German Empress, Archduchess of Austria, and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, daughter of Emperor Charles VI and wife of Francis Stephen of Lorraine.
In 1713 Charles promulgated a pragmatic sanction by which in case of failure of male heirs the Hapsburg possessions should go to his eldest daughter.
Maria Theresa thus succeeded in 1740, but her rights were disputed by Prussia, Bavaria, and France in the War of the AustrIan Succession, which ended with the Treaty of Aachen, 1748, with the pragmatic sanction practically confirmed, and Francis Stephen crowned emperor.
Ten years peace followed, during which the army, the courts, and civil administration were reformed, trade, commerce, and education aided and developed, and the Masonic lodges broken up.
A desire to recover Silesia from Prussia led to the Seven Years War (1756-1763), which ended by leaving each of the belligerents with the territory held before the war and by confirming Prussia in her role as a great power.
The remaining years saw the increasing influence of her son Joseph II, who became Roman king in 1763 and emperor in 1765, and developed the anti-Catholic policy known as Josephinism, which Maria Theresa had begun.
She consented reluctantly to the partition of Poland and opposed the War of the Bavarian Succession.
With years her interest in primary education increased and she attempted to abolish serfdom in Bohemia but was frustrated by Joseph II.
She was the foundress of the Austrian monarchy, the last and greatest of the Hapsburgs, deeply moral and religious and thoroughly German in character as in nationality.
New Catholic Dictionary