Archduchess Maria Theresa was the first female Hapsburg ruler and she lived up to her illustrious family name by holding her own on the international court and by improving the empire that she inherited. This paper will look at the rule of Maria Theresa.
Maria Theresa was born to Emperor Charles VI of Austria in 1717 at Hofburg in Vienna, Austria (Crankshaw: 17, Dark: 237). She married her cousin Francis of Lorraine in 1736 at the age of 19 and she had 16 children with him (Dark: 237). Her son the future Emperor Joseph II was born in March of 1741 (Crankshaw: 70). In 1740 Emperor Charles VI died and Maria Theresa became the Archduchess of Austria, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, Duchess of Milan and Statthalter of the Netherlands at the age of 23 (Crankshaw: 5). She became the first Hapsburg ruler because of the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 which her father drew up ensuring European recognition of the indivisibility of the Hapsburg lands and the right of his daughters to inherit (Crankshaw: 11-12). The Pragmatic Sanction was a wasted effort because as soon as Maria Theresa ascended the throne her authority was challenged by the French, Bavarians and Prussians; all who wanted to divide her lands and depose her (Crankshaw: 13-14).
This was the start of the War of Austrian Succession which will not be discussed in great detail as this war was covered in class but some key points will be mentioned. It was during this war that Maria Theresa gained the title of Holy Roman Emperor for her husband (Crankshaw: 98). On September 7, 1741 Maria Theresa summoned to Pressburg castle the leaders of Hungary for talks of a partnership (Crankshaw: 77). She gave them a true account if her position and told them that the safety of their lands and the land of others depended on them (Crankshaw: 77). The Hungarian leaders agreed to help her because they were touched by her courage to defy a world in arms against her, the clarity with which she weighed the dangers, and by the fact that she was confiding in them and addressing them as men and not subjects (Crankshaw: 77).