Maria Theresa was the first German regent to relax the rigid etiquette with which her forefathers had fettered themselves. She admitted high and low to her presence, listened to the complaints and petitions of her servants and subjects with sympathy and patience, and returned to them such answers as a mother gives to her children. She honored persons of merit of both sexes with invitations to her table, which had never been done before at the Austrian court. She gave the court of Vienna more liberty, more animation, and more brilliancy than it had ever exhibited. the French manners supplemented or at least gained ascendancy over the Spanish and Italian habits and languages, which had heretofore been predominant.
It is certainly a remarkable characteristic of the eighteenth century, that it produced a greater number of female sovereigns of talent than of distinguished princes; that the most important events during that period were brought about by these princesses; and that for nearly three fourths of it, one of the most powerful nations of Europe was governed by females.
Among these Maria Theresa and Catherine II. indisputably deserve the foremost rank, not only for the greatness of their minds, but also for the goodness of their hearts, and the ardent zeal with which they endeavored to promote the welfare of their subjects. Neither of these sovereigns was without faults, any more than the greatest and the best princes.
If Catherine II. had fewer female virtues than Maria Theresa, on the other hand, she possessed a more masculine mind and attainments, and conferred greater benefits on her empire than the latter, by means of establishments and institutions of general utility.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.