Maria Theresa (1717–1780), archduchess of Austria and queen of Hungary and Bohemia. Maria Theresa, a Hapsburg, centralized her lands under a common administration. During her reign, Austria was in two major European wars—the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48) and the Seven Years' War (1756–63).

Maria Theresa was the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, Hapsburg ruler of Austria, Bohemia, Hungary, the Austrian Netherlands (now Belgium and Luxembourg), and territory in Italy and Bavaria. By an edict known as the Pragmatic Sanction (1713), Charles announced that if he did not produce a male heir, his eldest daughter would succeed him. In 1736 Maria Theresa married Francis of Lorraine.

On the death of Charles in 1740, Maria Theresa's inheritance was contested by other European claimants, precipitating the War of the Austrian Succession. When it ended in 1748, Austria lost possession of Silesia to Prussia, but Maria Theresa had defended her succession. She then established alliances with France and Russia with the object of regaining Silesia. Frederick the Great of Prussia, realizing her intentions, launched an attack that started the Seven Years' War. Despite the alliances, Maria Theresa could not regain Silesia.

Maria Theresa modernized the army, expanded education, and encouraged trade within her diverse and far-flung empire. When Francis died in 1765, Maria Theresa's eldest son became Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II and co-ruler of the Hapsburg domains. In 1770 Maria Theresa strengthened her alliance with France by having one of her daughters, Marie Antoinette, married to the French heir apparent (who became Louis XVI). Austria joined Russia and Prussia in the first partition of Poland (1772), and gained Galicia.