Czech TV to air ambitious miniseries about Empress Maria Theresa

Vojtěch Kotek as František Štěpán Lotrinský, Marie-Luise Stockinger as Maria Theresa, photo: Czech Television

In the New Year, Czech TV will broadcast one of its most ambitious projects to date and its biggest co-production ever: a two-part miniseries about 18th century Habsburg ruler, the Empress Maria Theresa.

Vojtěch Kotek as František Štěpán Lotrinský,  Marie-Luise Stockinger as Maria Theresa,  photo: Czech Television
TV series fans have been enjoying productions such as The Crown or Victoria – a co-production by Czech TV with Austria, Hungary and Slovakia will now tell the story of Empress Maria Theresa, the only female ruler among the Habsburgs and the queen of Bohemia.

The miniseries was shot over 46 days in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Austria and was directed by US-based director Robert Dornhelm and stars Marie-Luise Stockinger in the title role. The series is not the whole story of the Empress’s life but the early years which, according to the filmmaker’s take, were filled with more excitement and romance. Scriptwriter Mirka Zlatníková told Czech Radio she had been interested in what factors influenced Maria Theresa to become a strict ruler in later years.

“We all know her as a fat matron who forced everyone to already be at school by eight, and I was interested in what had given her such strength to rule over so much of Europe and what had formed her as a person.”

Speaking to Czech TV, Austrian-born director Robert Dornhelm explained further:

“We have people who could write a darker and more critical portrayal but that’s the next version; this version is the romantic, funny, love story.”

Robert Dornhelm,  Zuzana Stivínová,  photo: CTK
Maria Theresa became empress when she was just 23. The miniseries focuses on hurdles she faced between adolescence and adulthood. Among issues focussed on, is how members of royalty such as the Habsburgs never had real privacy: the miniseries opens with a scene where Charles VI and Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel try and conceive with the servants as witnesses – the twist being, of course, that they had hoped for a boy.

The role of the mother Elisabeth Christine was played by well-known Czech actress Zuzana Stivínová who said this:

“She was beautiful once… but she drank.”

The miniseries was shot not just at notable locations in the Czech Republic but also Austria and Slovakia.