Maria Theresa of Habsburg, born in Vienna on 13 May 1717, was the daughter of Emperor Charles VI and Princess Elisabeth-Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Having only daughters to succeed him, Charles VI provided in the "Pragmatic Sanction" of 19 April 1713 that his inheritance could go to the eldest daughter, Maria Theresa. The young sovereign inherited a considerable empire consisting of states including Austria and Hungary, as well as Bohemia and the Austrian Netherlands. The beginning of her reign proved difficult. Several sovereigns refused to recognise the "Pragmatic Sanction" and declared war on him. These external crises were coupled with a deteriorating domestic economic and military situation.
Described as energetic, hardworking, tenacious and proud, Maria Theresa succeeded in imposing herself both internally and internationally. She had her husband, Franz I, elected German Emperor, because as a woman she could not be officially elected. However, no one was mistaken about the reality of the situation; impressed by her overwhelming personality, her contemporaries quickly referred to her as "the great Maria Theresa" or "the Empress". During her long reign, Maria Theresa skilfully protected the interests of her states, at the cost of several reversals of alliance. Her reign, described as a centralised absolutism, led to numerous reforms, including the imposition of Catholicism as the state religion and a considerable reduction in the autonomy of the provinces. Despite the many warlike conflicts, particularly the Wars of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War, Empress Maria Theresa's reign from 1740 to 1780 saw a real flowering of art and culture throughout the vast territories of the Habsburg monarchy.
The empress died in Vienna on 29 November 1780. The imperial couple had sixteen children (eleven daughters and five sons), ten of whom reached adulthood.
● Manuela Piel: Österreich im 18. Jahrhundert: Die Regierungszeit Maria Theresias im Zeitalter des aufgeklärten Absolutismus, Grin Verlag, 2007. Institut européen des itinéraires culturels : Marie-Thérèse, Impératrice d’Autriche (http.//www.routes-granderegion.eu).