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Empress Maria Theresa

Empress Maria TheresaMaria Theresa, born in May 13, 1717, was a Habsburg and Holy Roman Empress, Archduchess of Austria and the 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. This overturned the Salic Law in Europe which prohibited a daughter from inheriting a father's kingdom.

While many European monarchs agreed with the Pragmatic Sanction when it was issued, on Charles' death in 1740 the War of Austrian Succession began.  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.

Coinage of Maria Theresa'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 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. She then created a supreme court with the sole responsibility for upholding justice in her lands. These reforms strengthened the economy.

Empress Maria TheresaShe dropped Great Britain as an ally on the advice of her state chancellor, Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz, and allied with Russia and France. She established a military academy (1752) and an academy of engineering science (1754). 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 secluded from her people. Her focus changed from attempting to regain Silesia, to maintaining the peace. She also recognized Joseph II, her eldest son, as Co-Regent 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 on November 29, 1780, and was the only female to rule during the 650-year-long Habsburg dynasty that ended with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand (1914), an Archduke of Austria that led to the outbreak of World War I.
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Emperor Francis I

Francis I, born on December 8, 1708 was the Holy Roman Emperor and Grand Duke of Tuscany. He was the second son of Leopold Joseph, Duke of Lorraine, and his wife Elizabeth Charlotte, daughter of Philip, Duke of Orleans. He was connected with the Habsburgs through his grandmother, Eleanore, daughter of the Emperor Ferdinand III, and wife of Charles Leopold of Lorraine. The Emperor Charles VI favored the family, who, besides being his cousins, had served the house of Austria with distinction.

Charles VI had designed to marry his daughter Maria Theresa to Clement, the elder brother of Francis. On the death of Clement, he adopted the younger brother as her future husband instead. Francis was brought up at Vienna with Maria Theresa on the understanding that they were to be married, and a real affection arose between them.

At the age of fifteen, when he was brought to Vienna, he was established in the Silesian Duchy of Teschen, which had been granted to his father by the Emperor in 1722. He succeeded his father as Duke of Lorraine in 1729. At the end of the Polish War of Succession, the Emperor desired to compensate his candidate Stanislaus Leszczynski for the loss of his crown in 1735 by persuading Francis to exchange Lorraine for the reversion of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

On February 12, 1736, he was married to Maria Theresa, and they went for a short time to Florence, when he succeeded to the Grand Duchy on the death of John Gaston, the last of the ruling house of Medici. His wife secured his election to the Empire on the September 13, 1745, in succession to Charles VII, and she made him co-regent of her hereditary dominions.

Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa

Francis was well content to leave the reality of power to his able wife. He had a natural fund of good sense and some business capacity, and he was a useful assistant to Maria Theresa in the laborious task of governing the complicated Austrian dominions, but his functions appear to have been of a purely secretarial character.

Maria Theresa and Francis I had sixteen children, the youngest daughter of which was Marie Antoinette who would be promised in marriage to Louis, the Dauphin of France, who would become King Louis XVI.

He died suddenly in his carriage while returning from the opera at Innsbruck on August 18, 1765.

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King Louis XV

King Louis XVKing Louis XV was born at Versailles on February 15, 1710. Louis XV succeeded his great-grandfather at the age of 5. When King Louis gained control of the throne at his early age, he had an advisor helping him along the way, Andre Hercule de Fleury. Fleury was one of the main causes of France's financial difficulties. In 1723, he began ruling the command of France on his own. Many times during his lifetime, he was influenced by the aristocracy and his mistresses, Marquise de Pompadour and later on, Madame du Barry.

During his reign, he was involved in 3 wars. They were the War of the Polish Succession, the War of Austrian Succession, and finally the Seven Years' War. In the first war, France gained the province of Lorraine. The second was never resolved. During the third war, he lost most of its overseas possessions to the British which were very costly to the French empire.

The factors left after his reign left a dent in the monarchy and financial policies, which left Louis XVI’s new reign in financial and economic turmoil. They tried a new tax system, which failed. They also attempted to reform the Parliament that failed. By this time, the country was near bankruptcy. When the financial problems could not be solved, the signs of an oncoming French Revolution began to be more prevalent prior to King Louis XVI's reign.

Along with the major problems to deal with, he had also established secret diplomacy. He basically stationed secret French agents around in major European capitals to pursue political objectives. This too backfired on King Louis. He ended up losing possessions in North America and India. These misfortunes, however, made little impression on the king, whose attitude was expressed in the phrase, "After me the deluge!" King Louis XV died of smallpox on May 10, 1774.

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Emperor Joseph II

Joseph II, the Holy Roman Emperor, King of Bohemia and Hungary who ruled from 1780 to 1790, was born in March 13, 1741 and was the son of Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, whom he succeeded. He was the first emperor of the house of Hapsburg-Lorraine.

From the death of his father in 1765 to the death of his mother in 1780, Joseph ruled the Hapsburg lands jointly with his mother but had little authority. As a young man, he had been profoundly impressed by the subhuman conditions of the peasantry that he saw while touring the provinces. Joseph was impatient with the slowness of Maria Theresa's reforms and on her death he was ready with a full revolutionary program.

Joseph instituted far-reaching reforms that were more the result of his personal philosophy and principles than of the philosophy of Enlightenment. He contemplated nothing less than the abolition of hereditary and ecclesiastic privileges and the creation of a centralized and unified state administered by a civil service based on merit and loyalty rather than birth. He planned a series of fiscal, penal, civil, and social laws that would have established some measure of social equality and security for the masses. A strong exponent of absolutism, he used despotic means to push through his reforms over all opposition in order to consolidate them during his lifetime.

Although Joseph was a faithful Roman Catholic, he also instituted a series of religious reforms aimed at making German Catholicism independent of Rome. He forbade religious orders to obey foreign superiors, suppressed all contemplative orders, and even sought to interfere with the training of priests. A personal visit of Pope Pius VI to Vienna did not halt these measures. The Patent of Tolerance provided for extensive, although not absolute, freedom of worship.

Leopold II & Joseph II

Joseph's main piece of legislation was the abolition of serfdom and feudal dues; he also enabled tenants to acquire their own lands from the nobles for moderate fees and allowed peasants to marry whom they wished and to change their residence. Joseph founded numerous hospitals, insane asylums, poorhouses, and orphanages; he opened parks and gardens to the public; and he legislated to provide free food and medicine for the indigent. In judicial affairs Joseph liberalized the civil and criminal law codes, abolishing torture altogether and removing the death penalty.

In fiscal matters Joseph was influenced by the physiocrats. He ordered a general reassessment of land preparatory to the imposition of a single land tax. This reform met with widespread opposition. Still more unpopular, however, was his attempt to abrogate local governments, customs, and privileges in his far-flung and multilingual dominions, which he divided into 13 circles centrally administered from Vienna. He even sought to impose German as the sole official language; a multilingual administration seemed irrational to him.

Revolts broke out in Hungary and in the Austrian Netherlands; these were subsequently halted during the reign of Leopold II, Joseph's brother and successor, who rescinded Joseph's reforms in these lands. Most of Joseph's reforms did not outlive him. His failure to make them permanent was largely caused by his lack of diplomacy, by his untimely death, by the reaction produced by the French Revolution, and by his unsuccessful foreign policy. Moreover, his scattered and varied lands offered poor conditions for reform.

Joseph's plan to annex Bavaria to Austria and thus to consolidate his state was frustrated in the War of the Bavarian Succession from 1778 to 1779; his project to exchange the Austrian Netherlands for Bavaria was thwarted (1785) by King Frederick II of Prussia, who formed the Fürstenbund, the Princes' League, for that purpose. Joseph allied himself with Czarina Catherine II of Russia, whom he accompanied incognito on her Crimean journey, hoping to share in the spoils of the Ottoman Empire. Austria joined Russia in the war of 1787 to 1792 against the Ottoman Empire, but was unsuccessful.

Obsessed with his social responsibility, Joseph found only occasional time to interest him in any but the utilitarian arts. With the exception of the pliable Kaunitz, Joseph's ministers found it difficult to collaborate with him. Joseph was hated and ridiculed by the clergy and nobles, but he was the idol of the common people. Judgments on Joseph II vary widely, but it is certain that he left a socially freer state on his death than he had found on his accession. Joseph II died February 20, 1790.

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Emperor Leopold II

Leopold II, ruled as the Holy Roman Emperor and the King of Bohemia and Hungary from 1847 to 1792. Leopold was the grand duke of Tuscany (1765-90) and the third son of Maria Theresa, who succeeded his father, the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, in Tuscany. Leopold reorganized the Tuscan government, abolished torture and the death penalty, equalized taxation, and sought to gain control over the church. When he succeeded his brother Joseph II as emperor and as ruler of the Hapsburg lands in 1790, he took over a nearly disrupted state.

To pacify his subjects in the Austrian Netherlands, in Hungary, and in Bohemia, he repealed most of Joseph's reforms. Unlike Joseph, he had himself crowned king at Pozsony in Hungary and at Prague in Bohemia; he was the last crowned king of Bohemia.

In 1790, he reached an agreement with Frederick William II of Prussia, who wished to prevent Austrian expansion in the east and was about to side with the Ottoman Empire in Turkey in its war against Russia and Austria. Leopold abandoned his alliance with the Russian Czarina, Catherine II. He concluded a separate peace treaty at Sistova with Turkey by which the pre-war borders were substantially restored. Leopold's troops marched into the Austrian Netherlands and suppressed the Belgian insurrection in 1790.

Although he hoped to avoid war with revolutionary France, Leopold instigated the Declaration of Pillnitz in 1791, by which the Emperor and the King of Prussia stated that if all other European powers would join them, they were prepared to restore Louis XVI to his lawful powers by force. Contrary to his expectations, this declaration was a basic cause of the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars a few weeks after Leopold's death. Leopold was succeeded by his son, Francis II. Leopold is generally considered a ruler of outstanding diplomatic and administrative abilities.

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Emperor Francis II

Francis II, (1768-1835), last Holy Roman emperor (1792-1806), first emperor of Austria as Francis I (1804-35), King of Bohemia and of Hungary (1792-1835). He succeeded his father, Leopold II, shortly before the outbreak of war with France. His armies were eventually defeated by Napoleon Bonaparte and by the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797.

He again fought against France during the Second and Third Coalition, when after meeting crushing defeat at Austerlitz, he had to agree to the Treaty of Pressburg, which effectively dissolved the Holy Roman Empire, weakening the Austrian Empire and reorganizing present-day Germany under a Napoleonic imprint. Francis assumed the title emperor of Austria in 1804.

In 1809, he again declared war on Napoleon, now Emperor Napoleon I, who was embroiled in difficulties in Spain. Francis's brother, Archduke Charles, defeated Napoleon at Aspern, but was crushed at Wagram. Napoleon entered Vienna and imposed on Francis the Peace of Schönbrunn, in which Austria was forced to give up Galicia, Istria, and part of Dalmatia, and to join Napoleon's Continental System.

Francis II and family

In 1810, Francis's daughter, Marie Louise, married Napoleon. This marriage was engineered by Klemens Wenzel von Metternich . Metternich's influenced and dominated Austrian politics from 1809. In August of 1813, Francis joined Russia, Prussia, and England in their war against Napoleon. From 1814 to 1815, he presided over the Congress of Vienna, in which Austria, through Metternich's diplomacy, emerged as the leading power in Europe. Francis was a chief architect of the Holy Alliance. The events of his early reign shaped his later reactionary views, and he instituted severe repressive measures throughout the empire. Francis was succeeded by his son Ferdinand.

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The Imperial Crypt

Since 1633, the Imperial Crypt in Vienna has been the principal place of entombment for the Habsburg dynasty, hereditary Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, and their descendants. Marie Antoinette's family buried there are Maria Theresa, Francis I, Joseph II, Leopold II, and Francis II. They include twelve Emperors and eighteen Empresses, totaling 142.


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