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Maria Theresa

Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia and Empress of Germany, daughter of the Emperor Charles VI., was born in 1717. In 1736 she was married to Francis of Lorraine, who a year later became Grand Duke of Tuscany. In 1724, on the death of her brother, Charles VI. declared her heir to his hereditary dominions, and he spent the last few years of his life in unceasing efforts to secure her peaceful succession by obtaining guarantees of the Pragmatic Sanction from the different Powers. Notwithstanding, when he died, in 1740, Frederick the Great invaded Silesia, Charles Albert of Bavaria contested the will of the late emperor, while Saxony and Spain also advanced claims, and France supported Bavaria in return for a free hand in the Netherlands. Maria Theresa rose to the occasion, and obtained the support of the Hungarians by granting them constitutional privileges and the right of carrying arms. The secret convention of Klein-Schnellendorf was made (October, 1741) with Prussia by English mediation, by which Lower Silesia was ceded. Less than two months later, however, it was shamelessly broken by Frederick, and next month the Elector of Bavaria was elected emperor instead of Maria Theresa's husband. She, however, succeeded in preserving all her territory with the exception of Silesia, the whole of which was ceded to Prussia at the peace; and after the death of Charles Albert (1745) the Grand Duke Francis was elected his successor in the empire, with the title of Francis I. The next few years saw the rise of Kaunitz (q.v.), and a complete revolution in European politics. In the Seven Years' War, though Frederick began hostilities, he was forced to do so on account of the schemes of revenge which he knew that Maria Theresa (this time with France, Russia, and Saxony as her allies) was forming against him. After nearly seven years of terrible battles, Austria was obliged to make peace in 1763 without having regained the territory lost in the last war. Two years later Maria Theresa's son Joseph was elected to the empire in succession to his father; and from this time till her death in 1780 he shared the rule of the Austrian territories with her. Almost to the last she kept control of home affairs. [Austeia, Frederick. II., Joseph II., Kaunitz.]