Heinrich von Brühl

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Count Heinrich von Brühl, painting by Louis de Silvestre
Count Heinrich von Brühl, copper engraving by Jean-Joseph Balechou after Louis de Silvestre

Heinrich von Brühl , since 1737 Count von Brühl (born August 13, 1700 in Weißenfels , † October 28, 1763 in Dresden ) was a Saxon statesman .

He gained importance and significant influence first as a privy councilor, then minister and finally as electoral Saxon and royal Polish prime minister (1746–1751) under August the Strong († 1733) and his successor Friedrich August II († 1763). Nowadays, name and fame combine v. a. with the Brühl Terrace in Dresden.

Contemporaries criticized him for an extravagant way of life and enormous waste and attributed the economic decline of the Electorate of Saxony to his person. The more recent research also identifies other causes for this, e.g. B. the Seven Years' War with Prussia.


His parents were the court marshal Hans Moritz von Brühl (1665-1727) and his wife Erdmuthe Sophie von der Heyde (born November 9, 1669; † March 24, 1702). His father was in the service of the Duke of Saxony-Weissenfels . His brothers also achieved high offices:


Reichsgraf von Brühl (since May 27, 1737, previously baron ), registrar of Forst , Pförten and Seifersdorf , Starost der Zips , von Volinow, Lizinek and Biasezno, Vogt zu Bromberg and owner of numerous manors. Furthermore, he was Elector of Saxony and royal-Polish Secret cabinet and Conference Minister, Polish Kronfeldzeugmeister, Saxon Privy Councilor, General of Infantry, Lord Chamberlain, Lord Chamberlain, President of Chamber, Upper control director, Generalakzisedirektor, Auditor-deputation Director, Mountain Director, Chamber Director of the pins Merseburg and Naumburg , Chief Inspector of the Porcelain Manufactory , Dompropst zu Budissin ( Bautzen ), Canon of Meißen , General Commissioner of the Baltic Seaports, Chief and Supreme Commander of the Parforce Hunting, Colonel of a light cavalry and an infantry regiment, commander of the Saxon cavalry in Poland, Knight of the Polish White and the Prussian Black Eagle Order, as well as the Russian Order of St. Andrew.


Heinrich von Brühl became a page at the court of the Duchy of Saxony-Weißenfels when he was 8 years old . He was first taught by private tutors and later attended the illustrious Augusteum grammar school in Weißenfels. At the age of 14, the Duchess widow Friederike Elisabeth von Sachsen-Eisenach took him to Leipzig for 4 years. At 19 he came to the Electoral Saxon court in Dresden in the role of a silver page . There the Elector Friedrich August I, in personal union as August II. King of Poland, called "August the Strong", quickly became aware of Heinrich von Brühl. The page attracted attention at court with his social intelligence and his linguistic competence. A contemporary later wrote that Brühl “ showed such a regular behavior and so much zeal that the king soon distinguished him from the crowd and drew him close. He recognized his sound and thorough judgment, his easy comprehension, his quick grasp of all matters for his age, his secrecy and complete reliability, combined with noble openness and a way of communicating the most difficult things easily and pleasantly. He decided that such a subject deserved to be raised to the great business of state [...] . "()

Brühl soon became perhaps the king's closest confidante. August worked him systematically in domestic and foreign policy as well as in Reich affairs. In 1730 Brühl played a major role in the organization of the Zeithainer Lustlager . During the four-week festival, the Electorate of Saxony presented its army to the ruling houses of the empire . King Friedrich Wilhelm I in Prussia , who was present with his son, who later became King Friedrich II , awarded Brühl the Order of the Black Eagle . For his services, he became one of the youngest privy councilors and ministers at the age of 31 .

As a result, Brühl's career accelerated. When the incumbent finance minister, Count Hoym, was dismissed for insubordination, Brühl took over his position. When the Foreign Minister Fleury later also lost his office, Brühl was also his successor. August the Strong almost overwhelmed Brühl with offices and tasks. The monarch expressly released Brühl from attending regular service meetings. August always wanted Brühl to be around, even when traveling. In some cases he used his services around the clock. Brühl pushed through the wishes of the absolutist king even against resistance and proved to be completely loyal to the ruler. This behavior earned him hatred, rejection and defamation of the opposition estates (nobility and bourgeoisie) in Saxony and Poland.

After the death of August the Strong in 1733, Brühl played a key role in the Polish election for a king; he procured the funds and, together with Alexander Sulkowski , directed foreign policy (see War of the Polish Succession ). The right to speak with Elector Friedrich August II. (In Poland August III. ) Was restricted to Brühl and Sulkowski in November 1733.

It was really only a question of whether Brühl or Sulkowski would take over the work of the weak-willed and indolent Elector. In 1738, the elector-king decided in favor of Brühl, also following the wishes of his late father. This year, at the King's request, Brühl concentrated all departments on himself, including those for which, as it was repeatedly said, he had no skills or aptitude. The military was alien to him, he supposedly knew nothing about the economy and its promotion. He was also considered a cunning schemer.

However, the Hungarian historian Aladar von Boroviczeny states in his biography: “When I looked through the very extensive literature on Count Brühl, to my surprise, I only encountered derogatory judgments about the man [...]. And when I got to the immediate sources, I did not find a single historically based fact that justified the common unfavorable judgment of the Saxon Prime Minister ”. Boroviczeny attributes this mainly to slander that the Prussian King Friedrich II brought into the world about Brühl. His “glowing hatred” of Brühl was fed by the fact that Brühl reconciled France and Austria and thus thwarted Frederick II's political plans. It was never denied that Brühl was a successful diplomat and a tried and tested organizer. His greatest diplomatic success was his participation in the so-called overthrow of the alliances just mentioned, in which the previous arch enemies France and Austria became allies. His appointment as Prime Minister on December 8, 1746 was only a matter of form.

From 1749 Brühl often resided with his court at the Pförten Castle in Niederlausitz , which he acquired in 1740, and received the elector and other guests there; on such occasions his famous swan service made of Meissen porcelain was used. He also owned a variety of other castles and goods which he had gradually acquired (see below: Buildings and possessions ).

Numerous collections were created on his behalf, which were exhibited in the Brühl Palace and the buildings in the Brühl Garden in Dresden. For his extensive picture gallery, the Brühlsche Galerie was built from 1742 to 1744 based on Johann Christoph Knöffel's design . It is a particularly early example of a stand-alone gallery building in Europe. In addition, there was a library building in the Brühlschen Garten , which housed the extremely extensive library and his collection of mathematical and physical instruments. A natural history cabinet was set up in an anteroom of the small theater (after 1755). Brühl's secretary, Carl Heinrich von Heineken , was primarily responsible for building up the collections . After Count Brühl's death, most of the collections were sold; so in 1768 the collection of paintings (from Dmitri Alexejewitsch Golitsyn ) was acquired for Tsarina Catherine II . 600 Flemish, Dutch and French paintings from the Brühl collection thus formed the basis for Central and Western European art in the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg .

As prime minister

The financial catastrophe was already looming in 1748. The sums provided by Brühl to cover current expenses were not even enough for the interest on earlier debts. The value of government bonds fell to a third of their face value. Brühl exchanged judicially administered assets for such bonds. Among other things, this affected the securities deposited by many traders, which then lost their creditworthiness. In addition, he had the outstanding salaries of officials and officers settled with it.

The representatives of the estates (ie the state parliament ) protested against Brühl's financial policy with a special commission, but had to tolerate it (1749/50). In order to disarm the associated public campaign against Brühl, some people, including the Scottish financial expert AM de Bishopfield, were arrested. The fact that Brühl did not allow the commission to examine the tax invoices of his term of office was interpreted by Prince Elector Friedrich Christian as a concealment tactic (with regard to Brühl's manipulations with tax debt certificates or their course). In 1751, the conflict led to the departure of the commission leader, Count Bünau, from the civil service.

The Prince Elector was informed by Count Hennicke , who had been Brühl's closest collaborator in financial transactions since 1734, in several conversations in 1751/52 of the "immense chaos of our coffers and internal affairs" and was convinced to prevent the future chaos of Brühl "every moment".

Due to the difficult financial situation, payments to officials and officers were irregular and delayed. In 1751 the war chest owed the officers the pay of 1.5 to 2 years. The money for the court, the opera and buildings, however, flowed unabated. Furthermore, the army was reduced after 1748, from 32,000 to 17,000 men, too few to be a factor in foreign policy. Then state sovereignty rights were leased, for example in 1750 and especially in 1754/55 the general consumption tax (a consumption tax, roughly equivalent to today's value added tax), the sovereign's source of income independent of the opposition of the corporate representation. In 1751 Saxony pledged the income from two counties in return for a loan of 3.5 million thalers to Hanover and England. In line with this, taxes were increased. In 1753 z. B. Tax increases for all homeowners except the nobility.

According to the cabinet secretary Ferber (1765), the deficit of the Secret Chamber, the excise and the war chest was 15 million thalers even before the start of the Seven Years' War, and that of the tax 30 million thalers. The debts taken on in 1733 were only just under 5 million thalers. Even at the spring fair of 1756 it was impossible to raise the interest payments to the tax creditors. In short, Saxony was almost bankrupt.

The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) did the rest. Saxony was occupied by the Prussian army and had to pay most of the war costs. August III. and Brühl fled after the surrender of the Saxon army with part of the court to Poland, where they stayed until the end of the war. Frederick II had all Brühl's possessions plundered and destroyed during the war, including Pförten Castle on November 1, 1758. After the end of the war, August III returned. and Brühl, whose health was already badly damaged, returned to bankrupt and badly damaged Saxony. August III. died on October 5, 1763 in Dresden. Brühl had lost his greatest patron and voluntarily resigned from his offices, especially since the new elector, Friedrich Christian , had been one of his sharpest critics for years.

Count Heinrich von Brühl died in Dresden on October 28, 1763. In the same year, a lawsuit was initiated against the deceased and his closest colleagues, which however never came to a result. Because Brühl had acted on all points with the consent and instructions of the sovereign, and the regent Prince Xaver could not condemn him without questioning the state as a whole. The accusation that Brühl had misappropriated the state treasury was taken “ad absurdum” by recent historical research (Vogel 2003, p. 6). Brühl's wealth can therefore be explained by the "multitude of financial proofs of grace and donations in kind, which can still be proven today in the files of the Saxon main state archive [...]" (ibid.).

The remains of Brühl were buried on November 4, 1763 in the town church of Forst (Lausitz) .


Alliance Crest Brühl / Kolowrat Krakowsky, painted on the Swan Service of Meissen porcelain

Count von Brühl was married to Maria Anna Franziska Countess von Kolowrat-Krakowsky (1717–1762) since April 29, 1734 . Five in at least ten children reached adulthood:

The sons were initially in Saxon military service, but after the overthrow and death of their father and during the subsequent dispute with the Saxon state over Brühl's possessions, they lost their state and military positions in the Electorate of Saxony and in the Kingdom of Poland. Also because of the large debts of their father, they were forced to look for paid positions abroad. Alois Friedrich, the major heir of Forst-Pförten, was governor of Warsaw and from 1758 Polish crown general field witness. After losing all offices after the death of August III. However, he was hired by King Stanislaus II August Poniatowski again as an artillery general. He was also active as a theater writer.

Carl Adolph and Albert Christian Heinrich became - the irony of history - Prussian generals under the successor of Frederick II, who once had their possessions plundered and devastated. The youngest, Hanns Moritz, became the Prussian director of the highways in Kurmark and Pomerania. His son, Carl Moritz von Brühl (Hans Moritz II., 1772–1837), as Theater-Brühl, was for many years general director of the royal theater in Berlin , and from 1830 also of the museums. A daughter of Carl Adolph was Marie von Brühl , the wife of the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz .

Buildings and possessions

The Prime Minister's father, Hans Moritz von Brühl , had only owned a small manor in Gangloffsümmern ; later one of his brothers took it over. These, Hans Moritz von Brühl (general) , Friedrich Wilhelm von Brühl and Johann Adolph von Brühl , acquired or built a number of important palaces and castles, including the baroque castle Martinskirchen, during the reign of their youngest brother - like the latter himself .

Heinrich von Brühl had already acquired the Grochwitz manor near Herzberg (Elster) in 1730 ; he sold it again in 1761 after it was looted by Prussian soldiers in 1757 and set on fire in 1758. In 1736 he acquired the Palais Brühl-Marcolini in the Dresden suburb of Ostra in today's Friedrichstadt district and had Johann Christoph Knöffel add a courtyard to it with side wings. From 1737 to 1740, Knöffel also designed the Palais Brühl in Augustusstrasse for his master, which was one of the Brühl's splendid splendours on the Brühl's terrace , alongside the Brühl's library , the Brühl's gallery , the Belvedere and the Brühl's garden with the Brühl's garden pavilion .

In 1740 the count acquired his future headquarters, Pförten Castle , the center of the estates of Forst and Pförten in Lower Lusatia . He had the castle rebuilt in the Rococo style from 1741–1749 based on Knöffel's designs . Forst and Pförten remained in the possession of the Counts of Brühl until they were expropriated in 1945 .

Most of the remaining possessions of the ex-prime minister, who was heavily indebted when he died in 1763, and whose possessions had also been partially confiscated, were soon sold by the heirs, partly as a result of a dispute with the Saxon state.

Nischwitz Castle near Leipzig came into Brühl's possession in 1743; Around 1750 he had it, meanwhile Prime Minister, converted by Knöffel into a summer residence in the Rococo style, including courtyard, orangery, administration buildings and palace gardens; In 1758 it was sacked by Prussian troops. The heirs sold it after his death. Lindenau Castle near Ortrand came into his possession in 1744; the heirs sold it in 1790. He also acquired Oberlichtenau Castle near Pulsnitz in 1744, but rarely used it; nevertheless it was subject to Prussian looting; the heirs had a rococo-style ballroom built in, but sold the property in 1774. Gaussig Castle near Bischofswerda was only briefly in Brühl's possession from 1747 to 1750, but Knöffel redesigned the park during this time. Seifersdorf Castle near Radeberg was also transferred to him by Friedrich August II in 1747; however, he never visited. However, his youngest son Hanns Moritz later lived here with his wife Christina , who from 1781 had a landscape garden laid out in the Seifersdorfer Valley . Carl von Brühl - as the next owner - commissioned Karl Friedrich Schinkel to fundamentally redesign the Seifersdorfer Schloss; like Pförten, it then remained in the possession of the descendants until 1945, albeit the younger line. The widow of the last owner, Count Karl von Brühl-Renard, who died in 1923, Countess Agnes, was expropriated and banished to the island of Rügen, and the castle was again plundered.

Near Warsaw , Brühl owned a small palace in Młociny from 1748 and the magnificent Brühl Palace on the Saxon Axis in the city from 1750 . In 1755 he bought the office of the Starost von Lipnik . Shortly before his death in 1763, Brühl acquired the Rooseschen Weinberg (later Altfriedstein in Radebeul ) and named it Mon repos .

Memorial sites

“Sarcophagus, dedicated to the Electoral Saxon Minister Count von Brühl” in the Seifersdorfer Valley , designed by Christina von Brühl , in the form of a fictional grave

The names Brühlsche Terrasse and Brühlscher Garten are still reminiscent of Count Brühl in Dresden today.

In the Seifersdorfer Tal , a former possession of Brühl, his daughter-in-law Christina von Brühl laid the memorial "Sarcophagus, dedicated to the Electoral Saxon Minister Count von Brühl" for Heinrich von Brühl.

The Polish writer Józef Ignacy Kraszewski immortalized Brühl in two novels from the 1870s ("Graf Brühl", "From the Seven Years War").


  • Aladar von Boroviczeny: Count von Brühl. The Medici. Richelieu and Rothschild of his time. Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna et al. 1930.
  • Walter Fellmann : Heinrich Graf Brühl. A picture of life and time. 4th, revised edition. Koehler & Amelang, Munich et al. 2000, ISBN 3-7338-0232-2 .
  • Heinrich Theodor FlatheBrühl, Heinrich Graf von . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 3, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1876, pp. 411-417.
  • Hellmuth Rößler:  Brühl, Heinrich, Reichsgraf. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 2, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1955, ISBN 3-428-00183-4 , pp. 660-662 ( digitized version ).
  • Charles Louis de Pöllnitz : Etat abregé de la cour de Saxe, sous le regne d'Auguste III. roi de Pologne et electeur de Saxe. sn, sl 1734, digitized .
  • Dagmar Vogel: Heinrich Graf von Brühl. A biography. Volume 1: 1700–1738 (= series of publications studies on historical research of the modern age. Volume 29). Kovač, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-8300-0859-7 .
  • Ute Christina Koch: Maecenas in Saxony: Courtly representation mechanisms of favorites using the example of Heinrich Graf von Brühl , Technical University of Dresden, Diss., Dresden 2010, DNB catalog
  • Ute Christina Koch [ed.] And a .: Heinrich Graf von Brühl. A Saxon patron in Europe - files of the international conference on the 250th year of death, Dresden 2017. ISBN 978-3-95498-297-4 .
  • Heinrich Graf von Brühl (1700–1763), builder and patron . Ed .: State Office for Monument Preservation Saxony; Idea and concept: Martin Schuster. Altenburg, 2020. ISBN 978-3-95755-048-4 . ( Workbooks of the State Office for Monument Preservation Saxony , 29)
  • Martin Schuster: Heinrich Graf von Brühl (1700–1763). Biographical notes and portraits. In: Judith Claus, Franziska Maria Scheuer (Red.): Heinrich von Brühl. Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (= Dresdener Kunstblätter. Vol. 58.2). Sandstein Verlag, Dresden 2014, ISBN 978-3-95498-099-4 , pp. 5-15.
  • Gottfried Mayer: Reliable biography of the deceased Königigl. Polish and electoral prince Saxon Minister, Heinrich, the HRR Count von Brühl. And the royal, who also died. pohln. and churfürstl. Saxon Cabinets Ministers, Alexander Joseph, of the HRR von Sulkowski , Mayer, Frankfurt and Leipzig 1766, German-digital-library


  1. See Vogel 2003, p. 16f.
  2. See Koch 2010, pp. 45f.
  3. ^ Karl Friedrich Vitzthum von Eckstädt : The secrets of the Saxon cabinet. End of 1745 to end of 1756. Cotta, Stuttgart 1866, p. 77 f .; Christian August Pescheck (Ed.): Lusatian monthly or contributions to the natural economic and political history of Upper and Lower Lusatia and the landscapes bordering them. Volume 3. Schöps, Zittau 1792, p. 275.
  4. See Vogel 2003, p. 31
  5. See Mayer 1766, p. 16
  6. See Koch 2010, p. 45.
  7. See Mayer 1766, p. 16
  8. Pöllnitz 1734, pp. 60 f., Cited above. according to Vogel 2003, p. 91
  9. See Vogel 2003, p. 137
  10. See Vogel 2003, pp. 182-217
  11. See Vogel 2003, p. 5
  12. See Vogel 2003, p. 6
  13. Boroviczeny 1930, p. 6
  14. Boroviczeny 1930, p. 6 f.
  15. Horst Schlechte: The secret political diary of Prince Elector Friedrich Christian. 1751–1757 (= series of publications by the Dresden State Archives. Vol. 13). Böhlau, Weimar 1992, ISBN 3-7400-0105-4 , p. 34.
  16. Heinrich Graf von Brühl and the Lordship of Forst-Pförten (PDF, 2 MB)
  17. ^ Wilhelm Gottlieb Becker: The Seifersdorfer Thal . Leipzig, Voss and Leo, 1792. (digitized)
  18. Everything that has appeared so far.

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