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Maria Theresa was an Austrian archduchess, and Holy Roman Empress of the Habsburg Dynasty from 1740 to 1780. She was also Marie Antoinette’s mother.
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Maria Theresa was born May 13, 1717, in Vienna, Austria. In 1740 she succeeded to the Habsburg throne. In resistance, Frederick II’s army invaded and claimed Silesia. The war ended in 1748, after which she reformed her government and military. In 1756 Frederick II waged the Seven Years War against her. In 1765 she appointed her son her co-regent. She died November 29, 1780, in Vienna, Austria.
"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."
"I can never have enough children; in this I am insatiable."
Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI and his wife, Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, welcomed their first daughter, Maria Theresa, into the world on May 13, 1717. She was born at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria.
Maria Theresa’s father was the last remaining male heir to the Habsburg throne, so before she was born, fearing that he might not produce a son, Charles VI reformed the Salic Law, which prevented any female heir from succeeding her father. In 1713 he issued the Pragmatic Sanction to ensure his eldest daughter’s right to take over the throne when he died, provided he never had a son. In 1720 Charles worked tirelessly to earn support for the sanction from his crown lands and several of the great European powers. Over time, they begrudgingly agreed to honor the sanction.
Maria Theresa’s education and upbringing were typical of a princess’s at the time. Her studies focused on frivolous skills thought befitting a young noblewoman. Despite the fact that Maria Theresa, who indeed still did not have a brother, was increasingly likely to inherit the Habsburg throne, she was ill-acquainted with affairs of state.
Charles VI had been encouraged by his trusted adviser, Prince Eugene of Savoy, to marry Maria Theresa off to a powerful prince. Instead, Charles VI allowed his daughter to marry for love. In 1736 Maria Theresa and her beloved Duke Francis Stephen of Lorraine, France, were wed. Since Lorraine could potentially be incorporated into the Habsburg Empire, Duke Francis appeased France by conceding to trade his province for Tuscany, which was of considerably lesser value.
Over the course of her marriage, Maria Theresa would give birth to a sizable brood. Her 16 children consisted of 5 sons and 11 daughters, including the future queen of France, Marie Antoinette.
In October of 1740, Charles VI died. It was time for Maria Theresa, then 23 years old, to succeed to the Habsburg throne. Subjects of her crown lands—the Austrian duchies and Netherlands, and Bohemia and Hungary—were quick to accept Maria Theresa as their empress. But Maria Theresa immediately faced resistance to her succession from European powers who had previously agreed to her father’s Pragmatic Sanction. Under the leadership of Frederick II, King of Prussia, those powers formed a coalition against Maria Theresa.
By December of that year, Frederick II’s army invaded Silesia, an Austrian province, and claimed it for his kingdom. Bavaria and France followed suit with their own invasion of Habsburg territories, resulting in an eight-year conflict dubbed the War of the Austrian Succession.
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