Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily was born at the Royal Palace of Portici in Naples, Kingdom of Naples, now in Italy, on June 6, 1772, the eldest child of King Ferdinand IV & III of Naples and Sicily (later King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies) and Archduchess Marie Caroline of Austria. She was named after her maternal grandmother Maria Theresa of Austria and was a niece of Queen Marie Antoinette of France.
Maria Theresa had sixteen siblings, but only six survived childhood. Eight of her siblings died from smallpox.
On September 15, 1790, at the age of 18, Maria Theresa married her double first cousin Archduke Franz of Austria. Franz and Maria Theresa had the same four grandparents: Franz I, Holy Roman Emperor and Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia; and Carlos III of Spain and Maria Amalia of Saxony.
This was Franz’s second marriage and the only one of his four marriages that resulted in surviving children. Seven of their twelve children survived to adulthood. Among the children of Franz and Maria Theresa were: Marie-Louise, the second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte; Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria and Maria Leopoldina, the wife of Emperor Pedro I of Brazil. The marriage lasted nearly seventeen years and was said to be a happy one. Maria Theresa enjoyed participating in social events such as balls and masquerades, even during her twelve pregnancies. She loved music and was an important patron of Viennese music.
Franz became Holy Roman Emperor at age 24 in 1792 after the two-year reign of his father Leopold. Holy Roman Emperor Franz II feared that Napoleon could take over his personal lands within the Holy Roman Empire, so in 1804 he proclaimed himself Emperor Franz I of Austria. Two years later, after Napoleon’s victory at the Battle of Austerlitz, the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved and lands that had been held by the Holy Roman Emperor were given to Napoleon’s allies creating the Kingdom of Bavaria, the Kingdom of Württemberg, and the Grand Duchy of Baden. Therefore, Maria Theresa was the last Holy Roman Empress and the first Empress of Austria.
While pregnant with her twelfth child, Maria Theresa fell ill with the lung infection pleurisy. Her doctor bled her and this caused premature labor. Maria Theresa gave birth to her twelfth child who lived only three days. On April 13, 1807, a week after giving birth, Maria Theresa died at the age of 34. Franz was inconsolable and had to be forcibly removed from his wife’s body. Maria Theresa was buried in the Imperial Crypt in the Franzensgruft (Franz’s Vault) where her husband and his three other wives are also buried. The infant Archduchess Amalia Theresa was buried in the Imperial Crypt in the northeast pier of the Ferdinandsgruft (Ferdinand’s Vault).