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"Metternich" redirects here. For other uses, see Metternich (disambiguation).
Klemens Wenzel Fürst von Metternich
Portrait of Prince Metternich (1815[nb 1]) by Sir Thomas Lawrence.
Prince of Metternich
1st State Chancellor of the Austrian Empire
In office
25 May 1821 – 13 March 1848
Monarch Francis I (1821–1835)
Ferdinand I (1835–1848)
Preceded by Wenzel Anton, Prince of Kaunitz-Rietberg (as State Chancellor of Austria in the Holy Roman Empire)
Succeeded by Count Franz Anton von Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky (as Minister-President)
2nd Foreign Minister of the Austrian Empire
In office
8 October 1809 – 13 March 1848
Monarch Francis I (1809–1835)
Ferdinand I (1835–1848)
Preceded by Count Warthausen
Succeeded by Count Charles-Louis de Ficquelmont
Personal details
Born 15 May 1773 (1773-05-15)
Died 11 June 1859 (1859-06-12) (aged 86)
Vienna, Austria
Nationality German Austrian
Spouse(s) Princess Eleonore von Kaunitz (m. 1795–1825)
Baroness Antoinette Leykam (m. 1827–29)
Countess Melanie Zichy-Ferraris (m. 1831–54)
  • With Eleonore:
    4 daughters, three sons
  • With Antoinette:
    A son, Richard Klemens Josef Lothar Hermann (1829–1895)
  • With Melanie:
    Melanie Metternich-Zichy, three sons, two daughters
  • With Katharina Bagration
    (illegitimate, acknowledged): A daughter, Marie-Klementine Bagration (1802–1884)
Parents Franz Georg Karl, Graf von Metternich-Winneburg and Countess Beatrix Kagenegg
Religion Catholic

Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich (full name German: Klemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar, Fürst von Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein, anglicised as Clement Wenceslas Lothar von Metternich-Winneburg-Beilstein; 15 May 1773 – 11 June 1859[1]) was a politician and statesman of Rhenish extraction and one of the most important diplomats of his era, serving as the Foreign Minister of the Austrian Empire from 1809 until the liberal revolutions of 1848 forced his resignation. One of his first tasks was to engineer a détente with France that included the marriage of Napoleon to the Austrian Arch-Duchess Marie Louise. Soon after, however, he engineered Austria's entry into the War of the Sixth Coalition on the Allied side, signed the Treaty of Fontainebleau that sent Napoleon into exile and led the Austrian delegation at the Congress of Vienna which divided post-Napoleonic Europe between the major powers. In recognition of his service to the Austrian Empire he was raised to the title of Prince in October 1813. Under his guidance, the "Metternich system" of international congresses continued for another decade as Austria aligned herself with Russia and, to a lesser extent, Prussia. This marked the high point of Austria's diplomatic importance, and thereafter Metternich slowly slipped back into the periphery of international diplomacy. At home, Metternich also held the post of Chancellor of State from 1821 until 1848, under both Francis I of Austria and his son Ferdinand I of Austria. After a brief period of exile in London, Brighton and Brussels that lasted until 1851, he returned once more to the Viennese court, this time to offer only advice to Ferdinand's successor, Franz Josef. Having outlived his generation of politicians, Metternich died at the age of 86 in 1859.

Born into the House of Metternich in 1773 as the son of a diplomat, Metternich received a good education at the universities of Strasbourg and Mainz. He also helped during the coronation of Francis II in 1792 and that of his predecessor, Leopold II, in 1790. After a brief trip to England, Metternich was named as the Austrian ambassador to the Netherlands; a short-lived post, since the country was brought under French control the next year. He married his first wife, Eleonore von Kaunitz, in 1795 and it did much to catapult him into Viennese society. Despite having numerous affairs, he was devastated by her death in 1825. He would later remarry, wedding Baroness Antoinette Leykam in 1827 and, after her death in 1829, Countess Melanie Zichy-Ferraris in 1831. She would also predecease him by five years. Before taking office as Foreign Minister, Metternich held numerous smaller posts, including ambassadorial roles in the Kingdom of Saxony, the Kingdom of Prussia and Napoleonic France. One of Metternich's sons, Richard von Metternich, was also a successful diplomat; many of Metternich's twelve other acknowledged children predeceased him. A traditional conservative, Metternich was keen to maintain the balance of power, in particular by resisting Russian territorial ambitions in Central Europe and over the lands of the Ottoman Empire. He disliked liberalism and worked to prevent the breakup of the Austrian empire; for example, by forcibly crushing nationalist revolts in Austrian north Italy and the German states. At home, he pursued a similar policy, using censorship and a wide ranging spy network to dampen down unrest.

Metternich has both been praised and heavily criticised for the policies he pursued. His supporters point out that he presided over the "Age of Metternich", when international diplomacy helped prevent major wars in Europe. His qualities as a diplomat have also been commended; some add that his achievements were all the better given the weakness of his negotiating position. His decision to oppose Russian imperialism is also seen as a good one. His detractors describe him as a bore who stuck to ill-thought-out conservative principles only out of vanity and a sense of infallibility. They argue that he could have done much more in terms of securing Austria's future; instead, his 1817 proposals for administrative reform were largely rejected and, by opposing German nationalism, they find him responsible for ensuring it would be Prussia and not Austria that united it. Other historians have argued that in fact he had far less power than this view suggests, and that his policies were only accepted when they agreed with the existing view of the Habsburg monarchy that ruled Austria.


Early life

Klemens Metternich was born into the House of Metternich on 15 May 1773 to Franz George Karl Count Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein, a diplomat who had passed from the service of the Archbishopric of Trier to that of the Imperial court, and his wife Countess Maria Beatrice Aloisia von Kagenegg (alternatively von Kageneck).[2] He was named in honour of Prince Clemens Wenceslaus of Saxony, the archbishop-elector of Trier and the past employer of his father.[3] He was the eldest son of the couple and had one elder sister. At the time of Metternich's birth the family possessed a ruined keep at Beilstein, a castle at Winneberg, an estate just to the west of Koblenz, and an estate 300 miles away in Königswart, Bohemia, won during the 17th century.[3] At this time Metternich's father, described as "a boring babbler and chronic liar" by a contemporary, was the Austrian ambassador to the courts of the three Rhenish electors (Trier, Cologne and Mainz).[3] Metternich's education was handled by his mother, heavily influenced by their proximity to the border with France; indeed, for many years Metternich would consider himself able to communicate better in French than German. As a child he would also go on official visits with his father and, under the direction of Protestant tutor John Frederick Simon, he was tutored not just in academic affairs but also in swimming and horseriding.[4]

In the summer of 1788 Metternich began studying law at the University of Strasbourg and was matriculated on 12 November. During his time at the University he was for some time accommodated by Prince Maximilian of Zweibrücken, the future King of Bavaria.[4] At this time he was described by Simon as "happy, handsome and lovable", though contemporaries would later recount how he had been a liar and a braggart.[5] Metternich left Strasbourg in September 1790 to attend Leopold II's October coronation in Frankfurt, an event for which he had been awarded the largely honorific position of Ceremonial Marshall to the Catholic Bench of the College of the Counts of Westphalia. There, under the wing of his father, he met with the future Francis II and looked at ease among the nobility present.[5]

Between the end of 1790 and the summer of 1792 Metternich studied law at the University of Mainz,[6] where he received a more conservative education than he had at Strasbourg, a city now too unsafe to which to return. In the summers he worked with his father who had been appointed plenipotentiary to the Austrian Netherlands. In March 1792 Francis succeeded his father Leopold as Holy Roman Emperor and was crowned in July, prompting Metternich to reprise his earlier role of Ceremonial Marshall. To this he added the honour of officially opening the accompanying ball alongside Louise of Mecklenburg. In the meantime France had declared war on Austria, beginning the War of the First Coalition (1792–7) and making Metternich's further study in Mainz impossible.[7] Now falling back on his employment with his father,[6] he was sent on a special mission to the front. Here he ended up leading the interrogation of the French Minister of War the Marquis de Beurnonville and several National Convention commissioners who were accompanying him. Metternich also observed the siege and fall of Valenciennes, an experience he would later look back on as teaching him a great deal about warfare. In early 1794 he was sent to England on, at least ostensibly, official business helping Viscount Desandrouin, the Treasurer-General of the Austrian Netherlands, to negotiate a loan.[8]

Marriage and the Congress of Rastatt

During his stay in England he met the king on several occasions and dined with a number of influential British politicians, including William Pitt, Charles James Fox and Edmund Burke.[9] Metternich was nominated as the new Minister Plenipotentiary to the Dutch Republic and left England in September 1794. Unfortunately, he found an exiled and powerless government in headlong retreat from the latest French advance.[8] Even worse news came in October as a revitalised French army swept into Germany and annexed all of the Metternich estates except Königswart. Disappointed, and affected by heavy criticism of his father's key policies, he joined his parents in Vienna in November.[10] On 27 September 1795 he married Countess Eleonore von Kaunitz, a granddaughter of former Austrian chancellor Wenzel Kaunitz.[11] The marriage, accompanied by a significant dowry, was arranged by Metternich's mother and introduced him to Viennese society. This was undoubtedly part of the motivation for Metternich, who demonstrated less affection for her than she for him.[nb 2] Two conditions were imposed on the marriage by the father of the bride, Prince Kaunitz: firstly, the still youthful Eleonore was to continue to live at home; and secondly, Metternich was forbidden from serving as a diplomat as long as the Prince was still alive.[10] Their daughter Maria was born in January 1797.[12]

After studying in Vienna, the Prince's death in September 1797 allowed Metternich to participate in the Congress of Rastatt.[13] Initially Metternich's father offered to take him as a secretary while ensuring that, when proceedings officially started in December 1797, he was named as the representative of the Catholic Bench of the College of the Counts of Westphalia.[11] A bored Metternich remained at Rastatt in this role until 1799 when, much to his relief, the congress was finally wound down.[12] During this period Eleonore had chosen to live with Metternich at Rastatt and gave birth to sons Francis (February 1798) and, shortly after the end of the Congress, Klemens (June 1799). Much to Metternich's anguish Klemens died after only a few days, and Francis soon contracted a lung infection from which he would never recover.[13]


Dresden and Berlin

The Holy Roman Empire's defeat in the War of the Second Coalition shook up its diplomatic circles and the promising Metternich was now offered the choice between three ministerial positions: to the Imperial Diet at Regensburg; to the Kingdom of Norway at Copenhagen; or to the Elector of Saxony at Dresden. He chose the third of these in late January 1801 and his appointment was officially announced in February. Metternich summered in Vienna, where he wrote his "Instructions", a memorandum which showed much greater understanding of statesmanship than any of Metternich's earlier writing and visited the Königswart estate in the autumn, before finally taken up his new position on 4 November.[13] The subtleties of the document were, however, entirely lost on the Saxon court, which was headed by the retiring Frederick Augustus, a man who lacked any desire for political initiative.[nb 3] Despite the boredom of the court itself, Metternich enjoyed the light-hearted frivolity of the city and took up a mistress, Katharina Bagration, who bore him a daughter, Klementine.[nb 4] In January 1803 Metternich and his wife had another child themselves whom they named Viktor.[13] In Dresden Metternich also made a number of important contacts including Friedrich Gentz,[14] a publicist who would guide Metternich in alternating roles as his confidant and critic for the next thirty years. He also established links with important Polish and French political figures.[15]

Count Metternich is young but by no means maladroit. We shall see how he shapes up in Berlin.

Colloredo to Thugut (Palmer 1972, p. 39).

The Imperial Recess of 1803 brought Metternich's family new estates in Ochsenhausen, the title of Prince and a seat in the Imperial Diet. In the ensuing diplomatic reshuffle Metternich was appointed ambassador to the Kingdom of Prussia, an appointment he was notified of in February 1803 and began in November of that year.[15] He arrived at a critical juncture in European diplomacy,[14] and Metternich soon grew worried about the territorial ambitions of Napoleon Bonaparte, the new leader of France. This fear was shared by the Russian court, under Alexander I, and the Tsar kept Metternich informed of Russian policy. By the autumn of 1804 Vienna agreed and, in August 1805, the Austrian Empire (as the Holy Roman Empire was in the process of becoming[14]) took up the fight, beginning their involvement in the War of the Third Coalition. Metternich's now almost impossible task was to convince Prussia to join the coalition against Bonaparte. Their eventual agreement was not motivated by Metternich's pleas, and after the coalition's heavy defeat at the Battle of Austerlitz however, Prussia disregarded the agreement and signed a treaty with the French instead.[16]


In the ensuing reshuffle in Vienna Johann Philipp Stadion became the Austrian foreign minister, freeing up for Metternich the post of Ambassador to the Russian Empire. In the event, he never made it to Russia as a need had arisen for a new Austrian at the French court. Metternich was duly approved for the role in June 1806.[nb 5] Metternich enjoyed being in demand and was happy to be sent to France on a generous salary of 90,000 gulden a year.[17] After an arduous trip he took up residence as ambassador there in August 1806, being briefed by Baron von Vincent, and Engelbert von Floret whom he would retain as a close adviser for two decades. He met French foreign minister Charles Talleyrand on 5 August and Napoleon himself five days later at Saint-Cloud; soon, the War of the Fourth Coalition drew both Talleyrand and Napoleon eastwards.[18] His wife and children joined him in October and he took the opportunity to ingratiate himself into society where, using his charm, he rapidly achieved a large degree of social eminence. The presence of Eleonore did not prevent Metternich from embarking on a series of affairs that certainly included Napoleon's sister Caroline Murat[19] and Laure Junot and perhaps many more besides.[18]

After the Treaties of Tilsit of July 1807 Metternich saw that Austria's position in Europe was now much more vulnerable but believed that the accord between Russia and France would not last long. In the meantime he found the new French Foreign Minister, Jean-Baptiste Champagny unaccommodating and struggled to negotiate a satisfactory settlement over the future of several French forts on the River Inn. Over the following months the reach of Austrian policy, and Metternich's own reputation, increased.[20] Metternich himself pushed for a Russo-Austrian alliance, though Russian Tsar Alexander was too preoccupied with the three other wars he was engaged in to commit. Over time, Metternich came to see an eventual war with France inevitable.[20]

In a memorable event to all sides, Metternich argued with Napoleon at the French leader's 35th birthday celebrations in August 1808 as a result of the increasingly obvious preparations for war from both sides.[21] Soon after, Napoleon refused Metternich's attendance at the Congress of Erfurt; Metternich was later glad to hear from Talleyrand that Napoleon's attempts to get Russia to invade Austria at the Congress had proved unsuccessful.[22] In late 1808 Metternich was recalled to Vienna for five weeks of meetings about the possibility of Austria invading France whilst Napoleon was on campaign in Spain.[22] His memoranda reported that France was not united behind Napoleon, that Russia was unlikely to want to fight Austria, and that France had precious few reliable troops he could commit to fighting in central Europe.[21] Once back in Paris, Metternich himself was overtly apprehensive about his own safety. When Austria declared war on France, Metternich was indeed arrested in retaliation for the arrest of two French diplomats in Vienna, but the practical implications of this were minimal and he was allowed to leave France under escort for Austria in late May 1809. After Napoleon's capture of Vienna Metternich was conducted to the Austrian capital and handed over in exchange for the French diplomats.[22]

Foreign Minister

Détente with France

Now back in Austria, Metternich witnessed her defeat at the Battle of Wagram first hand. His reputation tarnished, Stadion tendered his resignation as Foreign Minister and the emperor immediately offered the post to Metternich. Metternich, worried that Napoleon would seize on this to demand harsher peace terms, instead agreed to become a minister of state (which he did on 8 July) and lead negotiations with the French on the understanding that he would formally replace Stadion as Foreign Minister at a later date.[23] During peace talks at Altenburg, Metternich put forward pro-French proposals to save the Austrian monarchy. Napoleon, however, disliked his memorandum on the future of Poland and Metternich was gradually displaced from proceedings by Prince Liechtenstein. He soon regained the influence he had lost, however, as a result of his previously arranged appointment to the post of Foreign Minister (and additionally that of Minister of the Imperial Household) on 8 October.[23] In early 1810 Metternich's earlier affair with Junot became public but, because of Eleonore's understanding, the new Austrian Foreign Minister was never greatly scandalised by it.[24]

One of Metternich's first tasks was to push for the marriage of Napoleon to Archduchess Marie Louise at a time when Napoleon was also interested in a marriage to the Tsar's youngest sister Anna Pavlovna. Metternich would later seek to distance himself from the marriage by claiming it was Napoleon's own idea, but this is improbable, and, in any case, he was happy to claim responsibility for the marriage at the time.[24] By 7 February Napoleon had agreed and the pair, still estranged, were married by proxy on 11 March. Marie Louise left for France soon after and Metternich followed, albeit by a deliberately different route and unofficially. The visit was designed, Metternich explained, to transport his family (stranded in France by the outbreak of war) home and to report back to the Austrian Emperor about Marie Louise's activities.[24]

Instead, Metternich stayed six months, entrusting his office in Vienna to his father. He soon set about using the marriage, combined with flattery, to renegotiate the terms set out at Schönbrunn. The concessions he won were ultimately trivial, however: a few trading rights, a delay in paying the war indemnity, restitution of some estates belonging to Germans in the Austrian service including the Metternich family's, and the lifting of a 150,000 man limit imposed by the treaty on the Austrian army. This latter agreement was particularly welcomed in Vienna as a sign of increased Austrian independence despite the fact that she could no longer affording to maintain an army greater than the limit prescribed anyway.[25]

War of the Sixth Coalition

As France's ally

When Metternich returned to Vienna in October 1810 he found he was no longer as popular as he had been before, with his influence limited to foreign affairs and his attempts to get a full Council of State reintroduced failed.[24] With a strong belief that the now much weakened Austria should avoid another invasion by France in any Franco-Russian war, he turned away the diplomatic advances of Tsar Alexander and instead concluded an alliance with Napoleon on 14 March 1812. He also supported a period of moderate censorship, aimed at preventing provocation of the French.[26] Requiring that only 30,000 Austrian troops fight alongside the French,[27] the alliance treaty was more generous than the one Prussia had signed a month earlier; this allowed Metternich to give both Britain and Russia assurances that Austria remained committed to curbing Napoleonic ambitions. The Austrian foreign minister accompanied his sovereign for a final meeting with Napoleon at Dresden in May 1812 before the French Emperor moved east.[26]

The Dresden meeting revealed that Austria's influence in Europe had reached its lowest point and Metternich was now keen to take advantage of what he saw as his continuing strong ties with all sides in the war to regain it, proposing general peace talks headed by Austria. Over the next three months Metternich would slowly distance Austria from the French cause, whilst avoiding alliance with either Prussia or Russia,[28] and remaining open to any peace proposal that would secure a place in Europe for the combined Bonaparte-Habsburg dynasty.[28] This grew out of a deep concern that, if Napoleon were conclusively defeated in battle, Russia and Prussia stood to gain too much.[29] Napoleon was unavailing, however, and the fighting (now officially the War of the Sixth Coalition) continued. Austria's alliance with France ended in February 1813 and, much to Napoleon's anger, Austria took the opportunity to move to a position of armed neutrality.[28]

As a neutral

Metternich was much less keen on turning against France than many of his contemporaries (though not the Emperor) and he favoured his own plans for a general settlement. Nevertheless, these were not faring well and although a statement of general war aims from the Russians that included many nods to Austria was secured, Britain remained distrustful and generally unwilling to give up the military initiative she had been fighting for twenty years to establish. Despite this, Francis created the Austrian foreign minister Grand-Chancellor of the Order of Maria Theresa, a post which had been vacant since the time of Kaunitz.[30] Metternich grew increasingly worried that Napoleon's retreat would be accompanied by the kind of disorder that would do the Habsburgs no good at all.[29][30] A peace had to be concluded soon in his eyes and, since Britain could not be coerced, he sent proposals to France and Russia only. These were rejected, though after the battles of Lützen (2 May) and Bautzen (20–21 May), a French-initiated truce was duly called. Starting in April Metternich began to "slowly and reluctantly" prepare Austria for war with France; the armistice provided Austria time for a more complete mobilisation.[30]

In June Metternich was forced to leave Vienna and personally handle negotiations at Gitschin in Bohemia. When he arrived he found the hospitality of Princess Wilhelmine, Duchess of Sagan useful and the pair began an affair that would last several months. None of his mistresses would achieve such influence over Metternich as Wilhelmine and he would continue to write letters to her after their separation. Meanwhile French Foreign Minister Hugues-Bernard Maret remained elusive, though Metternich did manage to discuss the state of affairs with the Tsar on 18–19 June at Opotschna.[31] In talks which would later be ratified as the Reichenbach Convention they agreed on general peace demands[nb 6] and set out a process by which Austria could enter into the war on the coalition side. Shortly afterwards Metternich was invited to join Napoleon at Dresden, where he could put the terms directly. Though no reliable record of their meeting on 26 June 1813 exists it seems it was a stormy meeting, though not one that disappointed either side. Agreement was finally reached as Metternich was about to leave:[31] peace talks would start in Prague in July and run until 20 August.[32] In agreeing to this Metternich had ignored the Reichenbach Convention and this fact angered Austria's coalition allies.[31] The Conference of Prague would never properly meet, since Napoleon gave his representatives Armand Caulaincourt and the Count of Narbonne insufficient powers to negotiate terms for a peace.[32] At the informal discussions held in lieu of the conference, Caulaincourt implied that Napoleon would not start negotiating until an allied army threatened France itself. This proved sufficient to convert Metternich, and, after an ultimatum that Metternich had issued to France went unheeded, Austria duly declared war on 12 August.[31]

As a coalition partner

Though Austria's coalition allies saw the declaration of war as an acceptance of the failure of Austria's diplomatic ambitions, Metternich considered it one manoeuvre in a much longer campaign.[33] For the rest of the war he strived to hold the coalition together and, as such, to prevent the Russians from gaining momentum in Europe. To this end he won an early victory as, an Austrian general, the Prince of Schwarzenberg, was confirmed as supreme commander of the coalition forces in preference to Tsar Alexander I. He also succeeded in getting the three allied monarchs (Alexander, Francis and Prussia's Frederick William III) to follow him and their armies on campaign. With the Treaties of Teplitz, Metternich allowed Austria to remain uncommitted over the future of France, Italy and Poland. He was still confined, however, by the British who considerably subsidised Prussia and Russia (in September Metternich asked for Austria to be added to the list of recipient countries).[33] Meanwhile, the coalition forces took the offensive.[33] On 18 October 1813 Metternich witnessed the successful Battle of Leipzig and, two days later, he was rewarded for his "wise direction" of foreign affairs when he was given the rank of prince (German: Fürst).[6] Metternich was delighted when Frankfurt was retaken in early November and, in particular, the deference the tsar showed to Francis at a ceremony organised there by Metternich. Diplomatically, with the war drawing to a close, he remained determined to prevent the creation of a strong unified German state, even offering Napoleon generous terms in order to retain it as a counterweight. On 2 December 1813 Napoleon agreed to talk, though these were delayed by the need for a more senior British diplomat (Viscount Castlereagh) to be present.[33]

Before talks could commence, coalition armies crossed the Rhine on 22 December. Metternich retired from Frankfurt to Breisgau to celebrate Christmas with his wife's family before travelling to the new coalition headquarters at Basel in January 1814. Quarrels with the Tsar Alexander, particularly over the fate of France[nb 7] intensified in January prompting Alexander to storm out. He therefore missed the arrival of Castlereagh in mid-January.[34] The pair, who formed a good working relationship, then travelled into France to discuss matters with Alexander at Langres. The tsar remained unaccommodating however, demanding a push into the centre of France; fortunately, he was too preoccupied to object to Metternich's other ideas, such as a final peace conference in Vienna. Metternich did not attend talks with the French at Chatillon as he wanted to stay with Alexander. The talks stalled, and, after a brief advance, defeat at Montmirail and Montereau forced coalition forces to retreat. This relieved Metternich's fears that an overconfident Tsar Alexander might act unilaterally.[34]

You have no idea what sufferings the people at headquarters impose upon us! I cannot stand it much longer and the Emperor Francis is already ill. [The other leaders] are all mad and belong in the lunatic asylum.

—Metternich to Stadion (Palmer 1972, p. 116)

Metternich continued negotiations with the French envoy Caulaincourt throughout early to mid March 1814, when victory at Laon put the coalition back on the offensive. By this time Metternich was tiring of trying to hold the coalition together and even the British-engineered Treaty of Chaumont did not seem to help.[34] In the absence of the Prussians and Russians the coalition agreed upon the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty to the French throne.[34][35] Francis rejected a final plea from Napoleon to abdicate in favour of his wife, and Paris fell on 30 March. Military manoeuvres had forced Metternich to retreat westward to Dijon on 24 March and now, after a deliberate delay, Metternich left for the French capital on 7 April.[34] He arrived on 10 April to a city at peace and, much to his annoyance, largely in the control of Tsar Alexander. The Austrians disliked the terms of the Treaty of Fontainebleau that the Russians had imposed on Napoleon in their absence, but Metternich was reluctant to take a stand on the issue and on 11 April signed the treaty. Thereafter his job was focused on safeguarding Austrian interests in the forthcoming peace; to assert Austria's influence in Germany over that of Prussia; and to prevent the ascendency of Tsar Alexander from becoming permanent. Within this he ensured that the Italian provinces of Lombardy and Venetia, lost to French client states in 1805, were duly re-annexed.[36]

On the questions of dividing formerly French occupied Poland and Germany Metternich was far more confined by the interests of his coalition allies. After two failed proposals, advanced by the Prussians, the various delegations agreed to postpone the issue until after a peace treaty had been signed.[37] Elsewhere, Metternich, like many of his counterparts, was anxious to provide the renewed French monarchy with the resources to suppress any new revolutionary spirit. The generous Treaty of Paris was signed on 30 May.[35] With it went Metternich's need to stay in Paris and he accompanied Tsar Alexander to England; Wilhelmine, who had followed Metternich to Paris, also made the crossing.[37] A triumphant Metternich filled his four weeks with revelry, regaining any reputation he and Austria had lost; he was also awarded an honorary law degree from the University of Oxford. By contrast and to Metternich's great pleasure, Alexander displayed bad manners and a penchant for gratuitous insults. Despite the opportunities presented, little actual diplomacy took place; instead, all that was firmly agreed was that proper discussions would take place at Vienna, for which a date was tentatively set of 15 August. When the tsar tried to postpone it to October Metternich agreed but, worried that the tsar was trying to capitalise on his de facto control of Poland, made sure suitable conditions were imposed. Metternich was eventually reunited with his family in Austria in the middle of July 1814, having stopped for a week in France to settle fears surrounding Napoleon's wife Marie Louise, now the Duchess of Parma. His return to Vienna was accompanied by a special cantata that included the line "History holds thee up to posterity as a model among great men".[37]

Congress of Vienna

Further information: Congress of Vienna

In the autumn of 1814 the heads of the five reigning dynasties and representatives from 216 noble families began to descend on Vienna. Before ministers from the "Big Four" (the coalition allies of Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia) arrived, Metternich stayed quietly in Baden bei Wien, two hours to the south of the Austrian capital. When he heard they had reached Vienna he made the journey to meet them and to encourage them to come with him back to Baden. This proved unsuccessful; so instead the ministers resolved key differences in a series of four meetings held in the city itself.[38] It was at these meetings that the representatives agreed on how the Congress would operate and, to Metternich's delight, named his own aide, Friedrich Gentz, as secretary to the negotiations of the "Big Six" (the Big Four plus France and Spain). When Talleyrand and Spanish representative Don Pedro Labrador learned of these decisions, they were incensed that some agreements would be negotiated by the Big Four only. Sweden and Portugal were similarly angered by their non-inclusion in anything but the full Congress, especially since Metternich was determined to give the latter as little power as possible. As a result the Big Six became the Preliminary Committee of the Eight, whose first agreement was that the congress itself should be postponed to 1 November.[38] In fact, it would soon be postponed again, with only a minor commission beginning work in November.[39] In the meantime, Metternich organised a controversially vast array of entertainments for all the delegates including himself.[38]

Leaving Castlereagh to work out what Tsar Alexander sought to gain from the proceedings on his behalf, Metternich briefly turned his attention to quelling anti-Habsburg feeling in Italy, and not without success. Around the same time, however, he learnt that the Duchess of Sagan was now courting the tsar. Disappointed and exhausted by the full social diary, Metternich let his guard drop, incensing Tsar Alexander during negotiations over Poland (then ruled by Napoleon as the Grand Duchy of Warsaw) by suggesting Austria could match Russia militarily. The pair would never meet in person again.[39] Despite the blunder, Francis refused to dismiss his foreign minister and political crisis rocked Vienna throughout November, culminating in a declaration by Tsar Alexander that Russia would not compromise on her demand that Poland become a satellite kingdom of the Russian Empire. With this demand completely unpalatable to his coalition allies, agreement seemed further away than ever.[39] During the tense stand-off, it seems that Alexander even went as far as to challenge Metternich to a duel.[40] Fortunately for the Austrian foreign minister, Tsar Alexander soon decided upon a rapid volte face and agreed to divide up Poland among the belligerents. He also opened up on the difficult issue of dealing with the Germanic Kingdom of Saxony, and for the first time allowed Talleyrand to participate in all Big Four (now Big Five) discussions.[39]

As a result of the new consensus, the major issues concerning Poland and Germany were settled in the second week of February 1815.[41] Austria gained land in the partition of Poland and prevented the Prussian annexation of Saxony, but was forced to accept both Russian dominance in Poland and increasing Prussian influence in Germany.[42] Metternich's work was now focused on getting the various German states to agree to surrender some of their historic rights to a new Federal Diet that could stand up to the Prussians. He also assisted the work of the Swiss Committee and worked on a myriad of smaller issues, such as navigation rights on the Rhine. The beginning of Lent on 8 February meant that he had much more time to devote to these congressional issues, as well as private discussions about the fate of southern Italy where Joachim Murat was said to be raising a Neapolitan army.[41] On 7 March Metternich was awakened with the news that Napoleon had absconded from his island prison of Elba[43] and within an hour had met with both the tsar and the King of Prussia. Metternich was in no mood for rash changes of course and, at first, the development had little impact on the congress. Finally, on 13 March the Big Five declared Napoleon an outlaw and the coalition allies began preparations for a renewed fight. On 25 March they signed a new treaty, committing each to sending 150,000 men; there was little sign of the divisions that had characterised the alliance only two years before. With military commanders now drifting away, the Vienna congress gained a new air of seriousness and quickly fixed the boundaries of an independent Netherlands, formalised proposals for a loose confederation of Swiss cantons, and ratified the earlier agreements over Poland. By late April only two major issues remained, the organisation of a new German federation and the problem of Italy.[41]

The ministers and representatives of the German princes sent to the congress continue to sing the praises of Prince Metternich... They admire the tact and circumspection with which he has handled the German committee.

—From the report of an agent of the Austrian intelligence service (Palmer 1972, pp. 147–148).

The latter soon began to come to a head. Austria had solidified its control over Lombardy-Venice and extended its protection to those provinces nominally under the control of Francis' daughter Marie Louise. On 18 April Metternich announced that Austria was formally at war with Murat's Naples. Austria was victorious at the Battle of Tolentino on 3 May and captured Naples less than three weeks later. Metternich then felt able to delay a decision on the future of the country until after Vienna; there was no longer any rush. Discussions about Germany would drag on until early June, when a joint Austrian-Prussian proposition was formally ratified. It left most constitutional issues to the new diet; its President would be the Emperor Francis himself.[44] Despite criticism from within Austria, Metternich was pleased with the outcome and the amount of control it granted the Habsburgs, and, through them, himself.[44] Certainly, Metternich would be able to use the diet to suit his own ends on numerous occasions.[45] The arrangement was similarly popular with most German representatives. A summation treaty was signed on 19 June (the Russians signed a week later[43]), bringing the Vienna Congress officially to an end. Metternich himself had already left on 13 June for the front line, prepared for a lengthy war against Napoleon. In fact there was no need as Napoleon was comprehensively beaten at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June.[44]

Paris and Italy

On 15 June 1815 Metternich was with his coalition allies in Paris once more to discuss peace terms when he read that his son and two daughters had narrowly escaped death after a bridge collapsed. He disliked the enforced separation. After 133 days of negotiations, longer than the turmoil itself, the second Treaty of Paris was agreed to and signed on 20 November. Metternich, who had come to the conclusion that France should not be dismembered, was happy with the result:[46] France lost only a little of its land along its eastern borders, seven hundred million French francs, and the artworks it had captured. It also accepted an army of occupation numbering 150,000 men.[43] In the meantime a separate treaty, proposed by Alexander and redrafted by the Austrian foreign minister, had been signed on 26 September. This created a new Holy Alliance centred on Russia, Prussia and Austria; nonetheless, with its vague liberal sentiments it was a document that Metternich neither pushed for nor wanted.[47] Representatives from most of the European states would come to sign the document, with the exception of the pope, the United Kingdom and the Ottoman Empire. Shortly afterwards, a separate treaty reaffirmed the Quadruple Alliance and established, through its sixth article, the Congress System of regular diplomatic meetings. With Europe at peace, the Austrian flag now flew over 50% more land than when Metternich had become foreign minister.[46]

Metternich now turned once more to the question of Italy, arriving on his first visit to the country in early December 1815. After visiting Venice, his family joined him in Milan on 18 December. For once it was Metternich who played the liberal, asking, unsuccessfully, Francis to give the region some autonomy. Metternich spent four months in Italy, endlessly busy and suffering from chronic inflammation of his eyelids. He tried to control Austrian foreign policy from Milan and, when there was a serious disagreement between the empire and the Kingdom of Bavaria, he was heavily criticised for his absence from Vienna. His enemies could not capitalise however: Stadion was busy working in his role as finance minister and the Empress Maria Ludovika, a fierce critic of Metternich's policies, died in April.[48] The uncharacteristic gap between the views of Metternich and his emperor was only eased when the emperor accepted some of Metternich's proposals and Metternich withdrew others. Metternich finally returned to Vienna on 28 May 1816, after almost a year absent from the capital. Professionally, the rest of 1816 passed quietly for the tired Metternich, who was wrapped up in discussions over Austria's fiscal position and in monitoring the spread of liberalism in Germany and nationalism in Italy. Personally however, Metternich was rocked in November by the death of a focus of his attentions, Julie Zichy-Festetics. Two years later Metternich was to write that his "life ended there" and his old frivolity would take some time to return. The only consolation was July's announcement that Metternich was to receive new estates along the Rhine at Johannisberg, only 25 miles (40 km) from his birthplace at Koblenz.[48]

In June 1817 Metternich was required to escort the emperor's newly wed daughter Maria Leopoldina to a boat at Livorno. When they arrived they found that the ship was delayed and Metternich spent the time travelling around Italy once more; he visited Venice, Padua, Ferrara, Pisa, Florence and Lucca. Though alarmed by the way Italy was developing (he noted that many of Francis' concessions were yet to be put into practice), he still believed the situation was salvageable and made another plea for decentralisation on 29 August.[49] After this failed, Metternich decided to broaden his efforts into general administrative reform, to avoid the appearance of favouring the Italians over the other peoples of the empire. Whilst working on these, Metternich returned to Vienna on 12 September 1817 to be immediately wrapped up in the organisation of his daughter Maria's marriage to Count Joseph Esterházy just three days later. It proved all too much and Metternich was taken ill. After a delay whilst he recovered, Metternich condensed his proposals into three documents he submitted to Francis, all dated 27 October 1817. The administration would remain undemocratic, but there would be a new ministry of justice and four new chancellors—each with local remits, including one for "Italy".[49] Importantly, the divisions would be regional and not national.[42] In the end, Francis accepted the revised proposals, albeit with several alterations.[49][nb 8]

Aachen, Teplice, Karlsbad, Troppau and Laibach

Metternich's primary focus remained on keeping a sense of unity among the Great Powers of Europe and hence preserving his own power as mediator. He was also concerned by liberal-minded Ioannis Kapodistrias' increasing influence over Tsar Alexander and the continual threat of Russia annexing large areas of the declining Ottoman Empire (the so-called Eastern Question).[50] As he had earlier envisaged, by April 1818 Britain had drawn up, and Metternich pushed through, proposals to have a Congress at Aachen, then a Prussian frontier town, six months later. In the meantime, Metternich was advised to travel to the spa town of Karlsbad to treat the rheumatic tension in his back.[50] It was a pleasant month-long trip, though it was whilst at Karlsbad that he heard of the death of his father at the age of 72.[51] He visited the family estate at Königswart and then progressed to Frankfurt in late August to encourage the member states of the German Confederation to agree on procedural issues. He could also now revisit Koblenz for the first time in 25 years and travel on to his new estate at Johannisberg. Travelling with Emperor Francis, he was warmly greeted by the Catholic towns along the Rhine as he progressed towards Aachen.[50] He had arranged in advance for newspapers to cover the first peacetime congress of its kind. As discussions began, Metternich pushed for the withdrawal of allied troops from France and means for preserving the unity of the European powers. The former was agreed almost immediately; but on the latter issue only agreement on a further extension to the Quadruple Alliance. Metternich rejected the Tsar's idealistic plans for (among other things) a single European army, but his own recommendations to the Prussians for greater controls on freedom of speech proved equally hard for other powers such as Britain to support openly.[50]

Today the greatest evil—and therefore the most immediate—is the press.

—Metternich to Gentz, June 1819 (Palmer 1972, p. 182).

Drawn to the natural beauty of Dorothea Lieven, Metternich travelled with her to Brussels soon after the congress broke up. Though he could not stay more than a few days, the pair would exchange letters for the next eight years. Metternich arrived back in Vienna on 11 December 1818 and, unlike in preceding years, could spend considerable time with his children.[50] He entertained the Tsar during the Christmas period and spent twelve weeks monitoring both Italy and Germany before setting off with the Emperor on a third trip to Italy. In the event, the trip had to be cut short following the assassination of the conservative German dramatist August von Kotzebue. After a short delay, Metternich decided that if the German governments would not take the lead against this perceived malaise, Austria would have to compel them, and called an informal conference in Karlsbad.[52] Wanting to sound out Prussian support before the assembly, Metternich met with Frederick William III of Prussia in Teplice in July.[52][53] Metternich carried the day, using a then recent attempt on the life of the Chief Minister of Nassau, Carl Ibell, to get agreement for the conservative programme now known as the Convention of Teplitz. The Karlsbad conference opened on 6 August and ran for the rest of the month.[52] Metternich quickly overcame any opposition within the conference to his proposed "group of anti-revolutionary measures, correct and preemptory", though they were condemned by outsiders.[52] Despite this censure Metternich was nonetheless very pleased with the result,[52] known as the "Karlsbad Decrees".[42][53]

At the conference in Vienna later in the year, Metternich found himself constrained by the Princes of Württemberg and Bavaria, forcing him to abandon his plans to reform the German federation.[54] He now regretted having so quickly forced through its original constitution five years before. Nevertheless, he held ground on other issues and the conference's Final Act was highly reactionary in nature, much as Metternich envisaged it. He remained in Vienna until the close of the conference in May 1820 finding the whole affair a bore. On 6 May Metternich heard of the death of his daughter Klementine tuberculosis. Journeying on to Prague, he heard that his eldest daughter Maria had also contracted the disease. He was at her bedside in Baden bei Wien when she died on 20 July.[55] The two deaths in quick succession prompted Eleonore and the remaining children to leave for the cleaner air of France.[56] The rest of 1820 was filled with news of liberal revolts to which Metternich was expected to respond. Ultimately, the Austrian Foreign Minister was torn between following through on his conservative pledge (favoured by the Russians) and keeping out of a country in which Austria had no interest (favoured by the British). He chose "sympathetic inactivity" on Spain[nb 9] but, much to his dismay and surprise, Guglielmo Pepe led a similar revolt in Naples in early July and forced King Ferdinand I to accept a new constitution.[55] Metternich reluctantly agreed to attend the Russian-initiated Congress of Troppau in October to discuss these very matters. He need not have worried: the Tsar gave way and accepted a compromise proposal of moderate interventionism.[55] Still worried at Kapodistrias' influence over the Tsar, he lay down his conservative principles in a long memorandum, using the opportunity to attack the free press and the initiative of the middle classes.[55]

The congress disbanded in the third week of December and the next step would be a congress at Laibach to discuss their proposed intervention with Ferdinand.[56] Metternich found himself able to dominate Laibach more than any other congress, overseeing Ferdinand's rejection of the liberal constitution he had agreed to only months before. Austrian armies duly left for Naples in February and entered the city in March. The congress was adjourned but, either forewarned or by luck, Metternich chose to keep representatives of the European powers close at hand until the revolt had been put down.[57] As a result, when similar revolts broke out in Piedmont in the middle of March, Metternich had the Tsar at hand and he agreed to send ninety–thousand men to the frontier in a show of solidarity. Concerns grew in Vienna that Metternich's policy was too expensive, prompting Metternich to respond that Naples and Piedmont would pay for stability; nonetheless, it was clear that even he was worried for the future of Italy. There was a consolation when he was created Court Chancellor and Chancellor of State on 25 May, a post left vacant since the death of Kaunitz in 1794. He was also pleased at the renewed (if fragile) closeness between Austria, Prussia and Russia;[57] however, it had come at the expense of the Anglo-Austrian entente.[58]


Hanover, Verona and Czernowitz

In 1821, whilst Metternich was still at Laibach with Tsar Alexander, the revolt of Alexander Ypsilantis threatened to bring the Ottoman Empire to the brink of collapse, a huge cause for concern. Wanting a strong Ottoman Empire to counterbalance the Russians,[59] Metternich opposed all forms Greek nationalism.[60] Before Alexander returned to Russia, Metternich secured his agreement not take unilateral action, and would write to the Tsar again and again asking him not to intervene.[59] For extra support he met with Viscount Castlereagh (now also Marquis of Londonderry) and King George IV of the United Kingdom during a visit to Hanover in October. The king welcomed him warmly and Castlereagh was similarly helpful.[nb 10][59] The earlier Anglo-Austrian entente was thus restored[58] and the pair agreed that they would support the Austrian position over the Balkans. Metternich went away happy, not least because he had bumped into Dorothea Lieven once more.[59]

Over the Christmas period the Tsar wavered more than Metternich had bargained on. In February 1822, he decided to send Dmitri Tatischev to Vienna for talks with Metternich. Metternich soon convinced the "conceited and ambitious" Russian to let him dictate events.[59] In return Austria promised to support Russia in enforcing her treaties with the Ottomans, if the other alliance members would do likewise; in reality Metternich knew this was politically impossible for the British. Further good news came on 25 June when Metternich's adversary in the Russian court, Kapodistrias, retired from public life; however, by the end of April there was a new threat: the Russians were now determined to intervene in Spain, a proposal Metternich described as "utter nonsense".[59] The Austrian chancellor played for time, convincing his ally Castlereagh to come to Vienna for talks before a scheduled congress in Verona, though Castlereagh's suicide on 12 August prevented this.[61] With Castlereagh dead and relations with the British on a downwards trend, Metternich had lost a useful ally.[62] The Congress of Verona was a fine social event but diplomatically it was less successful. Supposed to be concerned with Italy, the congress now had to focus on Spain instead.[61] Austria took a stance of non-intervention, but it was the French who carried the day with their proposal to prepare a joint invasion force.[63] The Tsar pledged 150,000 men to help,[61] while Prussia also committed men to the cause.[63] Metternich worried how they were supposed to get to Spain, and about French ambitions, but nonetheless pledged (if only moral) support for the joint force.[61]

Metternich lingered in Verona until 18 December, before spending some days in Venice with the Tsar and then by himself in Munich. He returned to Vienna in early January 1823 and would remain there until September; indeed, after Verona he travelled much less than before, partly as a result of his new post as Chancellor and partly as a result of his declining health. He was nonetheless buoyed by the arrival of his family from Paris in May. He shone once more in Viennese society.[64] Politically though, the year was one of disappointments. In March the French crossed the Pyrenees unilaterally, undoing the "moral solidarity" established at Verona. Likewise, Metternich thought the new Pope Leo XII too pro-French, and there was trouble between several German states and Austria over why they had not been included at Verona. Furthermore Metternich, in his haste to discredit the Russian diplomat Pozzo di Borgo, instead succeeded in renewing the Tsar's former suspicion of him. Worse was to come in late September: whilst accompanying his emperor to a meeting with Alexander at Czernowitz, an Austrian settlement now in the Ukraine, Metternich fell ill with a fever. He could not continue and had to make do with brief talks with the Russian foreign minister, Karl Nesselrode. At the Czernowitz talks, to which the ill Metternich was not party, an impatient Tsar also asked for a congress in the then Russian capital Saint Petersburg to discuss the Eastern Question. Metternich, wary of letting the Russians dominate affairs, was forced into playing for time.[64]

Fortunately for Metternich the Tsar's dual proposal for the St Petersburg agenda (a settlement to the Eastern Question favourable to Russia and limited autonomy for three Greek principalities) were a pairing that was unpalatable to the other European powers, and potential attendees, such as British Foreign Secretary George Canning, slowly dropped out, much to the annoyance of Alexander. Metternich would believe for several months that he now occupied a unique level of influence over the Tsar.[64] In the meantime he renewed the conservative programme he had outlined at Karlsbad five years before, and sought to further increase Austrian influence over the German Federal Diet. He also informed the press that they would no longer be able to publicise the minutes of Diet meetings, only its rulings.[65] In January 1825 he began to worry about his wife Eleonore's health and he arrived at her sickbed in Paris shortly before her death on 19 March. Having grieved sincerely for her, he also took the opportunity to dine with the Paris elite. Unfortunately, an aside about the Tsar was reported back and it did nothing to help his reputation. He left Paris for the final time on 21 April and was joined by the Emperor in Milan after Metternich's arrival on 7 May. He declined the Pope's invitation that he should become a cardinal of the church. There was also a short trip to Genoa. Early in July the court dispersed and Metternich travelled to be with his daughters Leontine (fourteen) and Hermine (nine) in the quiet town of Bad Ischl. Despite the seclusion he continued to receive reports, including of ominous developments in the Ottoman Empire, where the Greek revolt was rapidly being crushed by Ibrahim Ali of Egypt. He also had to deal with the fallout from St Petersburg where the Tsar, though he had not succeeded in holding a full congress, had talked with all the major ambassadors. By mid-May it was clear that the allies could not decide on a common course of action and, as such, the Holy Alliance was no longer active.[66]

Hungarian diets, Alexander I's death and problems in Italy

In the early 1820s, Metternich had advised Francis that reconvening the Hungarian Diet would be a good way to get approval for financial reform. In fact, the diet of 1825 to 1827 would see three hundred sessions filled with criticism of how the Empire had eroded the historic rights of the Kingdom of Hungary's nobility. Metternich complained that it "interfered with [his] time, [his] customs and [his] daily life", as he was forced to travel to Pressburg (modern day Bratislava) to perform his ceremonial duties and to observe.[67] He found the growth in Hungarian national sentiment alarming and was wary of the growing influence of nationalist István Széchenyi, whom he had met twice in 1825. Back in Vienna, in mid-December, he heard of the death of Tsar Alexander with mixed feelings. He had known the Tsar well and his death reminded him of his own fallibility, though it did potentially wipe the soured diplomatic slate clean. Moreover, he could claim credit for prophesying the Decembrist liberal revolt that the new Tsar Nicholas I had to crush. Now 53, Metternich chose to send Archduke Ferdinand to establish first contact with Nicholas. Metternich was also friendly with the British envoy (the Duke of Wellington) and enlisted his help to win Nicholas over. Despite this, the first eighteen months of Nicholas' reign did not go well for Metternich: firstly, it was established that the British would oversee Russian-Ottoman talks and not the Austrians;[nb 11] and, as a result, Metternich failed to exercise any influence over the resulting Akkerman Convention. France too began to drift away from Metternich's non-interventionist position on the issue. In August 1826 Russian Foreign Minister Nesselrode rejected a congress proposed by Metternich to discuss the events that would lead to the outbreak of civil war in Portugal. The Austrian foreign minister accepted his eclipse with "surprising resilience".[67]

On 5 November 1827 Antoinette von Leykam became Metternich's second wife. She was only twenty; consequently, their marriage, a small affair at Hetzendorf (a village just outside Vienna), drew considerable criticism, though Antoinette's grace and charm soon won over Viennese society.[67] The same day British, Russian and French forces sank the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Navarino. Metternich worried that further intervention would topple the Ottoman Empire and hence upset the balance so carefully created in 1815. To Metternich's relief the new British Prime Minister Wellington and his cabinet were equally apprehensive of giving Russia the upper hand in the Balkans.[68] After another round of his congress proposals were rejected, Metternich now stood back from the Eastern Question, watching as the Treaty of Adrianople was signed in September 1829. Though he publicly criticised it for being too harsh on Turkey, privately he was satisfied with its leniency and its promise that the new Greek state would be entirely autonomous, a buffer against Russian expansion rather than a Russian satellite state. Metternich's private life was filled with grief, however: in November 1828 his mother died; and in January 1829 Antoinette died, five days after giving birth to their son, Richard von Metternich. After fighting tuberculosis for many months, Metternich's son Viktor (already a junior diplomat) died on 30 November 1829. Consequently he spent Christmas alone and depressed, worried about the draconian methods of some of his fellow conservatives and the renewed march of liberalism.[69]

My whole life's work is destroyed.

—Metternich on hearing of France's July Revolution (Palmer 1972, p. 246).

In May Metternich embarked on a much needed holiday to his estate at Johannisberg. He returned to Vienna a month later, still worried about the "chaos in London and Paris" and his declining ability to prevent it.[69] Hearing Nesselrode was due to take the waters at Karlsbad, he set off to meet the Russian in late July. He berated the quiet Nesselrode, but fortunately no offence was taken and the two arranged a second meeting in August. In the interim Metternich heard of France's July Revolution which deeply shocked him, and theoretically gave automatic need of a congress of the Quadruple Alliance.[70] Instead, Metternich met with Nesselrode as planned and, whilst the Russian rejected the Austrian's plan to restore the old Alliance, the pair agreed the chiffon of Karlsbad: that panic could be postponed until the new government showed territorial ambitions in Europe.[71] Although pleased with this, Metternich's mood was soured by news of unrest in Brussels (then part of the Netherlands), the resignation of Wellington in London, and calls for constitutionality in Germany. He wrote with sombre and "almost morbid relish" that it was the "beginning of the end" of Old Europe. Nonetheless, he took heart from the fact that the July Revolution had made a Franco-Russian alliance impossible, and that the Netherlands had called an old-style congress of the sort Metternich enjoyed so much. The 1830 convocation of the Hungarian Diet also proved more successful, crowning Archduke Ferdinand as King of Hungary with little dissent. Moreover, by November his betrothal was completed to 25-year-old Melanie Zichy-Ferraris, who came from a Magyar family the Metternichs had long known. The announcement caused far less consternation in Vienna than Metternich's previous choice of bride had, and they were married on 30 January 1831.[70]

In February 1831 rebels took the cities of Parma, Modena and Bologna, and appealed to France for help. Their former masters appealed for help from Austria, but Metternich was anxious not to march Austrian men into the Papal States without authorisation from the new Pope Gregory XVI. He occupied Parma and Modena, however, and would eventually cross into the Papal lands. As a result, Italy had been pacified by the end of March. He authorised Austrian troops to withdraw from the Papal States in July, but by January 1832 they were back to put down a second rebellion.[70] By this time Metternich was noticeably ageing: his hair was grey, his face drawn and sunken, although his wife nonetheless enjoyed his company. In February 1832 a daughter, also Melanie, was born; in 1833 a son, Klemens, though he died aged two months; in October 1834 a second son, Paul; and in 1837 his third with Melanie, Lothar. Politically, Metternich had a new adversary, Lord Palmerston, who had taken over at the British Foreign Office in 1830. By the end of 1832 they had clashed on virtually every issue. "In short," Metternich wrote, "Palmerston is wrong about everything".[72] Mostly, Metternich was annoyed by his insistence that under the 1815 agreements Britain had the right to oppose Austria's tightening of university controls in Germany, as Metternich had done again in 1832. Mtternich also worried that if future congresses were held in Britain, as Palmerston wanted, his own power would be significantly reduced.[72]

According to Metternich, the liberal revolutions of the 1820s and '30s in Spain and parts of Italy and Germany were "unhistorical" and unrealistic. Liberals were engaged in a futile attempt to impose the English institutions of parliamentary government and constitutional monarchy in places where they had no historical roots; he insisted on the need for continuity with the past and orderly, organic development. Hence his sarcastic comments on the liberal revolutions in Naples and elsewhere, "A people who can neither read nor write, whose last word is the dagger — fine material for constitutional principles! ... The English constitution is the work of centuries ... There is no universal recipe for constitutions."[73]

Eastern Question revisited and peace in Europe

In 1831 Egypt invaded the Ottoman Empire. There were fears of its total collapse and Austria stood to gain little. Metternich therefore proposed multilateral support for the Ottomans and a Viennese congress to sort out the details, but the French were evasive and the British refused to support any congress held in Vienna. Indeed, by the summer of 1833 Anglo-Austrian relations had hit a new low. Over the Russians he was more confident of exerting influence. His faith was misplaced, however, and he was left able only to observe the Russian intervention in the region (culminating in the Treaty of Hünkâr Iskelesi) from afar. Nonetheless, he prepared to meet with the King of Prussia at Teplitz and accompany Francis to meet Tsar Nicholas at Münchengrätz in September 1833. The former meeting went well: Metternich still felt able to dominate the Prussians, despite their rising economic prominence in Europe.[72] The latter was more strained but, as Nicholas warmed, three Münchengrätz agreements were reached shaping a new conservative league that would uphold the existing order in Turkey, Poland and elsewhere.[74] Metternich left happy; his sole disappointment was having to commit to being tougher on Polish nationalists.[72] Almost immediately, however, he heard of the creation of the Quadruple Alliance of 1834 between Britain, France, Spain and Portugal. The alliance of liberals was such an affront to Austrian values that Palmerston wrote that he "should like to see Metternich's face when he reads our treaty". It did indeed draw bitter condemnation, mostly out of fear of an impending war. Metternich tried two tacks: both to intrigue the British foreign secretary out of office and simultaneously trying (and failing) to build up cross-power bloc agreements. When Palmerston was indeed removed in November, however, it was nothing to do with Metternich. Indeed, by the spring of 1835 Palmerston had been reinstated, though Metternich could take heart from the fact that large scale war had been avoided and the Quadruple Alliance was already beginning to disintegrate.[72]

On 2 March 1835 Emperor Francis died, succeeded by his epileptic son Ferdinand I. Despite calls that Ferdinand was a "ghost of a monarch", Metternich placed a great deal of importance upon legitimacy and did all he could to keep the government running. He was soon required to accompany Ferdinand on his first meeting with Tsar Nicholas and the King of Prussia, again at Teplitz. Ferdinand was overwhelmed by it all, especially as the delegations paraded into Prague. Overall, however, it was an untroubled meeting.[75] The next few years would pass relatively peacefully for Metternich: diplomatic incident was limited to the occasional angry exchange with Palmerston and Metternich's failure become a mediator between the British and Russian over their Black Sea dispute. He also invested significant effort into bringing new technology such as the railways into Austria. Metternich's most pressing issue was Hungary, where he remained reluctant to support the centrist (but still nationalist) Széchenyi. His hesitancy on the issue is "a sad commentary on his declining powers of political presence".[76] At court Metternich was defeated by the rising star of Franz Anton von Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky increasingly regularly, particularly over his proposals to increase military budgets. After his 1836 attempt to force through constitutional reform (which would have seen him given greater influence) was defeated—largely through the efforts of the more liberally minded Archduke John—Metternich was forced to share more power with Kolowrat and Archduke Ludwig as part of Austria's Secret State Conference. Decision making ground to a halt.[76][77] Entertaining and maintaining his estates at Johannisberg, Königswart and Plasy (together with Mariánská Týnice) were taking up a lot of his income at a time when he had four young children to support, causing him more stress.[76]

Metternich had long predicted a new crisis in the east, and when the Second Turko-Egyptian War broke out in 1839 he was anxious to use it to re-establish Austria's diplomatic credentials. He quickly brought representatives together in Vienna, from where they issued a communiqué to Constantinople pledging support on 27 July. However, Tsar Nicholas sent Metternich a message from St Petersburg rejecting the idea that Vienna should become the centre of diplomacy. Metternich worked so furiously trying to keep his plans alive that he fell ill, spending the next five weeks taking time out at Johannisberg.[78] The Austrians lost the initiative and Metternich had to accept that London would be the new centre of negotiations over the Eastern Question. It was not the only climbdown: just three weeks after its creation Metternich's European League of Great Powers (the result of his diplomatic initiative following aggressive moves by French Prime Minister Adolphe Thiers) it had become a mere curiosity; likewise, little was heard of his proposals to hold a congress in Germany. A separate proposal to strengthen the influence of the ambassadors stationed in Vienna was also rejected. These rejections would set the tone for the rest of Metternich's chancellorship.[78] Metternich's illness had, it seemed to others, broken his love of being in office. Over the next decade his wife Melanie prepared quietly for the moment when he would either retire or die in office. Metternich's work during the early 1840s would be dominated once more by Hungary and, more generally, by questions of national identity within the diverse Austrian Empire. Here, Metternich "showed [moments of] acute perception". His Hungarian proposals came far too late, however, as the hard-liner Lajos Kossuth had already established a strong brand of Hungarian nationalism. His support for other nationalities was patchy, since he only had a problem with those that suggested the breakup of the Empire.[79]

At the Conference of State Metternich lost his principal ally, Karel Clam-Martinic, in 1840, which did nothing to help the growing state of paralysis at the heart of Austrian government. Metternich now struggled to enforce even the level of censorship he desired, a matter clearly within his remit. Fortunately there were no major challenges to the regime from outside its borders.[79] Italy was quiet and neither Metternich's attempt to lecture the new Prussian king, Frederick William IV, nor the boredom of the new British Queen Victoria at their first meeting posed immediate problems. Far more worrying was the behaviour of Tsar Nicholas, whose estimation of the Habsburg dynasty and of Austria was low. After an impromptu tour of Italy in 1845 the Tsar unexpectedly stopped in Vienna on his way back to Russia. Already in a bad mood he was an awkward guest, though in-between criticism of Austria he did reassure Metternich that Russia was not about to invade the Ottoman Empire once again. Two months later their countries were required to work together over the Galician slaughter and a declaration of independence from Krakow. Metternich authorised the occupation of the city and the use of troops to restore order in surrounding areas, keen to rescind the pseudo-independence that had been granted to Krakow in 1815. After months of negotiations with the Prussians and Russians, Austria annexed the city in November 1846. Metternich regarded it as a personal victory but, in hindsight, it was a move of dubious utility: not only were the Polish dissidents now officially part of Austria, the Europe-wide Polish dissident movement were now hell-bent on destroying the "Metternich system" that had overridden the rights enshrined in 1815. Britain and France appeared similarly outraged, though Metternich did not heed their calls for his resignation. For the next two years Ferdinand would not be able to abdicate in favour of his son without a regency; in the interim Metternich believed Austria would need him to hold government together.[79]


Further information: Revolutions of 1848 in the Habsburg areas

Though Metternich was tiring in his old age, the memoranda kept pouring forth from his chancellery. Despite this he largely missed the building crisis. The new Pope Pius IX was attracting a reputation as a liberal nationalist to oppose Metternich and Austria; at the same time, the Empire was experiencing unemployment and rising prices as a result of poor harvests. Metternich was suitably bemused at the outcry from Italians, the Pope and Palmerston when he ordered the occupation of Papal-controlled Ferrara in the summer of 1847. It would prove to be just the beginning. Despite securing French agreement for the first time in many years from François Guizot over the Swiss Civil War, they were forced into backing breakaway cantons.[80] The pair proposed a conference, but soon there was no need: the government had crushed the revolt. It was a major blow to Metternich's prestige, and his opponents in Vienna would seize upon the whole affair as evidence of his incompetence. In January 1848 Metternich predicted trouble in Italy during the year ahead.[nb 12] He responded to this growing threat by dispatching an envoy, Karl Ludwig von Ficquelmont to Italy; by resurrecting his 1817 plans for an Italian chancellery and by pre-arranging various contingency plans with the French. In late February Austrian Field Marshal Joseph Radetsky placed the Austrian holding in Italy (Lombardy-Venetia) in a state of martial law as disturbances spread. Despite this and hearing of renewed revolution in France, Metternich was not about to be drawn into overhasty action; he still considered domestic revolution unlikely.[80] Nonetheless, he was described by a Saxon diplomat as, in the words of biographer Musulin, "having shrunk to a shadow of his former self".[81]

I am no longer anybody... I have nothing more to do, nothing more to discuss.

—Metternich after resigning (Palmer 1972, p. 313).

On 3 March Kossuth, speaking in the Hungarian Diet, gave a fiery speech calling for a constitution.[81] Nonetheless, it was not until 10 March that Metternich appeared concerned about events in Vienna itself, where there were now threats and counter-threats flying. Two petitions were organised calling for greater freedom, transparency, and representation. Students were involved in several demonstrations, culminating on 13 March, when they cheered the royal family but voiced anger towards Metternich. Having continued as usual through the morning, soon after midday Metternich was called to meet with Archduke Ludwig.[80] The chancellor had troops sent onto the streets, whilst also announcing a prearranged but minimal concession. In the afternoon the crowd turned hostile, however, and a division of troops opened fire on it, killing five. The mob was now truly incited as the liberals were joined by underprivileged Viennese set on wreaking havoc.[80] The students offered to form a pro-government Academic Legion if their demands were met. Ludwig was eager to accept and told Metternich he must resign, to which he reluctantly agreed.[82] After sleeping in the chancellery he was advised to either take back his resignation or leave the city. After Ludwig sent him a message to the effect that the government could not guarantee his safety, Metternich left first for the house of Count Taaffe and then, with aid from friends Charles von Hügel and Johann Rechberg, travelled on to the family seat of Prince Liechtenstein—forty miles from Vienna at Feldsberg. Metternich's daughter Leontine joined them on 21 March and suggested England as a place of haven; agreeing, Metternich, Melanie and 19-year-old Richard set out across Europe, leaving the younger children with Leontine.[83] Metternich's resignation had been met with cheering in Vienna, and even the Viennese commoners welcomed the end of Metternich's era of social conservatism.[84]

Exile, return and death

After an anxious journey lasting nine days, during which they were variously honoured and refused entry to various towns, Metternich, his wife and son Richard arrived in the Dutch city of Arnhem. There they stayed whilst Metternich regained his strength, before travelling on to Amsterdam and the Hague, where they waited to hear of the results of a demonstration by English chartists, planned for 10 April. On 20 April they landed at Blackwall in London, where they would stay in the comfort of the Brunswick Hotel in Hanover Square for a fortnight until they found a permanent residence. Metternich largely enjoyed his time in London: the Duke of Wellington, now nearly eighty, tried to keep him entertained and there were also visits from Palmerston, Guizot (now also in exile) and Benjamin Disraeli, who enjoyed his talks on European politics. The sole disappointment was that Victoria herself had not acknowledged his presence in the capital. The trio leased a house, 44 Eaton Square, for four months. The younger children joined them in the summer. He followed events in Austria from afar,[83] famously denying ever having erred; in fact, he declared the turmoil in Europe to be vindication of his policies. In Vienna, however, a hostile post-censorship press continued to attack him; in particular, they accused him of embezzlement and accepting bribes, prompting the authorities there to investigate. Gradually investigators cleared Metternich of the more extreme charges and would evidently abandon the search for evidence for the more minor ones empty handed, though nothing was ever proven. (In all likelihood Metternich's large expense claims were merely a product of the necessities of early 19th century diplomacy.) In the meantime, as he was denied his pension, Metternich was ironically reliant on loans.[83]

In mid-September the family moved to 42 Brunswick Terrace, Brighton, on the south coast of England where they found a tranquillity that contrasted greatly with the revolutionary Europe they had left behind. Parliamentary figures, particularly Disraeli, travelled down to visit them, as did Metternich's former friend Dorothea Lieven (Melanie led a reconciliation between the two). Expecting a visit from Metternich's daughter Leontine, and her own daughter Pauline, the family moved to a suite of rooms at Richmond Palace on 23 April 1849. Visitors included: Wellington, who still watched out for Metternich; Johann Strauss, the Austrian composer; Dorothea de Dino, the sister of former lover Wilhemine of Sagan;[nb 13] and former lover Katharina Bagration.[85] Metternich was however showing his age and his frequent fainting attracted a great deal of worry. The ex-chancellor was also depressed by the lack of communication from new Emperor Franz Joseph I or his government. Leontine wrote to Vienna to try to secure this contact and in August Metternich received a warm letter from Franz Joseph; whether sincere or not, it buoyed Metternich considerably. From mid-August Melanie began to push for a move to Brussels, a city cheaper to live in and closer to continental affairs. They arrived in October, overnighting in the Hotel Bellevue. With revolution subsiding, Metternich was hopeful they would soon be back in Vienna once more. Their stay would in fact last over 18 months, whilst Metternich waited for the perfect opportunity to launch himself back into Austrian politics. It was a pleasant enough (and cheap) stay, first in the Boulevard de l'Observatoire and later in the Sablons/Zavel area—filled with visits from politicians, writers, musicians and scientists. For Metternich, however, the tedium and homesickness only increased. In March 1851 Melanie induced him to write to the new political force in Vienna, Prince Schwarzenberg, to ask if he might return if he promised not to interfere in public affairs. In April he received an affirmative reply, authorised by Franz Joseph.[85]

In May 1851 Metternich duly left for his Johannisberg estate, which he had last visited in 1845. Whilst staying there for the summer Metternich enjoyed the company of Prussian representative Otto von Bismarck. He also enjoyed a visit from Frederick William, though the king irritated Metternich by appearing to nurture him as a tool against Schwarzenberg. In September he returned to Vienna and on the journey the various German princes were keen to entertain the focus of Prussian intrigue.[85] Metternich was reinvigorated, dropping his nostalgia and living in the present for the first time in a decade. Franz Josef asked for his advice on numerous issues (though he was too headstrong to be much influenced by it) and both of the two factions now emerging in Vienna were keen to get Metternich on side; even Tsar Nicholas called on him during a state visit. Metternich was not keen on the new Foreign Minister, Karl Ferdinand von Buol, but at least Buol was sufficiently incompetent that he would be impressionable. Metternich's advice was of varying quality; nonetheless, some of it did give useful insights, even over modern matters. Now deaf, Metternich wrote endlessly; particularly for an appreciative Franz Josef. He wanted Austrian neutrality in the Crimean War, though Buol did not.[nb 14] In the meantime Metternich's health was slowly failing and he became a more peripheral figure after the death of his wife Melanie in January 1854. After a brief resurgence in energy in early 1856, he busied himself in the arrangements for a marriage between his son Richard and his granddaughter Pauline (Richard's step-sister's daughter) and undertook more travel. The King of the Belgians came to visit him, as did Bismarck, and on 16 August 1857 he entertained the future Edward VII of the United Kingdom. Buol, however, was becoming more resentful Metternich's advice, particularly over Italy. In April 1859 Franz Josef came to ask him about what should be done in Italy. According to Pauline, Metternich begged him not to send an ultimatum to Italy and Franz Josef explained that such an ultimatum had already been sent.[86]

In this way, much to Metternich's disappointment and to Franz Josef's embarrassment, Austria began the Second Italian War of Independence against the combined forces of Piedmont-Sardinia and her ally France. Though Metternich could secure the replacement of Buol with his friend Rechberg, who had helped him so much in 1848, the war itself was now beyond his capacity. Even a special task given by Franz Josef in June 1859—to draw up secret papers handling the event of Franz Josef's death—was now too taxing for Metternich. Shortly afterwards he died in Vienna on 11 June 1859, aged 86, and the last of his generation. Almost everyone of note in Vienna came to pay their tributes to him; however, in the foreign press his death went virtually unnoticed.[86]


Over a century-and-a-half later a sparkling wine was named after Metternich, Fürst von Metternich Riesling Sekt, and his image was selected as the main motif on the Austrian 20-euro Biedermeier Period commemorative coin minted on 11 June 2003. The reverse of the coin shows his portrait with the map of Europe that was redrawn at the Congress of Vienna after the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Historical assessment

Main article: Historical assessment of Klemens von Metternich

Particularly in the 19th century, Metternich was heavily criticised, decried as the man who prevented Austria and the rest of central Europe from "developing along 'normal' liberal and constitutional lines".[87] If Metternich had not stood in the way of "progress," Austria might have reformed, dealt with the problems of nationality better, and the First World War may never have happened.[87] Instead, Metternich chose to fight an overwhelmingly fruitless (and potentially counter-productive) war against the forces of liberalism and nationalism.[88] Heavy censorship was just one of a range of repressive instruments of state available to him that also included a large spy network.[65] He also opposed electoral reform, heavily criticising the British Reform Bill introduced in 1830.[89] In short, he locked himself in an embittered battle against "the prevailing mood of his age".[90]

On the other hand, Metternich's credentials as a diplomat and statesman were the focus of praise in the 20th century from more favourable historians, particularly biographer Heinrich von Srbik.[91] For example, particularly after WWII, historians were more likely to defend Metternich's policies as reasonable attempts to achieve his own goals i.e. the defence of the balance of power in Europe.[92] More sympathetic historians highlight that Metternich correctly foresaw and worked to prevent Russian dominance in Europe, succeeding where his forebears would fail 130 years later.[92] As argued by Srbik, Metternich himself pursued legality, cooperation and dialogue, and therefore helped ensure 30 years of peace, the "Age of Metternich". In the works of authors such as Peter Viereck and Ernst B. Haas Metternich also gains credit for many of his more liberal ideals, even if they did not come to much.[93]

These views presuppose that Metternich had the ability to favourably shape Europe, but chose not to. More modern critiques, such as that included in the work of A. J. P. Taylor, have questioned just how much influence Metternich really had.[87] Robin Okey, a critic of Metternich, noted that even in the realm of foreign affairs Metternich "had only his own persuasiveness to rely on", and this degraded over time.[91] On this reading, his job was to create a "smokescreen" that hid Austria's true weakness. When it came to choosing a set of sound principles, wrote Taylor, "most men could do better while shaving".[94] The result was that Metternich was no captivating diplomatic force: Taylor described him as "the most boring man in European history".[87] Not only were his failures limited to foreign affairs, critics argue: at home he was equally powerless, failing to push through even his own proposals for administrative reform.[91] By comparison, those who have attempted to rehabilitate Metternich describe him as "unquestionably [a] master of diplomacy",[95] someone who "perfected" and indeed shaped the nature of diplomacy in his era.[90] In a similar vein, Alan Sked argues that Metternich's "smokescreen" may well have served a purpose in furthering a relatively coherent set of principles.[93]


Metternich had the following children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren (names are untranslated):[96]

With Eleonore:

  • Maria Leopoldina (1797–1820)
  • Franz Karl Johann Georg (1798–1799)
  • Klemens Eduard (1799–1799)
  • Franz Karl Viktor Ernst Lothar Clemens Joseph Anton Adam (1803–1829)
  • Klementine Marie Octavie (1804–1820)
  • Leontine Adelheid Maria Pauline (1811–1861), mother of Pauline von Metternich (1836-1921)
  • Hermine Gabriele (Henrietta) Marie Eleonore Leopoldine (1815–1890)

With Antoinette:

With Melanie: Two daughters, three sons

  • Melanie Marie Pauline Alexandrine (1832–1919)
  • Klemens (1833–1833)
  • Paul Klemens Lothar, 3rd Prince Metternich (1834–1906)
    • Clement II, 4th Prince Metternich (1869-1930)
      • Paul Alphonse, 5th Prince Metternich (1917-1992); he died without issue and the title of Prince Metternich became extinct.
  • Maria Emilia Stephania (1836–1836)
  • Lothar Stephan August Klemens Maria (1837–1904)

With Katharina Bagration (illegitimate, acknowledged):

  • Marie-Clementine Bagration (1810-1829)


See also

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  • .

External links

  • Metternich's Political Profession of Faith
  • Metternich on censorship
  • Castle Kynžvart (Königswart) in Western Bohemia – Metternich's residence with collections, now open to the public

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