Maria Theresa (1717-1780) is one of the most influential figures in Austrian history. It is only natural that, in addition to stories about her merits for the country and its people (for example, she introduced compulsory schooling), numerous anecdotes and legends entwine around her.
The best known is certainly the appearance of little Mozart in Schönbrunn: “Wolferl jumped on the Empress’s lap, took her around her neck and kissed her righteously. In short, we had been with her from three o’clock to six o’clock, …” (L. Mozart)
Also her lightheartedness became proverbial. She lived according to the motto of being too natural to squeeze herself into the rigid corset of the court and behave accordingly. It is characteristic, for example, how she once hurried through the corridors of the Hofburg in her nightgown and stormed into a performance of the Burgtheater, bent over the railing and shouted down into the parquet floor: “The poldl has got a boy and just on my wedding day – is he gallant!” (Poldl was the later Emperor Leopold II.)
I happened to find a little story in the net that also makes her tangible as a human being. There is a report by the Vienna Court War Council to Maria Theresa dated 22 February 1771.
When she read it at the breakfast table, she apparently accidentally spilled her coffee and soiled the paper.
She herself wrote an apology: “I am ashamed that a Canne Caffée has thrown over it”.
A sympathetic trait of a great ruler, which shows that she was more human than history normally shows us.