Maria Theresa (1717–1780) was once the most powerful woman in Europe. At the age of twenty-three, she ascended to the throne of the Habsburg Empire, a far-flung realm composed of diverse ethnicities and languages, beset on all sides by enemies and rivals. Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger provides the definitive biography of Maria Theresa, situating this exceptional empress within her time while dispelling the myths surrounding her.
Drawing on a wealth of archival evidence, Stollberg-Rilinger examines all facets of eighteenth-century society, from piety and patronage to sexuality and childcare, ceremonial life at court, diplomacy, and the everyday indignities of warfare. She challenges the idealized image of Maria Theresa as an enlightened reformer and mother of her lands who embodied both feminine beauty and virile bellicosity, showing how she despised the ideas of the Enlightenment, treated her children with relentless austerity, and mercilessly persecuted Protestants and Jews. Work, consistent physical and mental discipline, and fear of God were the principles Maria Theresa lived by, and she demanded the same from her family, her court, and her subjects.
A panoramic work of scholarship that brings Europe’s age of empire spectacularly to life, Maria Theresa paints an unforgettable portrait of the uncompromising yet singularly charismatic woman who left her enduring mark on the era in which she lived and reigned.
Awards and Recognition
- A Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year
- A Financial Times Best History Book of the Year
"A monumental feat of scholarship that represents the first comprehensive reappraisal of the empress' life and legacy since the mid-19th century. . . . Ms. Stollberg-Rilinger excels at both detail and grand scale, and translator Robert Savage never lets her down. Her description of the Habsburg Monarchy's complex machinery, her analysis of the arcane workings of the Holy Roman Empire, and her exposition of the family's marriage strategies are all masterpieces in miniature."—A. Wess Mitchell, Wall Street Journal
"An outstanding work that repaints the entire history of mid-eighteenth-century Europe . . . . The great woman has found a truly great biographer."—A. N. Wilson, Times Literary Supplement
"Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger’s biography is a landmark in the historiography of the Habsburg Monarchy. All praise and thanks are due to Princeton University Press for such a beautifully produced and well-translated volume, and also to the original German publisher (C. H. Beck) for allowing the author enough space to do justice to Maria Theresa’s life and times."—Tim Blanning, Times Literary Supplement
"This sweeping work by Stollberg-Rilinger, an expert on the Holy Roman Empire, will stand as the definitive study for many years to come."—Tony Barber, Financial Times.
"More than a biography of a remarkable figure, this study presents a sweeping view of the eighteenth century."—Ben Riley, New Criterion
"Impressive"—John Adamson, Literary Review
"A behind the scenes guide to Maria Theresa’s rule . . . an examination of the historiographical layers that have gone into creating her image."—Catriona Seth, London Review of Books
"An entertaining masterpiece that reveals sides of an extraordinary woman never before seen."—A. N. Wilson, Catholic Herald
"What marks this work out from previous efforts is surely its well-rounded, holistic approach to its subject . . . .Stollberg-Rilinger’s text is long but not excessive in Robert Savage’s attractive translation. Her book could be a model for how such biographies of the great and the good are constructed: a wealth of contextual detail and quirky anecdotes are marshalled in pursuit of a grand vision which becomes more than the sum of its parts."—Miles Pattenden, Australian Book Review
"The near-definitive biography of a brilliant, complex woman at the heart of European affairs is a work of the highest scholarship."—Paul Lay, Aspects of History
"Epic and scholarly."—Elizabeth Fitzherbert, The Lady
"This sweeping work . . . . will stand as the definitive study for many years to come."—Tony Barber, Financial Times
"Persuasively conceived and brilliantly written."—Cord Aschenbrenner, Neue Zürcher Zeitung
"Illuminating."—Tilman Spreckelsen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
"Intellectually persuasive and utterly absorbing. In this remarkable biography, Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger paints an intimate and unflinching picture of a complex historical personality while offering one of the most engrossing accounts of eighteenth-century Habsburg society, court culture, and political institutions I have ever read."—Pieter M. Judson, author of The Habsburg Empire: A New History
"Riveting, deeply intelligent, and exceptionally surefooted in interpretation. Maria Theresa is a masterpiece of biographical writing."—Ulinka Rublack, author of The Astronomer and the Witch: Johannes Kepler's Fight for his Mother