October 20 – Maria Theresa Inherits a Throne – But Not Much Else!

Posted on October 20, 2015

On this date in 1740, a young 23 year old woman lost her father.

But she was not just any young woman, and he was not just any father!

Charles VI had been Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary and Croatia, King of Serbia, Archduke of Austria, King of Bohemia, King in Germany, and King of Naples, Sardinia, and Sicily!

As he had ruled his empire and kingdoms, he was aware of the fact that he had no living sons to inherit his throne. So, in 1713, he issued an edict called the Pragmatic Sanction...

...An edict that stated that females could inherit crown and properties. That edict was meant to ensure that one of Charles's own daughters could become empress and queen of all those realms, rather than the crown passing to his brother or his sons.

Charles VI ruled for almost 30 years, and that entire time he worked on getting approval for his Pragmatic Sanction from other European powers. These are the kingdoms who signed off on his Sanction, and agreed that Charles VI's daughter Maria Theresa would inherit the throne:
Great Britain France Saxony-Poland the Dutch Republic Spain Venice States of the Church Prussia Russia Denmark Savoy-Sardinia Bavaria the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire

So...obviously...mission accomplished!

But as soon as Charles VI died (from eating death cap mushrooms, according to Voltaire!), these are the nations that reneged on their promises to honor Maria Theresa as ruler, and immediately attacked:
France Spain Saxony-Poland Bavaria Prussia

For the first eight years of Maria Theresa's rule, she had to fight the War of the Austrian Succession, despite her father's life's work, which was that Sanction.

Maria Theresa said later that she had not had the sort of education that she needed to rule. Also, when she took the throne Austria was pretty much bankrupt from wars, and the army that remained after not being paid for a few months was pretty small. This is what Maria Theresa said: “I found myself without money, without credit, without army, without experience and knowledge of my own and finally, also without any counsel because each one of them at first wanted to wait and see how things would develop.” 

Wait and see...if Maria Theresa was kicked off the throne, perhaps? Or if she would be removed by being killed?

The war dragged on for years, but eventually Maria Theresa was recognized as the queen of many of her father's lands. She is listed as Archduchess of Austria, Queen of Hungary and Croatia, Queen of Bohemia, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria, and Galicia. Because a woman cannot rule the Holy Roman Empire, Maria Theresa's husband Francis I became Holy Roman Emperor, and through that marriage Maria Theresa became Holy Roman Empress, German Queen, Duchess of Lorraine, and Grand Duchess of Tuscany.

Isn't royalty weird? Can you imagine having so many titles?

Notice that this artist didn't
do a very good job of painting the
proportions of babies and children!
Speaking of “so many,” Maria Theresa had 16 children! 

She had 11 daughters (10 of whom were named Maria) and 5 sons, but only six lived to be adults. 

One of the most famous of her children was Marie Antoinette, who grew up to become the Queen of France (and who later lost her head!). 

Her other children were queens and archduchesses and Holy Roman Emperors and all manor of titled personages.

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