1683-1712 Maria Theresia 1740-1780

Habsburg Dynasty, Austrian Line, under Charles VI. (1712-1740)

Domestic Policy
The Economy
Foreign Policy
Intellectual Life

Domestic Policy
The Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 reiterated the indivisibility of the Habsburg possessions; however, the newly gained possessions in Italy (Milan, Mantua, Naples, Sardinia respectively Sicily, Stato dei Presidii) were treated as part of Charles VI.' Spanish Kingdom and placed under an administration Spanish in name.
In governing, Charles VI. relied on the territorial estates and on the corporate nobility which governed them. He did not undertake an attempt to reduce the authority of the estates, while the estates respected the need of the monarchy for increased revenues and contributed their respective shares. As the territorial estates, in most cases, burdened the increased taxes on the shoulders of the peasants, the situation of the latter deteriorated. Imperial decrees intended to protect the peasants against excessive demands by the landowning nobility, robot patents, were of little effect. The estates also showed their willingness to cooperate with the Emperor in signing the Pragmatic Sanction.
Hungary and Transylvania enjoyed privileges (Treaty of 1687; Treaty of Szatmar 1711) which Emperor Charles VI. respected. However, with the diet of Hungary less willing to cooperate, the Habsburg Dynasty was less keen on developing Hungary.
While Habsburg rule was limited, in their traditional possessions, by the respective estates, in the newly acquired territories of southern Hungary, the Banat, Slavonia, and in the temporary acqquisitions of Serbia and Little Wallachia, the Habsburg Dynasty ruled absolute. The lands were devastated by decades of warfare; the Habsburg administration called in settlers, from Germany, Hungary, but also Serbs, Croats, Slovaks, Romanians, even Bulgarians and Cossacks. In the Banat and in the Military Frontier Region, Habsburg absolute rule would continue into the 19th century. Here a different society emerged, with a high percentage of immigrants of various geographical origin, mostly peasants, relatively few nobles.
In 1719 Charles VI. proclaimed Trieste and Fiume free ports; he ordered the streets of the realm improved, a policy which resulted in flourishing Austrian Adriatic trade.
Under Charles VI., the Counterreformation continued, most notably in (southern) Hungary and Silesia, where considerable protestant communities continued to exist. While the privileges of Transylvania included religious toleration, the Austrian administration appointed exclusively Catholics to office. On several occasions, protestants from other areas of the Habsburg Empire were forcefully resettled in Transylvania (transmigration); temporarily, pressure to convert was even exerted on the (Orthodox) Serbs living in the Military Frontier Region. On the other hand, foreign merchants and craftsmen willing to settle in Trieste and Fiume were promised religious toleration.
Under Charles VI., Vienna was elevated into an archdiocesis, reducing the dependence of the Austrian lands on non-Austrian bishops.

The Economy
State Revenues and Expenses : the revenues of the various Habsburg territories were inadequate even to cover peacetime expenses; for most of her wars, the Habsburg Dynasty depended on foreign subsidies and loans. The Habsburg state lacked a modern financial administration; for taxes it depended on the territorial estates; the taxes approved by the estates did not keep up with the rising expenses of the Viennese court and of 18th century warfare. The financial administration of some territories, for instance of the Kingdom of Naples, was even more inefficient than those of the other territories. In case of the relatively wealthy Austrian Netherlands, much of the tax revenue was consumed by the Dutch garrisons of the barrier fortresses. In case of the newly acquired territories in Hungary, the Banat, Transylvania, large areas of arable land remained unplowed; with a low population density, the tax revenue from the area also was low. Here the Habsburg administration called in settlers from far and wide to populate the land and increase state revenue.
Emperor Charles VI. asked the territorial estates of the core lands (Bohemia, Upper and Lower Austria, Inner Austria) to provide regular taxation (over several years, without the necessity for him to apply annually) and for additional taxation to cover the costs of his wars, and the estates complied. Hungary, Tyrol, the Italian possessions and the Austrian Netherlands contributed less, for various reasons. Emperor Charles VI. pursued a policy of cooperating with the territorial estates, i.e. with the respective corporate nobility.

Agriculture : The estates burdened the additional costs on the territory's peasants, who suffered a deterioration of their position; in Hungary, hitherto free peasants, the Hayduks, even were reduced to the status of serfs.
Contemporary Mercantilist theory pointed out that serfs burdened by corvee labour would till the land inefficiently, and Charles VI.'s predecessor, Joseph I., had liberated the serfs on his Silesian Duchies of Liegnitz, Brieg and Wohlau, with the result of drastically rising agricultural production in these areas; yet the nobles resisted the liberation of the serfs, and Charles VI. undertook no such attempt. The agricultural sector of the economy of the Habsburg territories remained largely underdeveloped.

Trade : In an attempt to develop his territories' trade and production, Charles VI. in 1719 proclaimed Trieste and Fiume free ports; the roads in the Habsburg domains were modernized. Companies with seat in Trieste and Oostende were founded, with the object to trade with India, the Far East and the Levant respectively. Foreign merchants and artisans were invited to settle in Trieste and Fiume, and even promised religious toleration - while elsewhere in the Habsburg territories, protestants still suffered religious persecution.
In 1719 the Habsburg Dynasty and the Ottoman Empire signed a trade treaty. Charles VI. established high import tariffs, while low export tariffs were to encourage exports. Trieste developed into a busy port, Fiume into a center of shipbuilding; Austria surpassed Venice as the leading trading power in the Adriatic. The Oostende Company was very successful; for diplomatic reasons - Charles VI. wanted England to recognize the Pragmatic Sanction - it was suspended in 1727 and suppressed in 1731. In 1730 Austria's state mail established universal postage rates, to be paid in half by sender and recipient. Little attention was spent, by the Viennese administration, on Hungary and Transylvania, regarding the development of trade and manufacturing industry.

Proto-Industrial Production : The Bohemian Lands were the center of proto-industrial production; for them, Trieste and Fiume, however, were little suitable as ports; Hamburg and Stettin (outside of Habsburg territory) were easier accessible, via the Elbe and Oder rivers.
Already under Leopold I. and Joseph I. manufactures were established in the Habsburg lands; the number grew considerably under Charles VI. Such manufactures, for instance in the case of porcelain, had a monopoly on the local market.
Within the guilds, the master craftsmen established rules which made life for apprentices more and more difficult. In October 1721 the shoemaker apprentices of Vienna rebelled; the rebellion ultimately was crushed, the leaders executed.

Foreign Policy
When, with King Carlos II. of Spain, the Spanish Line of the Habsburg Dynasty ended, his designated successor being a French prince, Austrian Archduke Charles, son of Emperor Leopold I. (1658-1705) and brother of (then future) Emperor Joseph I. (1705-1711) declared his candidacy for the French throne. England and the Dutch Republic, fearing French hegemony, recognized Charles' claim, and the War of Spanish Succession ensued.
During the war Charles had some successes, established control over Milan, Naples, established himself in Barcelona, temporarily in Madrid. Yet when his brother Joseph I. died in 1711, Charles inherited the territories of the Austrian Line; his allies - England and the Dutch Republic - had no interest in seeing the Spanish and Austrian possessions of the Habsburg Dynasty united in one hand. In the peace treaties of 1713 and 1714 (Utrecht respectively Rastatt), Spain was allocated to Bourbon King Philip V., while the hitherto Spanish Netherlands, Milan, Naples and Sardinia were allocated to Austria. Austrian troops evacuated Bavaria, occupied since 1704.
The Hungarian Kuruc Rebellion (a facet of the War of Spanish Succession), ongoing since 1703, was defeated in a series of Austrian victories in 1711 and terminated in the Treaty of Szatmar (29. 4. 1711) which was to determine Austro-Hungarian relations until 1867.
In 1712, Charles was crowned Emperor Charles VI. (in German : Karl VI.). In an effort to regulate and secure succession in the family, as well as to avoid partition, Charles set up a document referred to as the Pragmatic Sanction (1713). In the following years the Estates of the various Habsburg territories signed the Pragmatic Sanction, and foreign powers recognized the validity in international agreements (the English under the condition that the Ostend Company was dissolved). The Pragmatic Sanction would become important when Charles VI. died without a son in 1740.
In 1715 the Ottoman Empire reconquered the Morea from Venice. The Austro-Ottoman War of 1716-1718 ensued. The Ottomans were defeated; in the Treaty of Passarowitz they had to cede the Banat, Serbia and Little Wallachia (Oltenia) to Austria. In the Treaty of Passarowitz, Austria failed to address Venetian demands for the restitution of Morea; the policy to declare Trieste and Fiume free ports (1719) was also directed against Venice; Austria soon rose to replace Venice in dominating Adriatic trade.
Austria in 1714 had gained territory in the Mediterranean - the Kingdoms of Naples and Sardinia, but it lacked a fleet to defend them. Spain, credit to Cardinal Alberoni, in 1717 took Sardinia by force, Sicily (which then was Savoyard) in 1718. Then Great Britain, the Dutch Republic, Austria and France formed the Quadruple Alliance; in the War of the Quadruple Alliance (1718-1720), Spain was defeated. Austria now gained Naples and Sicily, while Sardinia was allocated to Savoy-Piemont.

Already during the War of Spanish Succession Austrian relations with the Maritime Powers (Dutch Republic, United Kingdom), their traditional allies in the many wars against France, cooled down, for Austria had used the subsidies paid by the maritime powers to establish Austrian domination on the Italian peninsula (and, by doing so, contributing to the fall of Spain to Philip V.), a policy not in the interest of the Maritime Powers, and the death of Joseph I. opened the prospect of a renewed dynastic union between Austria and Spain, a concentration of power the Maritime Powers did not want to see; Charles VI., however, long beyond the Treaties of Utrecht (1713) and Rastatt (1714) upheld his claim to the Spanish throne.
In the mid 1720es, Charles VI. sought to establish new alliances; in 1726, he recognized the legitimacy of the Bourbon Dynasty in Spain as well as the right of the Farnese to succeed in Parma and Tuscany. Spain and Austria entered into an alliance, which involved a marriage project. As Charles VI. had no sons, the prospect of Austrian succession was looming. The Austro-Spanish alliance alienated BAVARIA and SAXONY (the Wittelsbach and Wettin Dynasties hoped for succeeding to the Austrian Habsburg domains). The Austro-Spanish alliance lasted until 1729. Another alliance was established with Russia.
In 1729, Austrian troops assisted in the suppression of a Protestant rebellion in the Princebishopric of Salzburg.
In 1732 the prospect of a marriage between Duke Francis Stephen of Lorraine and Charles VI.' eldest daughter, Maria Theresia, was considered in Vienna; France expressed her displeasure, as did the Maritime Powers; France and Spain concluded a Bourbon Family Compact (1732) which included the French will to annex Lorraine and Spanish desire to regain territories in Italy. Charles VI. still went through with the project; the War of Polish Succession ensued (1733-1735). Austro-Russian forces were successful in establishing their candidate on the Polish throne, but Spain, now allied with France, retook Sicily and Naples. For the defense of Milan, Austria depended on her ally Savoy-Piemont-Sardinia. When peace was negotiated in 1738, Austria managed to gain Parma as compensation for Naples and Sicily, where a sideline of the Spanish house of Bourbon was established.
From 1737 to 1739, another Austro-Ottoman War was fought. In 1739, with Charles VI.' death approaching and a succession conflict looming on the horizon, in 1739 Austria concluded peace, ceding Serbia and Little Wallachia back to the Ottoman Empire.

Intellectual Life
Since the deliverance of the city of Vienna from Ottoman siege in 1683, and despite the fact that the revenue from the Habsburg territories fell far short of state expenses, Austria, mainly the city of Vienna, experienced a boom in the conbstruction of lavish churches, palaces, theatres etc., Austrian Baroque. This boom, which continued under Charles VI., was mainly financed by the Emperor himself, either directly, or by courtiers who have been given extraordinary sums in payment for their services. The courtiers constructed palaces in and around Vienna. With Habsburg rule strengthened and extended, the Catholic church also had lavish Baroque churches constructed (monastery of Melk); in large areas of Hungary, after the Treaty of Szatmar, new Catholic churches were built in an effort to implement the Counterreformation. The elevation of Vienna into the see of an archdiocesis (1722) raised the importance of Vienna as an ecclesiastic center; St. Stephen's Cathedral became metropolitan church. Wiener Neustadt became a suffragan diocesis.
During the earlier phase of Austrian Baroque, architects were called in from Italy; the next generation of architects was home grown (but Italian-trained), among them Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt and Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. The Viennese court imitated the court in Versailles; Lady Montagu, who visited the court in 1715/16, mentions the habit that at court a woman was only formally married to a husband while she had a different lover.
At the Viennese court, artists, poets and composers from Italy dominated; some were French. At court, Italian and French were spoken in addition to German (which was, when it came to the arts, scorned because it was regarded rough and less sophisticated). Italian historian Pietro Giannone, who stayed in Vienna for over a decade, did not learn German because he felt no necessity to do so (Ingrao p.126). Lady Montagu noted that the only poet she found in Vienna was a Frenchman.
Charles VI., despite his failure to secure the Spanish throne in the War of Spanish Succession, maintained his claim to the Spanish throne (despite treaties with Spain which formally recognized the Spanish Bourbon Dynasty) and cultivated a life-long sympathy for everything Spanish; at his court he employed Spanish and Italian grandees in a Spanish administration limited to his Italian conquests. The court thus had an international dimension; the Habsburg Dynasty, ever since Charles V., had been European rather than German.

War of Spanish Succession, from aeiou
Pragmatic Sanction, from aeiou
Prinz Eugen, der edle Ritter, by Armin Preuss, extensive biography of Prince Eugene of Savoy, commander of the Austrian forces in the war against the Turks, in German
DOCUMENTS Documents on the History of Austria, from Eurodocs
Pragmatic Sanction of 1713, from heraldica.org
Medal : Charles VI., Peace of Vienna (with Spain) 1725, from Medal Web (Collection Benjamin Weiss)
REFERENCE Charles W. Ingrao, The Habsburg Monarchy 1618-1815, Cambridge : UP 1994
Robert A. Kann, A History of the Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918, Berkeley : UP 1974
Werner Kleindel, Österreich, Daten zur Geschichte und Kultur, Wien : Ueberreuter 1978, in German

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on December 5th 2003, lst evised on September 21st 2008

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