Archduchess Maria Theresa, the Queen of the Hungarians, the Czechs and the Croatians, and the Archduchess of Austria, was born on 13 May 1717. As the wife of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor born in Lorraine, she also bore the title of the Empress and was the only woman who reigned the Habsburg Monarchy. To this day, she is regarded as a prudent and enlightened ruler, a great stateswoman and a reformer.
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Even before Maria Theresa was born, her father, Charles VI, the Emperor and the King, as the last male descendant of the Habsburg dynasty, ensured that she would inherit the crown. However, she had to fight for it in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748). Maria Theresa strengthened her reign in her states even though she had to relinquish her imperial title to her husband.
The Habsburg Monarchy lost Silesia in the war, but they tried to regain it during the Seven Years’ War against Prussia (1756–1763). However, by participating in the first division of Poland in 1772, Maria Theresa extended her reign to Galicia and Lodomeria, and to Bukovina in 1775. She sought modernisation and promulgated reforms in the areas of administration, judiciary, economy, education and military. She also abolished torture and witch hunting, and improved the position of peasants.
The reforms were not equally implemented in all the states of the Monarchy. However, they did enable material and spiritual progression, as well as an increase in the number of residents. In 1745 Maria Theresa renewed the county system in Slavonia thereby confirming its connection with Croatia. By establishing the Severin County in 1776, after three centuries, Rijeka was once again annexed to Croatia. The Croatian Royal Council was active from 1767 to 1779 thereby reducing Croatia’s dependence on Hungary.
The reform of the Military Frontier and its militarisation started in 1746. Based upon a decree issued by Maria Theresa, Bjelovar was founded in 1756 as well as Gorski kotar in 1778. Maria Theresa passed away on November 29th, 1780 in Vienna. She had 11 daughters, including Marie Antoinette who was the most famous Queen of France. She also had 5 sons including two of her heirs, Joseph II and Leopold II. Traces of her reign are visible even today throughout the central Europe.