Maria Theresa was Archduchess of Austria for forty years, spanning much of the 18th century. The Austrian Empire was large and diverse, and Austria was surrounded on all sides by dangerous foes, most significantly Frederick the Great of Prussia who spent much of his career expanding the borders of Prussia at the expense of Austria. This book draws a sympathetic portrait of one of the most interesting and powerful women in European history.
PORTRAIT OF MARIA THERESA.
Among the famous queens of the world—Catharine II of Russia, Elizabeth, Anne Boleyn, and Victoria of England, Mary Queen of Scots, Isabella of Spain, Louise of Prussia, Marie Antoinette, Marie and Catharine di Medici of France, and others, Maria Theresa of Austria holds a conspicuous place. In statesmanship and patriotism she ranks with Elizabeth and Catharine. As Catharine greatly improved the administration of her Empire, introduced new laws and extended its frontiers, and as Elizabeth's reign was characterized by great commercial enterprises and extraordinary intellectual activity, so the reign of Maria Theresa, though she was engaged for years in two great wars,—that of the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War with Frederick for the recovery of Silesia, which he had taken from her,—proved to be of the highest benefit to Austria in the strengthening of law and the introduction of needed reforms and wise measures for the welfare of the Empire.
For years she was engaged in war for the preservation of Silesia with the most potent sovereign in Europe—Frederick the Great. Doubtless he had some antique claim upon Silesia, but when Maria Theresa succeeded to the throne under the terms of the Pragmatic Sanction, all the European powers, Prussia among them, whose rights might be affected, renounced their claims. She relied upon their good faith, but on the slightest of pretexts Frederick broke it and determined to rob her of Silesia, even at the cost of plunging all Europe into a long and devastating war. He set aside a new treaty to enforce an old claim. He plainly condemned himself by his own words in his Memoirs: "Ambition, interest, the desire of making people talk about me carried the day and I decided for war." When peace was finally made, Maria Theresa retained her old inheritance, though she lost Silesia; but Frederick was more than willing to make peace, for all Germany had been a terrible sufferer by the war and Prussia was in dire straits.
The story of the life of the great queen is briefly told in these pages. It is the story of the life of a proud, ambitious queen; a wise, judicious ruler, who had the best interests of her subjects at heart, and for whom they were always ready to die; a woman of spotless personal character and true to all her domestic duties at a time when immorality and corruption were rife in high places. The story covers some of the same episodes of history which occur in the narrative of Frederick, in this series, but is none the less interesting, as the reader will find both sides presented.
The following is a chronological statement of the more important events in the reign of Maria Theresa :
|1717||Birth of Maria Theresa.|
|1731||Acceptance of the Pragmatic Sanction.|
|1733||War with France on behalf of King of Poland.|
|1736||Marriage of Maria Theresa to Francis of Lorraine.|
|1739||Peace with Turkey.|
|1740||Death of Emperor Charles VI.|
|1740||Succession of Maria Theresa.|
|1745||Francis I elected Emperor.|
|1741-45||War of the Austrian Succession.|
|1745||Peace concluded at Dresden.|
|1745-48||War with France.|
|1748||Peace concluded at Aix-la-Chapelle.|
|1757-63||Seven Years' War.|
|1763||Peace concluded at Hubertsburg.|
|1765||Death of Emperor Francis I.|
|1765||Succession of Joseph II.|
|1772||Partition of Poland.|
|1778-79||War of the Bavarian Succession concluded.|
|1780||Death of Maria Theresa.|