|Archduchess Maria Josepha|
|Born||19 March 1751|
Hofburg Palace, Vienna, Habsburg Monarchy
|Died||15 October 1767 (aged 16)|
Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna
Imperial Crypt, Vienna
|Father||Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor|
|Mother||Empress Maria Theresa|
Archduchess Maria Josepha of Austria (Maria Josepha Gabriella Johanna Antonia Anna; 19 March 1751 – 15 October 1767). She was the daughter of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor (1708–1765) and Maria Theresa of Austria, Holy Roman Empress (1717–1780). She died of smallpox at the age of 16 and was buried in the Imperial Crypt, Vienna, Austria.
After the death of her sister-in-law Princess Isabella of Parma, Maria Josepha was the most important female at court after her mother, niece Archduchess Maria Theresia and sister Archduchess Maria Amalia. She lost that position in May 1767 when her older brother Archduke Joseph married a second cousin, Maria Josepha of Bavaria.
Empress Maria Theresa wanted to marry her fourth eldest surviving daughter, Archduchess Maria Amalia, to Ferdinand of Naples and Sicily for political reasons. However, after Ferdinand's father Charles III of Spain objected to the five-year age difference, Maria Josepha, as the next eldest daughter, was left as the obvious candidate for Ferdinand's hand in marriage. She and Ferdinand were the same age, and better yet, Maria Josepha was considered "delightfully pretty, pliant by nature," and the favorite of her brother Joseph.
Maria Josepha had been terrified of dying of smallpox ever since the death of her older sister Archduchess Maria Johanna Gabriela in 1762. Her fears were realised when she died of smallpox on the very day she was to have left Vienna for her journey across the Alps to marry Ferdinand. Popular belief holds that she contracted smallpox because her mother, Maria Theresa, insisted that she go and pray at the improperly sealed tomb of her sister-in-law, Empress Maria Josepha, who had recently died of the disease because they shared the same name. However, the rash appeared two days after Maria Josepha visited the vault, and there is an incubation period of about one week after initial infection before symptoms of a rash appear. Therefore, the Archduchess must have been infected before visiting the vault.
She is buried in vault number 46 at the Imperial Crypt Vaults of the Imperial Crypt, Vienna. After her death, her sister Maria Carolina of Austria was given as a bride to the King of Naples in her place.
- Fraser, Antonia (2001). Marie Antoinette, The Journey. Anchor. p. 28. ISBN 0-7538-1305-X.
- Hopkins, Donald R. (2002). The greatest killer: smallpox in history, with a new introduction. University of Chicago Press. p. 64. ISBN 0-226-35168-8.
- Fraser, p. 29.
- Genealogie ascendante jusqu'au quatrieme degre inclusivement de tous les Rois et Princes de maisons souveraines de l'Europe actuellement vivans [Genealogy up to the fourth degree inclusive of all the Kings and Princes of sovereign houses of Europe currently living] (in French). Bourdeaux: Frederic Guillaume Birnstiel. 1768. p. 1.