The Mint of Austria have unveiled (13th March) the third coin in their insightful and informative silver coin series which salutes the life and reign of Austria’s first and, to date, only female head of state as well as the only woman to rule over the vast Hapsburg Empire — Empress Maria Theresa. The series celebrates the 300th anniversary of the birth of Empress Maria Theresa with the issue of four-coins and is based on the four cardinal virtues which governed the Empress throughout her life.
Born in 1717 as the only surviving child of Emperor Charles VI (1685–1740), the archduke of Austria and Holy Roman emperor, she succeeded her father upon his death in 1740 and, as such, became the first empress-regnant of the vast and diverse Austrian (or Hapsburg) Empire at 23-years-old.
In February 1736, the-then Arch Duchess Maria Theresa married Francis, duke of Lorraine (1708–1765), the oldest surviving son of Leopold, duke of Lorraine, and his wife Élisabeth Charlotte d’Orléans. Francis was a distant family member of the House of Hapsburg through his grandmother Eleonor, who was herself the daughter of Emperor Ferdinand III. Together, the royal couple became the parents to 11 daughters, three of whom became Marie Antoinette, queen of France; Maria Carolina, queen of Naples and Sicily; and Maria Amalia, the duchess of Parma. Their five sons included two Holy Roman emperors, Joseph II and Leopold II, of their 16 children, 10 survived into adulthood.
Due to the customary and cultural restrictions at the time, the new empress was expected to essentially cede power to her husband Francis, later titled Francis I, Holy Roman emperor, and her son Joseph — who succeeded his father. The both of them were officially her co-rulers in Austria and Bohemia, but Maria Theresa remained the absolute sovereign and ruled with the counsel of her advisers. She was astute at understanding the importance of her public persona as the mother of the nation and was able to simultaneously evoke both esteem and affection from her subjects.
On the 18th August 1765, her husband Francis I unexpectedly died while he and the court were in Innsbruck to celebrate the wedding of their second son, Leopold, leaving Maria Theresa truly devastated. Their eldest son, Joseph, became Holy Roman emperor and Maria Theresa abandoned much of her court life and subsequently did not appear at public events or the theatre. She retreated from much of her home life as well, cutting off her hair and dressing in mourning gowns for the remainder of her life. The mournful empress ordered that the room in which her husband had died in the Hofburg Palace in Innsbruck be converted into a chapel. For the remaining 15 years of her life, she spent the whole month of August and the 18th day of each month alone in her chamber — ultimately creating a negative effect on her mental health.
The third coin in the Empress Maria Theresa series featuring the life of the Empress focuses on the time of her widowhood and wearing a widow’s veil. As with the other coins in the series, clemency and faith have been inspired by medals issued during the empress’s reign and were minted in extra-bold relief, which gives it a special Antique look and feel, worthy of its illustrious subject. The obverse side of the coin depicts a portrait of Maria Theresa wearing a veil and is from a relief by Anton Guillemard (1747-1812), while the coin’s reverse shows an allegorical representation of clemency in which a female figure offers her hand to a fallen soldier. The year of issue is displayed in Roman numerals, MMXVII, underneath the figure.
|20 g||34 mm||Proof||
Featuring a combination of original motifs taken from medals issued during Maria Theresa’s 40-year reign (1740-1780), the coins combine the virtues of courage, justice, clemency, and prudence with four different portraits of the empress: As a young woman, a wife, a widow, and with her successor, Joseph II.
Each coin is presented in an attractive case with a numbered certificate of authenticity. A custom case designed to house all four eventual coins, including an example of the famed Maria Theresa silver thaler, is also available. The coin is officially released on the 24th April, with dispatch to fulfill orders being scheduled shortly thereafter. The remaining coin in the series is entitled “Prudence and Reform” and has a scheduled release for the 3rd October 2018. For additional information on this coin and others available from the Mint of Austria, please visit their website.