Maria Amalia of Austria – Holy Roman Empress against the odds (Part two)

(public domain)

Read part one here.

Nevertheless, Maria Amalia was quickly pregnant with her first child, which turned out to be a short-lived girl born in 1723. A second daughter – named Maria Antonia Walpurgis – was born on 18 July 1724, followed by a third daughter – named Theresa Benedicta – on 6 December 1725. The heir to the throne, a son named Maximilian Joseph, was finally born on 28 March 1727 and his birth strengthened Maria Amalia’s position at court considerably. Just one year before, Charles Albert had succeeded his father as Elector of Bavaria, so Maria Amalia was now not only the mother of the heir but also the first lady of the court.

Charles Albert let Maria Amalia take part in council meetings, and she was known to perform her courtly duties in a most disciplined manner. However, she also enjoyed spending time on her favourite pastime of hunting. This was apparently much to the annoyance of her ladies-in-waiting, who did not have “a beautiful complexion” because they had to accompany her on the hunt no matter the weather conditions.1 Despite being given access to council meetings, Maria Amalia was not very politically active, though she was interested in politics. Maria Amalia had a lively correspondence with her sister-in-law Maria Anna Karoline, who lived as a nun under the name Sister Therese Emanuele in the Poor Clare Monastery in Munich, and they sometimes discussed politics. She also occasionally visited her sister-in-law, often whenever she had given birth to another child to present the child to her. After Maximilian Joseph’s birth in 1727, she gave birth to three more children – a son and two daughters but her second son would die at the age of five.

In 1740, Maria Amalia’s uncle Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, died at the age of 55. Having renounced her claim to the Austrian lands and in recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction 1713 (which gave Charles’s daughters precedence over Maria Amalia and her elder sister), her cousin Maria Theresa succeeded him. Nevertheless, not all parties were in agreement, and the War of the Austrian Succession broke out – with Maria Amalia’s husband also claiming the succession. After coming to an agreement with King Augustus III of Poland, the husband of Maria Amalia’s elder sister Maria Josepha who had a stronger claim, Charles Albert successfully invaded Bohemia.

Subsequently, Maria Amalia was crowned Queen (consort) of Bohemia in Prague on 7 December 1741. Charles Albert also managed to get elected as Holy Roman Emperor in 1742, and they both received imperial coronations in Frankfurt on 12 and 14 February 1742, respectively. However, Maria Theresa did not quite give up so easily, and Austria occupied Bavaria, bleeding it dry. With Bavaria’s fortunes so suddenly turned, her husband was now an Emperor without land, and he remained exiled in Frankfurt. He also did not succeed in having his eldest son elected as King of the Romans as his heir, and he was widely mocked with the Latin saying et Caesar et nihil, meaning “both Emperor and nothing.”

In October 1744, Charles Albert managed to regain Munich, and he was able to return home. But it turned out that he went home to die. Already suffering from gout, he died on 20 January 1745 at the age of 47. Perhaps Maria Amalia’s most politically influential moments came after her husband’s death. Her son turned 18 years old three months after his father’s death, and when he was not in Munich, it was she who wielded the powers of government, which was well known to all the ambassadors. Maria Amalia also pledged her jewellery to support the troops if it came to it, and this news was met with wide approval. She did not retire to her widow’s residence as expected and remained active in Munich.

Her son eventually made peace with his mother’s cousin Maria Theresa upon his mother’s advice, and Maria Theresa’s husband Francis was elected as Holy Roman Emperor. Maria Amalia outlived her husband for ten years and died on 11 December 1756 at the age of 55. She did not live to see her youngest daughter marry Maria Theresa’s son Joseph II, though this union was destined to be short and childless.

Her heart was removed from her body and buried separately in the Shrine of Our Lady of Altötting. Her body was interred in the Theatine Church in Munich.

  1. Nur die Frau des Kaisers? Kaiserinnen in der Frühen Neuzeit (Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung edited by Bettina Braun, Bettina, Katrin Keller, Matthias Schnettger p.199

About Moniek Bloks 2732 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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