Season 2: Episode 7: How did Maria Theresa transform modern Europe?
With Dr. Barbara Stollber-Rilinger
In this episode, Kelsie and Brooke sit down with Dr. Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger to discuss her research and upcoming book on Maria Theresa, one of the most powerful women of Europe. Maria Theresa is, like many historical figures, a complicated one. She is a woman judged for her gender before her merit, she ruled while a mother of 16 children and considered the grandmother of Europe as so many of her decedents went on to play crucial roles in future conflicts. She rules during the Enlightenment, abhors enlightened people, and yet likely was one herself. There is a prevailing mythology about her that endures, despite the fact that her reign is also known for its aggressive religious intolerance. She's complicated. We get into the nuances. You can find Stollberg-Rilinger's book at the Princeton Review.
Kelsie Eckert 0:05
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Brooke Sullivan 0:55
Kelsie Eckert 0:56
Brooke Sullivan 0:57
Want to tell her what's happening.
Kelsie Eckert 0:58
In today's episode we are going to be talking about the one the only Maria Teresa.
Brooke Sullivan 1:04
Oh, I don't know her.
Kelsie Eckert 1:06
Brooke Sullivan 1:06
Kelsie Eckert 1:07
Oh, she is the grandmother of Europe
Brooke Sullivan 1:10
Oh the grandmere of Europe!I mean, all of Europe?
Kelsie Eckert 1:13
all of it.
Brooke Sullivan 1:14
Kelsie Eckert 1:14
I don't know. I probably shouldn't mean that claim.
Brooke Sullivan 1:18
but pretty close.
Kelsie Eckert 1:18
Brooke Sullivan 1:19
From what we understand.
Kelsie Eckert 1:20
Brooke Sullivan 1:20
wide, sweeping, grandmother
Kelsie Eckert 1:22
sweeping Europe. That's it.
Brooke Sullivan 1:25
Kelsie Eckert 1:27
Let's get into it. Let's do it.
Hello, and welcome to remedial herstory the other 50% the podcast that explores what happened to the women in history class. Now here's your host, Kelsie Brook Eckert and her partner in crime. Brooke Neva Sullivan.
Kelsie Eckert 1:46
In this episode, we are going to be asking the question, how did Maria Teresa use her influence and power to shape modern Europe?
Brooke Sullivan 1:57
Kelsie Eckert 1:57
damn. This is an incredible woman that we have not heard enough about.
Brooke Sullivan 2:06
Yeah, I mean, you know me, I never know. But um, who is she? Tell me more.
Kelsie Eckert 2:11
Okay. She is the ruler of the Habsburg dominions from 1740 until 1780.
Brooke Sullivan 2:18
Can we just like pause on that name? the Habsburg minions?
Kelsie Eckert 2:21
Yeah, so the Habsburg family is dominions steaming outside, not minions.
Brooke Sullivan 2:26
I was like this is a great gang.
Kelsie Eckert 2:28
Yeah. The Habsburgs are this family that are in lots of royal families across different kingdoms of Europe. And she rules outright for 40 years. She's the Sovereign of these are the dominions that are within this empire. Austria, Hungary Croatia Bohemia.
Brooke Sullivan 2:54
Kelsie Eckert 2:54
Transylvania, Mantua, Milan, I mean like the list goes on it just
Brooke Sullivan 2:59
Kelsie Eckert 3:00
They rule a lot of Europe right?
Brooke Sullivan 3:03
Kelsie Eckert 3:03
So she is by marriage Duchess of Lorraine, Duchess of Tuscany and a Holy Roman Empress, jeez. And so all this keep in mind is happening you know, like to parallel US history. This is during like colonial times. She's ruling and as the American Revolution is happening is towards the end of her reign.
Brooke Sullivan 3:25
And so is she running solo? Like she doesn't have a king or a husband at this point?
Kelsie Eckert 3:30
She is a ruler outright
Brooke Sullivan 3:34
Kelsie Eckert 3:35
Brooke Sullivan 3:35
Kelsie Eckert 3:38
Yes.So what's really important about her in world history is her children and Brooke just peek over here.
Brooke Sullivan 3:45
Well over 16 She has 16 biological children!
Kelsie Eckert 3:50
16 children.Okay, well,
Brooke Sullivan 3:51
she birthed those?!
Kelsie Eckert 3:52
She birthed these
Brooke Sullivan 3:53
they walked out of a vagina
Kelsie Eckert 3:54
Brooke Sullivan 3:55
Oh my god.
Kelsie Eckert 3:55
yes they walked
Brooke Sullivan 3:56
by the 16th they did
Kelsie Eckert 4:03
Oh my gosh. But some of the children include people like Marie Antoinette
Brooke Sullivan 4:08
um let them eat cake.
Kelsie Eckert 4:10
Yes. And what's important is that these children get married off and some of them go on like
Brooke Sullivan 4:17
Kelsie Eckert 4:18
King like Leopold the second he's the he's a Holy Roman Emperor
Brooke Sullivan 4:22
How do you not rule Europe with a family of epic like we're no we're just gonna take it all. Yeah, I have 16
Kelsie Eckert 4:27
Brooke Sullivan 4:29
I have two basketball teams Yeah, I can play the Olympics alone
Kelsie Eckert 4:35
so she's pretty, she's pretty interesting and that she is in this position of power to rule outright a massive Empire in the middle of Europe. And then she has so many children that she can marry them off and they can rule various places around so how, you know, how does she use this power? How does she use this influence and how does she shape Europe these are of kind of the enduring...
Brooke Sullivan 4:56
How does she, she's pregnant for most of it. Jeez
Kelsie Eckert 4:59
so I'm really excited today on the podcast we have Dr. Barbara Stollberg Rilinger and she recently wrote a book on this incredible woman and so I'm gonna let her introduce herself.
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Brooke Sullivan 5:29
Thank you to Jeff, Barbara, Christian Kent, Jamie, Jenna, Nancy, Megan, Leah, Mark, Nicole, and Sarah, Alicia and Katya.
Kelsie Eckert 5:38
Woohoo! Do you know what is so awesome about this particular group of people?
Brooke Sullivan 5:42
Kelsie Eckert 5:43
Very few of them are actually educators. These are badass people who care so much about equitable and inclusive education that they are willing to put their money where their mouth is.
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Yeah, so cool. You too can become a patron of the Remedial Herstory Project by heading over to www.patreon.com and becoming a sponsor of the Remedial Herstory Project for just $5 a month.
Brooke Sullivan 6:12
Kelsie Eckert 6:12
Thats it! That's one latte.
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I mean, it's, it's one of something but it'scheap, and you get all that stuff,
Kelsie Eckert 6:19
all that stuff. You too can give up one latte for 1000s of children and women.
Brooke Sullivan 6:26
You could also buy condoms for more than that
Kelsie Eckert 6:30
You can produce... You can produce...
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you could reduce reproduction for less than that.
Kelsie Eckert 6:38
Brooke most importantly, instead of lamenting that women's history isn't being taught in high school or that they didn't know these women. These people are putting their money where their mouth is and they are getting it in to the curriculum by funding us.
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It's awesome. And they believe women stories are important.
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Duh, thanks patrons. We love you.
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We do love you.
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 7:01
My name is Barbara Stollberg Rilinger, and I'm a historian of the early modern period, history of Europe, especially political and cultural and social history. And im also the rector of the Berlina Wissenschaftskolleg, which is an Institute for Advanced Study. And, and what directed my attention to Maria Theresa, the Empress Queen and Empress Maria Theresa was not so much the person herself, but rather, the period when she lived, she lived from 1717 to 1780. So I wanted to take her life, her biography as a key to the whole period. And this is my idea, was that she, as a person was very ambivalent, she had a very ambivalent relationship to her century. And the century itself was also very ambivalent, being on the one hand, the century, still the century of Baroque or late Baroque. And on the other hand, the century of enlightenment, of course, and she herself was, was, on the one hand, an enemy of enlightenment, yeah. And she, she detested the enlightened contemporaries, but on the other hand, she didn't know that she herself was an enlightened person, and that her reforms later would be called enlightened absolutism.
Kelsie Eckert 8:43
I think that's so fascinating. We've noticed that these women have sort of interesting ascends to the throne. And how did Maria Theresa do that?
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 8:51
First of all, one must keep in mind that early modern monarchies were you inherited the rule by birthright, you were not you didn't come to the throne by election, but by birth. And that means that also women, according to the respective rules of succession, could become queen, queens of their own right, so to speak. So she inherited the phone from her father, Charles the sixth, because his father had changed the rules of succession of his, of his provinces before and so she was the legitimate Queen and arch Duchess of Austria, Queen of Hungary, Queen of Bohemia and so on. This was not a state in the modern sense, but it was a bundle of provinces as usual in the early modern period, not a modern state. So she she inherited all these titles. And, and it came to the throne in a legitimate way but as her contemporaries used to think were convinced that women in general, are weaker than men in body, mind. And so female rule appeared to them less legitimate. So you always had a problem as a woman on the throne, as a regent or as a, as a queen, or whatever. And this was also the case with her, all of her enemies around her, try to partition her provinces among that. So they started a war, the war of Austrian succession immediately after her accession to the throne, which is very well known her boasts of best known enemy, of course, was Frederick the second of Prussia, Frederick the Great but even more important, were the, the Elector of Bavaria and the King of France. So these very powerful enemies, tried to wage war against for years, and she had to defend her reign against against all of these enemies. And you must imagine, I mean, this is what what made her a living legend, because she was a very young and in the eyes of the contemporaries, beautiful young woman, 23, only 23, a mother of two, to two children already, and she ascended to the throne, in a situation of complete mess, and even in a catastrophic situation. And she managed to defend her provinces against these extremely powerful enemies over the years. I mean, it took eight years. So this made her a legendary figure already for her contemporaries, and created her myth. Of course, there is a true core to this myth, because it is it is admirable how she managed to defend as as a young woman, woman without any experience to defend her provinces against so many enemies.
Kelsie Eckert 12:22
Well, I'm very intrigued about this myth. You've mentioned it a couple times, and now I like need to know. So can you talk a little bit about her role during the larger century? And she I mean, you've talked a little bit about how influential she is. So piece of that is clearly just securing her her territory. But and then she also reforms so much, despite not really being an enlightened fan. So I'm curious, you know, how, what impact does she have on this period, and the larger, the larger era?
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 13:00
maybe First of all, I should say that I think that her role in this respect as a reformer of her states, has been overrated over time. So historians of the 19th century used to say that she was the creator of modern, the modern Austrian-Hungarian state, which is much, too much to say, I mean, her bundle of territories was reformed, yes, central power was strengthened under her reign. There was a series of reforms, and the various advisors that were, a couple of influential advisors to her whose reforms were very different. And I would say that the reforms, by far did not reach what they really were meant to but, they, they just initiated a period of reforms, producing ever more bureaucracy, ever more paperwork, and ever more. They needed ever more money, of course, it created ever more problems also, so that the reforms lead to new reforms of the reforms and reforms of the reforms of reform. So it was a never ending cycle of reforms that she initiated. And the success of all these reforms, as I would say, and also other researchers would agree, I think, was much less clear than historians of the 19th century would say,
Kelsie Eckert 14:46
Now, you mentioned before that she had two kids when she ascended the throne. She went on to have like, 16 kids so how does she, I mean, she must have been pregnant through most of her whole time, right?
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 15:00
Yes, she was pregnant almost all the time when she was married, so 16 children, you can imagine what that means. I mean, for, for your health and so on. And she was she had an extremely strong bodily constitution. I mean, this is really admirable. And she was. I mean, when she was old, she, she was, she was she had she had she had several illnesses and so on. And she became very, very .How do you say this in English? In German, I would say that she she called herself obese. I mean, she called herself, *Lagos State* is, I mean, the fact is she called herself with irony. I mean, and she suffered from, from the fact that she lost her beauty when she was a young woman. She was admired for being so. So and she suffered from, from the consequences of these, the 16 pregnancies
Kelsie Eckert 16:03
the children must have been raised by governesses, right?
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 16:07
Yes, of course, I mean yes, of course. And this is also part of her myth, I would say, of her legendary reputation that historians of the 19th century tended to depict her as a kind of bourgeois housewife, who cared for her children and so on, which is I mean, the children were extremely important for her because a dynasty needed as and so producing as and as much to kids as possible was, of course, extremely important. And but, she, of course, did not, for example, she did not breastfeed them, of course not. But in the 19th century, there was a very nice legend showing her breastfeeding, a beggars baby, a beggar woman's baby, as the icon of a good mother of her lands, which is, of course, completely ridiculous, because she didn't even breastfeed her own children. Because this wasn't, wasn't wasn't usual at time, so and she didn't raise her children herself. But for her for her image, and for her influence as a ruler, and for the fate of the dynasty of Habsburgs, which was, of course, extremely important that she had as many children as possible. And although there were more daughters than sons, and that was an unfortunate relationship, you had to produce as many sons as possible. In the book, I tried not to not only to describe her pregnancies and her way of educating the children or have their children educated and so on. But the way this was usually done in the 19th, in the 18th century, and to describe how this was, what was the state of the art in midwifery? What was the state of the art and healthcare and so on? So try to always try to embed her personal story in the general structures at the time.
Kelsie Eckert 18:19
Well, that sounds probably appropriate given, you know, like, I think helping modern women understand that women have been doing work outside the home forever and helping them understand how they did it. I think that's that's the challenge of women historians. Her not, her reign, you were even talking about her as kind of this ambivalent leader. And one of the questions I had is her reign in some of the things I've read was known for its intolerance. And I'm curious if you think that's a fair assessment. And, and why.
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 18:56
Yeah, this is absolutely true. And to understand why she was what we would today call intolerent is that, I mean, she was a member of the House of Habsburg and the house of Hapsburgs was an extremely wealthy and powerful dynasty. They had fought the Ottomans, they had defended Europe against the Muslims, so to speak, and they were a very important power of the counter reformation. They had defended the Catholic faith against the Protestant Reformation. So and they were very successful in that. So Maria Theresa was convinced that her dynasty had a kind of, you could say trade off with God. God had bestowed the dynasty with, with the reign and the reign over huge parts of Europe. And the dynasty, in return, had the obligation to defend the true Catholic faith against all of his enemies. And this was her religious conviction. And you have to take this really seriously. I mean, she really believed that she was a very pious, very religious person. And so she she was absolutely convinced that there was a godly mandate. And she had to fulfill this and which was a burden for her. You can imagine as a 23 year old, on the throne of such an important Empire, that was an extreme burden on her. So she took this godly mandate very seriously. A consequence of this was that she was convinced that she had to fight Protestantism. So she even tried to find out if there were any Protestants in her provinces anymore. And try to either urge them to convert to conversion or expel them. And this was extremely brutal. In the end, many of these I mean, she she forced them to confess, first of all, she she tried to she, she sent missionary to cover the crypto Protestants, if there were Protestants, they didn't show up, of course, they hide it away, and try not to lose cover. But she sent missionaries that in her in certain parts of the Alps where they were, she was convinced that there was certain Protestant nests, so to speak. And she forced them to investigate them and then forced them to convert and if they weren't willing to convert, or if they converted by kind of lip service and afterwards continue to, to read through through books, for example, something they would be sent to Transylvania, on the Danube, so by force, and that was a terrible fate because many of the Protestant died on their way to Transylvania, they had no, they couldn't make their living there. They had no land there, they had no way to to substain there. So you can, there is a lot of research about that. And the the Austrian colleagues found out that a very large percentage of these expelled Protestants died, starved or died on their way to Transylvania. This was extremely brutal. And she didn't want to know what really happened in Farwane in Transylvania. Once her son Joseph, traveled to Transylvania and came back and reported what he had seen what happened there and that this was not a good idea to to send the Protestants. And she didn't want to know that, she actually tried to ignore that. Protestant is the one thing, the other thing the Jews, in the 17 [hundreds], I mean, there are, of course, Jewish communities all over the provinces, especially in Prague, and Prague and Bohemia, Prague was the most important Jewish community of the time, several several 10,000s of Jews in at a certain point in the war of Austrian succession. The Jews were, there was a rumor that the Jews had helped the Prussians. And then she decided to expel all of Jews in, from Bohemia, first from Prague, and then from Bohemia, and that was in December 1744. And they had to leave the city and the country immediately, as she decreed immediately that that meant by the first of January, and it was very clear that they would, would not survive that many of them would die on their way out, and if it didn't know where to go, and so on. And so all of the, her advisors, her advisors from the nobility and so on, strongly advise, advised her not to do that to take to take back this decree, but she didnt. And interestingly, I mean, this had been postponed several times and so on, but in the end, the Jews had to leave the country and later years later, they were allowed to return, they had to pay a lot of money to be allowed to return. Interestingly, the Jews themselves, they tried everything, they mobilized all their several intermediaries, and all of the all of the European courts even the Pope intervened in favor of them, and many, many other princes and so on intervened in favor of the Jews, because the Jews were so important as for the whole commerce and in the Habsburg plans, but she expelled them anyway. And interestingly, the Jews themselves, were absolutely convinced that this was not due to Maria Theresa, this expulsion. But they were convinced that some evil advisors were responsible for this. And this is very interesting that that historians call this phenomenon naive monarchism, that the subjects not only the Jews, but in general, the common subjects tended to admire and actually admire the ruler, and did not want to know that their misery was due to the ruler herself. This is a very significant phenomenon of early modern monarchies in general.
Kelsie Eckert 26:28
That's fascinating. It speaks to the myth you've been talking about the fact that she could expel people and send them essentially to poverty or death. And yet they still were like, it couldn't possibly be her.
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 26:44
Yeah, hey, this is interesting. And I, I asked myself, and I tried to answer this question in the book, how this worked, I mean, how her charismatic reputation subsisted, although she, I mean, there is there was so much evidence that it was actually not true. Yeah. And that, for example, part of her legendary reputation was that she was accessible to anyone to even to the lowest of her subjects. And that was also absolutely not true the way she was much stricter than even her father. So she, she she decreed that subjects had to if they wanted to, accede to the throne, or wanted to have an audience had to run through a very, very complicated procedure, in advance, and so on. So she was much more strict than her father even had been. And anyway, her reputation was she is, She is the mother of her subjects. She is a loving mother, she treats such subjects as even better than she treats her own kids and so on. And the question is, how, how can you explain this? And I think it's a very complicated answer, I tried to give in the book. But part and I try to quote various sources of, of persons who manage to get access to her, for example, an orphan Little Orphan from Tehran, who made his way through her provinces as a kind of court jester. And he managed to to get there and afterwards described this in his autobiography. And he praised her, of course, as a loving mother, because he made it to her, but he was the exception. And the same is true for other visitors, who made it to her audience, and who afterwards describe this to the reading public. Because of course, they were so proud of this achievement and try to tell the world about this achievement. And so, there were these reports which which fostered her famous reputation as a loving mother of her lands. And of course, those who did not make it to her throne and to the audience, to the solemn audience would not write about it and would not talk about it. And so this this famous reputation was spread by several media, by written media, by journalists, by books by, of course, pictures, images, beautiful images of her of hers, were spread all over the provinces and so on. So there was a whole industry of, of family here in German of of spreading a mythical legendary in
Kelsie Eckert 30:07
would you say like propaganda? Would that be the word
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 30:09
you could call it propaganda or the propaganda in the this period would refer to religion usually so but it was also of course, a religious cult you could say because she was a godly, godly send and mandated ruler. So and this is also a chapter in the book, which is, I think, very important rule at the time was based on religion completely. And she was, yeah, so. So you can call it propaganda is
Kelsie Eckert 30:42
I've heard her referred to as the grandmother of Europe. And we mentioned that she had all these children, you briefly mentioned one of her children was Maria Antoinette. And I'm just thinking about how much changes by the time her children are, you know, her children get married off, and they are then in positions of power in places throughout Europe. And I'm just thinking about how much changes by the time her children are in power, but also the influence that this dynasty, you know, I, my co host, I was telling her about the Habsburgs, and she had never heard that word before. And I was like, oh, but they were everywhere, and everybody was related to the Hapsburg. So I just think there's this big influence beyond her own lifetime. And I'm wondering, does that contribute to the myth of it?
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 31:35
Yes, of course. I mean, this is, of course, part of our myth, all of her, especially her daughters were married to the French King, or then the Dauphin , but then later King, and, as we all know, ended up under the guillotine. But other daughters were became, when one of them became a queen of Naples, one, one son became a great Dutch of, Duke of sorry, a great Duke of Tuscany, and so on. So Italian, Italian provinces, were reigned by her children, and so on. But France is, of course, the most important. That was, of course, the most important marriage. And all the more remarkable because the Hapsburgs on the one hand, and France on the other word, enemies, for centuries, have been enemies for centuries. And now, in the course of the Seven Years War, they became allies. And to confirm this alliance, Marie Antoinette had to marry the French. I mean, her myth is, of course, based based on the fact that she was the grandmother of Europe, the grandmother of this extremely influential dynasty. But I mean, as you said, her children experienced this huge transformation this complete transformation of monarchical Europe, and the revolution and so on. And it's also interesting to see how differently the various children behaved in this during this transformation, which they experienced. But Maria Theresa herself, didn't, of course, I mean, what she could have a might have experienced is, of course, the American War of Independence, but she didn't even notice, take notice that I mean, she once she said that, during the Seven Years War, which was kind of World War already. She, she noted that America is as far away as the moon. So America was absolutely beyond her, beyond her consciousness, so to speak, she she wasn't aware of these transformations, these huge, influential transformations on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Kelsie Eckert 34:16
Wow, that's, I mean, that's so that makes sense. I mean, we and when I teach about, you know, people getting on those ships and going over to America that it would be like going to space, like its dangerous. And it was, you know, that makes that's an interesting comparison. You know, it's funny that I make that comparison too. She's controversial. She's important. She's intolerant. She's ambivalent. Why do you admire her? I mean, you spent a lot of time researching her. Why, Why is she something someone important toyou?
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 34:54
I mean, I can't say that. I admire her in the in the strict sense of the word because my, my methodological principle in general is not to identify with my heroine, were with the figure, and to keep her at arm's length, so to speak, yeah, to, to, not to try to, to write kind of introspective biography because i, this is a very, very strange and unfamiliar period. If you take it seriously, it's very, very far away, it is before the Great transformations around 1800. So it is for me, all the persons of that time are to strange to really be admired in a way, I just, I don't hate them either. I mean, it's I tried to have a distanced view on them, on them. But on the other hand, of course, I, I must say that she was remarkable ruler in many respects, and that the contemporaries were right in a way to find her remarkable already. For example, what makes her remarkable is her extremely extraordinary sense of responsibility for her lands. Her remarkable sense of duty, her, her religious piety, her I mean, the contemporaries, and especially historians in the 19th century. were impressed by her because they said, she was the one great exception from the rule, the rule being women are weak. Women are not meant to rule. So she was the one exception that proves the rule. The exception that proves the rule. So for example, [name of Austrian writer] adovcates, an Austrian writer, describes her as the great exception to the rule. And this is interesting, because actually, women did rule, did infact act as rulers in, in the early modern period, very often, and not only in England, but also in other countries. So she definitely was not that great exception. Afterwards, after the French Revolution, when in Republics when the monarchy was abolished, and rule was transferred by elections. That was the moment when women had no say anymore. But before that, in the early modern period, women weren't meant to, in many cases, at least. So the French Revolution was not that progress in gender respects, regarding gender relations, that was not at all the progress, the progresses, change. By the way,
Kelsie Eckert 38:02
I had never thought of it like that. But that's so true, because when you take away the monarchy, where women have ways they can get to the throne, and you turn it over to an electorate, a male electorate,
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 38:14
and they would not be elected. This is also true, for example, in her case, she inherited the rule of Bohemia, Hungary, Austria, and so on. But she could not become emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, which is a very monstrous and unknown political entity. But for that she had her husband I mean, her husband was elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, because the Holy Roman Empire was, the Emperor was elected, would be elected and not get the throne by inheritance. So she wasn't able to become Emperor, she was Empress because she was the Emperor's spouse. And this is why she want to become crowned Empress because this would be a secondary status. She was crowned in huge ritual acts, King of Bohemia and King of Hungary, not Queen. King. So this was a male term it's very significant that she actually could not become Emperor because that was by election and she could not be elected as a woman. So this is to just to show the, the connection between inheritance and female rule versus election and exclusively male rule. Yeah,
Kelsie Eckert 39:52
you're blowing my mind. So this is great. Um, I'm curious. Talking about gender. Do you feel like the monarchy did anything to help women at the bottom? Like, what? You know, we talked earlier about her intolerance of Jews and Protestants, like, what were there any initiatives to support, you know, other other masses and I guess, specifically women, but we're, you know, any things that she did to support people that religiously were in line,
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 40:24
actually to be serious, she didn't. You can see this in the religion, the correspondences with her daughters, where she, on the one hand, wanted them to influence their husbands at the various courts in Versailles and Paris and Naples and so on. But on the other hand, she was not at all a feminist. Among other things, she wasn't at all. She told them again and again, especially Marie Antoinette, they should subordinate themselves to their to their husbands, they should not show that they were more smart or more bright than their husbands, they should never show that they should always behave in a subordinate way. And so this was, of course, the opposite to a feminist. She herself as she was the heir to the throne, she was the ruler, she, of course, had had no subordinate position, but her daughters had as, as spouses of kings, but they had to behaved as subordinates. So she wasn't a feminist at all.
Kelsie Eckert 41:46
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 41:49
too, of course, for the, for the common subjects, of course,
Kelsie Eckert 41:52
seems to be a common pattern in women's history where women who are really like strong leaders and really powerful tell other women not to do what they're doing.
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 42:06
This is changing. This has changed, I would say, no,
Kelsie Eckert 42:12
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 42:12
I do always find these cases. Yes.
Kelsie Eckert 42:15
Yeah. I hope it's changing. Just to help me wrap my mind around Austrian history a little bit, it's because it's foreign. Austrian history in my mind comes back in at World War One, with, you know, the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Are those people descendants of her like, are they Habsburgs? Or?
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 42:36
Of course, yes, of course, they are. Yeah, the emperor of France, Joseph, Francis Joseph, of course, and all of the other were Habsburg Dynasty, of course. And the interesting thing is that, as the Habsburg dynasty lost one province after the other during the 19th century, not only with a, with a with the First World War, but before Of course,
Kelsie Eckert 43:09
with their war with germany right?
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 43:11
they lost all or partly, one after the other lost all the provinces or their influence and so on. And interestingly, in parallel to this vanishing power in Europe, the legend of Maria Theresa was increased. So I think there is a correspondence, the more they left, that they lost influenced the, and they lost their form of power, the more they needed this legendary figure. As a figure of monumental history, in the sense of Friedrich Nietzsche who said, history, monumental history is a way to overcome despair, and to strengthen the beliefs that former greatness can be restored in the future. So they needed this monumental figure of Maria Theresa. In a century where the power of the Habsburg dynasty declined.
Kelsie Eckert 44:17
Wow. I mean, that just speaks to... Yeah, I I've always wanted to go to Austria in Germany, this and now I like need to get there.
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 44:28
It's important to see that what what is Austria today, it was then only one part of this huge bundle of provinces and I mean, that was her oldest and most important, on the most important title, but she had the title of archduchess of Austria. But this was just a small, small part of the huge bundle of territories, which of course, Belgium, Italy, and so on. So Austria today is a very tiny. It is a case that Austria with very tiny, tiny country now. And for them of course, today, Maria Theresa is a very important figure of national greatness.
Kelsie Eckert 45:18
Yeah. So your book is coming out?
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 45:23
Yes, I hope so.
Kelsie Eckert 45:26
When, where where can folks find your book, if they're interested in finding it,
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 45:31
it prints the University Press. It will be published by Princeton University Press in, by January, I don't know exactly when. It took a long, long time to translate it. And as far as I can say, the translator did a great job. its really marvelous. He even tried to, there are certain poems, which I quote in the text, and he even tried to mimic the style of the poems with rhymes and so on. So he did a wonderful job. And it took a long time to, to proofread and everything. So finally, I very much hope that by January to come out,
Kelsie Eckert 46:19
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 46:19
University Press, and more than 1000 pages, I must say as a warning.
Kelsie Eckert 46:27
A 45 minute episode is not nearly enough to cover the legacy of this woman. So they'll need to read the whole book.
Barbara Stollberg Rilinger 46:35
You can also read several chapters and drop the others. I mean, you can drop the war chapters and just read the sex chapters for a more or less interesting path.
Kelsie Eckert 46:49
Well, I'm sure it's all interesting. You're too humble. Well, thank you so much for meeting with me, Barbara. I really appreciate your time. And I am so grateful for you re educating me and helping me become a better historian myself. So thank you. You're welcome.
Thanks so much for listening to remedial herstory the other 50% please subscribe, rate and review wherever you listen to your podcasts to bring more voices to the conversation. We'd really appreciate that effort. Until next time.
Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger FBA is a German historian. She mainly researches the early modern period and has held the chair for early modern period and has held the chair for early modern history at the University of Münster. Stollberg-Rilinger is one of the leading representatives of research that examines the constitutional history of the Holy Roman Empire on the basis of symbolic-ritual forms of communication. Her work on rituals, symbolic communication and ceremonial influenced research on the exercise of power in the pre-modern era.
Stollberg-Rillinger is the author of a new book on Maria Theresa. 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.
You can find her book here.