Maria Christina, Duchess of Teschen
|Spouse||Prince Albert of Saxony, Duke of Teschen|
|House||House of Habsburg-Lorraine|
|Father||Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor|
|Mother||Maria Theresa of Austria|
13 May 1742|
|Died||24 June 1798
Maria Christina, Duchess of Teschen (Maria Christina Johanna Josepha Antonia; 13 May 1742 – 24 June 1798), called "Mimi", was the fourth daughter and fifth child of Maria Theresa of Austria and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. She was the Regent (governor) of the Austrian Netherlands in 1781–1793. She was an older sister of Marie Antoinette.
Born in 13 May 1742 at Vienna, Austria, Maria Christina was the fourth but second surviving daughter of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor and Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia and ruler of all dominions. She was her mother's favourite child because they shared the same birthday. Mimi was not only beautiful but she was also highly intelligent and artistically gifted. The doting partiality that the Empress showed her caused intense jealousy in her brothers and sisters, especially the Emperor Joseph II. His first wife, Isabella of Parma, became her best friend, and named her second daughter after her.
Maria Christina was a very intelligent woman who knew how to manipulate her parents, especially her mother. The sudden death of her father, Francis I, and the depression that overcame Maria Theresa following her widowhood meant that Maria Christina was able to convince her vulnerable and sentimental mother into permitting her to marry for love rather than for reasons of state. She was the only child allowed to do so. She chose her second cousin Prince Albert of Saxony, who had neither great wealth nor a throne to offer; he was made Archduke, governor of Hungary and the couple was given the duchy of Teschen. In 1780, the couple was appointed joint governors of the Austrian Netherlands. The marriage was described as happy.
Relationship with siblings
One of her sisters, the Archduchess Maria Amalia, was also in love with a minor prince, Charles of Zweibrücken, but was forcibly married off to Ferdinand of Parma rather than to her sweetheart. Maria Christina's luck in being permitted to marry the man she loved embittered Maria Theresa's other daughters, who already resented their mother's favouritism. Not only was she able to marry her prince of choice, but her mother also provided for a huge dowry and presented the couple with the Duchy of Teschen. Maria Amalia, the daughter most affected, remained estranged from her mother for the rest of the Empress' life. Although Marie Antoinette wrote her letters later on from France, Mimi did not enjoy the same closeness Marie Antoinette accorded to her other sisters, Maria Amalia and Maria Carolina, who all exchanged not only letters but also dresses, portraits and other gifts. Their brother Leopold also disliked Mimi for her scolding ways, her sharp tongue and above all, her habit of confiding in the Empress, clearly indicating that Mimi used her paramount influence with their mother to tell on her siblings, make trouble, and treat her siblings unkindly. She used the preference and weakness that her sister-in-law, Isabella, had for her, to exert some influence on her brother and mother's heir, Joseph.
Maria Christina's siblings, especially her sisters, never reconciled with her, even after the death of their mother. Queen Marie Antoinette of France, her youngest sister, pointedly ignored her during her visit to France and treated her as just another state guest when she visited Versailles. Marie Christine's request to see the Petit Trianon, her sister's private retreat, was ignored. In her turn, when Marie Antoinette was guillotined in 1793, Maria Christina was reported to have remarked coolly that her sister ought never to have married.
Regent of the Austrian Netherlands
In 1780, after the death of Charles Alexander of Lorraine, Maria Christina and her spouse Prince Albert of Saxony, were appointed joint governors of the Austrian Netherlands. However, they did not arrive in the Austrian Netherlands to assume their position until the year after, in 1781.
Although Maria Christina and Albert were officially in a position of power, they were in reality not allowed to exert any independent authority over the affairs of policy. Maria Christina's brother, Emperor Joseph, limited her and her spouse to mere symbolic figure heads and restricted their activity to ceremonial duties, while the real power was exerted by advisers appointed to them by Joseph, who were loyal to his ideas. The couple shared an interest for art, and ordered the construction of the palace of Laeken for their residence in 1781-84, where they kept a great art collection.
The Josephine reforms, which Maria Christina was forced to introduce in the Austrian Netherlands, did not have her support, and she feared that they would lead to serious conflicts and hostility toward the Austrian government. They were faced with many political difficulties, such as the Brabant Revolution in 1789-90. In 1793, they were forced to leave for Vienna during the French revolution.
Maria Christina had only one child, Princess Christina of Saxony, who died on 17 May 1767, the day after her birth. She was unable to have other children. The couple then became the adoptive parents of Mimi's nephew - son of her brother Leopold and Maria Ludovika of Two Sicilies (both died 1792 very young) - Archduke Charles of Austria.
|Christina of Saxony||16 May 1767||17 May 1767||Died shortly after her birth, is buried in the Imperial Crypt|
Death and burial
Maria Christina is buried in the Tuscan Vault of the Imperial Crypt in Vienna, along with her husband and daughter. The famous and moving monument by Canova that her husband erected to her memory is in the Augustinerkirche.
Titles, honours and arms
- Her Royal Highness Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria; Princess of Hungary and Bohemia; Princess of Tuscany; Duchess of Teschen (1766–1798); Governor of the Austrian Netherlands (1781–1793)
The personal coat of arms of the Duchess of Teschen impales Consort's shield, the arms of King Augustus II of Poland – Quarterly, I and IV gules, a eagle argent, armed, beaked, langued, liée, and crowned Or (for Poland); II and III Gules, a knight armed cap-à-pie mounted on a horse salient argent, brandishing a sword proper and maintaining a shield azure charged with a cross of Lorraine Or (for Lithuania); overall and inescutcheon barry sable and Or, a crancelin vert (for Saxony); - enté en point azure an eagle or (for Teschen) (her husband's shield) to the dexter (viewer's left) with her brother's shield, the arms of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II – Quarterly, I barry of eight, gules and argent, impaling gules a patriarchal cross argent on a trimount vert (for Hungary); II gules a lion rampant argent, queue fourchée crossed in saltire, armed, langued, and crowned Or (for Bohemia); III bendy of six Or and azure, a bordure gules (for Burgundy); IV Or, in annulo six torteaux, the torteau in chief replaced by a roundel azure charged with three fleurs-de-lis Or (for the Medici family); overall and inescutcheon gules a fess argent (for Austria) impaling Or a bend gules three alerions argent (for Lorraine); - enté en point azure an eagle or (for Teschen).
- Hanns Schlitter, Briefe der Erzherzogin Marie Statthalterin der Niederlande an Leopold II. nebst einer Einleitung zur Geschichte der französischen Politik Leopolds II. Gerold, Vienna 1896 on-line
- Friedrich Weissensteiner, Die Töchter Maria Theresias, Heyne 1999 (German Book)
- J. C. H. Blom: History of the Low Countries
- Guida Myrl Jackson-Laufer: Women Rulers Throughout the Ages: An Illustrated Guide
Media related to Archduchess Marie Christine, Duchess of Teschen at Wikimedia Commons
Maria Christina, Duchess of Teschen
Cadet branch of the House of LorraineBorn: 13 May 1742 Died: 24 June 1798
|Duchess of Teschen
with Albert Casimir
Charles Alexander of Lorraine
|Governor of the Austrian Netherlands
Charles of Austria-Lorraine