Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Portrait Wednesday: Maria Theresa, daughter of Joseph II and Isabella of Parma

Portrait Wednesday: a day for sharing portraits of Marie Antoinette and her contemporaries.

[image: a portrait of Maria Theresa, daughter of Joseph II, by an unknown artist. Circa before 1770. ÖNB/BildarchivAustria]

Maria Theresa of Austria (1762-1770) was the first child and daughter of Joseph II and Isabella of Parma; born with the lofty name Maria Theresia Elisabeth Philippine Luise Josepha Johanna, she was also the first grandchild of empress Maria Theresa. Little Theresa would grow up without her mother: Isabella of Parma died in childbirth when Theresa was barely one year old; her sister, Marie Christine, died only a few minutes after being born.

After his wife's death, Joseph II took great solace in his daughter, whom he dubbed his "second self." Her life was cut short shortly before her 8th birthday when she became ill with pleurisy; she never recovered and died on January 23rd, 1770.

Joseph II wrote these moving words to Theresa's governess just a few hours after her death:
"If decency permitted, it would be with you alone that I would be pouring out the sorrow which... pierces my soul. I have ceased to be a father: it is more than I can bear. Despite being resigned to it, I cannot stop myself thinking and saying every moment: 'O my God, restore to me my daughter, restore her to me.' I hear her voice, I see her. I was dazed when the terrible blow fell. Only after I had got back to my room did I feel the full horror of it, and I shall go on feeling it all the rest of my life, since I shall miss her in everything ..."

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