The Empress Maria Theresa was born in Vienna in 1717 and died here in 1780. She was the daughter of Charles VI and Christina of Brunswick-Wolfenhuttel and inherited the throne of Austria following a particular act of the father (1713) that ensured the succession of the Hapsburg Empire also to the female line.
In 1736 he married Francesco Stefano di Lorena who the following year became Grand Duke of Tuscany. In 1740 Carlo VI died and Maria Teresa ascended the throne while her husband preferred to keep aside and not to deal with politics, but with technical and administrative questions concerning the State.
Despite the precise will of Charles VI, a vast movement was created which tended to hinder or prevent the succession of Maria Theresa. Carlo Alberto, elector of Bavaria, claimed the throne of Austria for his wife Maria Amalia, cousin of Maria Teresa. Since many States wished to dismember Austria, they all took advantage of the opportunity to support the Bavarian prince: in fact Frederick II of Prussia aspired to Silesia, Philip V of Spain to Milanese and Louis XV of France would have looked favorably at the end of Austrian hegemony. War broke out for the Austrian succession that ended with the Peace of Aachen in 1748.
Maria Teresa is proclaimed empress: the act of Charles VI was thus recognized. Austria lost some Italian territories in favor of Charles Emmanuel III of Savoy and Silesia in favor of Frederick II of Prussia. Against the latter, who had allied himself with England, Maria Teresa made an alliance with Louis XVI of France, Elisabeth of Russia and Augustus III of Saxony and Poland.
The Seven Years War broke out and ended in 1763 with the defeat of Maria Teresa. In 1765 Francesco I died and Maria Teresa, a woman of great intelligence and energy, dedicated herself to the transformation and modernization of the Austrian state, which became a monarchy governed by capable administrators and proven honesty.
The empire was given an almost modern organization with the Secret Council (a kind of Council of Ministers), the Court Chancellery (Ministry of Interior and Foreign Affairs), the Aulic Military Council (Ministry of War), the Aulica Chamber (Ministry of Finance) and autonomous bodies for the government of Bohemia and Hungary. Not a few privileges were granted to the bourgeoisie and the aggravations of the peasants were lightened.
Maria Teresa, being a devout Catholic, aroused not a few difficulties to non-Catholic subjects. However, he held a very firm policy towards the clergy: he limited their privileges and implemented the decree to suppress the Jesuit order. The empress also manifested a relative enlightened laicism also in the scholastic and university politics, favoring the scientific faculties and the development of the economic sciences.
Maria Teresa had a large part in the reforms of the empire, she was a woman of great energy and administered Austria very well both in peace and in war. The development of Lombardy, among other things, is due to the wise administrative measures taken first by Maria Theresa and then by her son and her successor Joseph II.
He had with his husband Francesco the 16 children: 11 females and 5 males. Among the most famous are Queen Marie Antoinette of France (wife of Louis XVI), Emperor Joseph II of Austria and the Grand Duke of Tuscany Leopoldo (Emperor of Austria at the death of Joseph II).