The last edition of our series, the Year of Maria Theresa focuses on the death of her mother, Elisabeth Christine.
Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel was born on 28 August 1691 in Brunswick Brunswick-Lüneburg as the eldest daughter of Louis Rudolph, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Princess Christine Louise of Oettingen-Oettingen.
When she was just 13-years-old, she became engaged to Archduke Charles of Austria (who declared himself King of Spain in 1700 after the death of Charles II). He would later go on to become Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor. The engagement was due negotiations between her grandfather, Anthony Ulrich, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and Empress Wilhelmina Amalia – Charles’s sister-in-law. Elisabeth Christine, a Lutheran, was not in favour of the union at the beginning due to her opposition to converting to Catholicism.
However, the union would go on, and Elisabeth Christine became a Catholic. They wed on 1 August 1708 via proxy in Barcelona, Spain. Together they would have one son, Leopold John and three daughters, Maria Theresa, Holy Roman Empress; Archduchess Maria Anna; and Archduchess Maria Amalia. Their son, as well as their youngest daughter, did not survive to adulthood, and Maria Anna passed away when she was 26. Of course, Maria Theresa would succeed her father on the throne.
The relationship between Maria Theresa and Elisabeth Christine is not completely clear. Some argue that they had a good relationship, while others say that this is not the case, as Maria Theresa was known to write fondly about those she cared about, of which her mother was not one. Maria Theresa did visit her mother often, but it was always a formal meeting with strict protocol – not what one would assume a visit between a mother and daughter should be. However, after the death of Charles VI, Maria Theresa made sure that her mother lived a comfortable life after becoming a widow until her death ten years later.
Elisabeth Christine’s health was unstable after fertility treatments during her marriage to Charles VI which included being prescribed large doses of liquor and a fatty diet. The former caused her to become an alcoholic, and the latter resulted in her being overweight – so much that she struggled to walk and breathe. Elisabeth Christine suffered from depression and rheumatism, as well.
She died in Vienna, Austria, on 21 December 1750 when she was just 59-years-old. As with others in the family, she was interred in the Imperial Crypt in the city.