(One of the great reforming monarchs of the 18th century)
She was born May 13, 1717 in Vienna, the eldest daughter of the Emperor Charles VI. Two of her siblings died, and only Maria and her sister lived to adulthood. She was always very close to her father who, was not only an emperor, but also a music composer. And, because of his great love of music, he encouraged both of his daughter to study. And, along with her musical training, Maria also received an education by the Jesuits. But none of this helped her to become a great empress. This was to be found within.
In she was nineteen, she fell in love with and married Francis Steven, the heir to Lorraine, a man nine years older than she. In fact, she was one of only a few people in her era who married for love. Her love for him was so deep that, even though he had several affairs, she always remained faithful to him. They had 16 children, and Maria always made sure their family life was happy. Her youngest daughter was Marie Antoinette. When her father died unexpectedly in 1740, he was without a male heir, and Maria, only 23, found herself in the possession of the territories in Austria...the Empress of the Holy Roman Empire. Her husband was of little assistance to her. And, because her father had assumed she would give the power to her husband, he left her with little information on government.
It was at this time that the eight year war of Austrian succession began, with many nations taking advantage of the ill-prepared empress and tearing her empire apart, and she lost one of the most expensive areas of the empire, Silesia to Persia. Eventually, a peace treaty was signed, but Maria never regained possession of Silesia. Two years later, Francis died of heart problems and from that day on until the day of her own death, Maria painted her rooms black and wore mourning clothes.
In the years after the war, Maria accomplished sweeping reforms of the empire. She formed a new alliance with France and focused on improving conditions within her realm, on human concerns and less on financial and administrative improvements, launching a series of domestic improvements which helped her people. She reformed the government and formed new schools to train people to serve in her government. She also one the right to set taxes for ten years at a time. And, realizing that the peasants paid the major share of the taxes, she issued laws that made the system fairer and limited the power of the large landowners. She made the army larger and better. In addition to all of the above, she issued and order to set up a public school system on Austrian lands...and finally, she brought people to settle in the rural areas where no one lived.
On November 29, 1780, Maria Theresa passed away. At her death, when the doctors had attempted to give her alcohol to put her to sleep, she said she would rather meet her God while awake. She was a courageous, generous, and kind women who respected the rights of others and expected others to respect her rights. Some historians have termed her as the savior of the Habsburg and is credited with providing a strong foundation for the continuation of the dynasty into the modern era.