Today in World History: October 20th

Maria Theresa, Austrian Empress and wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I was crowned on this day in 1740. Daughter of Emperor Charles VI, she was guaranteed to succeed her father as Empress of Austria by neighboring states, including Prussia, but upon his death they renounced the agreement, declaring war on Austria in what would become known as the War of the Austrian Succession. The war split Europe in two, as Austria, Russia and Great Britain fought against Sweden, Prussia, France, Spain, and Naples. The war resulted in some Prussian territorial gains, but Maria Theresa retained her throne and subsequently went about restoring the Austrian economy, which had been in decline since her father’s reign. She also went about instituting educational reforms, with the help of some of her most senior advisers. Despite her advances in the social and political aspects of Austria, she also attempted to retake lands lost to Prussia in the beginning of her reign, beginning the Seven Years’ War. The war guaranteed the rise of Prussia, the decline of France and Spain, and marked the dominance of Great Britain in European and global politics. Maria Theresa was unsuccessful in the attempt to retake the land, although she continued to reign until her death in 1780, upon which her son Joseph II succeeded her to the throne, after a forty year reign. Her children included Queen of France Marie Antoinette, two Holy Roman Emperors, Joseph II and Leopold II, and other queens of duchies and kingdoms around Europe, including Naples. Maria Theresa’s death also saw the end of the main branch of the Hapsburg dynasty.


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