On 13 May 1717, Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina, the future Holy Roman Empress, was born to Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI and Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel in the early morning at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria.
She was baptised in the Roman Catholic Church later that evening. Her godmothers were named as Holy Roman Empress Wilhelmine Amalia, an aunt and Eleonor Magdalene of the Palatinate-Neuburg, her grandmother. Accounts from the baptism state that she was carried into the church ahead of her cousins, Maria Josepha and Maria Amalia (whose mother was Wilhelmine Amalia). This was emphasised because they were the daughters of Charles VI’s older brother, Joseph I, and Charles was making it clear who his heir would be.
However, the young Maria Theresa would end up outranking her first cousins aside from the fact that her grandfather, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I made his two sons sign the Mutual Pact of Succession to ensure precedence of the daughters of Joseph. However, Charles issued the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 placing his children ahead of his nieces in line for the throne. As a result, from the moment of her birth, Maria Theresa became the heiress presumptive ahead of Maria Josepha.
After her birth, the Prussian ambassador described her as having big blue eyes, light hair, a large mouth and a healthy body. Paintings of the family made it apparent that she greatly resembled Elisabeth Christine and Maria Anna.
The future Holy Roman Empress would have two younger sisters: Archduchess Maria Anna (born 18 September 1718) and Archduchess Maria Amalia (born 5 April 1724).
Maria Theresa was the eldest surviving child of the Holy Roman Emperor and his wife. Her older brother, Leopold John, had died the previous November when he was just seven months old. Her father was desperate for a male heir to continue on the family name and dynasty. He found Maria Theresa’s birth as extremely disappointing and was said never to have gotten over it.