Maria Theresa’s children: the 16 descendants of the ruler


It is well known that Maria Theresa gave birth to 16 children. But, who were they and what became of them?

How many of them reached adulthood? Who is the most famous daughter internationally? Here you will learn
it! Maria Theresa of the House of Habsburg (1717-1780) is undoubtedly one of the most important monarchs in the history of the country, especially in the era of enlightened absolutism. She was Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia. She is often mistakenly referred to as Empress Maria Theresa, but the regent never officially held this title. However, since she enjoyed great influence and her husband Francis I Stephen of Lorraine was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1745, she shaped the image of an empress for many people. Especially since government business was largely handled by “Frau Kaiser.”

Maria Theresa’s children: 11 daughters, 5 sons

The marriage of the then 19-year-old Maria Theresa to her beloved Franz Stephan of Lorraine took place on February 12, 1736 in the Augustinian Church in Vienna . Three months after the marriage, she was already pregnant and gave birth to16 children within 20 years.

The first-born daughter, Maria Elisabeth (1737-1740) already died as a toddler.

In 1738 the next daughter was born, Maria Anna (1738-1789), whose interests were very similar to those of her father. Unfortunately, she suffered from a malformation of the chest and could not be married. Therefore, she remained with her mother until Maria Theresa’s death in 1780. She spent the evening of her life in the Elisabethinen convent in Klagenfurt.

The third child, again a daughter, named Maria Karolina, (born 1740) died while still an infant.

Joint regency with son Josef

A year later, the Habsburgs finally gave birth to a son and thus the long-awaited heir to the throne. Joseph II (1741-1790) ruled together with his mother in the lands of the Habsburg monarchy and succeeded her on the throne after his death in 1780. He is best known for his reforms. His mother, however, is said to have been less than happy about many of these reforms and the way they were enforced.

In 1742 was born the fifth child of the imperial couple Maria Christine .
“Mimi,” as she was called by her mother, was considered Maria Theresa’s favorite daughter. This was partly due to the fact that Maria Christine was born exactly on the 25th birthday of the Archduchess of Austria, which Maria Theresa interpreted as an important sign. The relationship with her siblings was therefore not always easy. She was the only one of the many children who was allowed to choose her own husband. Her choice fell on Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen.

As the sixth child, Maria Elisabeth (1743-1808) came into this world and was a particularly beautiful girl. In the politically motivated marriage plans of her family, she was therefore to be given a special role at an early stage. Unfortunately, her beauty was disfigured by a smallpox disease. Thus she remained unmarried and turned into to “kropferte Liesl“. (having a strumose).

Favorite son Karl Joseph died early

Number seven was the second son, Karl Joseph (1745-1761) . Unlike his older brother, Karl Joseph was considered particularly intelligent and amiable. He can therefore justifiably be called Maria Theresa’s favorite son. He therefore had a rivalry with his brother, the heir to the throne. Unfortunately, he passed away at the young age of 16 due to smallpox . A heavy blow for both parents.

The eighth child was Maria Amalie (1746-1804), who was married against her will to Duke Ferdinand of Parma.

The ninth child and third son was Peter Leopold (1747-1792), who became ruler in Tuscany and even held the imperial office for two years.

In tenth place was Maria Karoline (born 1748), who died shortly after her birth.

The eleventh child, Johanna (1750-1762) fell victim to smallpox at a young age, as did number twelve, Maria Josepha (1751-1767), who was about to marry the Neapolitan crown prince.

Thus, the next daughter and the 13th child in total named Maria Karolina (1752-1814) moved up and had to marry Ferdinand of Naples-Sicily . The Queen of Naples and Sicily brought a total of
even 18 children into the world.

Maria Theresa’s child number 14 was Ferdinand Karl Anton (1754-1806), who founded the collateral line Habsburg-Modena through his marriage to Maria Beatrice d’Este.

The sad fate of Marie-Antoinette

Maria Antonia (1755-1793) was born as the 15th child . To this day, she is undoubtedly Maria Theresa’s best-known daughter internationally, mainly due to her tragic demise. Marrying the French Dauphin Louis XVI in 1770, Maria Antonia became Marie-Antoinette, Empress of France from 1774.

Initially very popular, the people eventually turned against the royal couple. In the wake of the French Revolution, she was executed on the scaffold on October 16, 1793, nine months after her husband.

The youngest and 16th child was Maximilian Franz (1756-1801), who was destined for the spiritual career. He became Archbishop and Elector of Cologne, Prince-Bishop of Münster and acted as Beethoven’s patron.

Only 10 children of Maria Theresa grew up

Due to her smart marriage policy, the archduchess was also fondly referred to as the “Mother-in-Law of Europe”. But the fates of the descendants were partly tragic. In fact, only 10 of the 16 children of Maria Theresa and Francis I Stephen of Lorraine ever reached adulthood; two daughters were afflicted with serious illnesses throughout their lives.

Learn more about the four children of Empress Elisabeth and Emperor Franz Joseph in this article

Time Travel Tip:
At Schönbrunn Palace, take a guided tour to learn how the imperial family and their 16 children lived.

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