Ministero dei Beni delle Attivitą Culturali e del Turismo Direzione Generale Biblioteche e Istituti Culturali

Maria Theresa of Austria

Maria Theresa of Austria(Wien, 1717 - 1780)

Daughter of Charles VI, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from 1711 to 1740, despite the efforts of his father to assure the succession as eldest of two daughters, she was recognized queen of Hungary and Bohemia and Archduchess of Austria in 1748 after a bitter war, becoming empress when in 1745, her husband, the Duke of Lorraine Francis III, Holy Roman Emperor by the name of Francis I, was elected.

For all the courts, the chancellor’s offices and public opinion, however, she was always the Empress, meaning not just the simple wife of the emperor, but the real holder of imperial power. From this marriage between 1737 and 1756, sixteen children, ten of whom survived into adulthood came to life.

Maria Teresa was an "enlightened sovereign " as evidenced by the numerous reforms that implemented the Habsburg Empire during her reign lasted forty years. Based on jurisdictional principles where the financial and administrative powers are apart from the judiciary one, she centralized the state administration in six departments and gave to a State Council the role of coordinator. She also promoted the preparation of the real estate register, imitated then in many other countries, through which nobles lands could be taxed.

In 1774 she introduced the compulsory primary education, and financed the costs of public education with goods confiscated to the Company of Jesus supressed some time before. Along with her plans to reform the public education system and the university, she was responsible for the overall renewal of the University of Pavia and the foundation, in the second half of the XVIII century, of the University Library.

Moreover she decreased the power of the clergy: the censorship passed to the state, the inquisition was gradually abolished and it was forbidden to take monastic vows before the age of 24.

The Empress made Vienna a great cultural capital, whose court was a destination for intellectuals and artists, including musicians Haydn and Mozart and writers Pietro Metastasio and Vittorio Alfieri.

In 1765, to the death of Francis I, the Imperial Diet elected Holy Roman Emperor her son Joseph II.