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Count Václav Antonín of Kounic-Rietberg

Count Václav Antonín z Kounic a Rietbergu (German: Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz-Rietberg, English: Count Václav Antonín of Kounic-Rietberg) (February 2, 1711 – June 27, 1794) was a Bohemian nobleman working as a diplomat and statesman in Holy Roman Empire. In 1764 he gained the title of Imperial prince (Reichfürst) and in 1776 the tile of Bohemian prince.

Early life

Kounic was born in Vienna to an old Bohemian noble family settled in Moravia. It was intended that Kounic should become a clergyman when he was a boy, but he soon decided otherwise and studied law instead. During his career, he was "Austria's" ambassador in Turin (1741), then minister in the Habsburg's Netherlands during the absence of its ruler Prince Charles of Lorraine, October 1744 to June 1746; he was virtually the head of government after the death of the governor, Archduchess Maria-Anna, sister of Maria Theresa, in December 1744.[1]

In 1746 he was forced to leave Brussels after it was besieged by French forces and move with the government of the Habsburg's Netherlands, first to Antwerp, then to Aachen, where Kounic represented Holy Roman Empire at the Congress of Aachen at the close of the War of the Austrian Succession (1748) and was ambassador at Versailles 1750-53, where he cooperated in laying the groundwork for the future Bourbon-Habsburg alliance. He had long been a strong opponent of the Anglo-Austrian Alliance which had existed since 1731.

Foreign Minister

Count Václav Antonín of Kounic-Rietberg (part of the Maria Theresa monument in Vienna)

Kounic's most important and extremely influential office was that of the chancellor of state and minister of foreign affairs, which he held 1753-92 and where he had Maria Theresa's full trust. Thanks in large part to him, Habsburg Austria entered a treaty (1756) with her old enemy France (and later Russia and Sweden) against the Kingdom of Prussia to win back Silesia, which Austria lost to Prussia during the Silesian Wars. Kounic founded the "Austrian" Council of State, the Staatsrat, 1761, overseeing the reorganization of the army under Daun and worked towards the goal of subjecting the church to the state. He followed the thoughts of the Age of Enlightenment and among his aims was also the better education of the commoners.

From 1764 Kounic gained the title of Reichsfürst[2] (Imperial Prince). His father Maxmilián Oldřich z Kounic was married to Marie Ernestine von Ostfriesland-Rietberg, so that Václav had a title. Following the Seven Years' War, when the lack of a navy demonstrated Austria's vulnerability at sea, Kounic was instrumental in the creation of a small "Austrian" navy to boost the state's presence in the Mediterranean Sea, laying the foundations for the future Austro-Hungarian Navy.

Although Joseph II generally shared such ideas, his reforms moved too fast and too thoroughly for Kaunitz. whose influence grew less during Joseph's reign (1765–90), and even less when Joseph's brother Leopold II reigned; he resigned his office at the accession of Francis II. Kaunitz died in Vienna.

Notes

  1. ^  "Wenzel Anton Kaunitz". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Wenzel_Anton_Kaunitz. 
  2. ^ Regarding personal names: Reichsfürst is a title, translated as Prince of the Empire, not a first or middle name. The female form is Reichsfürstin. Titles using the prefix Reichs- were those created before the fall of the Holy Roman Empire.
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