Metternich, Prince Clemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar, Fürst von


Metternich, Prince Clemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar, Fürst von
(1773–1859)
   One of the greatest statesmen of the nineteenth century, Prince Metternich was born in the Rhineland but entered the Austrian diplomatic service and served at The Hague, Dresden, Berlin from 1803 to 1806, and Paris from 1806 to 1809, where he became well acquainted with Napoleon Bonaparte. He was instrumental in persuading Emperor Francis I to open hostilities with France in 1809, notwithstanding Austria’s defeat in the Austerlitz campaign only four years earlier. After the defeat of Archduke Charles at Wagram in July, Metternich replaced Count Stadion at the Foreign Ministry on October 8 and negotiated the Treaty of Schönbrunn, by which Austria ceded substantial territory to France and her allies. Between 1809 and 1813, a period in which Austria acted as a nominal ally of France, Metternich helped arrange the marriage between Napoleon and the emperor’s daughter, Marie Louise. Metternich maintained amicable relations with France while the Habsburg Empire built up its forces and finances, expanding the army beyond the limits set by Schönbrunn. He also arranged for Austria to supply a contingent of troops for Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812, although by secretly informing 470 Metternich, Prince Klemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar, Fürst von Tsar Alexander that Austrian participation constituting nothing more than lip service to the French, Metternich understood the advantage of keeping Austria’s options open.
   When Napoleon’s fortunes waned as a consequence of the retreat from Moscow, Metternich withdrew Count Schwarzenberg’s forces from the alliance in February 1813 and sought a general negotiated peace. After an interview with Napoleon in Dresden on June 26, at which time Metternich secured an armistice between the two sides, he became convinced that Austria should throw in her lot with the Allies. Austria formerly entered the war in August in alliance with Russia and Prussia, although unlike the latter, he did not appeal to the nationalist instincts of his people for fear of sparking off separatist movements within the multiethnic Habsburg Empire. Never on good terms with Alexander I, Metternich enjoyed good relations with the British foreign secretary, Lord Castlereagh, with whom he regularly conferred from January 1814. As the Allied armies crossed the Rhine and France appeared destined to be vanquished, Metternich sought to establish a postwar settlement in which France - with or without Napoleon in power - might serve as a counterweight to the growing power of Russia, as well as to Austria’s traditional rival, Prussia. In conjunction with Castlereagh, Metternich is regarded as the architect of the settlement reached in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna, where his adept diplomacy averted war between Russia and Prussia through compromise over the fates of Poland and Saxony. He secured territorial gains for Austria, particularly in northern Italy, and extended Habsburg influence into the new German Federation. He also brought Austria into the Holy Alliance with Russia and Prussia. Metternich’s principal long-term policy, influenced by his anticonstitutional, reactionary position, was to maintain the status quo of the restored monarchies through the cooperation of the Great Powers, particularly in combating resurgent revolutionary movements. Ironically, he was forced from office on March 13, 1848, by the revolution that broke out in Vienna in that year.
   See also <>; <>; <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Kissinger, Henry. A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812–1822. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1957;
    Milne, Andrew. Metternich. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1975;
    Palmer, Alan. Metternich. New York: Harper & Row, 1972;
    Schwarz, Henry Frederick. Metternich, the “ Coachman of Europe ” : Statesman or Evil Genius? Boston: Heath, 1962.
   GREGORY FREMONT-BARNES

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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