Maria Theresa (May 13, 1717 - November 29, 1780) was a Habsburg by birth and a Holy Roman Empress by marriage, Archduchess of Austria, and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia from 1740 to 1780. She was the eldest daughter of Charles VI whose sole male heir - his son Leopold - died in 1711. In 1713 Charles issued the Pragmatic Sanction which guaranteed his daughter the right to succeed to the throne on his death. While many European monarchs agreed to the Pragmatic Sanction when it was issued, on Charles' death (1740) the War of Austrian Succession began. Maria was one of the so-called "enlightened monarchs".
At the time, Maria Theresa was married to Francis Stephen of Lorraine with whom she had sixteen children, the youngest daughter of the sixteen was Marie Antoinette who would be promised in marriage to Louis, the Dauphin of France who would become King Louis XVI.
Maria Theresa's father had assumed that she would yield the true power to her husband. Because of this, her father had not given Maria Theresa any information on the workings of the government, leaving her to learn the job on her own. Additionally, the army was weak and the treasury depleted due to two wars near the end of her father's reign.
The War of Austrian Succession began with Frederick II of Prussia invading and occupying Silesia. While Bavaria and France also invaded Austrian western territories, it was Frederick (later known as Frederick the Great) who became Maria Theresa's main foe during her reign. Therefore she focused her internal and external policies on defeating Prussia and regaining the lands that had been taken from Austria.
She doubled the number of troops in the army, changed taxes to guarantee a steady annual income to support the government and military. She centralized the government by combining the Austrian and Bohemian chancelleries, formerly separate, into one administrative office. Before this, justice and administration were overseen by the same officials, but she created a supreme court with the sole responsibility for upholding justice in her lands. These reforms strengthened the economy. She dropped Great Britain as an ally on the advice of her state chancellor, Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz, and allied with Russia and France. In 1752 she established a military academy, and in 1754 she established an academy of engineering science. She also demanded that the University of Vienna be given the resources to make the medical faculty more efficient. When she felt her army was strong enough, she prepared to attack Prussia in 1756. Frederick II attacked first however, invading Saxony, another ally of Austria, beginning the Seven Years' War. The war ended in 1763 with Maria Theresa signing the Treaty of Hubertusberg which recognized Prussian ownership of Silesia.
Her husband died two years later. Her devotion to him was so great that she dressed in mourning clothes until her own death 15 years later and became more closeted from her people. Her focus changed from attempting to regain Silesia, to maintaining the peace. She also recognized Joseph II, her eldest son, as coregent and emperor. She only allowed him limited powers because she felt he was too rash and arrogant.
In the later years of her reign, she focused on reforming the laws regarding serfs. In 1771, she issued the Robot Patent, a reform that regulated the serf's labor payments in her lands, providing them some relief.
She died in 1780, the only female to rule during the 650-year-long Habsburg dynasty that ended with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria in 1914 led to the outbreak of World War I .
Names in other languages: German: Maria Theresia,Czech: Marie Terezie, Hungarian/Slovak: Mária Terézia
Maria Theresa Thaler
Maria Theresa's fame has been considerably extended by the Maria Theresa Thaler (MTT) coin, which has been used in world trade continuously since the first minted in 1741. Since 1780 the coin has always been dated 1780 and has been made by the following mintss: Birmingham, Bombay, Brussels, London, Paris, Rome and Utrecht, in addition to the Hapsburg mints in Hall, Gunzberg, Kremnitz, Karlsberg, Milan, Prague and Vienna. Between 1751 and 2000 some 389 million have been minted. Since 1946, the Vienna Mint has produced over 49 million. It was one of the first coins used in the United States and probably contributed (along with the Spanish eight-bit dollar and the Straits dollar) to the US choice of a dollar as the main unit of currency.
The coin remains popular in Africa and the Middle East to this day. It is a handsome silver coin with a portrait of the buxom Empress on the front and the Austro-Hungarian Double Eagle on the back. It is said that the low-cut gown she wears has added to the popularity of the coin.
It is 39.5 mm in diameter and 2.5mm thick, weighs 28.0668 grams and contains .752 oz of silver. It is .883 pure.