About the lecture
To the present day, Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780) is a legend, a mythical character of Austrian historiography as well as a popular heroine, a fairy queen. She seems to be exceptionally well-known - on the first glance. I want to have a closer look at this myth and show that her image has been shaped by 19th-century historiography and the ideals of governance and gender roles of that time.
In my lecture, I will analyze Maria Theresa’s reputation as the “loving mother of her lands.” One prominent feature of that myth is that she was always accessible to everyone, even the “lowliest of her subjects.”
The question I raise is just how did this general view of the empress arise? What was meant and not meant by “accessibility”? How did personal access actually work in everyday practice at court? What lies behind this mythos, and how did Maria Theresia’s charisma come into being?