In order to save Austria, Queen Maria Theressa had to take the job of “queen” much more seriously than her predecessors. For instance, she chose a wise courtier to teach her the ropes, and another to run her Imperial Court, stunning them both.
As Count Tarouca found himself in the unenviable position of having to take charge of the Queen’s personal life, an equally important job needed doing. Running the Imperial Court.
This became the job of Count Khevenhuller-Metsch. He is not to be confused with the other Count Khevenhuller, the military fellow. Same family, though. This Count Khevenhuller had originally hoped for a diplomatic career. It was his heart’s desire. Unfortunately, he had no talent for it.
His few adventures in that direction ended in failure. Quite fortunately for him, although he didn’t see it that way, he was prevailed upon to take charge of court matters. Like Count Tarouca, he didn’t want the job. But he turned out to be the best man for it. According to one historian, “In no time at all he had developed an unsuspected talent for organization and administration.” Maria also seemed to have a real talent for picking talent. Neither of these men were doing work even vaguely similar to what Maria tapped them for so…how did she know they would do so well? Instinct, I guess.
Court administration needed to be re-organized. There had been no significant changes since her father’s day, while the Empire itself had changed, and was changing, rather a lot. But the mix of court function and informality that had heretofore marked Maria’s attitude toward official court functions had to be got in hand.
Above all, Maria had to be told that although she stood at the apex of the imperial pyramid, she had a role to play regardless of how she felt. She had to behave, and look, like a Queen. In her early years this was something of an issue between Her Majesty and Khevenhuller.
She didn’t need anyone to remind her that a queen had duties. She did need someone to make sure she didn’t get swept up in trivialities. She needed someone to be a gatekeeper. Not only to the rest of the court, but her ministers as well.
One of the first things Maria abolished was the oppressive Spanish ceremonials so beloved by her father. The rituals replacing them were no less elaborate, but more in keeping with Maria’s character. Which meant, lighter and less formal.
Did I mention no less elaborate? Maria Theresa may not have had a need for stuffy ritual, but she did need her servants. Among the small army of servants who accompanied The Queen on her frequent road trips were, “Two postilion trumpeters, a shafted couch for the Master of the Plate and the pastry cook, a large caleche (6 horses) for the Master of the table linen, a landau containing the father confessor and the court chaplain. A wagon for the court post office and baggage.” And this was only a small part of the royal road crew.
Altogether, 232 horses were needed. Since she did not spare herself on these journeys, she didn’t spare her traveling companions. She would often push for ten hours at a stretch, not even taking time for a mid-day meal. Were it not for the need to change horses, she probably would not have stopped at all.
For all her informality, at least, when not in public, her personal servants were under no illusions as to what was expected of them. Elisabeth von Friz was as close to the Queen as anyone could get. From a good family, she eventually became a private secretary and reader. The latter duty being exactly what the title suggests. She read to the Queen at bed time. In German, Italian, French and Latin, as the text demanded.
While the Queen showed them every kindness, they never forgot that they served Maria, and Maria alone. This was really driven home when they wanted to marry. Or even go out on a date. Wrote the Queen to von Friz on one such occasion. “Don’t do anything silly! I’m not giving you the day off for your Herr von Petrasch. He can wait a little. It does men good. Mine also had to wait!”
How long she kept him waiting is open to debate. They had sixteen children.
With the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, Maria had her much needed peace. But as she was to discover ruling a country at peace was very different than running a country at war.
– Mr. Al.