The emperor was as ﬁt as a ﬁddle. Rumours do the rounds that he
was poisoned, but by whom?
Maria Theresa, twenty-three-year-old daughter and heir to
Charles VI, wastes no time in pronouncing herself Queen of
Hungary and Bohemia and Archduchess of Austria; obviously, she
cannot also assume the title of Head of the Holy Roman Empire.
Vivaldi derives hope from this accession. Maria Theresa is, after all,
married to Frans Stefan, former Duke of Lorraine, the same who,
years ago in Prague, appointed Vivaldi his concert-master.
But there is no question at present of an audience at court.
Not everyone in Europe is pleased to see Maria Theresa heading the
Habsburg empire. The Prince-Elector of Bavaria, Charles Albert,
considers himself the rightful heir to Charles VI and demands that,
as highest descendant of the Habsburgs, he be directly given the
title of Head of the Holy Roman Empire. Maria Theresa spits on her
brother-in-law’s claim. The Bavarian sovereign is married to her
niece, but it does not look likely that a solution to this dispute will
be found within the family. Charles Albert’s claim receives the
support of the French king; Spain and the Saxons swear allegiance
to Bavaria. Vienna begins to tremble. Will the young queen be able
to weather this political sparring match?
Out of the blue, Frederik II King of Prussia offers to ‘come
to her aid’.
If Maria Theresa is prepared to render up to him in return
the wealthy province of Silesia, goes Frederik’s grandiose proposal,
he will ensure that Vienna remains free of Bavarian troops.
Maria Theresa is utterly isolated, for should she refuse his
offer, Frederik II will have no option but to join the side of Bavaria,
France, Spain and the Saxons. The new queen, however, is stalwart
in her belief in the rectitude of her position, and resolutely refuses
the proposal. A scant two months after the death of her father,
Frederik II’s Prussian troops march across the border, crushing
Inexperienced and ill-prepared for statesmanship as she is,
Maria Theresa soon discovers in what a deplorable condition her
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