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Maria Theresa's Political Testament (1749-50)

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I had no experience in seeking such counsel, and my natural great timidity and diffidence, born of this inexperience, itself made the choice of this most necessary advice and information particularly difficult; as in the last ten unhappy years of His Majesty my father’s reign I had only heard, like any other private person, the distress and laments which reached the public without knowing whence and why they came, since at that time everything was not, as it is today, put on the Ministers. I therefore resolved not to conceal my ignorance, but to listen to each in his own department and thus to inform myself properly. Count Sinzendorff, the Court Chancellor, was a great Minister, and later I came to feel his loss more deeply, but he did not possess my confidence. Count Starhemberg possessed it completely, and I venerated him greatly, although he had not so much political insight as the other. The former initiated me and informed me of all matters from the outset, but the latter possessed my full confidence. This went on quite smoothly and well until the arrival of Kinsky, who, with the best intentions, so distracted me and led me into such unrest and confusion that I quite lost this tranquility and brought much chagrin on myself.

At this juncture I got to know Bartenstein, who was brought to my notice by the Counts Starhemberg and Herberstein. At first I was strongly prejudiced against him, but then found him to be – as all who really know him must agree – a great statesman. Afterward I made much use of him to smooth out my tangles in the Ministry and to speak to one and the other, which, however, led me ever and again into fresh mazes and obscurities, so that presently I often became, contrary to my nature, undecided and mistrustful, and had God Himself not drawn a line by their all dying, I should never have been able to remedy this, for I preferred to suffer myself rather than to take violent decisions injurious to the honor and reputation of others – easily understandable, for these were all simply individual unpleasantnesses for me and they themselves all meant honorably; only they would not agree with each other, mostly out of ambition and because each wanted to have the bigger hand and voice in things. This mentality of theirs did affect policy, but never stopped me from deciding against them on central issues, in which Bartenstein gave me invaluable support and knew how to work on men’s minds, which was why I depended very greatly on his advice and presentation of affairs and how he came to enjoy so much credit in my eyes, which he never abused, so that he was really my adviser in chief when I came to the throne.

From the outset I decided and made it my principle, for my own inner guidance, to apply myself, with a pure mind and instant prayer to God, to put aside all secondary considerations, arrogance, ambition, or other passions, having on many occasions examined myself in respect of these things, and to undertake the business of government incumbent on me quietly and resolutely – a principle that has, indeed, been the one guidance which saved me, with God’s help, in my great need, and made me follow the resolutions taken by me, making it ever my chief maxim in all I did and left undone to trust only in God, Whose almighty hand singled me out for this position without move or desire of my own and Who would therefore also make me worthy through my conduct, principles, and intentions to fulfill properly the tasks laid on me, and thus to call down and preserve His almighty protection for myself and those He has set under me, which truth I had held daily before my eyes and maturely considered that my duty was not to myself personally but only to the public.

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