Austrian Throne Left Empty
by Jeff Provine
says: we're very pleased to present a new story from Jeff Provine's
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Day in Alternate History. Please note that the opinions expressed in
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October 20th 1740,
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this day Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary, Croatia, and
Bohemia, Archduke of Austria, and ruler of too many duchies to list,
decided he would like some mushrooms for dinner. Delighted, he shared them
with his daughter and heir, Maria Theresa (pictured), whom he had kept
near him for fear of his death since 1738.
He had worked throughout his reign to secure the Pragmatic Sanction of
1713, which would allow a daughter to secure the throne of Austria. Female
rulers, while sometimes seen in Europe such as England's Elizabeth and
Poland's Jadwiga, were simply unheard of in the traditions of the ruling
empires of the Continent. All of Charles' work would be undone in a quick
lapse of thought as the mushrooms would prove poisonous.
A new story by Jeff ProvineCharles died, and Maria Theresa followed him
soon after. It was believed that Maria Theresa was pregnant, but autopsy
upon a royal was forbidden, and there was no reasonable way to be sure
beyond the whispers of her nurses. Maria Theresa's husband, Francis
Stephen, stood to directly inherit the titles, but he was distrusted by
many of his people, and his claims were hardly locked in iron-clad law.
Instead, a surge of Austrian nobles, as well as the Hapsburgs in Spain,
looked to take up the throne. Civil war would break out in the empire and
then all through Europe in what became known as the War of the Austrian
"As a matter of interest, then, how does this
effect the Revolutionary/Napoleonic Wars?" - reader's commentsAustria
proved itself unable to secure a ruler. Its coffers had been emptied by
the expenses of the War of the Polish Succession and the Russo-Turkish
War. Charles had ignored suggestions to focus on restoring the imperial
treasury as well as expanding the military, which had dwindled to 80,000
soldiers who had not been paid in months. Instead, Charles focused on the
security of his Pragmatic Sanction, but now there was no ruler at all.
Austria unable to defend itself, Frederick the Great of Prussia would
begin the international move carving up the empire with his invasion of
Silesia on December 16. The Hungarian Diet would declare its independence
early in 1741 and drop out of the war.
The rest of Europe would hurry to grab what it could. France and Spain
turned on each other and fought bitterly over duchies in northern Italy.
Frederick, meanwhile, began a campaign to unite the German states not as
Holy Roman Emperor, but as Emperor of Germany, a Kaiser as he called it.
Saxony would initially fight, then yield, as would most of the others.
England joined Spain against France in a bid for domination in the
colonies of North America and India. Russia, meanwhile, became embroiled
in a two-front war with Sweden while attempting to block the Prussians'
When the war ended and the dust settled on battlefields in 1756, Europe
reached a new balance of power. Spain made great gains in Italy, Germany
stood united under the Prussian crown, and Russia gained a sphere of
influence in the Balkans. The French were removed from North America while
the British came to dominate Canada and India. Expenses would be charged
upon the colonies, spurring a reprisal from the American colonists that
demanded representation to determine their taxes. As one of his last
actions before his death, George II promoted new ministers of parliament
from the colonies, a rash decision in the minds of many, but what he
considered best rather than leaving the matter to his grandson who would
"foul it up".
Austria itself would become a shadow with only its lands east of the Alps
under the new Austrian King Leopold. The many subordinate peoples broke
free and named their own kings, which each had to be approved by the Great
Powers to ensure a return to European stability.
says in reality Maria Theresa survived her father. The Pragmatic
Sanction divided Europe as many supported the Austrian succession while
Prussia's Fredrick the Great led the dispute against it, seizing Silesia.
After years of war and the deaths of thousands, much of the status quo would
return to Europe despite extravagant battle plans. Spain took a few duchies
in Italy in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 while Prussia kept
Silesia, but few questions had been answered. These matters would be brought
up again in the Seven Years' War less than a decade later. To view guest
historian's comments on this post please visit the
Today in Alternate History web site.
Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of
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