Klemens Wenzel, Prince von Metternich: Wikis

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Klemens Wenzel von Metternich

Portrait of Prince Metternich by Sir Thomas Lawrence.
Born 15 May 1773 (1773-05-15)
Died 11 June 1859 (1859-06-12) (aged 86)
Vienna, Austria
Nationality Austrian
Education University of Strasbourg
Known for The Congress of Vienna, Minister of State, Conservatism, Concert of Europe
Religion Catholic
Spouse(s) Baroness Antoinette Leykam (m. 1827–1829) «start: (1827)–end+1: (1830)»"Marriage: Baroness Antoinette Leykam to Klemens Wenzel, Prince von Metternich" Location: (linkback:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klemens_Wenzel,_Prince_von_Metternich)
Countess Melanie Zichy-Ferraris (m. 1831–1854) «start: (1831)–end+1: (1855)»"Marriage: Countess Melanie Zichy-Ferraris to Klemens Wenzel, Prince von Metternich" Location: (linkback:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klemens_Wenzel,_Prince_von_Metternich)
Children Richard, Fürst von Metternich
Parents Franz Georg Karl, Graf von Metternich-Winneburg and Countess Beatrix Kagenegg

Klemens Wenzel, Prince von Metternich (German: Klemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar, Fürst von Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein [1]) (15 May 1773 – 11 June 1859) was a German-Austrian politician and statesman. He was one of the most important diplomats of his era.[2] He was a major figure in the negotiations before and during the Congress of Vienna, and is considered both a paradigm of foreign-policy management and a major figure in the development of diplomatic praxis. He was the archetypal practitioner of 19th-century diplomatic realism, being deeply rooted in the postulates of the balance of power. For generations, Metternich was castigated as a blind reactionary, with Heinrich Heine famously writing ganz Europa wurde ein Sankt Helena, und Metternich war dessen Hudson Lowe. After World War I, some historians suggested that one of the main reasons for his opposition to giving power to the people was his apprehension that it would eventually lead to the political dominance of German nationalism.[citation needed]

Contents

Early life

Metternich was born in Koblenz. His father, Franz George Karl, Count von Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein, was a diplomat who had passed from the service of the Archbishopric of Trier to that of the court of Vienna. His mother was Countess Maria Beatrice Aloisia von Kageneck. At the time of Metternich's birth, and for some time after that, his father was Austrian ambassador to the courts of the three Rhenish electors. Metternich was at first brought up under the influence of the tone and ideals that flourished in the small German courts in the French sphere of influence during the Ancien Régime.

In 1788 Metternich began studying law at the University of Strasbourg, but the outbreak of the French Revolution impelled him to leave after two years. In 1790 he was deputed by the Catholic bench of the Westphalian Circle to act as their master of the ceremonies at the coronation of the new Emperor Leopold II in Frankfurt, a function he repeated at the coronation of Francis II in 1792. He then found employment in the chancery of the Austrian minister to the government of the Austrian Netherlands.

After a long stay in England, Metternich moved to Vienna. On 27 September 1795, he married the Countess Eleonore von Kaunitz, a granddaughter of a former Austrian chancellor. This alliance introduced him to the most exalted circles of Viennese society. In December 1797 the Westphalian counts chose him to be their representative in the Congress of Rastatt, where he remained until 1799. In January 1801 he was appointed Austrian envoy to the Elector of Saxony, where he established contact with many important Russian and Polish families. In November 1803 he was appointed ambassador to Berlin because the emperor believed that Metternich knew how to combine "great powers of observation with a moderate and agreeable manner".[3]

In Berlin, Metternich made himself so agreeable to the French envoy that Napoleon requested he be sent to Paris, where he took up residence as ambassador in August 1806. On a personal note, his amorous conquests during this sojourn in Paris apparently included both Napoleon's sisters Caroline Murat and Pauline Borghese, as well as Napoleon's stepdaughter Hortense de Beauharnais. In the meanwhile, Metternich's influence in European politics grew rapidly, and he ingratiated himself widely at the French Court and in society. In 1809 war broke out between France and Austria. Metternich was arrested in reprisal for the internment in Hungary of two members of the French embassy. After Napoleon's capture of Vienna, he was conducted to the Austrian capital under military guard and handed over in exchange for the French diplomats.

On 8 July Metternich succeeded Johann Philipp Stadion as minister of state. He was absent at the peace conference at Altenburg when the emperor signed the Treaty of Schönbrunn on 14 October 1809, although he had been appointed foreign minister on 8 October.

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Minister of State

It is from 1809 to 1848 where he was fully conscious that the position of Austria, which had been reduced to a second-rate power by the Treaty of Schönbrunn, was in a great difficulty and danger. His first mission was to play for time and to distance Napoleon from the Russian tsar. The power that seemed to attract him was France, Austria's former enemy, although he was determined not to sacrifice his freedom of action by making significant concessions.

Napoleon's request for the hand of Archduchess Marie Louise suited Metternich's plans admirably, and he accompanied the princess to Paris on March 13, 1810. The concessions that he gained for Austria were quite small, but Metternich had managed to restore Austria's freedom of action. Metternich hurried back to Vienna on October 10, just in time to stop the pro-Russian party at the Austrian court from compromising this liberty by concluding an alliance with Russia, as well as winning over the emperor for his policy of armed abstention.

With the palpable approach of what was to become the Franco-Russian War, the integrity of this policy became increasingly difficult to maintain. Although Metternich concluded an alliance with Napoleon on 14 March 1812, promising military assistance in return for the concessions that France was now obliged to offer, he at once informed Russia that Austria's troops would act purely defensively, and held out the prospect of a renewal of the old alliance of the conservative powers.

When Napoleon suffered his catastrophic reverse in Russia, Metternich extracted Austria from this alliance, reverted to neutrality and soon maneuvered his country into the position of arbiter of Europe. When he visited Napoleon at Dresden on June 26 his role was still that of a seemingly-impartial mediator who was attempting to end the war and re-establish good relations between the three countries.[citation needed] However, Napoleon was now interested only in taking complete control of Austria and Russia, stating, "We shall meet in Vienna."

After this meeting Metternich realised the necessity of protecting Austria.[citation needed] In the subsequent war he was chiefly anxious to ensure that the balance of power did not swing too far in any direction, and that it would strengthen neither Russia nor Prussia. Events forced him to agree to the restoration of the Bourbons, but he succeeded in ensuring the creation of a federation of German states. Metternich also strove to mitigate the fear of a Russian dictatorship by promoting the principle of concerted action by the Great Powers (Great Britain, Austria, Russia and Prussia) that would accord with their international interests. After the fall of Napoleon, this was the principle that underpinned the European political system..

Peace of Paris

Congress of Vienna

Lithograph based on an 1830 life drawing of Prince Metternich by Lieder.

As the Napoleonic Wars wound down, the victors gathered in Austria to make peace at the Congress of Vienna. The Holy Alliance had two major tasks before it: to make peace with France, and to restore order and stability to the continent.

As its host, the charm and communication skills that Prince Metternich possessed gave him much personal influence. The ease and versatility with which he handled intricate diplomatic issues elicited admiration. The Holy Alliance had intended to make its major decisions behind closed doors; but he counseled compromise and mutual concessions, and under pressure from Talleyrand, included France in the negotiations.

A Napoleonic creation, the Duchy of Warsaw, was brought into being in order to resolve the Congress's top-priority issue, namely the division of Poland. The Austrian Netherlands (what is now Belgium) was surrendered by Austria to the newly-independent Kingdom of the Netherlands. Three eastern cantons, Eupen, Malmedy and St. Vith, were ceded to Prussia. Austria received the Italian provinces of Lombardy and Venetia as its settlement. Metternich was the architect of what he hoped would be an enduring European peace. For the next 30 years he would dominate foreign policy in Europe. In the view of some historians, the self-styled "coachman of Europe" had brought modern world history into being.

Whatever the underlying wisdom of his decisions, he reached settlements regarding Germany, Poland, Italy and the Austrian Netherlands that accorded precisely with his wishes, and he emerged from the congress with the political equilibrium he had desired.

Metternich was destined to spend much of the remainder of his life attempting to stabilize and consolidate the situation that he had been instrumental in creating. Henceforward, the keynote of his policy was his attempt to use the European settlement as an instrument that would discourage revolutionary movements and ensure stability. The revolutions of the 1830s seemed to threaten Metternich's system, but gave it at least a temporary new lease on life. The Berlin Convention of 1833 was both a fresh triumph for Metternich's diplomacy and his last conspicuous intervention in the general affairs of Europe.

In domestic affairs, Metternich was not the thoroughgoing reactionary he is often taken to be. He was too intelligent not to perceive the abuses inherent in the Austrian governmental system and would gladly have remedied some of them[citation needed]; he had previously worked for equal rights and opportunities for the various peoples of the Austrian Empire. He even proposed the formation of a parliament in which all the empire's ethnic groups could be represented proportionally.

The real architect of the highly-reactionary and -aggressive regime in Austria in the first half of the 19th century was Emperor Francis I. More than once Metternich had declared himself, and possibly believed himself to be, a liberal; but in any case, he lacked the ability to institute the reforms he felt were necessary. Despite being the chancellor of Austria for many years, internal policy was not his principal focus.

Resignation

The liberal Revolutions of 1848 marked the end of Metternich's career. The Vienna mob stood thundering at the door of his cabinet and demanding his resignation, which they achieved; the emperor accepted the relinquishment of his post on March 13, 1848, after which Metternich and his family left for England. There he lived in retirement in Brighton and London until October 1849, when he moved to Brussels. In May 1851 he traveled to his estate of Johannesberg; in September of that year he returned to Vienna. In Vienna, Metternich continued to occasionally advise the new Emperor Franz Josef, though he never made any great appearances again. In Vienna he died on June 11, 1859, aged 86.

Prince Metternich in old age.

Legacy

Probably no statesman was so praised, or so reviled, in his own day as Metternich. In one perspective he was revered as the infallible oracle of diplomatic inspiration; in another, he was loathed and despised as an incarnation of the spirit of obscurantism and oppression. The victories of democracy have made the latter view fashionable, and to the liberal historians of the latter part of the 19th century the very name Metternich was synonymous with a system in which nothing but senseless opposition to progress could be discerned. Reaction against this view found its fullest expression in the work of Heinrich Ritter von Srbik.

Metternich was a master of the techniques of diplomacy: for instance, his dispatches were models of diplomatic style. Although they could be excessively moralizing, over-elaborate and verbose, their phrasing was often the result of astute calculation.

Kissinger's studies

Metternich has earned the admiration of succeeding generations for his brilliant management of foreign policy. Henry Kissinger idolized Metternich and studied him closely. He wrote his Harvard University PhD dissertation, later published in 1957 under the title A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of the Peace 1812-1822, on the European negotiations toward the achievement of a balance of power after Waterloo, and praised Metternich's role in holding together the crumbling Austrian Empire. It should be noted that Kissinger's work has generated controversy in academic circles among such historians as Paul W. Schroeder, inter alia attracting criticism for the absence of footnotes.

Notes

  1. ^ Regarding personal names: Fürst is a title, translated as Prince, not a first or middle name. The female form is Fürstin.
  2. ^ In an English translation of the Treaty of Fontainebleau (1814) his name and title are translated as Clement Wenceslas Lothaire, Prince of Metternich, Winebourg Sachsenhausen (Alphonse de Lamartine (translated by Michael Rafter). The History of the Restoration of Monarchy in France. H. G. Bohn, 1854 (New York Public Library). pp 201-207).
    In the treaty of alliance of the 25th March 1815, concluded between Austria, Russia, Prussia and Great Britian (while he was the Austrian first plenipotentiary at the Congress of Vienna) he was styled Clement-Wenceslas Lothaire, Prince de Metternich-Winnebourg-Ochsenhausen, (British Foreign Office, British and foreign state papers Volume 2, H.M.S.O., 1839 p. 446).
  3. ^  "Prince Klemens Lothar Wenzel Von Metternich". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Prince_Klemens_Lothar_Wenzel_Von_Metternich. 

See also

Bibliography

  • Palmer, A., Metternich: Councillor of Europe (London, Orion, 1997).
  • Kissinger, H., "A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of the Peace 1812-1822" (London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999).
  • Zamoyski, A., Rites of Peace: The fall of Napoleon & the Congress of Vienna (2007).
  • Sked, A. Metternich and Austria: An Evaluation (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan 2007), 306 pp.

External links

  1. Metternich on censorship
  2. Fürst von Metternich sparkling wine
  3. Castle Kynžvart (Königswart) in Western Bohemia - Metternich's residence with collections, now open to the public

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