Empress Maria Theresa’s 300th birthday will be celebrated throughout Austria this week.
The Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary was born on May 13, 1717.
She remains a legendary figure, still regarded by her people as ‘Mother of the Nation’.
She profoundly reformed her empire as the first female ruler of the early modern period.
Throughout her 40-year reign, her reforms brought prosperity and modernization. One notable reform was compulsory schooling for children between 6 and 12.
She adopted a strategy of marrying her children throughout Europe.
This helped bring greater stability to the region.
She made numerous political statements supporting greater female participation in society.
Maria Theresa was never formally elected or crowned empress.
As the eldest daughter of Emperor Charles VI, she inherited his throne and lands.
But her inheritance was not recognised throughout Europe.
A month after her father’s death, the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) began.
But Maria Theresa proved the be a popular ruler.
She married Francis Stephen of Lorraine.
They had 16 children, including future Emperors Joseph II, Leopold, II and Marie Antoinette, future wife of Louis XVI, King of France.
Maria Theresa died on Nov. 29, 1780, aged 63, in the Imperial Palace Hofburg.