Martin van Meytens: Maria Theresa surrounded by her family, painting, c. 1754/55

Enlightened Absolutism


Informed by the ideas of the Enlightenment, the state is reorganized on rational principles to further the welfare of its subjects. Under the rule of Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II reforms are instituted resulting in the unification of the judicial system, the abolition of serfdom, religious tolerance and the introduction of compulsory education. The monarch retains his detached position but increasingly regards himself as the 'foremost servant of the state'.