation had completely collapsed. Maria Theresa's ally, the Elector of Saxony, now became her enemy and George II declared the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg to be neutral.

The Queen was once again in need of help from Hungary and in order to obtain it she granted favours to the Hungarian noblemen and flattered them without conceding to all of their demands. She had already won their support when she appeared in Pressburg in September 1741, hoping to persuade the Diet (parliament) to call a mass conscription and recognise Francis Stephen as her co-ruler. Having achieved both aims, she showed her gift for the theatrics by triumphantly holding her son and heir Joseph, before the Diet, gaining sympathy of the noblemen.

Charles Albert prince elector of Bavaria, Karl VII of BavariaIn the same year of 1741, Charles Albert, Elector of Bavaria, made his claim to the Austrian throne, having been the Prince Elector of Bavaria since 1726. To add to the problems, the Austrian authorities had also informed Maria Theresa that the Bohemian populace would prefer to have Charles Albert instead of Maria Theresa as sovereign.

Maria Theresa, desperate and burdened by pregnancy, wrote plaintively to her sister:

"I don't know if a town will remain to me for my delivery."

She bitterly vowed to spare nothing and no one to defend her kingdom when she wrote to the Bohemian chancellor, Count Philip Kinsky: "My mind is made up. “We must put everything at stake to save Bohemia.”


As the War of the Austrian Succession advanced, Charles Albert (Karl VII) invaded Upper Austria in 1741 with plans to conquer Vienna with the help of his allied French troops. However, instead of advancing on Prague, they went to Bohemia! Prague was eventually conquered on 26th October 1741.

Charles VII (Albert) Elector of Bavaria, captured Prague and declared himself King of Bohemia on December 19th 1741. This was followed by his unanimous election as King of the Romans on January 24th 1742. At the moment he was crowned, her also took the title of Holy Roman Emperor with the full support of George II. He was crowed Holy Roman Emperor in Frankfurt by his brother Klemens August of Bavaria, Archbishop and Elector of Cologne.

Maria Theresa, then in Hungary, wept on learning of the loss of Bohemia.

She regarded the election as a total catastrophe, however, when Charles was caught up in planning his Royal Rule, he had overlooked the small issue of the Habsburgs not having been defeated at that time, and seemed to have paid more attention to his future as monarch that sealing his total victory.

Maria Theresa caught Charles Albert and his allies, her enemies, totally unprepared when she insisted on a winter campaign to regain her lost dominions. Her insistence and control, reflected her personal strength not only as a Habsburg ruler, but as an extraordinarily woman seldom found these days.

Ludwig Andreas von Khevenhüller_MariaTheresa.comIronically, some say justly,

the day that Charles was elected Holy Emperor Roman , Austrian troops under Ludwig Andreas von Khevenhüller captured Munich, Charles Albert's capital.

In June of 1742, the Treaty of Breslau ended hostilities between Austria and Prussia.

Maria Theresa made the recovery of Bohemia her main priority and French troops fled Bohemia in the winter of the same year.

King Charles of Bohemia, the Holy Roman Emperor, fled Munich for the Palais Barckhaus in Frankfurt where he lived for almost 3 years. Most of Bohemia was lost in December 1742 when the Austrians permitted the French an honourable surrender, which was a total capitulation.

On 12 May 1743, Maria Theresa had herself crowned Queen of Bohemia in St. Vitus Cathedral.

Charles Albert ridiculed and mocked as an emperor who neither controlled his own realm, nor was in effective control of the empire itself.

The position and title of Holy Roman Emperor had largely become symbolic and powerless by that time. A title fought for but without any actual benefit beyond showing that the holder had support from certain quarters.

A Latin saying became popular in summing up Charles

et Caesar et nihil translating to Both Emperor and Nothing.

French plans fell apart when Charles Albert died in January 1745, so the French overran the Austrian Netherlands in May.

Francis Stephen was elected Holy Roman Emperor on September 13th 1745. Prussia recognised Francis as emperor, and Maria Theresa once again recognised the loss of Silesia by the Treaty of Breslau in December 1745. The war dragged on for another three years, with fighting in northern Italy and the Austrian Netherlands.

The Treaty of Aix-La-Chapelle ended the eight-year conflict by recognising Prussia's possession of Silesia whilst Maria Theresa had also ceded the Duchy of Parma to Philip of Spain.

It seemed that Maria Theresa would not see any reasonable time of peace as Frederick of Prussia invaded Saxony in August 1756, starting the Seven Years' War which would include all the major European powers and of course effect the course of north American history since the expense of maintaining troops and administration were part of negotiations, treaties and indeed vast expense.

Empress Maria Theresa and her minister of foreign affairs , wanted to exit the war still holding onto Silesia. Austria had become aligned with France and Russia whilst Great Britain aligned with Prussia and Portugal.

CPainting showig the signing of the Treaty of Hubertusburg.onflicts, treaties, changing alliances and indeed loyalties, all descended into a costly stalemate with Maria Theresa losing faith in her being able to retake Silesia, and whilst the peace treaties of Hubertusburg and Paris would exact harsh terms on France, resulting in forcing it to relinquish much of her American colonies, for Maria Theresa, it was status quo.

The Habsburg House were Roman Catholics of course, but Maria Theresa was a devout one who took her faith into her daily life and not simply for show. She believed that for a peaceful public life it was essential for there to be religious unity and openly rejected the suggestion of religious tolerance. However, she maintained the separation of church, monarchy and state to some degree and would not permit Rome to interfere in state affairs, she would however control the appointment of bishops, archbishops and abbots.

Portrait of Cornelius Jansen founder of JansenismHer Catholicism was influenced by Jansenism (Jansenism was a Catholic theological movement, primarily in France, that emphasized original sin, human depravity, the necessity of divine grace, and predestination. The movement originated from the posthumously published work of the Dutch theologian, who died in 1638.)

She would also supported Greek Catholics and emphasised their equal status with Roman Catholics.

Maria Theresa actively supported conversion to Roman Catholicism by securing pensions for the converts, however, she eventually gave up and would forever regard both Jews and Protestants as dangerous to the state.

Maria Theresa was arguably the most anti-Semitic monarch of her time, possibly arising from rumours that in Prague, the Jews had sided with the Prussians during the 1744 War of the Austrian Succession. There was still freedom of expression at the time and in 1777 wrote of the Jews ‘I know of no greater plague than this race, which on account of its deceit, usury and avarice is driving my subjects into beggary. Therefore as far as possible, the Jews are to be kept away and avoided’ She went on to impose severely harsh taxes on her Jewish subjects.

She proposed to her ministers in December 1744, to have all Jews expelled by January 1st 1745 from her hereditary dominions. The proposal was supported and the edict signed on December 18th 1744, however, her original date of January 1st was changed to June on the advice of her ministers who were concerned over the numbers of Jews needing to be expelled and the time needed to accomplish it.

Maria Theresa’s attention was not solely aimed towards the Jews, she also expelled Protestants to Transylvania and reduced the number of monastic orders and religious holidays. Her plans in 1777 to expel Moravian Protestants were abandoned after her son and co-ruler Joseph, opposed her plans and threatened to abdicate as Emperor and Co-Ruler. She relented and granted them tolerance by allowing them to worship privately.

Joseph would criticise his mother and not just in private, knowing making his views towards her religious policies known as being ‘unjust, impossible, impious, harmful and ridiculous’. His weakness as a person and spoilt within his very privileged upbringing became clear for all to see. Views are seldom as important as the way they are conveyed or indeed not.

Her religion would help retain the wide support of the people under her rule and she was known for her incredible self-discipline and self-deprivation. This would especially become known during her 15-year-long widowhood, and again would gain her public support.

Her relationship however with the Jesuits, who had educated her and served as her confessors would become complex. The Jesuits were extremely influential and powerful through their links with state and monarchy. However, ministers would be successful in convincing her that the order were a clear risk to her monarchical authority. As though she had waited for such confirmation, and without hesitation, she would issue a decree which removed the Jesuits from all institutions of the monarchy, and would insure that it was carried through to letter.

She forbade the Portrait of Pope Clement 8th.publicatiImage of a Papal Bull complete with seal.on of Pope Clement XIII's bull which favoured the Jesuits in opposition to her decree (a Papal Bull in Roman Catholicism is an official papal letter or document. The name bull is derived from the original bulla, which was a lead seal attached to

such documents)

It can seem conflicting, but despite the Jews being expelled along with Protestants, she would in the 1770’s decade issue edicts to offer state protection to her Jewish subjects. It was believed this was due largely to the influence of one of her Jewish Courtiers Abraham Mende Theben. In 1762 she forbade the forcible conversion of Jewish children to Roman Catholicism and a year later in 1763 she stopped the Catholic clergy from extracting surplice fees from Jews.

In 1764, she ordered the release of Jews who had been jailed for blood libel (Blood Libel is an accusation that Jews kidnapped and murdered the children of Christians to use their blood as part of their religious rituals during Jewish holidays) in the village of Orkuta.

Maria Theresa supported Jewish commercial and industrial activity, despite her powerful dislike of Jews.

The life of Maria Theresa was first and foremost the protection and guidance of her empire and her subjects. What seems to be conflicts of policies or beliefs had always it is believed been done for the ‘good of all’, and indeed specific situations from day to day or week to week will have changed policies and beliefs as life and socal and political allegiances were extremely fluid.

Maria Theresa was as conservative in matters of state as she was in those of religion, and would introduce significant reforms to strengthen Austria's military and vast bureaucratic efficiency. She directly employed Count Friedrich Wilhelm von Haugwitz, who modernised her empire by creating a fixed army of 108,000 men, paid for by 14 million gulden extracted from each crown-land. The central government remained responsible for the army, although Haugwitz introduced taxation of the nobility, who had never before been asked to pay taxes. Maria Theresa oversaw the unification of the Austrian and Bohemian chancelleries in May 1749.

Maria Theresa doubled the state revenue between 1754 and 1764, despite her attempt to tax the clergy and nobility were only partly successful. These financial reforms had improved the economy remarkable when compared to how it stood when she took it over from her father.

In 1760, Maria Theresa created the council of state, composed of the state chancellor, three members of the high nobility and three knights, which served as a committee of experienced people to advise her. The council of state lacked any executive or legislative authority, the difference however between this new form of government and that employed by Frederick II of Prussia.

Maria Theresa demonstrated through this modernising of government, that unlike others and Frederick ll as the example, she was not an autocrat acting as her own minister. Prussia would not adopt Maria Theresa’s form of government before 1807.

Maria Theresa made other major reforms such as the Codex Theresianus, which commenced in 1752 and was finalised in 1766, and would clearly define civil rights.

In 1776, Austria outlawed witch burnings in addition to torture. Physician Ferdinand Leber had proven the unreliability of testimony made under torture, which Maria Theresa listened to and implemented its banning.

It would later be reintroduced to degrees, but the introduction of formal Civil Rights had produced social expectations amongst her subjects at a time of wars and unrest. Maria Theresa openly demonstrated the importance of her subjects to her, through the introduction of these reforms, and indeed she was way ahead of her times in thinking of individuals as having their own individual rights protected by law.

Maria Theresa was ironically opposed to the total abolition of torture, born in a time of wars and conflict, she perhaps saw the introduction of civil rights as being the platform by which to remove the need of torture based upon her subjects having a secure sense of ‘belonging’. It had been claimed that she did find it difficult to fit into the newly developing intellectual sphere of the ‘enlightenment’ movement, which is why she only slowly followed humanitarian reforms on the continent. But from the other stance, it can be argued that Maria Theresa was indeed a modernizer and reformer in a time of wars and conflict and when her borders were under attack throughout her reign with just intermittent periods of peace.

MPortrait of Gerard van Swieten private physician to Maria Theresaaria Theresa recruited her private physician Gerard van Swieten, to transform the Austrian health service. With the support of Maria Theresa he went on to found the Vienna General Hospital as well as a chemical laboratory, a botanical garden and introduced clinical instruction. The introduction of medical university education was also a big step forward to formalise the state of medicine. He would also be librarian for Maria Theresa at what was then the Imperial Library since 1745.

She then asked him to research infant mortality in Austria. It would be due to his recommendation, which she followed closely, that she made a decree stating that autopsies would be mandatory for all hospital deaths in the city of Graz.

That law, still in effect today in Austria, combined with the relatively stable population of Graz, resulted in one of the most important and indeed complete autopsy records in the world.

In 1767 Maria Theresa made the decision to inoculate her children following the smallpox epidemic of 1767. Her decision would be responsible for changing the negative view of inoculation among Austrian physicians…in effect single handed.

Maria Theresa took the decision to host a dinner party which would be the inauguration of an inoculation campaign in Austria. The first 65 inoculated children were invited to the dinner party at the Schönbrunn Palace, where Maria Theresa would wait on the children herself.

Aware of the inadequacies of the bureaucratic system in Austria, Maria Theresa took personal charge of reforming education in 1775.  She based the new school system on the Prussian one. All children, girls and boys, were required to attend schools from the age of 6 through to 12.

Rural villagers met the reforms with hostility, which was understandable considering that rural life required hard physical labour which required good health and not good education. Maria Theresa crushed the dissent and opposition and continued with her programme. Whilst the programme had merit, the reforms were not at all as successful as expected. In parts of Austria as little as 40% of the population were literate well into the 19th century.

Maria Theresa allowed non-Catholics to attend university and pushed for the introduction of secular subjects such as law, which influenced the decline of theology as the main foundation of university education. It was commonplace for the first born male of Nobility and Royalty to be educated ready for taking over the mantle of the father or ruler, whilst the second born male would prepare for the church and study theology.

Maria Theresa seemed to have made a special attempt to have the Universities teach useful and productive subjects for the advancement of the people and indeed the dominions over which she ruled.

Although Maria Theresa craved peace and promoted diplomacy, during the mother and son’s co-regency, the War of the Bavarian Succession broke out, lasting from 1778 to 1779.

It is somewhat ironic, that a ruler such as Maria Theresa, or indeed co-ruler, is by some remembered for for her anti-Semitic acts and laws. Take 10 balloons, 5 are Protestant and 5 are Jewish, burst them all. What happened? If we were to read the balloon situation as so many have as with Maria Theresa's actions, the 5 Jewish balloons were destroyed in a frenzy of anti-Semitism. The fate of the 5 Protestant balloons are ignored, overlooked and written out of history. The fact that both were treated the same, would weaken or even remove the argument of being antis-Semitic.

It was in 1777 that Maria Theresa wrote;

"I know of no greater plague than this race, which on account of its deceit, usury and avarice is driving my subjects into beggary. Therefore as far as possible, the Jews are to be kept away and avoided."

Yet similar statements were being made over 200 years later in the USA following the dubbed ‘financial crash', when banks and financial institutions bankrupted thousands of people and businesses all over the world, the majority caught in criminal or highly suspect dealings. Owners, CEO and other executives and management, were commonly Jewish. When bailouts were thrown at some of the criminals, again it was no surprise to most, that those in charge of shovelling the bailout cash were also Jewish.

In WW2 it is estimated that over 65 million people were killed worldwide. However, sadly those of Jewish faith, would have the world believe that the estimated 6 million Jews killed, represented the crimes of the entire war, the other 59 million being of no relevance!

Though she eventually gave up trying to convert her non-Catholic subjects to Roman Catholicism, Maria Theresa regarded both the Jews and Protestants as dangerous to the state and actively tried to suppress them.

Maria Theresa did not act solely against the Jews, but also the protestants.

She imposed harsh taxes on her Jewish subjects and in December 1744, proposed expelling them from her hereditary dominions. She also transferred Protestants from Austria to Transylvania and cut down the number of religious holidays and monastic orders.

In 1777, she abandoned the idea of expelling Moravian Protestants after her husband opposed her and threatened to abdicate as emperor and co-ruler.

Eventually she showed some tolerance by allowing private worship.

Maria Theresa had a close Jewish courtier, Abraham Mendel Theben, who did hold influence with Maria Theresa. She issued edicts which offered state protection to her Jewish subjects, outlawed the forcible conversion of Jewish children to Christianity in 1762 and in 1763 she stopped the Catholic clergy from extracting surplice fees from her Jewish subjects.

In 1764 Maria Theresa ordered the release of some Jews that had been jailed for a blood libel in the village of Orkuta.

Regardless of her personal dislike of Jews and protestants, she did eventually support and protect their business interests, so long as it was not in conflict with the state.

Maria Theresa died on November 29th 1780, at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria, from where she had reigned for four decades. Leaving behind a solid basis for future generations of the family empire.

She was the ultimate ‘peoples' ruler, guided by her strong faith and moral standards. Love her or oppose her, she created what would become known as the Habsburg Empire from often slithers of lands forever in turmoil. With her death, Joseph II assumed full responsibility as Holy Roman Emperor, but a far weaker ruler than Maria Theresa which would see the end of the Holy Roman Empire appear on the horizon.

Empress Maria Theresa, Archduchess Maria Theresa, Queen Maria Theresa or even King Maria Theresa, regardless of title, she will forever remain Maria Theresa.

Full Title as Widow

Maria Theresa, by the Grace of God, Dowager Empress of the Romans, Queen of Hungary, of 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; Dowager Duchess of Lorraine and Bar, Dowager Grand Duchess of Tuscany.

The only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg




Maria Elisabeth
Maria Johanna
Maria Anna
Maria Christina
Charles Joseph
Maria Amalia
Peter Leopold
Maria Karoline
Maria Karolina
Maria Antonia
Maria Carolina
Maria Josepha


Joseph II
Maria Christina

She ruled for 40 years from 1740-1780.

In October 1740 her father died suddenly and without warning.

       At the age of 23 in 1740, Maria Theresa became ruler of the Habsburg Empire in turmoil.

     Wars would involve numerous allies, enemies and rulers that changed month to month, an immensely   complex time in European history encompassing the known world as far as India and the Americas.

Dominions were semi-independent polities that were nominally under the Crown. A fief was the central element of feudalism. It worked by inheritable property or rights being granted by an overlord to a vassal (someone who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch as part of the feudal system) In return they accept the obligation to hold the property and rights, in fealty (as in a fee) for which they will provide a form of feudal allegiance and service, support and men for wars, personal ceremonies of homage etc.

Indeed, it is similar to how the USA operates its foreign policy with an eye on the UN. The US will fund and arm nations (such as Israel), maintain its existence often in opposition to the wishes of the citizens. In turn, when it comes to UN votes, they will support the US regardless, they will support their military actions and they will be loyal or risk losing US support and thus the own rule, control and power over their particular domains,republics and kingdoms. Dominions and Polities are known, interpretation of their meaning in actual operation is up to those in power at the time….however.

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Maria Theresa

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Blood Libel

War of Polish Succession


Abraham Mendel Theben

The Sisi Years

Family Tree (King Maximilian to Franz Joseph)

Imperial Artist

Women of Power

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