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  • Date Submitted: 03/16/2010 06:52 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 43.7 
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Maria Theresa (1717-1780) was Holy Roman empress from 1740 to 1780. Ruling in the most difficult period of Austrian history, she modernized her dominions and saved them from dissolution.

The eldest daughter of the emperor Charles VI, Maria Theresa was born in Vienna on May 13, 1717. Her education did not differ in the main from that given any imperial princess, being both clerical and superficial, even though by the time she was an adolescent it was becoming increasingly probable that Charles would produce no male heir and that one day Maria Theresa would succeed to all his dominions. Charles did not act upon the insistent advice of his most capable adviser, Prince Eugene of Savoy, and marry his daughter off to a prince powerful and influential enough himself to protect her dominions in time of need. Instead he chose to rely upon the fanciful diplomatic guarantees offered by the Pragmatic Sanction. Thus, in 1736 Maria Theresa was permitted to marry for love. Her choice was Duke Francis Stephen of Lorraine. So that France might not object to the prospect of an eventual incorporation of Lorraine into the empire, Francis Stephen was forced to exchange his beloved province for the rather less valuable Tuscany.

In spite of this, and even though the marriage in its first 3 years produced three daughters, Maria Theresa was boundlessly happy. Then suddenly, in October 1740, her father died. At the age of 23, without anything in the way of formal preparation, without the least acquaintance with affairs of state, Maria Theresa had supreme responsibility thrust upon her.

War of the Austrian Succession

Francis Stephen was designated coregent and put in charge of restoring the finances of the empire, a task to which he brought considerable ability but for which he was not to have the requisite time. The treasury was empty, the army had been badly neglected, and as Prince Eugene had warned, Austria's neighbors now engaged in a contest to establish which of them could...

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