Maria Theresa of Austria was the only female monarch of the Habsburg dynasty. She reigned over Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Milan, the Austrian Netherlands, and Parma, ruling for forty years until her death. She was by traditional law not allowed to be her father’s successor, but the passing of Charles VI’s Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 allowed a daughter to rule in his stead should he not produce a male heir. After his death, however, Prussia, Saxony, and Bavaria renounced the agreement and invaded Silesia, sparking a nine-year power struggle known as the. Maria Theresa remained in power but was forced to surrender the territory of Silesia, which she later tried and failed to recapture during the , a major battle that pitted Prussia and Great Britain against Austria, France, Russia, Spain, and Sweden.
While not as learned as her sons, who assisted her in ruling the Habsburg Empire and would later take their turns as emperor, Maria Theresa was widely respected by her subjects. She instigated several economic and educational reforms, promoted agricultural development, and reorganized the military. She also outlawed capital punishment, witch burnings, and torture. She was, however, a staunch Roman Catholic, and while she largely avoided Rome’s opinions of her decisions, she refused to allow religious toleration. She regarded Jews and Protestants as enemies of the state and actively tried to subdue them, imposing harsh taxes and ultimately forcing them out of the country. Her refusal of toleration was perhaps the greatest oversight during her reign, and it made her appear bigoted and superstitious.
Francis Stephen passed away in 1765, and from that moment forward, Maria Theresa dressed in clothes of mourning, painted her rooms black, and completely withdrew from public life, which had a negative effect on her mental health. She likely never completely recovered from her smallpox outbreak, and as a result she passed away in 1780.
|Married Francis Stephen of Lorraine|
|Father died and Maria became queen|
|War of the Austrian Succession|
|Had herself crowned King of Bohemia|
|Seven Years' War|
|Husband died; Joseph became Holy Roman Emperor and co-ruler of Austria|
|Came down with a severe case of smallpox|
|Charles VII in||The History of Germany by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall|
|Maria Theresa in||The Awakening of Europe by M. B. Synge|
in Back Matter
|Great Prussian military leader in the War of the Austrian Succession and Seven Years War.|
|Extravagant Queen of France. Beheaded during French Revolution.|
|King during the French revolution. Beheaded by republicans who sought to overthrow the monarchy.|