In 1740, Maria Theresa should have succeeded her father as ruler of Bohemia as part of her hereditary claim. The accession did not go as planned. Doubts over Maria Theresa’s right to rule, as a woman, were a perfect excuse for European powers such as France to attempt to curtail Habsburg power. Though technically Salic law prevented female rule, Maria’s father Emperor Charles VI had circumnavigated this issue with the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 which assured her rights to a place in the succession.
Charles Albert, Elector of Bavaria, was one of the rulers who chose not to accept the Pragmatic Sanction and decided to put forward his own claim to the dominions. Despite Maria Theresa automatically succeeding the Bohemian crown in 1740, Charles had himself crowned King of Bohemia in 1741 with the backing of the people, during the War of the Austrian Succession. His subsequent election as Holy Roman Emperor a year later and the support of France made regaining Bohemia difficult for Maria Theresa.
Maria Theresa was determined to regain her lost lands, and Bohemia was a priority; she said: “my resolve is taken: to stake everything, win or lose, on saving Bohemia”. In order to be taken seriously as a ruler, the young Maria had to use military force to take control of her own hereditary lands. After winning the support of the Hungarian lords, Maria Theresa and her troops were able to re-group and regain Bohemia. The anti-King Charles Albert was ousted, and Maria Theresa was crowned Queen of Bohemia on 12 May 1743 at St Vitus Cathedral. Maria Theresa was invested with the royal insignia and crowned with the Crown of Saint Wenceslas. As Bohemia’s only female monarch, to emphasise her role as Queen Regnant and not a consort, she had herself crowned as if she were a king. Maria Theresa wrote before her coronation “Crown came (from the vault). Tried it on. Heavier than the one in Pressburg. Looks rather like a fool’s cap.” Ahead of the coronation, a Magnificat and a Te Deum were sung. The Archbishop of Prague was currently in disgrace, and so the primate of Moravia placed the crown on her head.
Afterwards, at the banquet, she toasted to “the men who had, and still have, the welfare of the Arch House and its hereditary Bohemian kingdom at heart.” The precious crown was not returned to its vault at St. Vitus, but it was instead taken to Vienna.
Maria Theresa remained the unchallenged Queen of Bohemia until her death in 1780. 1
*Maria Theresa by Edward Crankshaw
*The Czechs and the Lands of the Bohemian Crown by Hugh Agnew
*Empress Maria Theresa by Robert Pick