Karl of Austria-Teschen

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Archduke Karl of Austria-Teschen Signature Karl von Österreich-Teschen.PNG

Archduke Carl Ludwig Johann Joseph Laurentius of Austria , Duke of Teschen , (born September 5, 1771 in Florence , †  April 30, 1847 in Vienna ) from the House of Habsburg-Lothringen was an Austrian general . The troops commanded by him defeated Napoleon in the battle of Aspern on 21/22. May 1809 the first defeat on the battlefield. He was also the 54th Grand Master of the Teutonic Order .

Early life

Family tree of Karl of Austria-Teschen
Karl von Österreich-Teschen (Portrait of Johann Baptist Seele , 1800, Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna)

Karl was the third son of the Grand Duke of Tuscany and later Emperor Leopold II. And the Maria Luisa of Spain to the world and was the younger brother of Emperor Franz II. (I.) in particular because of a since infancy with him existing epilepsy and The resulting physical and mental impairments, the fourth-born was first determined by his father for the spiritual class, but was much more interested in everything military. Karl left Florence after his father became emperor and attended his coronation in Frankfurt on October 9, 1790. With the consent of his father, he was adopted in January 1791 by his aunt Archduchess Marie Christine, who had remained childless, and her husband Albert von Sachsen-Teschen and was thus heir to their important land holdings. On October 1, 1791, he appeared at his adoptive parents' home in Brussels and was given his own court in the Palais Royal. In March 1792 his imperial father died in Vienna, and in May Karl's mother, Maria Ludovika, followed him to the grave.

Military career

Shortly afterwards, in April 1792, war broke out against the French Republic . Karl immediately went to Mons to the headquarters of his foster father, Prince Albert von Sachsen-Teschen, and received his baptism of fire at La Grisuelle on June 11, 1792. He was promoted to major general on September 5, 1792 and took part in the Battle of Jemappes on November 6 . In January 1793 he took over his own brigade in Cologne and in March 1793 led it to the army of Reichsmarschall Prince Friedrich Josias of Saxe-Coburg in Aldenhoven . On March 18, Karl distinguished himself in the Battle of Neerwinden (1793) , and on March 25, 1793, he entered the conquered Brussels as the newly appointed Governor General of the Austrian Netherlands . On December 29, 1793, he was promoted to field marshal lieutenant and on April 22, 1794 he was appointed Feldzeugmeister .

After the Battle of Fleurus was lost on June 26, 1794 , Austria finally lost the Belgian territories, and Karl had to end his administration prematurely. In January 1795, Karl left the army and went to Laxenburg as a military advisor to his brother Franz II. It was then that his years of conflict with the Viennese cabinet under Minister Thugut began .

In February 1796, the only 24-year-old Karl was appointed Reichsfeldmarschall and, as the successor to Field Marshal Count von Clerfayt, took over the supreme command of all Reich troops on the Rhine front. The Battle of Wetzlar (also known as the Battle of Wetzlar) on June 15 and 16, 1796 was a battle in the First Coalition War . With this battle he began his attempt to keep the French off the eastern bank of the Rhine . In the two-day battle, he maneuvered the French forces and bypassed their flanks . This finally forced General Jourdan , the commander in chief of the French Sambre Maas Army , to retreat, which led parts of the French army into the battle of Kircheib . However, the real plan of the French had worked and the Archduke had to give up his position protecting the southern Rhine. Further victories at Amberg (August 24th) and Würzburg (September 3rd) and the driving back of the French Rhine-Moselle army under General Moreau across the Rhine after the battle of Emmendingen gave Karl great popularity in Germany. After Karl was supposed to save his lost position in Italy, he had to lead the defeated Italian army back to Styria in March 1797, where he negotiated with Napoleon Bonaparte the armistice of Leoben that was tolerable for Austria.

In the Second Coalition War , Karl commanded the imperial troops in southern Germany and Switzerland, he defeated the French army Jourdan near Ostrach (March 21) and Stockach (March 25) in 1799 , together with General Friedrich von Hotze he also defeated General Masséna in the First Battle of Zurich (June 5). Although Minister Thugut had meanwhile been replaced by Cobenzl , tensions with the Viennese court increased. In March 1800, Karl resigned from his command.

Court war councilor and generalissimo

On January 9, 1801, Karl was appointed Imperial Field Marshal and President of the Court War Council; on September 12, he was also appointed Minister of War and the Navy. He quickly tried to initiate a new organization of the imperial army, but strong opposition from the court allowed his first army reforms to peter out.

In July 1801, Karl succeeded Archduke Maximilian Franz as Grand Master of the Teutonic Order , but renounced this position in 1804.

In 1803/04, Charles of Austria, who had been plagued by epileptic attacks again and again, suffered a pronounced depression. However, his health began to improve in late 1804. As of March 1805, epilepsy symptoms no longer occurred and the depression gave way to a new level of energy, particularly evident in Karl's military policy.

In the Third Coalition War , Karl was able to win a defensive victory against Marshal Massena near Caldiero (October 29/31, 1805) as commander of the army in Italy . After the war (1805) he began his second attempt at military reform. He abolished lifelong military service. Following the example of the French army , he set up an army corps and forced the establishment of the Austrian Landwehr. He was supported above all by his younger brother Archduke Johann .

In the war of 1809 Austria tried with its reformed army to regain the position of power it had lost after the Peace of Pressburg (December 26, 1805). Archduke Karl, as generalissimo , commanded the attacking troops in southern Germany. However, he was defeated by the French on April 20 at Abensberg and on April 22 at Eggmühl , after which he had to give up his positions at Regensburg and go back to the Danube. The victorious Napoleon Bonaparte was able to occupy Vienna on May 19th. Archduke Karl was able to get him on 21./22. May strike back at the Danube crossing in the Battle of Aspern . This battle is considered to be Napoleon's first defeat on the battlefield.

Shortly afterwards Karl lost on 5th / 6th. July 1809, however, in the Battle of Wagram , he concluded the armistice of Znojmo with Napoleon , for which he was suspended by Francis I on July 23rd.

Private life

Weilburg Castle, elevation of the north front , in front of the Rauheneck castle ruins ( Joseph Kornhäusel , around 1820)

Karl dealt with his memoirs in the future and became one of the most important military writers of the 19th century. From 1815 Karl was governor of the Mainz fortress . He loved this city because it was there that he met his future wife, Princess Henriette von Nassau-Weilburg . After the Congress of Vienna, the 44-year-old Archduke Karl married the 18-year-old princess on September 17, 1815. It is noteworthy that she was a Protestant and did not convert even after the wedding. Shortly afterwards he made the decision to build Weilburg Castle near Baden as a summer residence and give it to his young wife. After completion, the couple retired there into private life. After the death of his adoptive father Albert von Sachsen-Teschen in 1822, Karl inherited his goods Teschener Kammer , Altenburg, Belye, the palace in Vienna and the rich Albertina art collection .

Karl's wife Henriette died on December 29, 1829 at the age of 32 of scarlet fever after contracting her children. She was the only Protestant from the extensive Habsburg family to be buried in the Capuchin crypt. Emperor Franz II / I. said: "If she has been among us as a living, she should also be as dead." Archduke Karl himself is also buried in the Capuchin crypt. He died of pleurisy at the age of 76. His heart was buried separately and is located in the heart crypt of the Habsburgs in the Loreto Chapel of the Augustinian Church in Vienna .



Apotheosis of Archduke Karl , painting by Heinrich Friedrich Füger, HGM

Immediately after the victory at Würzburg in 1796, the person of Archduke Karl was glorified and mythologized. After the defeat at Wagram, Karl was relieved of his command and was henceforth neither militarily nor politically active, but this glorification was heading for its climax immediately after 1809. Heinrich von Kleist dedicated a poem to the Archduke under the immediate impression of the victory at Aspern :

"Unfading, how he wreaths Alciden, maiden and laurel, to crown you, O Karl, conqueror of the invincible!"

- Heinrich von Kleist

In the introduction that Kleist wrote for the magazine "Germania", the glorification manifests itself even more:

“The imperial brother, whom he appointed lord of the army, demonstrated the divine power to lead the work towards its goal in a sublime and touching way. The misfortune that borne him he borne with the indomitable heroism, and at the decisive moment when it was time to win or die, he became the conqueror of the indomitable - it was with a modesty that of the age in which we were life is strange. "

- Heinrich von Kleist


Archduke Karl and his staff in the battle of Aspern , painting by Johann Peter Krafft, HGM
Archduke Karl with the flag of the Zach Regiment at the Battle of Aspern , painting by Johann Peter Krafft, HGM.

By the imperial resolution of Franz Joseph I. from 28 February 1863 Archduke Charles was "famous, to the everlasting emulation worthy warlords and generals of Austria" in the list of added, in whose honor and memory of a life-size statue in the general hall of the then newly The Imperial and Royal Court Weapons Museum (today: Heeresgeschichtliches Museum Wien ) was built. The statue was created in 1871 from Carrara marble by the sculptor Franz Pönninger and was dedicated by Emperor Franz Joseph himself.

Just as in literature, the glorification of Charlemagne is also expressed in the fine arts, as is the case, for example, in several pictorial representations in the Vienna Museum of Military History . In addition to depictions of heroes in the frescoes by Karl von Blaas and the monumental paintings by Johann Peter Krafft , there is a special depiction of the Archduke by Heinrich Friedrich Füger . Influenced by Charles' victories in the First Coalition War against France, the kk court painter Füger painted the painting Apotheosis of Archduke Carl as the savior of Germania . In the painting, Rudolf von Habsburg wreaths the Archduke as the savior of the empire, who ensures the continued existence of the dynasty , while the bard sings of his deeds as a representative of art. An Austrian warrior lies on the ground, looking up at his general, while an enemy on the left is watching the scene from a respectful distance. Füger depicted all the figures in medieval armor, only the military Maria Theresa order on Karl's armor provides a reference to the real person. A novelty is that it is not a genius or a goddess who puts the victory wreath on his head, but a real historical figure, one of his ancestors.

Johann Peter Krafft immortalized the role of Archduke Karl in the Battle of Aspern in two monumental paintings, which are also in the Army History Museum. In Archduke Karl with his staff in the battle of Aspern, Karl rides his white horse, superbly illuminated like a victory angel, at the head of his staff across the battlefield of Aspern. His most important generals are portrayed behind him, including Lieutenant Field Marshal Johann von Hiller , who played a key role in the victory.

In the painting Archduke Karl with the flag of the Zach regiment at the Battle of Aspern , Johann Peter Krafft tells an episode that has not been proven, but has nevertheless become a legend . When the center of the Austrian army wavered on the morning of May 22nd and Napoleon ordered the breakthrough with the use of French cavalry , Karl is said to have seized the flag of the 1st Battalion of the Imperial and Royal Line Infantry Regiment No. 15 Freiherr von Zach and headed for it be blown up by the enemy. As a result, he had succeeded in closing the ranks of the tightly packed Austrian troops and leading the center of his army forward again, which led to victory. Krafft consciously chose the pose that Jacques-Louis David used in 1801 for his equestrian portrait of Bonaparte crossing the Alps on the Great Saint Bernard Pass. The painting became the model for the equestrian monument at Vienna's Heldenplatz by Anton Dominik Fernkorn a model of a design not executed (Karl on horseback without a flag, hand extended forward pointing) in the Military History Museum, from the fragments as the original model from bronzed plaster.

Equestrian monument

Archduke Karl equestrian monument on Heldenplatz in Vienna

The equestrian monument created by Anton Dominik Fernkorn is considered a technical masterpiece, as the horse only touches the base with its hind legs and thus the twenty-ton metal statue rests on only two points. The memorial was designed in 1848, the casting of the statue, made of eight parts, took almost seven years. On July 22nd, 1858, the main casting was done with impeccable purity. The installation could already begin in 1859. The arsenal had provided 350 quintals of cast material, so the total cost was 294,378  florins. Van der Nüll and Sicardsburg planned the base from Untersberg marble , executed by the Viennese master stonemason Josef Kranner. The ceremonial unveiling of the monument took place on May 22, 1860. The base of the statue bears the inscriptions “The heroic leader of Austria's armies” (north side) and “The persistent fighter for Germany's honor” (south side).


Archduke Karl's sons: Albrecht, Karl, Friedrich and Wilhelm, lithograph by Josef Kriehuber , 1835

Her marriage to Henriette Alexandrine von Nassau-Weilburg (1797–1829) on September 17, 1815 resulted in seven children:


Pedigree of Karl of Austria-Teschen

Karl V. Leopold (1643–1690)
⚭ 1678
Eleanor of Austria (1653–1697)

Philip I of Bourbon (1640–1701)
⚭ 1671
Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate (1652–1722)

Leopold I (1640–1705)
⚭ 1676
Eleonore Magdalene of the Palatinate (1655–1720)

Ludwig Rudolf of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (1671–1735)
⚭ 1690
Christine Luise von Oettingen (1671–1747)

Louis of France (1661–1711)
⚭ 1680
Maria Anna of Bavaria (1660–1690)

Odoardo II. Farnese (1666–1693)
⚭ 1690
Dorothea Sophie of the Palatinate (1670–1748)

August II (1670–1733)
⚭ 1693
Christiane Eberhardine of Brandenburg-Bayreuth (1671–1727)

Joseph I (1678–1711)
⚭ 1699
Wilhelmine Amalie von Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1673–1742)

Great grandparents

Duke Leopold Joseph of Lorraine (1679–1729)
⚭ 1698
Élisabeth Charlotte de Bourbon-Orléans (1676–1744)

Emperor Charles VI. (1685–1740)
⚭ 1708
Elisabeth Christine von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (1691–1750)

King Philip V (1683–1746)
⚭ 1714
Elisabetta Farnese (1692–1766)

King August III. (1696–1763)
⚭ 1719
Maria Josepha of Austria (1699–1757)


Emperor Franz I Stephan (1708–1765)
⚭ 1736
Maria Theresia (1717–1780)

King Charles III (1716–1788)
⚭ 1738
Maria Amalia of Saxony (1724–1760)


Emperor Leopold II (1747–1792)
⚭ 1765
Maria Ludovica of Spain (1745–1792)

Karl of Austria-Teschen

Fonts (selection)

  • Principles of the higher art of war for the generals of the Austrian army. Vienna 1806. Reprint: Biblio-Verlag, Osnabrück 1974, ISBN 3-7648-0843-8 .
  • Principles of the strategy, explained by the representation of the campaign of 1796 in Germany. 3 volumes, Anton Strauss, Vienna 1814.


Web links

Commons : Karl von Österreich-Teschen  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Winfried M. Romberg: The epilepsy of Archduke Carl of Austria (1771-1827). In: Würzburger medical history reports 12, 1994, pp. 245-253
  2. Winfried M. Romberg, p. 249 f.
  3. ^ Heinrich von Kleist: Complete Works and Letters , Vol. 1, Munich 1977, 30 f.
  4. ^ Heinrich von Kleist: Works and Letters in Four Volumes , ed. v. Siegfried Streller, Vol. 3, Berlin-Weimar 1978, 385 f.
  5. ^ Johann Christoph Allmayer-Beck : The Army History Museum Vienna. The museum and its representative rooms . Kiesel Verlag, Salzburg 1981, ISBN 3-7023-0113-5 , p. 37
  6. ^ Claudia Reichl-Ham: The year 1809 as reflected in the objects of the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum , in: Viribus Unitis. Annual report 2009 of the Army History Museum , Vienna 2010, p. 88 f.
  7. ^ Robert Keil: Heinrich Friedrich Füger (1751-1818). Only a few are allowed to see the light of truth , Vienna 2009, p. 313.
  8. Manfried Rauchsteiner , Manfred Litscher (Ed.): The Army History Museum in Vienna. Graz, Vienna 2000, p. 41.
  9. Ilse Krumpöck: The pictures in the Army History Museum. Vienna 2004, p. 44.
  10. Alphons Lhotsky : The building history of the museums and the new castle . Das Kaiserforum, p. 66, Verlag Ferdinand Berger, Vienna 1941.
  11. Maria Karoline Luise Christine Archduchess of Austria on thepeerage.com , accessed on September 11, 2016.
  12. Local news. Archduchess Marie .. In:  Badener Zeitung , July 21, 1915, p. 2 (online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / Maintenance / bztas well as local news. Archduchess Marie. The transfer of the body to Vienna. In:  Badener Zeitung , July 24, 1915, p. 5 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / bzt
predecessor government office successor
Ferdinand Tige President of the Court War Council
Heinrich Count Bellegarde