Maria Theresa

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Maria Theresa

(mərē`ə tərā`zə), 1717–80, Austrian archduchess, queen of Bohemia and Hungary (1740–80), consort of Holy Roman Emperor Francis IFrancis I,
1708–65, Holy Roman emperor (1745–65), duke of Lorraine (1729–37) as Francis Stephen, grand duke of Tuscany (1737–65), husband of Archduchess Maria Theresa.
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 and dowager empress after the accession (1765) of her son, Joseph II. Her father, Holy Roman Emperor Charles VICharles VI,
1685–1740, Holy Roman emperor (1711–40), king of Bohemia (1711–40) and, as Charles III, king of Hungary (1712–40); brother and successor of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph I. Charles was the last Holy Roman emperor of the direct Hapsburg line.
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, altered the Hapsburg family law by the pragmatic sanctionpragmatic sanction,
decision of state dealing with a matter of great importance to a community or a whole state and having the force of fundamental law. The term originated in Roman law and was used on the continent of Europe until modern times.
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 of 1713 so that she might succeed to the Hapsburg lands. She was recognized by her subjects in the Austrian duchies and the Austrian Netherlands, in Bohemia, and in Hungary. The chief European powers had subscribed to the Pragmatic Sanction in Charles's lifetime, but when Maria Theresa acceded she was immediately confronted with a European coalition against her, and Frederick IIFrederick II
or Frederick the Great,
1712–86, king of Prussia (1740–86), son and successor of Frederick William I. Early Life

Frederick's coarse and tyrannical father despised the prince, who showed a taste for French art and literature and no
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 of Prussia brazenly seized SilesiaSilesia
, Czech Slezsko, Ger. Schlesien, Pol. Śląsk, region of E central Europe, extending along both banks of the Oder River and bounded in the south by the mountain ranges of the Sudetes—particularly the Krkonoše (Ger.
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. In the War of the Austrian SuccessionAustrian Succession, War of the,
1740–48, general European war. Causes of the War

The war broke out when, on the strength of the pragmatic sanction of 1713, the Austrian archduchess Maria Theresa succeeded her father, Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, as ruler
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 (1740–48), Maria Theresa lost most of Silesia to Prussia but secured (1745) in exchange the imperial election for her husband. Her warm personality and strength of will won her the loyalty of her subjects and troops, to whom she appealed directly in moments of crisis. Her husband was given a share in governing her hereditary lands, but the actual government was in the hands of Maria Theresa, assisted by her able chancellor, KaunitzKaunitz, Wenzel Anton, Fürst von
, 1711–94, Austrian statesman. He distinguished himself as a negotiator of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) and was (1750–53) ambassador to Paris.
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. After the Treaty of Aix-la-ChapelleAix-la-Chapelle, Treaty of
. 1 Compact of May 2, 1668, that ended the French invasion of the Spanish Netherlands (see Devolution, War of). France kept most of its conquests in Flanders; Cambrai, Aire, Saint-Omer, and the province of Franche-Comté were returned to
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 (1748), Kaunitz accomplished a diplomatic revolution in concluding an alliance with France, the traditional enemy. The Seven Years WarSeven Years War,
1756–63, worldwide war fought in Europe, North America, and India between France, Austria, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and (after 1762) Spain on the one side and Prussia, Great Britain, and Hanover on the other.
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 (1756–63) exhausted the strength of Austria. Maria Theresa lost no territory, but leadership among German states had definitely passed to Prussia. In 1772, Maria Theresa shared with Prussia and Russia in the first partition of Poland (see Poland, partitions ofPoland, partitions of.
The basic causes leading to the three successive partitions (1772, 1793, 1795) that eliminated Poland from the map were the decay and the internal disunity of Poland and the emergence of its neighbors, Russia and Prussia, as leading European powers.
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). Partly under the influence of her son, Joseph II (with whom she jointly ruled her dominions after 1765), Maria Theresa carried out a series of agrarian reforms and centralized the administration of her lands. Unlike her son she followed no particular plan and was, on the whole, conservative. A devout Roman Catholic, her court was the most moral in Europe. During her reign Vienna increased its reputation as a center of the arts and of music. Among her 16 children were emperors Joseph II and Leopold II, Marie Caroline of Naples, and Marie Antoinette of France. Her authoritative biographer is Alfred von Arneth.


See biographies by R. Pick (1966) and E. Crankshaw (1970); studies by G. P. Gooch (1965) and C. A. Macartney (1969).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Maria Theresa


Born May 13, 1717, in Vienna; died there Nov. 29, 1780. Austrian archduchess (from 1740).

After the death of her father, Emperor Charles VI, Maria Theresa inherited the lands of the Hapsburg monarchy on the basis of the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713. However, her rights were recognized by the European powers only after the War of the Austrian Succession of 1740-48. Up until 1765 her husband, Francis Stephen of Lorraine (Emperor Francis I), was co-ruler; after 1765 she ruled with her son Joseph II. Her rule was an important stage in the development of absolutism in the Austrian lands. She carried out reforms directed at increasing state centralization (establishment of the State Council, reform of provincial administration, and customs reform). Pursuing a policy of protectionism, she patronized the development of industry and trade. In conditions marked by a crisis in the corvée system and under the influence of the 1775 peasant uprising, the empress issued the “patent on the corvée,” which limited the corvée in the Bohemian lands to three days a week. In 1768 she issued a new criminal code, and in 1776 she abolished torture. Her attempt during the Seven Years’ War of 1756-63 to recover Silesia (seized by Prussia) brought no results. Her foreign policy (directed by chancellor W. Kaunitz) was oriented above all toward France (from 1756).


Maria Theresia, Briefe und Aktenstucke in Auswahl. Edited by E. Walter. Darmstadt, 1968.


Kretschmayr, H. Maria Theresia. Leipzig, 1938.
Otruba, G. Die Wirtschaftspolitik Maria Theresias. Vienna, 1963.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Maria Theresa

1717--80, archduchess of Austria and queen of Hungary and Bohemia (1740--80); the daughter and heiress of Emperor Charles VI of Austria; the wife of Emperor Francis I; the mother of Emperor Joseph II. In the War of the Austrian Succession (1740--48) she was confirmed in all her possessions except Silesia, which she attempted unsuccessfully to regain in the Seven Years' War (1756--63)
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