Marie-Thérèse’s youngest son loved a simple life. Yet he made history

She knew just as well that contemporary conventions required that at least one of the children “sacrifice” the life of the church. Nevertheless, she considered opposing this decision. As strengthening relations with neighboring states was vital to the empire, the Church had to wait. Marie-Thérèse did not even want to put a child in her service. But destiny decided otherwise. This is how she entrusted the life of a priest to her youngest son, Maximilien François.

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He did not protest. Sources even claim that he never even tried to ask his mother to marry him and relied on church life from an early age. By reshuffling the political cards of his older brothers, Maximilien François always stands in their shadow. Nevertheless, the Habsburg Monarchy owes him a lot. Especially for cultural development. Maximilien François, son of Marie-Thérèse and later Archbishop of Cologne and Bishop of Münster, was a supporter of the ideas of the Enlightenment and above all a patron of culture and art.

The end of the dreams of a career as a soldier

Maximilian Francis, born in 1756, spent time in childhood mainly with his older brother – the closest in age – Ferdinand Karel. “The boys received a careful judicial education. Their teachers equipped them with knowledge of linguistic, administrative and canon law as well as the basic ideas of the Enlightenment. Marie-Thérèse, widowed since 1765, also showed a particular affection for the most young children, which resulted in his particularly detailed teaching instructions,” concludes the Deutsche Biographie server.

Even with her youngest sons, Marie-Thérèse closely watched and assessed their abilities so that she could choose the best career for them. She soon noticed that Maximilian Francis was very capable, so she planned to appoint him Governor of Hungary. But his plans failed. “The military training he began at the age of ten had to soon end due to persistent foot health problems,” says the website of the Capuchin Crypt in Vienna, where Maximilian Francis is buried.

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But even the end of the dreams of a military career certainly did not mean the decision to choose the life of a priest for the youngest son. “It was mainly because Maria Theresa was aware of her abilities. Even her appointment as coadjutor of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights was not yet a preliminary step for Maximilian to become part of the structures of the Church. And this despite the fact that his new position authorized celibacy, ”underlines the Deutsche Biographie server.

In the end, however, the queen had to give in to the urgent wishes of her advisors. And the next life of Archduke Maximilian Francis has finally been decided.

Cold heart

In the end, it turned out that Maximilian Francis was well suited to life as a church dignitary. “It just came to our knowledge at that time. He always had a strict sense of duty. Despite his noble origins, he enjoyed a simple, informal and friendly life. He attached little importance to his appearance, period sources say his clothes often looked shabby,” the Deutsche Biographie server clarifies.

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Maria Theresa’s youngest son never endured court splendor and therefore stood out not only from his siblings but also from many other high-ranking priests. “When he worked in Bonn for a while, he even refused to stay in his assigned residence, but lived in a small house,” reports Deutsche Biographie.

He loved humor and was not afraid of sarcasm and irony. Historians consider all rumors about possible relationships with women that spread during his lifetime to be fictitious. “Behind his jovial manner there was great distrust and lack of emotion, if not a cold heart. He didn’t even have a close circle of friends,” says Deutsche Biography.

In the name of my brother

In the end, Maria Theresa’s dark fears that her son’s potential would remain untapped for a career in the church did not materialize either. Maybe it was just the opposite. In the places where he worked he proved to be a capable reformer. When he became Elector of Cologne, he ensured that major reforms to the judiciary and education were implemented. But his position was not easy. “The relationship with Brother Joseph II, who ascended the throne in 1780, was complicated. Even under pressure from Josef, Maximilian Francis took over the inheritance that his mother had bequeathed to him under pressure,” the Deutsche Biography server recalls .

Although Maximilian was an enlightened man, he disagreed with his older brother’s reforms and was not a supporter of his policies. When Joseph II. he died in 1790 and his younger brother Leopold II ascended the throne, Maximilian’s attitude changed. Unlike his predecessor, Leopold was a capable reformer and skillfully began to extinguish the damage caused by his older brother. “He skilfully used his favorite Maximilian to regain the confidence of the clergy in imperial politics. And Maximilian also became a supporter of it,” the Deutsche Biography server clarifies.

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However, the successful cooperation of the brothers and the position of Maximilian were seriously disrupted first by the death of Leopold and also by the Great French Revolution, or rather by its result in the form of Napoleon’s expansionism. “When Bonn, where Maximilian François had worked since 1784, was occupied by French troops, the archbishop took several posts until his return to Austria and settled in Hetzendorf near Vienna,” says Beethoven.de.

A patron of a musical genius

The youngest son, Maximilien François, left an indelible mark, particularly in the field of art and culture. “Like many of his ancestors and siblings, he was musically gifted. He promoted music courses at the University of Bonn, the direction of which he largely determined,” Beethoven.de recalls.

Maximilian Francis was a generous patron, and his support for artists contributed significantly to the musical genius, composer Ludwig van Beethoven, becoming an important person in cultural life. “During his stay in Bonn, Maximilian Francis became one of the most important patrons of the young artist. It was he who even allowed Beethoven to make his first trip to Vienna in 1787. And even in the years that followed, when he no longer settled in Bonn, he took a keen interest in Beethoven’s musical advances,” says Beethoven.de.

However, after moving to Vienna, Maximilian’s permanent health problems intensified. It was mainly diabetes and obesity that contributed to his death at age forty-four in 1801.

Children of Marie-Therese

Marie Alžběta (1737–1740)
Mary Anna (1738–1789)
Marie Karolina (1740–1741)
Joseph II (1741–1790)
Mary Kristina (1742–1798)
Marie Alžběta (1743–1808)
Karel Joseph (1745–1761)
Marie Amelie (1746–1804)
Leopold II. (1747–1792)
Marie Karolina (1748–1748)
Johanna Gabriela (1750–1762)
Marie Josefa (1751-1767)
Mary Karolina (1752-1814)
Ferdinand Karel (1754-1806)
Marie Antoinette (1755-1793)
Maximilian Frantisek (1756-1801)

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