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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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The war ended in 1748 when Austria was forced to let Prussia keep Silesia and to accept the loss of three of its Italian territories to France.
During the War of the Austrian Succession, Maria Theresa had never found an adequate general. She also to struggled to find capable men to align themselves with the Habsburg Empire, with the exception of a few administrators she had managed to appoint.
Once the war had ended, Maria Theresa set about further reforming the Habsburg government, with Silesian exile Count Frederick William Haugwitz heading up the effort. Haugwitz’s reform effort focused mainly on centralization of the empire’s power. He assigned Bohemia and Austria to a joint ministry, and took power away from the Provincial Estates. As a result, the affected territories lent Austria’s weakened army significantly more military power. Austria also benefited from the wealth produced by those provinces’ industries.
Maria Theresa also allowed Haugwitz to do away with yearly resource negotiations with the empire’s estates in favor of meeting to negotiate only once a decade. Over the course of that decade, the estates would pay the central government yearly taxes. Additionally, Maria Theresa reorganized several government functions, combining them in a centralized General Directory.
The increased revenue and cost savings of Maria Theresa and Haugwitz’s domestic reforms further served to strengthen the Habsburg Empire’s army. Although it was peacetime, Maria Theresa saw the need to prepare for an impending second war with Fredrick II, as he sought to defend Prussia against Austria’s newly formed alliance with its former enemy, France.
In 1756 Fredrick II once again waged war against Maria Theresa’s empire. His attack culminated in the Seven Years War, during which Maria Theresa tried to reclaim Silesia. In 1762, when Empress Elisabeth died, Russia, one of Austria’s greatest allies in the war, withdrew. Because it was clear that the Habsburg Dynasty couldn’t win the war without its allies, in 1763 Maria Theresa and Fredrick II agreed to a peace treaty on the condition that Prussia would get to keep Silesia.
In 1765 Maria Theresa’s husband, Francis Stephen, died. Upon his death, Maria Theresa appointed her eldest son, Joseph II, as emperor and co-regent. The two frequently clashed in their beliefs. After considering her own abdication and ultimately rejecting the idea, Maria Theresa allowed Joseph to take control of army reforms and join Wenzel Anton, Prince of Kaunitz-Rietberg, in determining the empire’s foreign policy.
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.
Maria Theresa died on November 29, 1780, at Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria—where she had reigned for four decades—leaving behind a solid basis for future generations of the family empire. With her death, Joseph II assumed full responsibility as Holy Roman Emperor.
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