Archduchess Maria Elisabeth of Austria (1743–1808)

Archduchess Maria Elisabeth
Born (1743-08-13)August 13, 1743
Died September 22, 1808(1808-09-22) (aged 65)
House Habsburg-Lorraine
Father Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor
Mother Maria Theresa of Austria
For the earlier archduchess of the same name, see Archduchess Maria Elisabeth of Austria.

Archduchess Maria Elisabeth Josepha of Austria (13 August 1743 22 September 1808) was the sixth child of Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. She was abbess of the Convent for Noble Ladies in Innsbruck from 1780 until 1806.


Archduchess Maria Elisabeth at the age of 19, by Jean-Étienne Liotard, 1762.

Maria Elisabeth was born on 13 August 1743. She was regarded as very attractive during her early youth and was considered the most beautiful of her sisters. Therefore, there were hopes to ensure her a marriage of the highest possible status. During the period of 1756–1763, however, when she would normally have been married, there were difficulties finding a match considered suitable of her in age and status because of the political complications during the Seven Years' War. As an adult in the Imperial Court, her mother was somewhat troubled by Maria Elisabeth's reputation as a "coquette".

In 1768, the recently widowed Louis XV of France considered marrying her. The French court considered it wise for him to marry in an attempt to prevent his sexual scandals, and politically, it was regarded as a way to strengthen the alliance between France and Austria to make both her and her sister Marie Antoinette Queens of France one after another; first Maria Elisabeth married to the present king and the Marie Antoinette married to the next. However, Archduchess Maria Elisabeth's chances of becoming Queen of France were destroyed by smallpox which terribly scarred her face, making her considered unfit for marriage. Her elder sister Archduchess Maria Anna was also ineligible for marriage due to physical disability. Maria Elisabeth was called "Liesl", and known for her sharp tongue. She eventually became greatly overweight.

Maria Elisabeth was appointed cannoness of the Convent for Noble Ladies in Innsbruck by her mother, but like her sister Maria Anna, who had a similar position, she did not in fact live in the convent but continued to share her time with the Imperial Court at Hofburg and Schönbrunn. After the death of their mother in 1780, she, as well as her sisters Maria Anna and Maria Christina, was asked by their brother Joseph II, to leave the Imperial court, because he did not want any women there and wanted to break up what he referred to as his sister's Women Republic. The Emperor appointed his sister Maria Elisabeth an abbess of the Convent for Noble Ladies in Innsbruck. Here - or rather in Innsbruck's Imperial Castle - Maria Elisabeth resided from May 1781 until January 1806, when the province of Tyrol was taken over by Napoleon Bonaparte's ally, the Kingdom of Bavaria. Maria Elisabeth first left for Vienna and later on moved to Linz, where she died on 22 September 1808.


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