Maria Theresa of Austria

Maria Theresa of Austria

Infobox German Royalty|majesty|consort
name = Maria Theresa
title = Holy Roman Empress; Queen of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia; Archduchess of Austria
titles= "HIM" The Dowager Holy Roman Empress
"HIM" The Holy Roman Empress
"HM" The Queen
"HI&RH" The Archduchess
"HI&RH" Archduchess Maria Theresia of Austria
reign=20 October 1740 - 29 November 1780
1745 - 1765

predecessor = Charles III
successor = Joseph II
spouse = Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor
spouse-type = Consort to
issue=Archduchess Maria Anna
Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor
Maria Christina, Duchess of Teschen
Archduchess Maria Elisabeth
Archduke Charles Joseph
Maria Amalia, Duchess of Parma
Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor
Archduchess Maria Johanna Gabriela
Archduchess Maria Josepha
Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples and Sicily
Ferdinand, Duke of Modena
Marie Antoinette, Queen of France and Navarre
Archduke Maximilian Francis
royal house= House of Habsburg-Lorraine
father=Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor
mother=Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
date of birth=13 May 1717
place of birth= Vienna
date of death= 29 November 1780 (aged 63)
place of death= Vienna
place of burial= Imperial Crypt Vienna

Maria Theresa ( _de. Maria Theresia, see also names in other languages; May 13, 1717ndash November 29 1780) was the Archduchess regnant of Austria, Queen regnant of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, and a Holy Roman Empress by marriage.

Maria Theresa helped initiate financial and educational reforms, promoted commerce and the development of agriculture, and reorganized the army, all of which strengthened Austria's resources. Continued conflict with the Kingdom of Prussia led to the Seven Years' War and later to the War of the Bavarian Succession. She became dowager empress after the death of her husband Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor and accession of her son Joseph as emperor in 1765.

Maria Theresa criticised many of Joseph's actions but agreed to the First Partition of Poland (1772). A key figure in the power politics of 18th century Europe, Maria Theresa brought unity to the Habsburg Monarchy and was considered one of its most capable rulers. Her 16 children also included Marie Antoinette, queen consort of France, and Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor.


Maria Theresia Walburga Amalia Christina was born in Vienna, the eldest daughter of Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, whose sole male heir - his son Leopold Johann - died as an infant in 1716. In 1713 Charles issued the Pragmatic Sanction which guaranteed his daughter the right to succeed to the Austrian throne and inherit his united lands on his death. Charles spent years carefully negotiating with other rulers to remove potential politico-legal objections to a woman inheriting the Habsburg territories, even making strategic concessions of territory. Initially, many Northern European monarchs agreed to the Pragmatic Sanction when it was issued. One of the few not to sign was Frederick the Great of Prussia who, soon after Maria Theresa assumed the throne upon Charles' death on October 20, 1740, began the War of Austrian Succession.

After Emperor Charles VII, who claimed the throne, died in 1745, Maria Theresa obtained the dignity of Holy Roman Emperor for her husband, Francis I. Though she was technically empress consort, Maria Theresa was the "de facto" ruler of the Empire. Maria Theresa had in fact already begun her rule in 1740 during the Austrian War of Succession.


Early years

Maria Theresa's father had not given her any training in government, leaving her to learn for herself. Additionally, the army was weak and the treasury depleted as a result of two wars near the end of her father's reign. Maria Theresa was crowned Queen of Hungary in the St. Martin’s Cathedral in the then-Hungarian royal town and coronation place Pozsony (now Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia) on 25 June 1741. [ [ "Medallion for the coronation of Maria Theresia" at National Bank of Slovakia] ]

The War of the Austrian Succession began when Frederick II of Prussia invaded and occupied Silesia. While Bavaria and France also invaded Austria's western territories, it was "Frederick the Great" who became Maria Theresa's primary foe during her reign. Therefore, she focused her internal and external policies towards the defeat of Prussia, which would help her regain the lands which had been taken from Austria. In the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748), France gave the Austrian Netherlands that it conquered back to Maria Theresa. In exchange, Maria Theresa ceded Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla to the Infante Philip of Spain.

After having been defeated in the First and Second Silesian Wars, Maria Theresa began to modernize her realms with the assistance of Friedrich Wilhelm Graf von Haugwitz. Defeat, however, reduced her morale and effectiveness as a ruler.Fact|date=February 2007 She increased the size of the army by 200% and increased taxes in order to guarantee a steady income for the government, and in particular for the military. She centralized the government by combining the Austrian and Bohemian chancellaries, formerly separate, into one administrative office. Before these changes, justice and administration had been overseen by the same officials- afterwards, she created a supreme court with the sole responsibility of upholding justice in her lands. These reforms strengthened the economy and the state in general.Maria Theresa, like the other Habsburgs, was a devout Roman Catholic. She was educated by Jesuits at Mariazell, and in later life lacked the religious cynicism of royal contemporaries such as Frederick II of Prussia. Her conservative outlook involved an intolerant view of other faiths. In 1741, she expelled the Jews from Prague. Her political distrust of Great Britain rested in part on her view of the established Church of England, whom she regarded as Protestant heretics.

Maria Theresa dropped Great Britain as an ally on the advice of her state chancellor, Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz, and allied with Russia and France. She established the Theresian Military Academy (the first worldwide) in 1752 and an academy of engineering science in 1754. She also demanded that the University of Vienna be given money to make the medical faculty more efficient. When she felt her army was strong enough, she prepared an attack on Prussia in 1756. However, it was Frederick II who attacked first, invading Saxony, another ally of Austria, thus initiating the Seven Years' War. The war ended in 1763 when Maria Theresa signed the Treaty of Hubertusburg, recognizing Prussian ownership of most of Silesia.

Her husband Francis died two years later. Maria Theresa's devotion to him was so great that she dressed in mourning until her own death 15 years later. During this time, she became more closeted from her people. Her focus changed from attempting to regain Silesia to maintaining the peace. She also recognized Joseph II, her eldest son, as coregent and Emperor. However, she allowed him only limited powers because she felt that he was too rash and arrogant.

Influence on Medicine

During the reign of Maria Theresa, infant mortality was a big problem in Austria. And, after calling in a renowned Dutch physician Gerard van Swieten to study the problem, she followed his recommendation and made a decree that autopsies would be mandatory for all hospital deaths in city of Graz--Austria's second largest city. This law--still in effect today--combined with the relatively stable population Graz, has resulted in one of the most important and complete autopsy records in the world.cite book |last=Barnes |first=Broda |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Hypothyroidism: the Unsusptected Illness |year=1976 |publisher=HarperCollins |quote= |pages= |url= |isbn=069001029X ] cite book |last=Langer |first=Stephan |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Solved: The Riddle of Illness. |year=2000 |publisher=McGraw-Hill |quote=... A prime mover in clinical research on the thyroid gland for half a century, the late Broda O. Barnes, MD, Ph.D., was also a prime mover behind the writing of ... |url= |isbn=0658002937 ] Some modern researchers have credited the Graz autopsy records with helping to make breakthroughs in their research. One such physician, Broda Otto Barnes, claimed that these records helped him discover that hypothyroidism--not diet and cholesterol--was the cause of heart disease and heart attacks. And furthermore that hypothyroidism is strongly linked to certain forms of cancer: lung cancer, prostate cancer and cancer in children. cite book |last=Starr |first=Mark |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Hypothyroidism Type 2 |year=2005 |publisher= |quote= |pages=174 |url= |isbn=0975262408 ]

Civil reforms

In the 1760s, smallpox claimed several victims in the imperial family. Maria Theresa was infected and received last rites in 1767, although she recovered. Afterward, Maria Theresa became a strong supporter of inoculation (a predecessor immunisation method to smallpox vaccination), setting a strong example by requiring all of her children to be inoculated.

In the later years of her reign, Maria Theresa focused on reforming laws along the lines of "enlightened absolutism", especially to strengthen the economy of the Habsburg territories, especially after the loss of Silesia.

In 1771, she and Joseph II issued the Robot Patent, a reform that regulated a serf's labor payments in her lands, which provided some relief. Other important reforms included outlawing witch-burning and torture, and, for the first time in Austrian history, taking capital punishment off the penal code, as it was replaced with forced labor. It was later reintroduced, but the progressive nature of these reforms remains noted. In 1772 Maria Theresa founded the Imperial and Royal Academy of Science and Literature in Brussels. Mandatory education was introduced in 1774; the goal was to form an educated class from which civil servants could be recruited.

Another innovation of Maria Theresa's was the decency police which was to patrol everywhere, especially Vienna, and apprehend anyone suspected of doing something that could be deemed indecent (possibly due to her husband's supposed infidelity). Arrested prostitutes, for example, would be sent into villages in the eastern parts of the realm, leading some contemporary writers to note that these villages had 'exceptionally beautiful women' living there.


Maria Theresa had quite a few arranged marriages. One was to the son of a monarch of Eastern Europe but he died after a while in Austria. So Maria regarded herself a widow at the age of five because her betrothed was dead. She was eventually married to Francis of Lorraine, Duke of Lorraine in 1736 at the age of 19. He tended to leave day to day administration to Maria Theresa. [CathEncy|Maria Theresa] Unlike many monarchs of her time, she married for love. She had 16 children with him. Their eleven daughters all had the first name "Maria" in honor of the Virgin Mary. [ [ Habsburg 5 ] ] They also had five sons. The youngest daughter was Maria Antonia, better known under her French name, Marie Antoinette, who would be promised in marriage to the future King Louis XVI of France.

After her husband's death, Joseph II, succeeded in the elective monarchy of the Holy Roman Empire, maintaining the imperial Crown in the Habsburg line, in accordance with tradition. Maria Theresa then made Joseph II co-regent of her Austrian dominions, but she actually kept most of the power to herself, which led to tension between her and her son. It was not until her death that Joseph could fully exercise his powers.



Maria Theresa died in Vienna in 1780 at the age of 63, the only female to rule during the 650-year-long Habsburg dynasty. She is buried in tomb number 56 in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna. Her son Joseph II succeeded her.


Maria Theresa


Titles from birth to death

* "Her Imperial and Royal Highness" Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria (13 May 1717–20 October 1740)
* "Her Majesty" The Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, Archduchess of Austria (20 October 1740–13 September 1745)
* "Her Imperial Majesty" The Holy Roman Empress (13 September 1745–18 August 1765)
* "Her Imperial Majesty" The Dowager Holy Roman Empress (18 August 1765–29 November 1780)

Maria Theresa was actually proclaimed King, rather than Queen, of Hungary upon her ascension to the Hungarian throne. Normally, however, she was styled Queen of Hungary.

Full style

Her title after the death of her husband:

"Maria Theresa, by the Grace of God, Dowager Holy Roman Empress; 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 Hennegau, of Kyburg, of Gorizia and of Gradisca; Margravine of Burgau, of Upper and Lower Lusatia; Countess of Namur; Lady on the Wendish Mark and of Mechlin; Dowager Duchess of Lorraine and Bar, Dowager Grand Duchess of Tuscany. [In German: "Maria Theresia von Gottes Gnaden Heilige Römische Kaiserinwitwe, Königin zu Ungarn, Böhmen, Dalmatien, Kroatien, Slavonien, Gallizien, Lodomerien, usw., Erzherzogin zu Österreich, Herzogin zu Burgund, zu Steyer, zu Kärnten und zu Crain, Großfürstin zu Siebenbürgen, Markgräfin zu Mähren, Herzogin zu Braband, zu Limburg, zu Luxemburg und zu Geldern, zu Württemberg, zu Ober- und Nieder-Schlesien, zu Milan, zu Mantua, zu Parma, zu Piacenza, zu Guastala, zu Auschwitz und Zator, Fürstin zu Schwaben, gefürstete Gräfin zu Habsburg, zu Flandern, zu Tirol, zu Hennegau, zu Kyburg, zu Görz und zu Gradisca, Markgräfin des Heiligen Römischen Reiches, zu Burgau, zu Ober- und Nieder-Lausitz, Gräfin zu Namur, Frau auf der Windischen Mark und zu Mecheln, Herzoginwitwe zu Lothringen und Baar, Großherzoginwitwe zu Toskana"] "

Names in other languages

* _hr. Marija Terezija
* _cs. Marie Teresie [Panování císařovny Marie Teresie, Josef Svátek, Praha, 1898]
*Dutch and _de. Maria Theresia
* _fi. Maria Teresia
* _fr. Marie Thérèse
*Greek: Μαρία Θηρεσία, "Maria Theresia"
* _he. מריה תרזה
*Hungarian and _sk. Mária Terézia
*Irish Máire Tóireasa
*Italian, Portuguese and _pl. Maria Teresa
* _lv. Marija Terēzija
* _ro. Maria Tereza
* _ru. Мария Терезия
* _sr. Марија Терезија
* _sl. Marija Terezija
* _es. María Teresa
* _sv. Maria Teresia
* _uk. Марія Тереза


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boxstyle_2=background-color: #fb9;
boxstyle_3=background-color: #ffc;
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1= 1. Maria Theresa of Austria Queen of Hungary & Bohemia
2= 2. Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor
3= 3. Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
4= 4. Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor
5= 5. Eleonore-Magdalena of Neuburg
6= 6. Louis Rudolph, Duke of Brunswick-Lunenburg
7= 7. Princess Christine Louise of Oettingen-Oettingen
8= 8. Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor
9= 9. Maria Anna of Spain
10= 10. Philip William, Elector Palatine
11= 11. Landgravine Elisabeth Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt
12= 12. Anthony Ulrich, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
13= 13. Duchess Elisabeth Juliana of Schleswig-Holstein-Sønderburg-Norburg
14= 14. Albert Ernest I, Prince of Oettingen-Oettingen
15= 15. Duchess Christine Friederike of Württemberg

Media portrayals

Marianne Faithfull portrayed Maria Theresa in the 2006 film "Marie Antoinette".

Alma Kruger portrayed Maria Theresa in the 1938 film "Marie Antoinette" which starred Norma Shearer.


External links

* [;internal&action=_setlanguage.action?LANGUAGE=en Entry in]
* [ Baroque Absolutism] Country Studies - Austria
* [ Book by M. Goldsmith (1936) about Maria Theresia (eLibrary Austria Project - eLib at)]



NAME=Maria Theresa
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Holy Roman Empress consort
DATE OF BIRTH=May 13, 1717
DATE OF DEATH=November 29 1780

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