The Death of Maria Theresa

August 24, 2023

Maria Theresa’s health, undermined by so many fatigues, so many maternal and political anxieties, so many cares of all kinds, failed visibly. For a long time she had suffered from catarrh; it seemed as though an internal fire consumed her. On Nov 24 1780, she fell quite ill. Violent attacks of coughing, and continual suffocation, forced her to leave her bed. The physician who was called did not deceive her; he urged the empress to receive the Last Sacraments. On the instances of the emperor, Extreme Unction was deferred; but on the 25th the invalid confessed; on the 26th the Nuncio brought her the Viaticum. Maria Theresa received It kneeling upon her prie-Dieu, her head covered with a mourning veil, as on Ash Wednesday. This woman, who was truly strong, did not wish that death should find her in bed. On the 28th, after Extreme Unction had been administered, she remained alone with the emperor, gave him her benediction for his absent brothers and sisters, wrote much, discussed various questions, gave orders for her burial, thinking of everything during those last hours,⸺ of her children, of her subjects, of her affairs, arranging them even to the least details, giving Joseph II advice on the administration of his vast empire, talking to Maximilian of his future, to the Archduchess Marianne of her vocation, preserving to the end the clearness of her mind and the vigour of her character. And following with a calm eye and tranquil heart the progress of death as it approached, “I have always desired to die thus,” she said, “but I was afraid that it might not be granted to me. I see now that everything is possible with the grace of God.” She passed a frightful night, suffering from terrible attacks of suffocation, when they expected to see her die at any moment. After one of these crises she seemed sleepy, but fought against it. Her children urged her to yield. “How can you wish me to sleep,” she said, “when at any instant I may be called before my Judge? I am afraid to go to sleep; I do not wish to be surprised; I wish to see the advent of death.” When she felt her last hour approach, she sent away her daughters, not wishing to have them see her die. Then suddenly she rose from her armchair, took a few steps toward her chaise longue, and fell; they stretched her out upon it as comfortably as possible. The emperor said to her, “You are worse.”… “Bad enough to die,” she replied. Then addressing her physician, “Light the mortuary candle,” she said, “and close my eyes; for that would be too much to ask of the emperor.” Joseph II, Maximilian, the Prince Albert of Saxony, knelt around her. All was over.

Thus died on Nov. 29, 1780, at the age of sixty-three, in the full plenitude of her faculties, a great sovereign and a good Christian,⸺ Maria Theresa of Austria, empress of Germany, and last heir of the Hapsburgs.

The Life of Marie Antoinette, Volume 1 by Maxime de La Rocheterie. Pgs. 240-241.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 892




Previous post:

Next post: