Author Topic: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family  (Read 271420 times)

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Offline Bravecoeur

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #315 on: October 13, 2014, 07:16:46 PM »
@Eric_Lowe OK, I'll write more about her soon.

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And speaking of Maria Anna, this is what really strikes me: Maria Anna was appointed abbess of the noble convent in Prague in 1766. Only a few months earlier the convent in Innsbruck was opened (to commemorate Franz Stephan's death) and this convent was modelled very closely after the Prague example. So why not appoint Maria Elisabeth abbess in Innsbruck?

But if you do mean Maria Elisabeth, in 1766 she would still presumably have been considered a matrimonial player even though as it turned out Marie Christine had ended up with such a huge marriage settlement, Maria Theresa and Joseph were not prepared to support another minor matrimonial royal spouse such as the Duke of Chablais, for her.  However, she was still in the running for marriage projects for major players such as Louis XV in 1770, so appointing Maria Elisabeth as abbess in Innsbruck in 1766 was perhaps too much of a commitment of a viable matrimonial resource at that stage to a religious foundation (especially since she fell ill with smallpox in 1767 at which point she lost her looks due to scarring).
Yes I did mean Maria Elisabeth. And I did not want to suggest appointing her abbess right in 1766, but at least earlier than 1781.

I think that there are some contradictions in the literature. Either she was, as you say (and I agree with you) still in the running for major marriage projects, despite the small pox scars. Or she was not because she was "too ugly" (as literature often suggests) - but then Vienna could have looked for another position for her right after 1767.

As you point out correctly, the smallpox did not put an immediate end to the marriage projects. However, to my knowledge there is no correspondence about a marriage project with Louis XV after 1769, so we can assume that by 1770 Vienna had given up this plan. Also as you have pointed out Maria Theresia and Joseph did not want to support a possible husband. So, were there even any major players as husbands left at that time? And even if there were, at some point Maria Elisabeth (who was 27 in 1770) must have left the age when she was regarded as “marriage material” or not? I don't know much about these marriage tactics I just assume.
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It would also be fair to say that the Maria Theresianisches Damenstift in Innsbruck was envisaged as more of a lay order for noblewomen dedicated to prayers for the Emperor so was not necessarily the sort of establishment that, in 1766, would have been an obvious destination for either sister at that stage of their lives.
This I do not understand. Maria Anna was appointed abbess of Prague in 1766 (aged 28), Maria Elisabeth was 28 in 1771 so at any point when she was not considered "fit to be married" anymore she could have been appointed abbess in Innsbruck. As said, Innsbruck was pretty much just a smaller (and less prestigious) version of the Prague convent, so if Prague was fit for Maria Anna, Innsbruck should have been fit for Maria Elisabeth. I can check a book on the Innsbruck convent but as far as I know the abbess was NOT required to take part in the daily mourning prayers. And it was certainly not a convent for elderly ladies, the women in 1765 were rather young. As these convents were not a religious order, the ladies took part in court life (with some restrictions) and could leave the convent again, if they found a suitable husband (I am not sure if this is also applicable for an abbess).
« Last Edit: October 13, 2014, 07:19:00 PM by Bravecoeur »

Offline Eric_Lowe

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #316 on: October 13, 2014, 10:49:41 PM »
Yes. I read a lot about how Maria Anna wasn't marriage material from the beginning because she was "sickly". Maria Elizabeth was quite the opposite being the beauty in the family before the pox incident.

Offline CountessKate

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #317 on: October 14, 2014, 04:33:43 AM »
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I did not want to suggest appointing her abbess right in 1766, but at least earlier than 1781.

I agree that this does seem a fair bit later than a realistic appraisal of Maria Elisabeth's matrimonial prospects would have indicated.  However, my impression is that she herself might have held out at becoming Abbess as a sort of final commmitment, even when there was no longer any real hope she might be married.  That post did seem to be held by royal ladies who had either given up their matrimonial ambitions or who had never had them.  When one of the marriage plans for Maria Elisabeth fell through, Maria Theresa wrote to Marie Christine that "she began to sob....[saying] that all [the others] were established and she alone was left behind and destined to remain alone with the Emperor, which is what she will never do.  We had great difficulty in silencing her."  It may be that she simply dug her toes in and became emotional if the prospect was raised, and was consequently left alone from embarrassment rather than made to take the appointment, until Joseph became sole ruler after Maria Theresa's death and there was no other option. She may also have reasoned that becoming Abbess might have given Joseph the excuse to push her out to Innsbruck - though as he didn't bother with an excuse, it probably seemed better to go as an Abbess than to go as a mere canoness. 

Offline Bravecoeur

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #318 on: October 14, 2014, 02:15:05 PM »
However, my impression is that she herself might have held out at becoming Abbess as a sort of final commmitment, even when there was no longer any real hope she might be married.  That post did seem to be held by royal ladies who had either given up their matrimonial ambitions or who had never had them.
This is an interesting thought. Yes, one would have to look at what exactly it meant to become an abbess and compare with other abbesses. Interesting question. Nevertheless there are quotes that she resented not to have anything, while we lack any hint that any position was considered for her prior to 1780. If they didn't want to close the door I'm sure there would have been honorary positions, honorary governor posts (although the latter maybe contradicts the centralisation rationale a bit).

When one of the marriage plans for Maria Elisabeth fell through, Maria Theresa wrote to Marie Christine that "she began to sob....[saying] that all [the others] were established and she alone was left behind and destined to remain alone with the Emperor, which is what she will never do.  We had great difficulty in silencing her."
If I may correct you, this was not about a failed marriage plan, this was in 1780 when Maria Theresia told her about her (successful) plan to secure Maria Elisabeth's youngest brother, Maximilian Franz, the posts as Coadjutor of the Archbishop Elector Spiritual of Cologne and Coadjutor as Prince-Bishop of Münster. I have quoted it above:
As was already said here there are reports that Maria Elisabeth was very resentful about this situation, and in 1780 Maria Theresia reports in a letter that she started to cry because she feared she would grow old alone in Vienna with Joseph. (Maria Elisabeth "commença à sangloter. ... que tous étaient établis et elle seule était délaissée et destinée à rester seule avec l'empereur, ce quelle ne ferait jamais. Nous avions toutes les peines a la faire taire." Maria Theresia to Marie Christine, 29 May 1780, printed in Arneth, Letters, Vol. 2, p. 462).

It may be that she simply dug her toes in and became emotional if the prospect was raised, and was consequently left alone from embarrassment rather than made to take the appointment,
Well, Leopold noted in his critical diary, that Maria Elisabeth was very bitter that she had not received any post which sounds more as if she expected it. And the quote above also suggests that she wished to have some sort of being "established" (while it does not contain bitterness about being unmarried).

She may also have reasoned that becoming Abbess might have given Joseph the excuse to push her out to Innsbruck - though as he didn't bother with an excuse, it probably seemed better to go as an Abbess than to go as a mere canoness.
Yes but then the quote above suggests that she herself didn't even want to stay alone with Joseph in Vienna. But true we do not know anything how this appointment to abbess came about, whether it was her wish too or solely his decision. (Theoretically as Maria Anna resigned from her Post in Prague, Maria Elisabeth could have gone there too.) But I have never read that there was any discussion that she could be a mere canoness have you?



Offline CountessKate

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #319 on: October 14, 2014, 05:41:12 PM »
Thanks for the correction with regard to the dates - it wasn't clear from the reference given by Derek Beales in his biography of Joseph II, and moreover he seemed to think it was a marriage project which had fallen through rather than Maximillian's appointment.

It was my understanding that Maria Elisabeth was reluctant to leave Vienna for Innsbruck when Joseph made it clear he was not prepared to allow his sisters to stay there following the death of Maria Theresa, and it might be that because of this I have misread the situation; she may have been reluctant to leave the court for good and not have the ability to move back and forth as she pleased, but the position of abbess might be the one sweetener that made the deal palatable to her.  Looked at it that way, the other aspect which is noticeable prior to this is that both Maria Theresa and Joseph thought very poorly of Maria Elisabeth - in the letter you mention, Maria Theresa adds "il est triste de voir si peu de raisonnement" [it is sad to see so little reasoning].  In fact, it seems perfectly sensible for her to fear that she would have no establishment except an unsatisfactory position at Joseph's court in the future.  It may be that Maria Theresa simply didn't consider Maria Elisabeth capable of running her own show, and Joseph was certainly not going to stand up for her, though he might have thought it worth giving her the appointment after the empress's death to get rid of her.  So it may be that Maria Elisabeth did want to be Abbess, but Maria Theresa was not prepared to allow it.  Though all this is speculation - it's very difficult in the absence of anything from Maria Elisabeth herself.

Offline Bravecoeur

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #320 on: October 15, 2014, 07:19:04 AM »
Thanks for the correction with regard to the dates - it wasn't clear from the reference given by Derek Beales in his biography of Joseph II, and moreover he seemed to think it was a marriage project which had fallen through rather than Maximillian's appointment.
You're welcome. I did not know what your source was, from all your previous insightful statements and quotes I thought you may have read the original editions of the letters.

It was my understanding that Maria Elisabeth was reluctant to leave Vienna for Innsbruck when Joseph made it clear he was not prepared to allow his sisters to stay there following the death of Maria Theresa, and it might be that because of this I have misread the situation;
I don't think you misread it, I think this is the general portrayal of the situation. Joseph certainly wanted to put an end to the Viennese "republique feminine" (I think Beales writes this too). In another later letter he says that there was a lot of crying about his actions. I once had had a look into the edition of Joseph's letters to Leopold and if my limited French did not mislead me this quote seems to refer more to the court and ladies around the sisters but not the sisters themselves. But I could be wrong.

Looked at it that way, the other aspect which is noticeable prior to this is that both Maria Theresa and Joseph thought very poorly of Maria Elisabeth - in the letter you mention, Maria Theresa adds "il est triste de voir si peu de raisonnement" [it is sad to see so little reasoning].  In fact, it seems perfectly sensible for her to fear that she would have no establishment except an unsatisfactory position at Joseph's court in the future.
I totally agree.

It may be that Maria Theresa simply didn't consider Maria Elisabeth capable of running her own show, and Joseph was certainly not going to stand up for her, though he might have thought it worth giving her the appointment after the empress's death to get rid of her.  So it may be that Maria Elisabeth did want to be Abbess, but Maria Theresa was not prepared to allow it.  Though all this is speculation - it's very difficult in the absence of anything from Maria Elisabeth herself.
Again I agree, it is a pity that there is so little knowledge about Maria Elisabeth's thoughts/wishes. Another speculation - at least relating to Innsbruck - could be that Maria Theresia wanted to remain fully in charge of this convent which clearly meant a lot to her. Appointing her daughter would have meant to hand over some/most competencies.

@Eric Lowe As promised, some more information on Maria Elisabeth's life after 1780 which is somewhat neglected by biographers, it appears as if she was removed away from Vienna to the province, into a convent, quiet religious life, nothing happened, done. (Of course this is an oversimplification now.)

However, on the one hand, the convent itself was not a nunnery – the ladies could with some restrictions participate in court life, and if a suitable husband was found, leave the convent. Both Joseph and later Maria Elisabeth abolished some of the religious duties. These duties anyways mostly applied to the ladies and the dean – whereas the Archduchess was required to partake only on special holidays. She also did not live in the convent but in the imperial castle in Innsbruck (to which the convent was connected or was part of respectively). After 1781 there was a small but vivid court life around Maria Elisabeth, which was enriched by visits of siblings (I think Maria Amalia’s visit was already mentioned here) but also benefited from Innsbruck’s geographical position at the Germany-Italy route which brought noble visitors into the city (They were usually welcomed by Maria Elisabeth with diners, balls, theatre etc, sometimes also sightseeing trips in the vicinity).

For the Tyrolean nobility and administration (probably also economy) it was of quite some importance to have a court again (with interruptions Tyrol had had their own sovereign and court until 1665). Thus it was clear from the beginning that for the Tyroleans Archduchess Maria Elisabeth would be more than "just" an abbess. Some panegyric poets celebrated her as the emperor’s embodiment in the province. In fact, Joseph was concerned about this and instructed the governor that her social/symbolic position must not lead to any meddling with political matters. And to my knowledge she did not. This symbolic/social position remained and probably increased over the years. For example in 1790 Leopold made Maria Elisabeth his representative at the act and celebration of the Tyroleans’ oath of allegiance. In the same year the convent received a seat in the regional diet. In the 1790s, when the French troops threaten Tyrol’s borders, Maria Elisabeth signed proclamations asking the population to join the militia and to defend the country. At this time she appears to be some sort of a substitute sovereign/governor. In these years she also left Innsbruck for several times when the military situation seemed dangerous and in 1805 when Tyrol was ceded to Bavaria, Maria Elisabeth left Tyrol, “abdicated” as abbess and moved east to Linz where she died in 1808.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2014, 07:20:51 AM by Bravecoeur »

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #321 on: October 19, 2014, 02:10:58 AM »
Bravecoeur & CountessKate: Thank you very much for the details on Maria Elisabeth.  They were very insightful.

She is one of my favourite princesses and  more than two centuries after their failed match, I am for "Team Maria Elisabeth of Austria-Benedetto of Savoy".  She was very interesting and for me, "short-changed" by her mother (never mind Joseph, who didn't seem to like his sisters - or women - much). Leopold treated her better. As stated above, he allowed his sister to be his official representative and he also increased her allowance (no doubt from the trust fund that their father created but one had to give him credit for it).

May I just add that in the proclamations she signed upon the French threats, she pledged to sell her watches (studded with jewels, no doubt) to help the cause of the Austrians... She was visited Vienna several times, during Leopold's (short) reign as well as her nephew Franz's. It was said that she developed a sharp tongue, which did not spare her nephews, specifically Franz and Rainier.  She, however, left her outstanding musical collection to one of Leopold's sons (I forgot which son).  But I don't know why her niece Marie Therese of France was "appalled" by her?  Another niece, Caroline of Parma, did not seem to find her such. Or at least, I never encountered a letter or a reference stating such.  

As for Maria Anna, she herself stated that she was very happy in Klagenfurt, that she felt very much loved there (which she never did in Vienna,  or at least perhaps after her father died - she was daddy's girl, after all). So I think Maria Anna died happy in her (final) home.  Not a bad ending at all.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2014, 02:41:21 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #322 on: October 19, 2014, 02:24:26 AM »
Love to know more about Archduchess Maria Elizabeth. She was friendly to Maria Amalia, Duchess of Parma.

The friendly relations between the two sisters likely started in childhood, despite Maria Amalia being brought up separately from her siblings.  They only had 2.5 years age gap and both were mostly left behind in terms of imperial trips (the children that frequently accompanied their parents on trips were Maria Anna, Joseph, Mimi, Karl,  and Leopold.... although I can't say I understand why Leopold, the youngest in the entourage and younger than ME and Amalia, was preferred over his older sisters... Perhaps gender?). Also, after Franz Stephan died and Maria Theresa was in seclusion, it was left to ME and Amalia, together with their sister-in-law and (second) cousin Maria Josepha, to represent the imperial family at court events.    

I seem to remember reading in one of MT's biographies that ME and Amalia were both "very envious" of their sister Maria Josepha, because she was already set to marry Ferdinand of Naples while they didn't have a fiance (this was in 1767 nefore the smallpox epidemic,  if I'm not mistaken).... does anyone know if this was even close to the truth?  Of course, the imperial children had their share of rivalries... so it is possible. Still, I am wary of authors making such claims (no reference cited either). Based on all I have read, Amalia does not strike me as envious of her siblings. ME seemed self-possessed as well, at least before the smallpox.   I did read though that Amalia requested their mother for Maria Carolina to keep her company at court events after MJ died.  
« Last Edit: October 19, 2014, 02:55:44 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #323 on: October 19, 2014, 03:28:36 AM »
I agree, although some authors suggest that Poland probably would not have been partitioned if Maria Elisabeth had been Queen there.

Oh, that is almost certain.  They couldn't risk being seen as robbers of their in-laws. That is the most plausible reason why Maria Amalia wasn't allowed to marry Karl of Zweibrucken and also why they turned down Karl again, after he asked for Maria Elisabeth's hand in the early 1770s. MT was said to be very interested and pleased with Karl's personal qualities, whose father also served Austria (and MT was fond enough of Frederick Michael of Zweibrucken to tolerate his "tantrums" and to placate him).  

Well, Leopold noted in his critical diary, that Maria Elisabeth was very bitter that she had not received any post which sounds more as if she expected it. And the quote above also suggests that she wished to have some sort of being "established" (while it does not contain bitterness about being unmarried).

Even with the "centralisation" issue, any suitable post in the following could've been made available for Maria Elisabeth, had they wanted to: Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary (considering they were aiming for another post for Archduke Maximilian and indeed this was done before MT died  -- and she was thrilled by it), Australian Silesia, Tyrol, Carinthia,Carniola, Gorizia, etc. I read MT spent a lot of money for Maximilian to be Archbishop of Cologne and also for Ferdinand in Milan (for palaces). Joseph thought younger sons and daughters had no right to money or prestigious posts.  Ferdinand & Maximilian were among the youngest in the family. Maria Elisabeth was not.  Yet MT chose to establish her youngest sons well yet do nothing for Maria Elisabeth. No wonder Maria Elisabeth was very resentful at having nothing at all.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2014, 03:58:58 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline CountessKate

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #324 on: December 17, 2014, 10:18:05 AM »
The Albertina has some very nice drawings by Martin van Meytens the younger of some of Maria Theresa's daughters, presumably studies for paintings:



Johanna Gabrielle aged (I think - the age is running off the page) 2 (1752)



Maria Josepha aged 1 (1752 also).

Offline CountessKate

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #325 on: December 17, 2014, 10:21:09 AM »


Maria Christina and Maria Amalia, aged 10 and 6 respectively, so no doubt done in the same year as their younger sisters above, 1752.

Offline CountessKate

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #326 on: December 17, 2014, 10:24:32 AM »
Two portraits of Maria Anna, the first in 1752 when she was 14, the other undated (but she looks a little older):




Offline CountessKate

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #327 on: December 17, 2014, 10:27:59 AM »
And Maria Elisabeth, aged 9, so drawn in 1752 as were all the others (except the undated one of Maria Anna which doesn't look part of the set):


Offline Bravecoeur

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #328 on: December 17, 2014, 02:43:55 PM »
And Maria Elisabeth, aged 9, so drawn in 1752 as were all the others (except the undated one of Maria Anna which doesn't look part of the set)

Thank you for posting them, very nice and I haven't seen those before! Can they be seen in the permanent exhibition of Albertina?

May I just add that in the proclamations she signed upon the French threats, she pledged to sell her watches (studded with jewels, no doubt) to help the cause of the Austrians...
You may. ;) That's an important part of the proclamations. However, she did not pledge to sell her watches/clocks, she pledged that she would give these watches/clocks to especially brave men. Which, according to other proclamations, she did. I do not know anything about who was decorated though; and personally I do doubt whether these really would have been the most exquisite, jewel-studded items. For the Tyrolean defenders, common people, even a "plain" gold watch would have been a treasure, especially when coming from "Her Imperial Highness". Too bad there is nothing known about these details.

She, however, left her outstanding musical collection to one of Leopold's sons (I forgot which son).
Oh, she not only had a clock collection but also a collection of musical instruments? Very interesting! I have never heard about it. Do you happen to remember where you read this?

But I don't know why her niece Marie Therese of France was "appalled" by her?
Yes this would be interesting to know; as far as I remember Marie Therese also described her as very pious, which I have not really read anywhere else. Although Marie Therese described her as appalling there still seem to have been a few letters between the two of them.

Offline CountessKate

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #329 on: December 17, 2014, 03:07:49 PM »
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Can they be seen in the permanent exhibition of Albertina?

No clue, I'm afraid, I haven't been to Vienna in years.