Klemens Von Metternich

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  • Topic: Congress of Vienna, Austrian Empire, Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor
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KLEMENS VON METTERNICH

Statesman; born at Coblenz, 15 May, 1773; died at Vienna, 11 June, 1859; son of Count Georg, Austrian envoy of the Court of Vienna at Coblenz, and Maria Beatrix, née Countess von Kageneck. He studied philosophy at the University of Strasburg, and law and diplomacy at Mainz. A journey to England completed his education. Metternich began his public career in 1801 as Austrian ambassador to the Court of Dresden. Though he had for several years prepared himself for a diplomatic career, he was especially fortunate in being immediately appointed to so prominent a position. Only two years later he was made ambassador to Berlin. The emperor considered it very important to have a minister at Berlin who could gain the favour of the Court and the principal Prussian statesmen, and who knew how to combine "great powers of observation with a moderate and agreeable manner". Metternich had already proved that he possessed these qualities. Napoleon was then emperor with the new empire at the zenith of its power. The Emperor Francis needed his ablest ambassador at Napoleon's Court, and in May, 1806, he sent Metternich to Paris. Metternich found himself in the difficult position of representing Austria in the face of the overweening threats and ambitious plans of Napoleon at the height of his power. He did so with dignity and firmness, as his report of his important audience with Napoleon on 15 August, 1808, shows. The year 1809 is marked by the great war between Austria and France. The German States were called upon to join her, but only the Tyrol responded. On 13 May Vienna was besieged by the French, but eight days later Napoleon was defeated by the Archduke Charles at Aspern. Metternich, treated as a prisoner of state by Napoleon, was finally released in July in exchange for members of the French embassy. After the battle of Wagram Austria's position was hopeless. Its army was cut off from Hungary and compelled to retreat to Moravia and Bohemia. A great statesman was needed to save the situation. On 4 August the Emperor Francis appointed Metternich as minister of state to confer with Napoleon, and on 8 October, minister of the imperial house and of foreign affairs. By the treaty of Schönbrunn (14 October), Austria was greatly reduced in size, and reached the greatest depths of its humiliation. But the moment of its degradation saw the beginning of its rise. The two-headed eagle soared to the loftiest heights, and it was Metternich who gave it the strength for its flight. For nearly forty years he directed Austria's policy. His first concern was to establish tolerable relations with the French Emperor. Napoleon desired by means of a new marriage to ally himself with one of the old European dynasties in the hope to raise himself and to provide an heir for the imperial throne. He obtained a divorce from Josephine Beauharnais, and through the mediation of Metternich married Maria Louise, daughter of the Emperor Frances of Austria. Though at present it seems to become more and more probable that Napoleon's union with Josephine was a valid marriage, nevertheless it is certain that when Napoleon wedded Maria Louise (11 March, 1810) the Court of Vienna and the Papal Curia were absolutely convinced of the unlawfulness of Napoleon's first alliance. Napoleon's connexion with the imperial family of Austria had no influence on politics. Fate led the French Emperor, after ruining so many others, to ruin himself. At Schönbrunn he pronounced the temporal sovereignty of the Roman See to be at an end, and in reply to the pope's excommunication he remarked: "This will not cause the arms to drop from the hands of my grenadiers." Although he imprisoned the pope, in the Russian campaign on the Beresina the arms did drop from the frozen hands of his grenadiers. As the crisis approached the decision lay with Austria. From a quarter past eleven in the morning until half past eight in the evening Metternich was closeted with Napoleon...
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