During the time of her reign, Maria Theresa defined European history like no other woman ever before. Even today, many of the most famous buildings in Vienna testify to her rule and many European borders today would be significantly different, had the empress not used the marriage of her children to expand their power. Prague too is clearly shaped by her rule. The Habsburgs used the capital of Bohemia primarily as a summer residence.
Maria Theresa in Prague
Maria Theresa was born in 1717, but her fate was anything but predetermined. As a woman, she had no claim to power. Nevertheless, her family tried to secure their power and so she took over in 1740 the regency over the Habsburg Empire, which, however, was long fought over. This also happened in Prague. Shortly before Maria Theresa was crowned in 1743, Karl Albrecht of Bavaria proclaimed himself king – from the Prague Castle.
Only in 1748, peace was finally established. Finally, she coined many changes in Europe during her lifetime. In the Czech Republic, among other things, she introduced German as an official language and aspired to modernize the state. At the same time, however, she decimated the Prague ghetto through her anti-Semitic policies, and she pursued a very restrictive policy against the city’s Jewish population.
Prague as the summer residence of the Habsburgs
The Prague Castle was rebuilt after Maria Theresa’s ideas and converted into an institute for noblewomen. Many other buildings in Prague were created and renewed by her, too. The fortress Vyšehrad was first occupied by the French and finally, a few years later, by the Prussians. The latter did not want to use the fortress, but instead wanted to destroy it, but this could be prevented by three men, who were declared heroes by Maria Theresa and financially rewarded.
The Benedictine monastery in Břevnov was already enriched by a hall in her honor in the year of Maria Theresa’s coronation and was finally visited again in 1754 by the empress. Libeň Castle was also remodeled by Maria Theresa. Once havin been a Gothic fortress, a rococo palace was soon built here, which was to serve the administration of the city in the Old Town of Prague. Eventually it was offered to the Empress herself and she lived there from 1771 to 1773.
The birth clinic too was a witness of Maria Theresa, since it was founded by her in 1762. It was intended for women who could not be cared for at home and was part of Maria Theresa’s general medical regulation, which was intended to improve the medical care in the Czech Republic.