Maria Theresa, ruler of the Austrian Netherlands
Maria Theresa Walburga Amelia Christina von Habsburg (1717-1780), eldest daughter of Emperor Charles VI, ruled over an immense empire for nearly forty years. Although most of her vast realms extended over Central Europe, the Austrian Netherlands where also part of it. Maria Theresa was the sovereign of our regions, which she governed from Vienna, assisted in her task by her brother-in-law, Prince Charles of Lorraine, as Governor General, for more than thirty years. Despite its painful start, marked by the War of the Austrian Succession, her reign initiated a period of peace and economic recovery for our countries. Reforms were undertaken to better control the economy and finances and to strengthen the prerogatives of the State at the expense of the Church, such as the foundation of the first royal colleges, in 1773. Arts and Science were also encouraged: the Academies of Fine Arts benefited her protection and the Imperial Academy of Sciences and Letters was founded in Brussels in 1772.
Maria Theresa nominated her son, Emperor Joseph II, as co-regent as of 1765, after the death of her husband, Emperor Francis I, still keeping nonetheless full control over the conduct of affairs. As of 1780, After succeeding to his mother, Joseph II carried out important administrative reforms affecting the relations between Church and State in the Austrian Netherlands.