Klemens von Metternich


Clemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar, Prince of Metternich-Vinneburg tsu Bilstein ( German: Klemens Wenzel Nepomuk Nepomuk Lothar Fürst von Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein, 15 May 1773 – 11 June 1859] was an Austrian diplomat, at the centre of European affairs for three decades as Foreign Minister of the Austrian Empire from 1809 and Chancellor from 1821 until the Liberal Revolutions of 1848 forced his resignation.

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 rose through important diplomatic positions, including ambassador to the Kingdom of Saxony, the Kingdom of Prussia and especially Napoleonic France. One of his first projects as foreign minister was to implement a détente with France, which included Napoleon”s marriage to the Austrian Archduchess Maria Luisa. Shortly thereafter, he planned Austria”s entry into the Sixth Coalition War on the side of the Allies, signed the Treaty of Fontainebleau that sent Napoleon into exile, and led the Austrian delegation to the Congress of Vienna, which divided postcolonial Europe between the great powers. For his services to the Austrian Empire, he was given the title of Prince in October 1813. Under his leadership, the European Agreement of international congresses continued for another decade as Austria aligned itself with Russia and to a lesser extent Prussia. This marked the high point of Austria”s diplomatic importance and thereafter Metternich slowly slipped into the periphery of international diplomacy. At home he held the position of Chancellor of State from 1821 to 1848, both under Francis II and his son Ferdinand I. After a brief exile in London, Brighton and Brussels that lasted until 1851, he returned to the court in Vienna, this time only to offer advice to Ferdinand”s heir, Francis Joseph. Having outlived his political generation, Metternich died at the age of 86 in 1859.

A traditional conservative, Metternich sought to maintain the balance of power, especially by resisting Russian territorial ambitions in Central Europe and territories belonging to the Ottoman Empire. He disliked liberalism and sought to prevent the dissolution of the Austrian Empire, for example, by crushing nationalist uprisings in Austrian northern Italy. In his own country he pursued a similar policy, using censorship and a wide network of spy networks to suppress unrest. Metternich has been heavily praised and criticised for his policies.

In the summer of 1788 Metternich began studying law at the University of Strasbourg on 12 November. While a student he was hosted for a time by Prince Maximilian of Tschwaibirken, later King of Bavaria. He was then described by Simon as “cheerful, handsome and lovable”, although his contemporaries later recounted how he was a liar and a braggart. Metternich left Strasbourg in September 1790 to attend the coronation of Leopold II in Frankfurt in October, where he played the largely honorary role of Master of Ceremonies of the Catholic College of the College of Comtes of Westphalia. There, under the patronage of his father, he met the future Francis II and became acquainted with the aristocracy.

Between the late 1790s and the summer of 1792 Metternich studied law at the University of Mainz , receiving a more conservative education than in Strasbourg, a city to which returning was now unsafe. In the summers he worked with his father, who had been appointed plenipotentiary and de facto governor of the Austrian Netherlands. In March 1792 Francis was proclaimed Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and was crowned in July, offering Metternich again the role of Tellerarch. Meanwhile France had declared war on Austria, starting the War of the First Coalition (1792-7) and making it impossible for Metternich to continue his studies at Mainz. Now working in his father”s service, he was sent on a special mission to the front. There he was in charge of the interrogation of the French Minister of War, Marquis de Bernonville, and several commissioners of the Convention National Assembly who accompanied him. Metternich witnessed the siege and fall of Valenciennes, later referring to them as essential lessons for the war. In early 1794 he was sent to England, supposedly on an official mission, assisting Viscount Desandruen, from the General Treasurer of the Austrian Netherlands, to negotiate a loan .

In England he met the King several times and dined with several influential British politicians, including William Pitt, Charles James Fox and Edmund Burke. Metternich was appointed new ambassador plenipotentiary to the Austrian Netherlands and left England in September 1794. On his arrival he found an exiled and weak government in disorderly retreat from the last French advance. In October a renewed French army swept through Germany and captured all the Metternich estates except Kennigswarts. Frustrated and influenced by strong criticism of his father”s policies, he joined his parents in Vienna in November. On 27 September 1795 he married Countess Eleonore von Kaunich, granddaughter of the former Austrian Chancellor Wenzel Kaunich. The marriage was arranged by Metternich”s mother and introduced him to Viennese society. This was undoubtedly one of Metternich”s motives, who showed less affection for her than she did for him. The father of the bride, Prince Kaunich, imposed two conditions: first, that the still young Eleanor should continue to live at home, and second, that Metternich should be forbidden to serve as a diplomat while the Prince was alive. Their daughter Maria was born in January 1797.

After Metternich”s studies in Vienna, the Prince”s death in September 1797 allowed him to participate in the Rastat Congress. Initially his father, who was at the head of the imperial delegation, took him on as secretary, ensuring, when the proceedings formally began in December 1797, that he was appointed a representative of the Catholic College of the College of the Counts of Westphalia. Metternich boringly remained in Rastatt in this role until 1799, when the congress was finally terminated. By this time Eleanor was now living with him in Rastatt and gave birth to sons Francis (February 1798) and, shortly after the end of the Congress, Clemens (June 1799). To Metternich”s great sadness, Clemens died after only a few days and Francis soon contracted a lung infection from which he would never recover.

Dresden and Berlin

The defeat of the Holy Roman Empire in the War of the Second Coalition shocked diplomatic circles and the promising Metternich was now offered a choice of three ambassadorial posts: the Imperial Diet in Regensburg, the Kingdom of Denmark in Copenhagen and the Elector of Saxony in Dresden. He chose Dresden at the end of January 1801 and his appointment was officially announced in February. Metternich spent the summer in Vienna, where he wrote his “Instructions”, a memorandum that shows a much greater understanding of politics than his earlier writings. He visited the estate in Königswarth in the autumn before taking up his new post on 4 November. His brilliant remarks on the memorandum were wasted at the court of Saxony, which was led by the outgoing Frederick Augustus, a man with little political initiative. Despite the boredom of the court, Metternich enjoyed the carefree frivolity of the city and acquired a mistress, Catherine Bagration, who bore him a daughter, Marie-Clementine. In January 1803 Metternich and his wife had a child whom they named Victor. In Dresden, Metternich also made several important contacts, including Friedrich Goentz, a journalist who would serve as his confidant and critic for the next thirty years. He also established links with important personalities, both Polish and French.

To compensate for the loss of the Metternich ancestral estates in the Moselle Valley when the French Republic annexed the west bank of the Rhine, the Imperial Resolution of 1803 offered the Metternich family new estates in Oxenhausen, the title of Prince and a seat in the Imperial Diet. In the diplomatic reshuffle that followed, Metternich was appointed ambassador to the Kingdom of Prussia, being informed of this in February 1803, and took up his post in November of that year. He arrived at a critical juncture in European diplomacy, soon becoming concerned about the territorial ambitions of Napoleon Bonaparte, recently leader of France. He shared this fear with the Russian court of Alexander I, and the Tsar informed Metternich of Russian policy. In the autumn of 1804 Vienna decided to act, starting in August 1805 when the Austrian Empire (as the Holy Roman Empire was about to do) began its involvement in the War of the Third Coalition. Metternich”s almost impossible goal was to convince Prussia to join the coalition against Bonaparte. However, their final agreement was not due to Metternich and after the defeat of the coalition at the Battle of Austerlitz Prussia ignored the agreement and signed a treaty with the French.


At the next reshuffle in Vienna, Johann Philipp Stadion became Foreign Minister of the Austrian Empire, leaving it open for Metternich to take over as Ambassador to the Russian Empire. He never made it to Russia, however, as the need had arisen for a new Austrian at the French court. Metternich was approved for the post in June 1806. He liked to be in demand and was happy to be sent to France at a generous salary of 90,000 guilders per annum. After an arduous journey he settled in August 1806, being lured by Baron von Vincent and Engelbert von Floret, whom he was to retain as close advisers for two decades. He met with the French Foreign Minister Talleyrand on 5 August and Napoleon himself five days later at Saint-Cloud. Soon the War of the Fourth Coalition turned both Talleyrand and Napoleon. Metternich”s wife and children arrived at his new residence in October and he joined society, using his charm to distinguish himself there. Eleanor”s presence did not prevent him from having a series of love affairs, which certainly included Napoleon”s sister Caroline Myrrh, Laurent Junot and perhaps many others.

After the Treaty of Tilsit in July 1807, Metternich realized that Austria”s position in Europe was much more vulnerable, but he believed that the agreement between Russia and France would not last. In the meantime he found the intransigence of the new French Foreign Minister Jean-Baptiste Champany and struggled to negotiate a satisfactory settlement for the future of several French forts on the River In. In the following months the reach of Austrian policy and Metternich”s own reputation grew. Metternich pushed for a Russo-Austrian alliance, although Tsar Alexander was too busy with the three other wars to which he was committed. Over time Metternich came to regard a final war with France as inevitable.

In a memorable incident, Metternich argued with Napoleon at his 39th birthday celebrations in August 1808 about the increasingly obvious preparations for war on both sides. Shortly afterwards Napoleon refused Metternich”s participation in the Council of Erfurt. Metternich was later pleased to learn from Talleyrand that Napoleon”s efforts at the Council to persuade Russia to invade Austria had proved unsuccessful. In late 1808 Metternich was recalled to Vienna for five weeks of meetings on the possibility of Austria invading France while Napoleon was on campaign in Spain. His reports stated that France was not united under Napoleon, that Russia was unlikely to want to fight Austria, and that France had few worthwhile troops to fight in central Europe. Back in Paris, Metternich was openly concerned about his own security. When Austria declared war on France, Metternich was arrested in retaliation for the arrest of two French diplomats in Vienna, but the results of this were minimal. He was allowed to leave France under escort for Austria at the end of May 1809. After Napoleon”s arrest from Vienna, Metternich was held in the Austrian capital and exchanged there with French diplomats. controversy with Napoleon on Napoleon”s 39th birthday celebrations in August 1808 over increasingly obvious preparations for war on both sides. Shortly thereafter, Napoleon refused Metternich”s participation in the Congress of Erfurt. Metternich later heard from Talleyrand that Napoleon”s efforts in Congress to force Russia to invade Austria had proved unsuccessful. In late 1808, Metternich was recalled to Vienna for five weeks of meetings on the possibility of Austria invading France while Napoleon was on campaign in Spain. His memoranda stated that France was not united behind Napoleon, that Russia was unlikely to want to fight Austria, and that France had few reliable troops that could fight in central Europe. When he returned to Paris, Metternich was openly concerned for his safety. When Austria declared war on France he was arrested in retaliation for the arrest of two French diplomats in Vienna, but to no avail. He was allowed to leave France under escort for Austria at the end of May 1809. After Napoleon”s capture of Vienna, Metternich was taken to the Austrian capital and exchanged there with the French diplomats.

Lull with France

Returning to Austria, Metternich experienced first-hand the defeat of the Austrian army at the Battle of Wagram in 1809. Stantion then resigned as Foreign Minister and the Emperor immediately offered the post to him subsequently. He was concerned that Napoleon would find the opportunity to demand harsher peace terms, instead he agreed to become Minister of State (which he did on 8 July) and lead negotiations with the French, with a view to replacing Stantion as Foreign Minister later. During peace talks in Altenburg, Metternich put forward philological proposals to save the Austrian monarchy. Napoleon, however, did not agree with his position on the future of Poland and Metternich was gradually ousted from the process by the Prince of Liechtenstein. He soon regained influence, however, on 8 October, as Minister of Foreign Affairs (and additionally Minister of the Imperial Court) . In early 1810 Metternich”s previous relationship with Zyno was made public, but due to Eleanor”s understanding the scandal was minimal.

One of Metternich”s first acts was to push for Napoleon”s marriage to Archduchess Maria Louisa rather than the Tsar”s younger sister Anna Pavlovna. He later tried to distance himself from the marriage by claiming it was Napoleon”s idea, but this is unlikely. In any case he was happy to claim responsibility for it at the time. On 7 February Napoleon agreed and the couple were married by proxy on 11 March. Marie Louise left for France shortly afterwards and Metternich followed a different route and unofficially. The trip was planned, Metternich explained, to transport his family (stranded in France since the outbreak of war) and to report to the Austrian Emperor on Maria Luisa”s activities.

Metternich finally stayed for six months, entrusting his father with his office in Vienna. He began to use marriage and flattery to renegotiate the terms set at Senbrun. The concessions he won, however, were insignificant: a few trade rights, a delay in the payment of war reparations, the return of some estates owned by Germans in the service of Austria, including the Metternich family, and the lifting of the 150,000-man limit for the Austrian army. The latter was particularly welcome as a sign of increased Austrian independence, although the country could no longer sustain an army larger than the set limit.

When Metternich returned to Vienna in October 1810 he was no longer so popular. His influence was limited to foreign affairs and his efforts to re-establish a full State Council failed. Convinced that a much weakened Austria would avoid another invasion by France, he rejected Tsar Alexander”s proposals and instead entered into an alliance with Napoleon on 14 March 1812. He also advocated a period of mild censorship to avoid provoking the French. Requiring only 30,000 Austrian troops to fight alongside the French, the treaty of alliance was more generous than the one signed by Prussia a month earlier. This allowed Metternich to give assurances to both Britain and Russia that Austria remained committed to curbing Napoleon”s ambitions. He accompanied his sovereign for a final meeting with Napoleon in Dresden in May 1812, before Napoleon launched the French invasion of Russia.

The Dresden meeting revealed that Austria”s influence in Europe had reached its lowest point and that Metternich was now trying to restore this influence, using what he considered strong ties with all sides of the war, by proposing general peace talks led by Austria. Over the next three months he gradually removed Austria from French pursuits, avoiding alliance with Prussia or Russia, and remaining open to any proposal that would secure a position for the combined Bonaparte-Hapsburg dynasty. This was due to the concern that if Napoleon was defeated Russia and Prussia stood to gain too much. However, Napoleon was intransigent and hostilities (now officially the War of the Sixth Coalition) continued. Austria”s alliance with France ended in February 1813 and Austria moved to a position of armed neutrality.

Metternich was much less inclined to turn against France than many of his contemporaries (though not the Emperor) and preferred his own plans for a general settlement. In November 1813 he offered Napoleon the Frankfurt proposals, which would have allowed him to remain Emperor but would have confined France to its “natural frontiers” and limited its control over most of Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. Napoleon, expecting to win the war, delayed too long and missed this opportunity. In December the Allies withdrew the offer. In early 1814, as they approached Paris, Napoleon agreed to the Frankfurt proposals, but it was too late, and he rejected the new, harsher terms subsequently proposed.

However, the Allies did not fare well, and although a declaration of general war intentions, including many hints to Austria, had been secured from Russia, Britain remained sceptical and generally unwilling to abandon the military initiative for which she had fought for 20 years. Nevertheless, Francis created the Austrian Foreign Ministry of the Order of Maria Theresa, a post that had been vacant since the time of Kaunich. Metternich became increasingly concerned that Napoleon”s retreat would result in unrest that would harm the Habsburgs. He believed that peace had to be made soon. Since Britain could not be coerced, he sent proposals only to France and Russia. These were rejected, although after the battles of Lutzen (2 May) and Bautzen (20-21 May) an armistice was concluded on the initiative of France. From April Metternich began to ”slowly and reluctantly” prepare Austria for war with France, and the armistice gave her time for fuller full mobilisation.

In June Metternich left Vienna to personally handle the negotiations in Gitchin, Bohemia. When he arrived he took advantage of the hospitality of Princess Wilhelmina, Duchess of Sagan, and began a love affair with her that lasted several months. No other mistress ever exerted as much influence on Metternich as she did, and he continued to write to her after their separation. Meanwhile French Foreign Minister Hug-Bernard Marais remained enigmatic, although Metternich managed to discuss the situation with the Tsar on 18-19 June in Opochna. In talks later ratified as the Reichenbach Convention, they agreed on general peace demands and laid out a procedure by which Austria could enter the war on the side of the Coalition. Shortly afterwards Metternich was invited to meet Napoleon in Dresden, where he could set terms directly. Although there is no reliable record of their meeting on 26 June 1813, it seems to have been a stormy but effective meeting. An agreement was finally reached just as Metternich was about to leave: peace talks were to begin in Prague in July and last until 20 August. In agreeing to this, Metternich ignored the Reichenbach Convention and this angered Austria”s allies in the Coalition. The Prague Conference would never actually meet, as Napoleon gave his representatives Armand Golencourt and Count de Narbonne insufficient powers to negotiate. In the informal discussions held in lieu of a conference, Golencourt implied that Napoleon would not negotiate as long as an allied army did not threaten France itself. This persuaded Metternich, after an ultimatum to France, which went unanswered, to have Austria declare war on 12 August.

Coalition partner

Austria”s allies saw the declaration of war as an admission that Austria”s diplomatic ambitions had failed, but Metternich saw it as a move in a much longer campaign. Throughout the rest of the war he tried to keep the Coalition united and, therefore, to limit Russia”s 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 rather than Tsar Alexander I. He also managed to convince the three Allied monarchs (Alexander, Francis and Frederick William III of Prussia) to follow him and their armies on the campaign. With the Treaty of Teplice, Metternich allowed Austria to remain uncommitted to the future of France, Italy and Poland. However, he was still constrained by the British, who were subsidizing Prussia and Russia (in September Metternich requested grants for Austria as well). Meanwhile the Coalition forces began their offensive. On 18 October 1813 Metternich witnessed the successful Battle of Leipzig and, two days later, was rewarded for his “wise leadership” with the rank of Prince (German: Fürst). Metternich was thrilled when Frankfurt was regained in early November, and in particular by the respect the Czar showed to Franzisk at a ceremony he himself held there. Diplomatically, with war approaching, he remained determined to prevent the creation of a strong, unified German state, even offering generous terms to Napoleon to keep him as a counterweight. On 2 December 1813 Napoleon agreed to talks, although these were delayed by the need to involve a senior British diplomat (Viscount Castlerey).

Before the talks began, the Coalition armies crossed the Rhine on 22 December. Metternich retreated from Frankfurt to Braisgau to celebrate Christmas with his wife”s family before travelling to the new Coalition headquarters in Basel in January 1814. Quarrels with Tsar Alexander, particularly over the fate of France, intensified in January, causing Alexander to withdraw. He was therefore absent on Castlerey”s arrival in mid-January. Metternich and Castlerey established a good working relationship and subsequently met with Alexander at Langre. However, the Tsar remained uncompromising, demanding an attack on the centre of France, but was too busy to oppose Metternich”s other ideas, such as a final peace conference in Vienna. Metternich did not engage in talks with the French at Chatillon, as he wanted to stay with Alexander. The talks broke down and, after a brief advance, the Coalition forces were forced to retreat after the battles of Montmyrell and Montreux. This allayed Metternich”s fears that Alexander might overconfidently act unilaterally.

Metternich continued negotiations with the French envoy Collencourt from early to mid-March 1814, when the victory at Laon brought the Coalition back on the offensive. Then Metternich grew tired of trying to keep the Coalition united, but the British-inspired Pact of Chaumont did not help either. In the absence of the Prussians and the Russians, the Coalition agreed to the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty. Francis rejected a last appeal by Napoleon to abdicate in favour of his son with Marie-Louise as regent, and Paris fell on 30 March. Military manoeuvres had turned Metternich westward to Dijon on 24 March and, after deliberate delay, he left for the French capital on 7 April. On 10 April he found a city peaceful and, much to his annoyance, largely under the control of Tsar Alexander. The Austrians did not like the terms of the Treaty of Fontainebleau , which Russia had imposed on Napoleon in their absence, but Metternich did not want to oppose it and on 11 April he signed the treaty. He then concentrated on safeguarding Austrian interests in the impending peace, confirming Austria”s influence in Germany over Prussia and negating Russia”s supremacy. For these reasons he secured the recovery of the Italian provinces of Lombardy and Venice, which France had occupied as satellite states in 1805.

As regards the division of the former French-occupied Poland and Germany, Metternich was more constrained by the interests of the Allies. After two unsuccessful proposals by the Prussians, the issue was postponed until the peace treaty was signed. Otherwise, Metternich, like many of his counterparts, was eager to provide the renewed French monarchy with the resources to suppress any new rebellion. The generous Treaty of Paris was signed on 30 May. Now free, Metternich accompanied Tsar Alexander to England, followed by Wilhelmine, who had already joined him in Paris. The triumphant Metternich spent four weeks of raucous feasting, restoring both his own and Austria”s reputation, and was also awarded an honorary degree in law from Oxford University. In contrast, and to Metternich”s delight, Alexander was unkind and often insulting. Despite opportunities, little was made of diplomacy. Instead, all that was certainly agreed was that the required discussions would take place in Vienna, with a date tentatively set for 15 August. When the Tsar tried to postpone them to October, Metternich agreed, but set conditions that prevented Alexander from exploiting any advantage due to his de facto control of Poland. Metternich finally reunited with his family in Austria in mid-July 1814, having stopped for a week in France to allay fears surrounding Napoleon”s wife Maria Luisa, now Duchess of Parma. His return to Vienna was celebrated by on-the-spot songs, which included the line “History hands you down to posterity as a model among great men”.

Vienna Conference

In the autumn of 1814 the heads of the five royal dynasties and representatives of 216 noble families began to gather in Vienna. Before the ministers of the ”Big Four” (the allies of the Coalition of Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia) arrived, Metternich was quietly passing through Baden-Baden by Wien, two hours to the south. When he heard that they had arrived in Vienna, he travelled to meet them and suggested that they follow him to Baden. They refused and four meetings were held in the city itself. At these the delegates agreed on how the Congress would work and, to Metternich”s satisfaction, named his assistant Friedrich Gentz as secretary of the negotiations of the “Big Six” (the “Big Four” plus France and Spain). When Talleyrand and the Spanish delegate Don Pedro Labrador learned of these decisions they were outraged because the agreements were negotiated only by the Big Four. Sweden and Portugal were also angry about their exclusion from the full Congress, especially because Metternich was determined to give them as little power as possible. So the Big Six became the Preliminary Committee of Eight, whose first decision was to postpone the main Congress until 1 November. In the end it was soon postponed again, with only a small committee beginning to function in November. In the meantime, Metternich organised a huge controversial series of entertainments for delegates, including himself.

Leaving Castlerey to negotiate on behalf of Tsar Alexander, Metternich turned his attention for a while to the elimination of anti-Castro sentiment in Italy. At the same time he learned that the Duchess of Sagan was courting the Tsar. Frustrated and exhausted by social circles, Metternich infuriated Tsar Alexander during the negotiations over Poland (then ruled by Napoleon as the Grand Duchy of Warsaw) by suggesting that Austria might assist Russia militarily. Despite the blunder, Francis refused to fire his foreign minister and the political crisis gripped Vienna throughout November, culminating in Tsar Alexander”s statement that Russia would not compromise on its claims to Poland as a satellite kingdom. The Coalition rejected it outright, and the agreement seemed more remote than ever. During the wait it seems that Alexander even went so far as to challenge Metternich to a duel. However, the Tsar soon did a 180-degree turn and agreed to the division of Poland. He also became more lenient regarding the Germanic Kingdom of Saxony and for the first time allowed Talleyrand to participate in all discussions of the Big Four (now the Big Five).

With the new consensus the major issues concerning Poland and Germany were settled in the second week of February 1815. Austria gained territory by partitioning Poland and prevented Prussia”s annexation of Saxony, but was forced to accept Russian domination of Poland and Prussia”s growing influence in Germany. Metternich now concentrated on persuading the various German states to grant substantial rights to a new Federal Assembly that could resist Prussia. He also assisted the Swiss Commission and worked on numerous smaller issues, such as navigation rights on the Rhine. The beginning of Lent on 8 February gave him more time to devote to these Congress matters, as well as to private discussions about southern Italy, where Joachim Myra was busy organizing a Neapolitan army. On 7 March Metternich awoke to learn that Napoleon had escaped from the prison island of Elba (island) and in one hour met both the Tsar and the King of Prussia. Metternich did not want any heated change in the proceedings and at first there was little impact on the Congress. Finally on 13 March the Big Five declared Napoleon a fugitive and the Allies began preparations for a new war. On 25 March they signed a treaty committing them each to send 150,000 men, without their previous divisive attitude. After the military commanders departed, the Congress of Vienna got down to serious work, defining the boundaries of an independent Holland, formalizing proposals for a loose confederation of Swiss cantons, and ratifying earlier agreements on Poland. By the end of April only two important questions remained, the organization of a new German federation and the problem of Italy.


The latter soon took its course. Austria had consolidated its control over Lombardy-Venice and extended its protection to provinces formally under the control of Francis” daughter Maria Luisa. On 18 April Metternich announced that Austria was officially at war with Naples of Myrna. Austria was victorious at the Battle of Toledo on 3 May and captured Naples less than three weeks later. Metternich then managed to delay a decision on the country”s future until after Vienna. Discussions about Germany continued until early June, when a joint Austrian-Prussian proposal was ratified, leaving most constitutional questions to the new assembly, whose president would be Emperor Francis himself. Despite criticism within Austria, Metternich was satisfied with the result and the degree of control it granted to the Habsburgs and, through them, to himself. He was even able to use the assembly for his own purposes on several occasions. The agreement was also liked by most of the German delegates. A comprehensive treaty was signed on 19 June (the Russians signed a week later), formally ending the Congress of Vienna. Metternich himself had left on 13 June for the front line, prepared for a long war against Napoleon. Napoleon, however, was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June.

Metternich then returned to the question of Italy, making his first visit to the country in early December 1815. After visiting Venice, his family accompanied him to Milan on 18 December. Metternich played the part of a liberal, urging Francis in vain to give the region some autonomy. He spent four months in Italy, permanently occupied and suffering from chronic inflammation of the eyelids. He tried to control Austrian foreign policy from Milan, and when there was a serious dispute between the Empire and the Kingdom of Bavaria, he was severely criticized for his absence. However, his enemies could not take advantage of this. Stadion was busy with his work as Minister of Finance and Empress Maria Ludwig, a strong critic of Metternich”s policies, died in April. The uncommon gap between the views of Metternich and his Emperor was only mitigated by the active compromise of the proposals. Metternich returned to Vienna on 28 May 1816 after almost a year”s absence. Professionally, the rest of 1816 passed quietly for the weary minister, occupied with fiscal policy and watching the spread of liberalism in Germany and nationalism in Italy. He was personally shocked in November by the death of Eullie-Cichy-Festetics. Two years later he wrote that “his life ended there” and his old lightness took time to return. His only consolation was the news in July that he was to receive new land along the Rhine at Johannesburg, just 40 km from his hometown of Koblenz. In June 1817 Metternich had to accompany the Emperor”s newly married daughter Maria Leopoldina on a ship to Livorno. There was a delay on their arrival and Metternich spent his time touring Italy. He visited Venice, Padua, Ferrara, Pisa, Florence and Lucca. Although alarmed by developments (he noted that many of Francis” concessions had not yet been implemented), he was optimistic and made another call for decentralization on August 29. When this did not happen he decided to broaden his efforts into general administrative reform to avoid appearing to favour the Italians over the rest of the Empire. While working on this, he returned to Vienna on 12 September 1817 to immediately set about arranging the marriage of his daughter Maria to Count Joseph Esterhazy just three days later. It proved too much, however, and Metternich fell ill. After some delay in recovering, he summarized his proposals for Italy in three papers 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 responsibilities, including one for ”Italy”. It was important that the divisions would be regional rather than national. In the end Francis accepted the revised proposals, albeit with several changes and restrictions. (Palmer 1972, pages 161-168).

Aachen, Teplice, Karlsbad, Tropaw and Leibach

Metternich”s primary objective remained the preservation of unity among the Great Powers of Europe and thus of his own power as a mediator. He was also concerned about the growing influence of the liberal-minded John Kapodistrias on Tsar Alexander and Russia”s continued threat to annex large areas of the declining Ottoman Empire (the so-called ””Eastern Question””). As he had predicted earlier, in April 1818 Britain had drafted and Metternich proceeded to make proposals for a conference to be held in Aachen, then a border town of Prussia, six months later. In the meantime Metternich was advised to go to the spa town of Karlsbad to treat rheumatic pains in his back. It was a pleasant month-long holiday, although it was there that he was informed of his father”s death at the age of 72. He visited the family estate in Königswart and then Frankfurt at the end of August to encourage the member states of the German Confederation to agree on procedural matters. He was also now able to visit Koblenz for the first time in 25 years and his new estate in Johannesburg. Travelling with Emperor Francis, he was warmly welcomed by Catholic towns along the Rhine as he proceeded to Aachen. He had arranged in advance for the newspapers to cover his first peaceful congress. As the discussions began, Metternich pressed for the withdrawal of Allied troops from France and for means of maintaining the unity of the European forces. The former was agreed almost immediately but on the latter the agreement reached only the maintenance of the Quadruple Alliance. Metternich rejected the Tsar”s idealistic plans for (among other things) a unified European army. His own recommendations to the Prussians for greater control of free speech were equally difficult for other powers like Britain to support openly.


Metternich travelled with Dorothea Lieven to Brussels shortly after the conference adjourned and, although he could not stay more than a few days, the couple exchanged letters for the next eight years. He arrived in Vienna on 11 December 1818 and finally managed to spend a lot of time with his children. He entertained the Tsar over the Christmas period and spent twelve weeks observing Italy and Germany before embarking with the Emperor on a third trip to Italy. The trip was cut short due to the assassination of the conservative German playwright August von Kochebu. After a short wait, Metternich decided that if the German governments did not face this problem, Austria would have to oblige them. He convened an informal conference at Karlsbad and secured Prussian support in advance, meeting Frederick William III of Prussia at Teplice in July. Metternich tried to persuade Nassau”s Prime Minister Karl Ibel to agree to the Conservative programme, now known as the Treaty of Teplice. The Carlsbad conference began on 6 August and continued for the rest of the month. Metternich overcame all opposition to his proposal for “a group of anti-revolutionary measures, both correct and preventive”, although they were condemned by the independents. Despite the criticisms, Metternich was very pleased with the result, known as the “Karlspand decrees”.

At the conference in Vienna later in the year Metternich was forced by the Kings of Württemberg and Bavaria to abandon his plans for reforming the German federation. He was disappointed that his original constitution of five years earlier had so quickly failed to come to fruition. Nevertheless he gained ground on other issues and the Final Act of the Conference was highly reactionary, as he had envisioned it. He stayed in Vienna until the end of May 1820, finding the whole affair boring. On 6 May he was informed of the death of his daughter Clementine from tuberculosis. Travelling to Prague he learned that his eldest daughter Maria had also contracted the disease. He was at her side in Baden-by-Vin when she died on 20 July. This prompted Eleanor and the rest of their children to leave for the cleaner air of France. The rest of 1820 was full of liberal rebellions, which Metternich was expected to react to. In the end, the Austrian foreign minister was torn between keeping his conservative promise (a policy preferred by the Russians) and distancing himself from a country in which Austria had no interest (preferred by the British). He chose “sympathetic inaction” in Spain, but, to his great disappointment and surprise, Guglielmo Pepe led an uprising in Naples in early July and forced King Ferdinand I to accept a new constitution. Metternich reluctantly agreed to attend the Russian-initiated Tropao Congress in October to discuss these events. He was wrong to be alarmed: the Tsar relented and accepted a compromise proposal of moderate interventionism. Still worried by Kapodistrias” influence on the Tsar, he put his conservative principles on a long memorandum, including an attack on the free press and the initiative of the middle classes.

The Conference ended the third week of December and the next step was a conference in Leibach to discuss the intervention with Ferdinand. Metternich managed to prevail at Leibbach more than at any other congress by Ferdinand”s rejection of the liberal constitution he had agreed to only a few months before. Austrian troops left for Naples in February and entered the city in March. The Congress was interrupted, but, by warning or accident, Metternich kept the representatives of the Powers close to him until the rebellion was suppressed. Thus, when similar riots broke out in Piedmont in mid-March, Metternich had the Czar close to him, who agreed to send 90,000 men to the frontier in a show of solidarity. Concerns grew in Vienna that Metternich”s policy was too costly, but he replied that Naples and Piedmont would pay for stability. However, he too was clearly concerned about the future of Italy. He was relieved when on 25 May he was able to create a Chancellor of the Court and Chancellor of the State, a position that had been vacant since the death of Kaunich in 1794. He was also pleased with the renewed (if fragile) closeness between Austria, Prussia and Russia , but which had come at the expense of the Anglo-Austrian alliance.

Hanover, Verona and Chernovich

In 1821, while Metternich was still in Leibach with Tsar Alexander, Alexander Ypsilanti”s rebellion threatened to bring the Ottoman Empire to the brink of collapse. Wanting a strong Ottoman Empire to counterbalance Russia, Metternich opposed all forms of Greek nationalism. Before Alexander returned to Russia, Metternich secured his agreement not to act unilaterally and wrote to him repeatedly asking him not to intervene. For additional support he met with Viscount Castlerey (now also Marquis of Londonderry) and King George IV of the United Kingdom in Hanover in October. The warmth of Metternich”s welcome was sweetened by his promise to partially repay Austria”s debts to Britain. Thus the previous Anglo-Austrian alliance was restored and both parties agreed to support the Austrian position on the Balkans. Metternich left happy, mainly because he had met Dorothea Leuven again.

Under this turmoil, Metternich, who became chancellor in the same year, was quick to suppress any manifestation of liberalism on the part of the Greeks, persuading even the Tsar to disown Prince Alexander Ypsilantis. And the Tsar, alarmed additionally by the excommunications of the Patriarch of Constantinople, trying to dispel any suspicions about him, disavowed Ypsilantis. Metternich, however, did not limit himself to this but spread to all the Courts of Europe the issue of the Greeks against the philhellenic current of the time. Even when he saw that the struggle of the Greeks was beginning to pay off and in favour of uniting the fleets of Russia, France and England, he was the obstacle to the creation of a free Greek state, imposing the establishment of at least a “state by mandate” under the suzerainty of the Great Powers, whose rulers, however, had already begun to overlook him before their interests.

After Christmas, the Tsar wavered more than Metternich expected and sent Dmitry Tadichev to Vienna in February 1822 for talks with him. Metternich soon persuaded the ”arrogant and ambitious” Russian to let him dictate events. In return, Austria promised to support Russia in enforcing its treaties with the Ottomans if the other members of the alliance did the same. Metternich knew that this was politically impossible for the British. Metternich”s opponent at the Russian court, Kapodistrias, resigned his position there. However, by the end of April there was a new threat: Russia was now determined to intervene in Spain, an action Metternich described as “absolutely foolish”. He coaxed, persuading his ally Casslray to come to Vienna for talks before a planned conference in Verona, but Casslray committed suicide on 12 August. With Castlerey dead and relations with the British weakened, Metternich had lost a useful ally. The Congress of Verona was a fine social event but diplomatically less successful. While it was supposed to be about Italy, the Congress was forced to focus on Spain. Austria urged non-intervention, but the French insisted on their proposal for a joint invasion force. Prussia made men available and the Tsar pledged 150,000. Metternich was concerned about the difficulties of transporting such numbers to Spain and about French ambitions, but pledged (only moral) support for the joint force.

He stayed in Verona until 18 December, then spent a few days in Venice with the Czar and then alone in Munich. He returned to Vienna in early January 1823 and stayed until September. After Verona he travelled much less, partly because of his new position as Chancellor and partly because of his declining health. He was supported by the arrival of his family from Paris in May. He shone once again in Vienna society. Politically the year was disappointing. In March the French unilaterally crossed the Pyrenees, abolishing the “moral solidarity” established in Verona. Likewise Metternich considered the new Pope Leo XV to be Francophile and there was trouble between Austria and several German states for not being invited to Verona. In addition, Metternich, by discrediting the Russian diplomat Pozzo di Borgo, renewed the Czar”s earlier suspicion of him. The worst came in late September: while accompanying the Emperor to a meeting with Alexander at Czernowitz, an Austrian settlement now in the Ukraine, Metternich fell ill with a fever. He was unable to continue and had to be confined to brief talks with Russian Foreign Minister Carl Nesselrod. At the Chernivtsi talks, in Metternich”s absence, the Czar eagerly requested a conference in the then Russian capital of St. Petersburg to discuss the Eastern Question. Metternich, fearful of letting the Russians dominate matters, could only nibble away at time.

The Tsar”s dual proposal for the St Petersburg meetings, a settlement of the Eastern question favourable to Russia and limited autonomy for three Greek principalities, was a combination unpalatable to the other European powers and potential participants, such as British Foreign Secretary George Canning, were gradually withdrawn, much to Alexander”s annoyance. Metternich believed for several months afterwards that he had gained a unique level of influence over the Tsar. Meanwhile he renewed the conservative program he had outlined at Carlsbad five years before and sought to further increase Austrian influence in the German Federal Diet. He also informed the press that he could no longer publish the minutes of the Diet”s meetings, but only its decisions. In January 1825 he became concerned about the health of his wife Eleanor and arrived at her side in Paris shortly before her death on 19 March. Mourning sincerely for her, he also took the opportunity to dine with the Parisian elite. A comment she made about the Tsar went viral and was not good for his reputation. He left Paris for the last time on 21 April and met the Emperor in Milan after his arrival on 7 May. He declined the Pope”s invitation to become a cardinal of the church and made a short trip to Genoa. In early July on a court holiday he visited his daughters Leontine (fourteen) and Hermione (nine) in the quiet town of Bad Isle. Despite the isolation he received constant reports, including the ominous developments in the Ottoman Empire, where the Greek revolt was being quickly crushed by Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt. He also had to deal with the fallout from St Petersburg where the Tsar, though unable to convene a full congress, had spoken to all the major ambassadors. By mid-May it was clear that the Allies could not decide on concrete action and, therefore, the Holy Alliance was no longer a viable political entity.

Hungarian Assemblies, the death of Alexander I and problems in Italy

In the early 1820s Metternich had advised Francis that the convening of the Hungarian Assembly would help in the adoption of the economic reform. In fact the Assembly from 1825 to 1827 held 300 meetings full of criticism of how the Empire had eroded the historical rights of the nobles of the Kingdom of Hungary. Metternich complained that this “interfered with his time, his habits and his daily life” as he was forced to travel to the Presburo (now Bratislava) to perform ritual duties and attend. He was alarmed by the growth of Hungarian nationalist sentiment and wary of the growing influence of the nationalist István Széchenyi, who met him twice in 1825. While in Vienna in mid-December, he was informed of the death of Tsar Alexander with mixed feelings. He had known the Tsar well and remembered his own weakness, though death might possibly clear the sour diplomatic slate. Moreover, he could claim credit for anticipating the liberal Decembrist rebellion that the new Tsar Nicholas I had to crush. Now 53 years old, Metternich chose to send Ferdinand I to make the first contact with Nicholas. Metternich was also friendly with the British ambassador (Duke of Wellington) and asked for his help in charming Nicholas. Nevertheless, the first 18 months of Nicholas” reign did not go well for Metternich: firstly the British were chosen instead of the Austrians to oversee the Russo-Ottoman talks and, consequently, Metternich could exert no influence on the resulting Ackerman Convention. France also began to move away from Metternich”s non-interventionist position. In August 1826, Russian Foreign Minister Nesselrod rejected Metternich”s proposal to convene a congress to discuss the events that eventually led to the outbreak of civil war in Portugal. The Austrian Foreign Minister accepted with “astonishing nonchalance”.

On 5 November 1827 Baroness Antoinette von Leukam became Metternich”s second wife. She was only twenty years old and their marriage, a small ceremony in Hetzendorf (a village just outside Vienna), attracted considerable criticism given their social difference. Antoinette belonged to the lower aristocracy, but her grace and charm soon won over Vienna society. On the same day British, Russian and French forces destroyed the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Navarre. Metternich worried that further intervention would shake the Ottoman Empire, upsetting the balance that had been so carefully established in 1815. To his relief, the new British Prime Minister Wellington and his government were equally fearful of giving Russia the lead in the Balkans. After rejecting a new round of his conference proposals, Metternich stayed away from the Eastern Question, simply watching the signing of the Treaty of Adrianople in September 1829. Although he publicly criticized it for being too harsh on Turkey, privately he was pleased with its leniency and its promise of Greek autonomy, which made it a mound for Russia”s expansion rather than a satellite state. Metternich”s private life was full of sadness. In November 1828 his mother died and in January 1829 Antoinette died, five days after the birth of their son, Richard von Metternich. After suffering from tuberculosis for many months, Metternich”s son, Victor, then a young diplomat, died on 30 November 1829. He spent Christmas alone and depressed, worried about the draconian methods of some of his conservative followers and the renewed advance of liberalism.

In May Metternich took the holiday he needed at his estate in Johannesburg. He returned to Vienna a month later, still worried about the “chaos in London and Paris” and his little ability to prevent it. Hearing that Nesselrod was to go to Karlsbad, he met him there at the end of July. He surprised the quiet Nesselrod, but nothing more. The two arranged a second meeting in August. In the meantime Metternich had learned of the July Revolution in France, which deeply shocked him and raised the theoretical need for a conference of the Quadruple Alliance. Instead Metternich met with Nesselrod as planned and, while the Russians rejected his plan to restore the old Alliance, the two agreed that panic was unnecessary unless the new government showed territorial ambitions in Europe. Although he was glad of this, his mood was spoiled by news of unrest in Brussels (then part of the Netherlands), Wellington”s resignation in London and demands for constitutionalism in Germany. He wrote with dark and ”almost morbid delight” that it was the ”beginning of the end” of Old Europe. Nevertheless he was delighted that the Julian Revolution had made the Franco-Russian alliance impossible and that the Netherlands had convened an old-fashioned congress of the sort he enjoyed so much. The convening of the Hungarian Convention in 1830 was also more successful than in the past, crowning Archduke Ferdinand King of Hungary with little dissent. In addition, in November his engagement to 25-year-old Melanie Zichy-Feraris, who came from a Hungarian family that the Metternichs had known for years, was agreed upon. The announcement caused much less concern in Vienna than his previous bride and they were married on 30 January 1831.

In February 1831 revolutionaries occupied the cities of Parma, Modena and Bologna and asked for help from France. Their former rulers asked Austria for help, but Metternich was reluctant to send Austrian troops into the Papal States without permission from the new Pope Gregory XVI. However, he captured Parma and Modena and eventually crossed into Papal territories. Thus Italy was pacified at the end of March. It authorized the withdrawal of troops from the Papal States in July, but in January 1832 they returned to suppress a second revolt. By now Metternich was noticeably aged: his hair was grey and his face wrinkled and aged, though his wife still enjoyed his company. In February 1832 they had a daughter, also Melanie; in 1833 a son, Clemens, but he died at the age of two months; in October 1834 a second son, Paul; and in 1837 his and Melanie”s third, Lotar. Politically, Metternich had a new rival, Lord Palmerston, who had taken over the British Foreign Office in 1830. By the end of 1832 they had clashed on almost every issue. “In short,” wrote Metternich, “Palmerston is wrong about everything.” Mostly he was annoyed by his insistence that, under the 1815 agreements, Britain had the right to oppose Austria”s tightening of control of universities in Germany, as Metternich had again done in 1832. He was also concerned that if future conferences were held in Britain, as Palmerston wanted, his own influence would be greatly reduced.

The revolution in Spain as well as those in Italy and Germany were not even then capable of grasping the modern reality in the slightest. He described them all as “unhistorical”, or “actions of the illiterate”, (meaning that they would legislate and govern themselves), fearing that any support for them would be a stab in the back of European international relations. Under this concept, which cost even the Austrian Empire, his last success was perhaps at the Berlin Congress. After the death of Emperor Francis, however, he lost all power, being generally regarded as anachronistic, with the result that his name was identified with feudalism.

Eastern Question and peace in Europe

In 1831 Egypt invaded the Ottoman Empire. There were fears of a complete collapse of the Empire, in which Austria would have little to gain. Metternich therefore proposed multilateral support for the Ottomans and a conference in Vienna to sort out the details, but the French were reluctant and the British refused to support any conference in Vienna. By the summer of 1833 Anglo-Austrian relations had reached a new low. With Russia, Metternich was more confident of exerting his influence. However, he was wrong and was left to observe from afar Russian intervention in the region (culminating in the Treaty of Hunkiar Iskelesi). He even arranged to meet with the King of Prussia at Teplice and to accompany Francis to his meeting with Tsar Nicholas at Mönchengret in September 1833. The first meeting went well: Metternich was still able to influence the Prussians, despite their growing economic presence in Europe. The second was more tense, but, as Nicholas was positive, three Muenchengret Agreements were reached, forming a new conservative union to support the existing order in Turkey, Poland and elsewhere. Metternich left satisfied. His only disappointment was that he had to commit himself to being tough on Polish nationalists. Almost at the same time he was informed of the creation of the Quadruple Alliance of 1834 between Britain, France, Spain and Portugal. This liberal alliance was such an affront to Austrian values that Palmerston wrote that he “would like to see Metternich”s face when he reads our treaty.” It did indeed provoke his bitter condemnation, mainly because it gave the opportunity for war to break out. Metternich responded in two ways: by scheming to remove the British Foreign Secretary and by trying (in vain) to create interstate agreements between the powers. Palmerston was indeed removed from office in November, but only temporarily and not by Metternich”s efforts. However, large-scale war had been avoided and the Quadruple Alliance began to disintegrate.

On 2 March 1835 Emperor Francis died and was succeeded by his epileptic son Ferdinand I. Despite the widespread opinion that Ferdinand was “the ghost of a monarch”, Metternich valued legitimacy highly and worked to keep the government running. He soon accompanied Ferdinand to his first meeting with Tsar Nicholas and the King of Prussia, again at Teplice. Ferdinand was overwhelmed, especially as the delegations marched to Prague. Overall, however, it was a trouble-free meeting. The next few years passed relatively peacefully for Metternich: diplomatic incidents were limited to occasional angry meetings with Palmerston and Metternich”s failure to become a mediator between the British and Russians over their dispute over the Black Sea. He also made efforts to introduce new technology, such as railways, to Austria. The most pressing issue was Hungary, where Metternich remained reluctant to support the centrist (but still nationalist) Széchenyi. His reluctance is “a sad reminder of his declining powers of political presence.” At court, Metternich increasingly lost ground to rising star Franz Anton von Kolovrat-Libstinsky, particularly on his proposals for increasing the military budget. After his unsuccessful attempt in 1836 to push through constitutional reform (which would have given him more influence) – which was blocked mainly by the more liberal Archduke John – Metternich was forced to share more power with Kolowrat and Archduke Ludwig within the Austrian State Privy Council. Decision-making came to a halt. Recreation and the maintenance of his estates in Johannesburg, Königsvarts and Plassy (together with Mariánské Tunice) occupied him more at a time when he had four young children to look after, causing him more stress.

Metternich had long foreseen a new crisis in the East and when the Second Turkish-Egyptian War broke out in 1839 he was eager to restore Austria”s diplomatic prestige. He quickly assembled delegates in Vienna, from where on 27 July they issued a communiqué to Constantinople pledging support. However, Tsar Nicholas sent Metternich a message from St. Petersburg, demanding diplomatic neutrality from Vienna. Metternich worked so hard that he fell ill, spending the next five weeks resting in Johannesburg. The Austrians lost the initiative and Metternich had to accept that London would be the new centre of negotiations on the Eastern Question. Just three weeks after its creation, Metternich”s European Great Powers Union (his diplomatic response to the aggressive moves of French Prime Minister Adolf Thiersu) had become simply curious. Little was also heard of his proposals to hold a conference in Germany. A separate attempt to strengthen the influence of the ambassadors based in Vienna was also rejected. These set the tone for the rest of Metternich”s premiership. His illness seemed to have diminished his love for his service. Over the next decade his wife quietly prepared for his retirement or death in service. In Metternich”s work in the early 1840s, Hungary and, more generally, questions of national identity within the diverse Austrian Empire were again prevalent. He then “showed a keen perception”. His Hungarian proposals came too late, however, as Lajos Kosut had already led to the rise of a strong Hungarian nationalism. Metternich”s support for other nationalities was selective, opposing only those that threatened the unity of the Empire.

In the State Council, Metternich lost his main ally Karl Klamm-Marinitz in 1840, which added to the growing paralysis at the heart of the Austrian government. He now struggled to impose even the level of censorship he wanted. There were no major external challenges to the regime. Italy was quiet, and neither Metternich”s attempt to instruct the new King of Prussia, Frederick William IV, nor the boredom of the new Queen Victoria at their first meeting posed immediate problems. Of far greater concern was Tsar Nicholas, whose regard for the Habsburg dynasty and Austria was low. After an unofficial tour of Italy in 1845, the Tsar stopped unexpectedly in Vienna. He was in a bad mood, he was a moody visitor, although amidst Austrian criticism he assured Metternich that Russia was not going to invade the Ottoman Empire again. Two months later their countries were forced to cooperate in the massacre of Galicia and in dealing with a declaration of independence from Cracow. Metternich approved the capture of the city and the use of troops to restore order in the surrounding areas, with the intention of undoing the pseudo-independence granted to Kraków in 1815. After months of negotiations with Prussia and Russia, Austria annexed the city in November 1846. Metternich considered it a personal victory, but it was an act of dubious utility: not only were the Polish dissidents now officially part of Austria, but the pan-European Polish dissident movement was now actively working against the “Metternich system” that had trampled on the rights established in 1815. Britain and France appeared equally outraged, but calls for Metternich”s resignation were ignored. For the next two years Ferdinand could not abdicate in favour of his nephew without a regent, whom Metternich believed Austria would need temporarily to keep the government together.

Although Metternich was tired, he continued to issue memos from his chancellery. Nevertheless, he did not foresee the coming crisis. The new Pope Pius IX was gaining a reputation as a liberal nationalist, creating a counterweight to Metternich and Austria. At the same time the Empire was experiencing unemployment and rising prices as a result of poor harvests. Metternich was outraged by the Italians, the Pope and Palmerston when he ordered the occupation of Pope-controlled Ferrara in the summer of 1847. Despite François Guiseau securing a French agreement for the first time in years for the Swiss Civil War, France and Austria were forced to support the separate cantons. The two parties proposed a congress, but the government crushed the rebellion. It was a great blow to Metternich”s prestige, and his opponents in Vienna called it proof of his incompetence. In January 1848, Metternich predicted trouble in Italy over the next year. He worked for this by sending an envoy, Karl Ludwig von Fickwelmont, to Italy; reviving his 1817 plans for an Italian chancellorship and organizing several possible plans with the French. In late February, Austrian Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky imposed martial law in Austrian Italy (Lombardy-Venice) as riots spread. Nevertheless, and informed of a new revolution in France, Metternich was cautious, although he still considered a revolution at home unlikely. He was described by a Saxon diplomat, in the words of his biographer Mussoulin, as ”shrinking into the shadow of his old self”.

On March 3 Koshout made a fiery speech to the Hungarian Assembly, calling for a constitution. It was not until March 10 that Metternich seemed concerned about events in Vienna, where there were now threats and counter-threats. Two memoranda were issued, calling for more freedom, transparency and representation. Students participated in several demonstrations, culminating on 13 March, when they cheered the imperial family but expressed their anger against Metternich. After an ordinary morning Metternich was called to meet with Archduke Louis shortly after noon. The Chancellor sent troops into the streets, and also announced a predetermined and minimal concession. The crowd became hostile and a division opened fire, killing five. The mob was now rioting, as the liberals were joined by underprivileged Viennese, causing havoc. The students offered to form a pro-government Academic League if their demands were met. Louis was willing to accept and told Metternich that he must resign, to which he reluctantly agreed. After he had slept in the Chancellery, he was advised either to withdraw his resignation or to leave the city. When Louis sent him a message that the government could not guarantee his safety, Metternich left for Count Taafe”s house and then, with the help of his friends Charles von Hugel and Johan Rehberg, arrived at the family seat of the Prince of Liechtenstein sixty-five miles away in Feldsburg. Metternich”s daughter Leontine followed them on 21 March and suggested England as a refuge. Metternich agreed and left with Melanie and 19-year-old Richard, leaving the younger children with Leontine. Metternich”s resignation was greeted with enthusiasm in Vienna and even Viennese citizens welcomed the end of his era of social conservatism.

After an anxious nine-day journey during which they were honoured in some cities and denied entry to others, Metternich, his wife and son Richard arrived in Arnhem, Holland. They stayed until Metternich regained his strength, then arrived in Amsterdam and The Hague, where they stayed to see the results of an English Chartist demonstration scheduled for 10 April. On 20 April they landed in Blackwall, London, where they stayed at the Brunswick Hotel in Hanover Square for a fortnight until they found permanent residence. Metternich largely enjoyed his time in London: the Duke of Wellington, nearly eighty, tried to entertain him and also received visits from Palmerston, Guiseau (also in exile) and Benjamin Disraeli, who enjoyed political conversation with him. His only disappointment was that Victoria herself ignored his presence in the capital. The three of them rented a house, at 44 Eton Square, for four months. The younger children stayed with them in the summer. He watched events in Austria from afar, reportedly denying that he had made a mistake. In fact, he described the turmoil in Europe as a vindication of his policies. In Vienna a hostile press after the censorship continued to attack him. In particular, they accused him of embezzlement and accepting bribes, prompting an investigation. Metternich was eventually cleared of the more extreme charges and investigations into evidence for the lesser ones yielded nothing. (In all likelihood, his expensive pursuits were simply a product of the needs of early 19th century diplomacy.) Meanwhile, as he was denied his pension, Metternich ironically relied on loans.

In mid-September the family moved to 42 Brunswick Terrace, Brighton, on the south coast of England, where the tranquillity of life was in stark contrast to the revolutionary Europe he left behind. Parliamentary figures, particularly Disraeli, travelled to visit them, as did his former girlfriend Dorothea Lieven (Melanie led to their reconciliation). Anticipating a visit from his daughter Leontine and her daughter Pauline, the family moved into a suite of rooms at Richmond Palace on 23 April 1849. Guests included Wellington, who was still attending to Metternich, composer Johann Strauss, and Dorothea de Dino, sister of his former mistress Wilhelmine Sagan, and former mistress Catherine Bagration. Metternich was showing his age and his frequent fainting was a cause for concern. The former chancellor was also depressed by the lack of communication from the new Emperor Francis Joseph I and his government. Leontine wrote to Vienna trying to encourage this contact and in August Metternich received a warm letter from Francis Joseph. Sincere or not, it greatly encouraged him. By mid-August Melanie began to press for a move to Brussels, a city cheaper to live in and closer to the affairs of continental Europe. They arrived in October, staying overnight at the Hotel Bellevue. With the revolution receding, Metternich hoped they would return to Vienna. Their stay actually lasted over 18 months, while Metternich waited for a chance to re-enter Austrian politics. It was quite a pleasant (and cheap) stay, first in the Boulevard de l”Observatoire and later in the Sablon district – filled with visiting politicians, writers, musicians and scientists. For Metternich, however, boredom and nostalgia grew. In March 1851 Melanie urged him to write to the new political protagonist in Vienna, Prince Schwarzenberg, to ask him if he could return if he promised not to interfere in public affairs. In April he received an affirmative answer, with the approval of Franz Joseph.

In May 1851 Metternich left for his estate in Johannesburg, which he had last visited in 1845. That summer he was in the company of the Prussian representative Otto von Bismarck. He also accepted a visit from Frederick William, although the King annoyed him by appearing to use him as a tool against Schwarzenberg. In September he returned to Vienna, being entertained en route by several German princes who regarded him as the focus of Prussian intrigue. Metternich was rejuvenated, cast off his nostalgia and lived in the present for the first time in a decade. Franz Joseph sought his advice on many matters (though he was opinionated enough to be greatly influenced by it) and both emerging factions in Vienna approached Metternich, even Tsar Nicholas invited him during an official visit. Metternich did not know the new foreign minister, Karl Ferdinand von Buehl, but he considered him incompetent enough to be manipulable. Metternich”s advice was of varying quality, but some was usefully insightful, even on matters of the day. Deaf now, he wrote incessantly, especially for Francis Joseph, who held him in high esteem. He wanted Austria”s neutrality in the Crimean War, which Buol did not follow. Meanwhile his health slowly deteriorated and he became more marginalized after the death of his wife Melanie in January 1854. In a brief resurgence of energy in early 1856 he became involved in the marriage between his son Richard and his granddaughter Pauline (daughter of Richard”s stepsister) and undertook more travel. He was visited by the King of Belgium, as was Bismarck, and on 16 August 1857 he hosted the future Edward VII of the United Kingdom. Boule, however, was increasingly hostile to Metternich”s advice, particularly on Italy. In April 1859 Francis Joseph asked his opinion on what should be done in Italy. According to Pauline, Metternich begged him not to send an ultimatum to Italy but Francis Joseph explained that such an ultimatum had already been sent.

In this way, much to Metternich”s dismay and Franz Joseph”s embarrassment, Austria launched the Second Italian War of Independence against the allied forces of Piedmont-Sardinia and its ally France. Although Metternich was able to secure the replacement of Buoll with his friend Rechberg, who had helped him considerably in 1848, his own involvement in the war was now beyond his means. Even a special task entrusted to him by Francis Joseph in June 1859 – to draw up secret documents relating to the fact of his death – was now too exacting. Shortly afterwards Metternich died in Vienna on 11 June 1859, at the age of 86, the last great personality of his generation. Almost all prominent Viennese came to pay tribute; in the foreign press his death went almost unnoticed.

Clemens von Metternich was honoured with particularly important decorations – as famous as very few of his time. Among others, he was a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece, with a necklace, Grand Cross of the Order of St. Stephen, with a necklace, (Hungary), Knight of the Order of St. Joseph, Knight of the Cross of the Military Order of St. Humbert (Tuscany), Knight of the Cross of the Military Order of St. Humbert (Wittelsbach – Germany), Knight of the Royal Order of St. January (of Bourbon and Two Sicilies), etc. ά. and honorary member of the Chamber of Lords of Württemberg.


Prince and Chancellor Clemens von Metternich was one of the few European officials who was so highly praised and admired, even as a ruler, considering that his heyday was described by historians as the Metternich era, but equally so much maligned and discredited in the history of the European peoples, identifying his name with the concepts of reaction, feudalism and obscurantism, against the necessity of liberalism that he could never grasp, dragging and pinning down in his perceptions even the Sovereigns of his time. Characteristically, German liberals called Metternich, Metternacht, i.e., midnight. He was the main exponent of ”international legitimacy” and the ”balance of power”. He believed and served them fervently, not accepting even some modern parameters. Perhaps towards the end of his life he would have realised his mistake, as is evident in his memoirs, but he would have considered such a public disclosure of the change of his original positions and views, which he had served for so many years, to be highly dishonourable (in his time), with the consequence that he would remain a prisoner of these anachronistic concepts to the end.


Contrary to the above general criticism of his political activity, especially in diplomacy and international relations, Clemens von Metternich was considered an authority not only by the rulers who honoured him, but also by his most important critics, such as Er. Traiske and others, who confessed his diplomatic skill. He was described in his day as the ”carpetbagger of Europe” and a ”diplomat of details”. Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, comparing him to Cardinal Mazarin, remarked on him: “The Cardinal deceived, but never lied, (by applying his deceptions), whereas Metternich lied, (in his communications), but never deceived, (by applying them)”.

The fact is, however, that Clemens von Metternich in all his missions created new models of diplomacy. And his contribution in this field is considered to be great. He was precisely the founder of ”international legitimacy” and the so-called ”balance of power”, concepts for which he may have been vilified at the time, but which today are at the forefront of international law and international relations, where great intergovernmental institutions, established in modern times (such as the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Security Council, etc.), are called upon to serve them today.

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  1. Κλέμενς φον Μέττερνιχ
  2. Klemens von Metternich
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