Maria Theresa, Holy Roman Empress of Austria (1717-1780)


Maria Theresa, Holy Roman Empress of Austria, was another extraordinary woman of her time. Even though she is better known for being the mother of Queen Marie-Antoinette of France, Maria Theresa and her dedication to her country deserves recognition.

Maria Theresa was the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, who was the last of the Hapsburg dynasty because he had no sons. Charles had no intention of letting the Hapsburg rule end as long as he had a capable daughter like Maria Theresa. Before his death, he changed the Salic law that did not allow a daughter to succeed a father, and he issued the Pragmatic Sanction to ensure Maria Theresa’s right to the throne.

Once Maria succeeded her father as Empress, she was met with resistance to her reign from European powers, especially King Frederick II of Prussia.

Maria was faced with a disadvantage because she was uneducated in foreign relations and was faced with disloyal members in her military. However, she was determined and not afraid of confrontation in order to protect her lands. Frederick instigated two wars (the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War) during her reign, which lost Austrian territories to both Prussia and France.

Instead of dwelling on defeat, Maria empowered Austria for the rest of her reign. She surrounded herself with knowledgeable people and began to strengthen the government from the inside out. Empress Maria began to financially and politically empower Austria as she strengthened the military, centralized the government and formed alliances with both France and Prussia.

Maria Theresa is a phenomenal example of what women can accomplish through commitment and a positive effort.


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