Maria Antonia was born on 2 November 1755, at the Hofburg Palace, in Vienna. She was the youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa, ruler of the Habsburg Empire, and her husband Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. Her godparents were Joseph I and Mariana Victoria, King and Queen of Portugal; Archduke Joseph and Archduchess Maria Anna acted as proxies for their newborn sister. Shortly after her birth, she was placed under the care of the Governess of the Imperial children, Countess von Brandeis. Maria Antonia was raised with her three-year older sister Maria Carolina, with whom she had a lifelong close relationship. As to her relationship with her mother, it was difficult but both the empress and her daughter loved each other.
Maria Antonia spent her formative years between the Hofburg Palace and Schönbrunn, the imperial summer residence in Vienna, where on 13 October 1762, when she was seven, she met Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, two months her junior and who was, at that time, a child prodigy.
Despite the private tutoring she received, results of her schooling were less than satisfactory. At the age of ten she could not write correctly in German or in any language commonly used at court, such as French and Italian. Conversations with her were stilted.
Under the teaching of Christoph Willibald Gluck, Maria Antonia developed into a good musician. She learned to play the harp, the harpsichord and the flute. During the family’s gatherings in the evenings, she would sing, as she had a beautiful voice. She also excelled at dancing, had an “exquisite” poise, and loved dolls.
The King shows himself every day a good husband, a good father, a good man, one cannot see him without loving him sincerely and without respecting in him probity personified; I assure you we are very fortunate to have that pair on the throne, may Heaven that placed them there in His goodness maintain them long on it.
-The Chevalier de Lille to the Prince de Ligne in January 1779