In the year 1740, Charles VI., emperor of Austria, died. He left a daughter twenty-three years of age, Maria Theresa, to inherit the crown of that powerful empire. She had been married about four years to Francis, duke of Lorraine. The day after the death of Charles, Maria Theresa ascended the throne. The treasury of Austria was empty. A general feeling of discontent pervaded the kingdom. Several claimants to the throne rose to dispute the succession with Maria; and France, Spain, Prussia, and Bavaria took advantage of the new reign, and of the embarrassments which surrounded the youthful queen, to enlarge their own borders by wresting territory from Austria.
The young queen, harassed by dissensions at home and by the combined armies of her powerful foes, beheld, with anguish which her proud and imperious spirit could hardly endure, her troops defeated and scattered in every direction, and the victorious armies of her enemies marching almost unimpeded toward her capital. The exulting invaders, intoxicated with unanticipated success, now contemplated the entire division of the spoil. They decided to blot Austria from the map of Europe, and to partition out the conglomerated nations composing the empire among the conquerors.