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Maria Theresa (ca. 1750), by Martin van Mytens

Among all the monarchs of that faithless age, the nearest to a man was a woman. Maria Theresa of Austria was a German of the more generous sort, limited in a domestic rather than a national sense, firm in the ancient faith at which all her own courtiers were sneering, and as brave as a young lioness. Frederick hated her as he hated everything German and everything good.
G. K. Chesterton, The Crimes of England (1916)

Maria Theresa (or, in German and Latin, Maria Theresia) von Habsburg was one of the most remarkable rulers in European history. When her father died in 1740 without male issue she came to the Habsburg throne. She was young, amiable but oversheltered, and her father had amazingly neglected to train her properly. Despite those crippling disadvantages she learned on the job. During her forty-year-long reign, she defended her territory from neighboring rulers as well as beginning many social reforms, which her son Joseph would expand, and is admired by many to this day - except children, who usually only remember that she had the bright idea of mandatory basic schools.

One of her children was Marie Antoinette, who became even more famous than her mother, although for very unfortunate reasons.

Most people aren't aware that she never held the title Holy Roman Empress, because it didn't exist. She was arch-duchess of Austria and King of Hungary and Queen of Bohemia, and had dozens of other titles in her own right, but for the first five years of her reign, the title of Holy Roman Emperor went to the duke of Bavaria. When he died, her husband got it, and so she was the HRE's wife. Additionally, she was the last 'actual' Habsburg. Her children would have belonged to the dynasty of Lorraine, but due to the prominence of the Habsburg dynasty, her children became von Habsburg-Lothringen.

Provides Examples Of:

  • A Mother To Her Men
    • Her soldiers actually called her "mother" and she called them "my children". Isn't That Sweet....
      • She personally started a fashion in Vienna for donating cloth for bandages.
  • Badass Bureaucrat
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: She was notably attractive in her youth.
    • She looks better in the Andreas Moeller portrait given in the other wiki. Presumably she was younger or Andreas was a better painter.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: As the rulers of Europe learned.
  • Cheerful Queen: When The Chains of Commanding were not weighing too heavily she was notably cheerful and loved music and parties intensely.
    • Her personality reminds one of another Maria.
    • She was only moderately cultured herself but she was a patron of opera and classical music. The famous Chess machine The Turk was built on a dare from her, as well.
  • Cool Versus Awesome: Maria versus Frederick the Great
  • Common Sense: Widely Credited with this.
  • Crouching Princess Hidden Badass
  • Deadpan Snarker: Emperor Joseph had a habit of doing this to people he thought less smart than himself. Maria rebuked him for it, pointing out that it really wasn't fair play to do this to people who weren't allowed to snark back.
  • Determinator
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Her obsession with Silesia
  • Dulcinea Effect: Used this well during her reign. Practically everyone seemed to be in love with her. Including some modern history buffs.
  • Ermine Cape Effect
  • Henpecked Husband: Poor, poor Francis of Lorraine. Honestly, it is hard to think of many men who could be married to her without being henpecked (though a marriage between her and Frederick was once suggested; that would've been interesting). Not that she didn't like the man, or wasn't nice; it's just that if she wanted something done, it was done--even if you were officially the Emperor.
    • ...Which is possibly what led to Francis's notorious philandering.
    • That would be also Overshadowed by Awesome. Being married to Maria Theresa sounds like a dream come true, but it would be rather humiliating especially to someone as unassertive as Francis was.
      • Still had 16 kids...
  • The High Queen
    • Worth reminding that she was not queen of Austria, but of Bohemia and Hungary.
  • Holy Roman Empire
  • Honor Before Reason: Although she could do what she had to do at times, she was more notable for honorable behavior than most of the ruling class.
  • Hot Consort: Inverted. She was both the hot one and the primary ruler.
  • In My Language, That Sounds Like...: In 1771, Maria Theresa issued the Robot Patent. Which - sadly - has nothing to do with robots (except in the original sense where robot meant serf labour.)
  • Lady of War
  • Mama Bear: Oh, yeah!
  • The McCoy : Yes she was. Frederick the Great of course was The Spock making it a war between a McCoy and a Spock.
  • Military Maverick: According to legend the Order of Maria Theresa medal requires you to win a victory by disobeying orders. There is partial truth to this. It is a medal for "initiative" given out because she was frustrated at having to prod her officers and wanted them to have a motive to look for trouble.
  • Modest Royalty: She spoke in an ordinary-sounding Vienna accent a lot of times.
  • Naive Newcomer
  • Noble Bigot: Like much of Europe for centuries, she was an anti-Semite, though even more than the average for the time.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: It is said that she was travestied as the Queen of the Night in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte for her anti-progressivism and favoring the Jesuits.
  • Parental Favoritism: Born on the same day as her mother, the pretty and clever Maria Christina was Maria Theresa's favorite daughter. Maria Theresa was so fond of her that she allowed her to marry out of love (in a time when royal offsprings were destined to end up in arranged marriages) and provided a huge dowry for her, something which her other children resented heavily. To Maria Theresa's defense, her daughter knew how to manipulate her and approached her after Francis I's death, at a time when Maria Theresa was emotionally vulnerable.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Had an Unlimited Wardrobe of them, as was typical of noble and royal women of the time.
  • Plucky Girl
  • Pregnant Badass: She had sixteen children. In the time before anesthetic. While still administrating an empire and waging continent-wide wars.
    • Which implies of course that she had a lot of energy.
      • At one near-legendary incident, she appeared before the Hungarian Diet (Parliament) to request military assistance, while carrying her newborn baby (Joseph, her future successor).
    • At one point, she decided to have a tooth removed. So she called up her dentist and had him pull it for her. This was rather odd, since she was giving birth at the time - she wanted to have it over with while she was in pain from childbirth, so she didn't have to have two separate pains. In the time before anesthetic.
    • She managed it during 18 years. Then again, looking around her family in next three generations, it is in blood.
  • Real Queens Love Jesus: She was a strict Catholic and unfashionably pious for her time. Unfortunately, she disliked Jews and Protestants because of this.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something
  • She Is the King: On the occasion of her appearance before the Hungarian Diet (See Pregnant Badass, above), Maria Theresa appealed for aid against Frederick II's invasion of Silesia, at which, we are told, a number of Hungarian cavaliers rose, drew their swords, and shouted, "Moriamur pro nostro Rege, Maria Theresia, Let us die for our King, Maria Theresa."
  • Spirited Young Lady: As described by several historians and biographers.
  • Team Mom
  • This Means War: Frederick's invasion of Silesia.
    • At which one can imagine Frederick replying, "What, did you think I was here for a dance-party?"
  • Tsundere: The type B "Sweet until she's not" variety.
  • Took a Level In Badass
  • Underestimating Badassery: All of Europe did this.
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask
  • Womanly Women Can Hunt : She liked to hunt, but she once ordered her private game preserve exterminated. This has Values Dissonance for some until they remember that the animals there were eating peasant's crops and couldn't be touched. Maria however had the revolutionary idea that the proper aristocratic order did not really extend to forcing her neighbors to starve for her royal pleasure.
  • Worthy Opponent: Frederick the Great said, "I warred with her but I was never her enemy."