On June 25, 1741, there being no provision for female rule in the constitution, Maria Theresa of Austria was crowned “King” of Hungary in Bratislava’s St. Martin’s Cathedral.
Maria Theresa’s father, Emperor Charles VI, had paved the way for her accession with the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713, which ensured that the Habsburg hereditary possessions, which included Austria, Hungary and Bohemia, could be inherited by a daughter.
But upon the Emperor’s death in 1740, Prussia and France, joined by Bavaria, repudiated the sanction they had recognised during his lifetime and challenged Maria Theresa’s eligibility to succeed to her father’s lands, calling upon Salic law, which precluded royal inheritance by a woman.
Frederick II of Prussia, who became Maria Theresa’s greatest rival for most of her reign, promptly invaded the richest Habsburg province of Silesia, effectively starting what became known as the War of the Austrian Succession.
By the summer of 1741, attempts at conciliation had completely collapsed as Maria Theresa’s allies turned against her: the Elector of Saxony now became her enemy and Great Britain’s George II declared the Electorate of Hanover to be neutral.
In defiance of the grave situation and contrary to all expectations, the 23-year-old Queen managed to secure the vital support of the Hungarians and, after months of negotiations with the Hungarian Diet, she was recognized as the rightful ruler of Hungary.
Maria Theresa was crowned with St. Stephen’s Holy Crown in St. Martin’s Cathedral in Pressburg, present day-Bratislava, which had been the coronation church of the sovereigns of the Kingdom of Hungary since 1563. She was named Rex Hungariae (King of Hungary), there being no provision for female rule in the constitution.
The 1748 Treaty of Aachen ended the eight-year conflict: it confirmed that Maria Theresa would retain control of the Austrian, Bohemian and Hungarian thrones, but also recognised Prussia’s possession of Silesia.
Maria Theresa’s husband Francis was elected Holy Roman Emperor, but the Queen effectively executed the real powers throughout her 40-year reign.
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