Klemens Wenzel Lothar von Metternich

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Clemens Wenzel von Metternich (painting by Thomas Lawrence approx. 1820–1825). Metternich's signature:
Signature Klemens Wenzel Lothar von Metternich.PNG
coat of arms

Klemens Wenzel Lothar von Metternich (completely Clemens Wenceslaus Nepomuk Lothar , Prince or until 1813 Count von Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein ; born May 15, 1773 in Koblenz , † June 11, 1859 in Vienna ) was an Austrian diplomat , politician and statesman . Initially active as the imperial or Austrian ambassador in Dresden , Berlin and Paris , he worked from 1809 until his fall in the year of the revolution1848 Foreign Minister and Head Minister of the Austrian Empire , from 1821 with the title of State Chancellor . From 1813 Metternich rose to one of the leading politicians in Europe and at the Congress of Vienna after the fall of Napoleon I played a decisive role in the political and territorial reorganization of the continent in terms of the balance of powers . As the political designer of the Holy Alliance of the monarchs of Russia , Austria and Prussia , he stood for the monarchical principle during the Restoration and Biedermeier periods and fought the national and liberal movements, especially in Germany and Italy .


Origin and youth

Klemens Metternich came from the Winneburg and Beilstein line of the Metternich family . One of the headquarters of the widely branched family dynasty is the Winneburg near Cochem on the Moselle. The ruin was acquired by him in 1832 (in memory of his family history), but not rebuilt and never inhabited by him. His father was Franz Georg Karl Count Metternich-Winneburg-Beilstein (1746-1818), his mother Maria Beatrix Aloisia (née Countess Kageneck ). The father was initially a diplomat for the Electors of Trier . In 1791 he became Minister of the Austrian Netherlands and since then has been in Austrian service as a diplomat.

Metternich was born in 1773 in the Metternich house in Koblenz, which at that time belonged to the Electorate of Trier . He had three siblings, the slightly older sister Pauline and the younger brother Joseph. Another brother, Ludwig, died before he was one year old. Church and religion played a lesser role in his early upbringing than the Enlightenment Zeitgeist and rationalism. He became familiar with Voltaire and the French encyclopedists early on .

The Metternich house in Koblenz

Since the age of thirteen, the brothers were tutored by two court masters , Johann Friedrich Simon and the Abbé Ludwig Bertrand Höhn. These two went in 1788 to Strasbourg to attend the local university to study political science take. Metternich was influenced by the university professor Christoph Wilhelm von Koch . In addition to Metternich, he trained numerous other later diplomats such as Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord , Benjamin Constant and Maximilian von Montgelas . In Strasbourg he also became a member of the retinue of the prince and later King of Bavaria, Maximilian von Zweibrücken .

Metternich came to the court of the Elector of Mainz in 1790. In the same year he and his father took part in the celebrations for the coronation of Leopold II in Frankfurt am Main as master of ceremonies for the Catholic section of the Lower Rhine-Westphalian Imperial Counts College .

He continued his studies in law and political science at the University of Mainz until 1794. Metternich rejected the lectures of Professor Andreas Joseph Hofmann because of his pro-revolutionary views. In contrast, he was impressed by the historian Nicolaus Vogt , who emphasized the great importance of everything that had become historical in the sense of the emerging romanticism . Vogt advocated a Christian, European res publica in which Germany should play the central role. The striving for the balance of forces was decisive for the existence of this multinational formation. Metternich was deeply impressed by this and later brought Vogt to Vienna at times. In addition to the university, the emigrants present at the Mainz court also shaped him in the spirit of the ancien regime. There he also developed his social skills.

In 1792 Metternich was again master of ceremonies at the coronation of Franz II as emperor. Before the advance of the revolutionary troops, Metternich left Mainz and first went to Brussels to see his father. In the same year he took part in the campaign to France as an observer.

Mediated by his father, he accompanied an imperial embassy to London without a diplomatic function. There he made friends with the Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV . He also came into contact with leading politicians and the conservative thought leader Edmund Burke . After the defeat of the anti-French coalition, he wrote two pamphlets in 1793 and 1794. In the second, he called for the people to be armed near the French border. He did not think of a general mobilization like the Levée en masse , but out of fear of revolutionary tendencies in the lower classes he advocated arming the wealthy peasants and citizens.

Oil painting with Metternich in Königswart Castle in Bohemia

The year 1794 was a deep turning point for the Metternich family. With the advance of the French revolutionary troops, the father not only had to leave Brussels, but the family lost all of their Rhenish property. All that remained was the Königswart Castle in Bohemia . It was not until 1803 that the family was given the area of ​​the Ochsenhausen Imperial Abbey as a replacement . Metternich joined his family in Vienna from London in 1794. There he mainly dealt with the natural sciences and medicine . He remained connected to both subjects throughout his life and promoted them. Metternich reserved the direction of the Austrian expedition to Brazil from 1817 to 1835 and initially financed it. The promotion of science by Metternich took King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia as an opportunity to personally decide whether Metternich would be accepted as a founding knight in the Order Pour le Mérite for Science and the Arts on May 31, 1842, and to send him the insignia in a handwriting .

Friedrich von Gentz ​​was a close adviser and friend of Metternich for many years.

Envoy to Dresden and Berlin

As an envoy of the Westphalian Count Bank, he took part in the Rastatt Congress between 1797 and 1799 . His father was head of the empire's embassy there. The experiences gained there have further developed Metternich's worldview. He was convinced that the Germans had no facilities for national unity. His perspective was European and anti-revolutionary. The central aim was to restore the balance of powers that had been destroyed by French expansion.

He owed the actual beginning of Metternich's political career mainly to the protection of Eleonore von Liechtenstein , a relative of his first wife Marie-Eleonore von Kaunitz-Rietberg, granddaughter of the Austrian State Chancellor Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz-Rietberg . Like his father before, it enabled him to enter the Austrian service as a diplomat. Without having previously proven himself in subordinate positions, he was offered several missionary posts in 1801 - at the age of twenty-eight. Metternich decided on the position of an envoy in Dresden . In addition to his not particularly demanding tasks, Metternich used the time for an affair with Katharina Bagration . The relationship resulted in a daughter, Clementine. During this time he also came into contact with the more conservative theorists Adam Müller von Nitterdorf and Friedrich Gentz . In Dresden Metternich wrote a memorandum with the title “Draft instructions for the ambassador in Dresden”. In it he first stated the idea that only a strong Austria could guarantee the European equilibrium in the long term.

In 1803 he moved to Berlin as the Austrian envoy . Although he was of Friedrich Wilhelm III. and Queen Louise were warmly received, but diplomatic duties were more difficult here. Metternich's attempt to bind Prussia to Austria and an anti-Napoleonic coalition initially failed because of the government's policy of neutrality. Metternich had little access to the reform forces around Hardenberg and Stein . In 1805 Metternich succeeded in negotiating a kind of alliance treaty with Prussia , but the defeat of Austria and Russia in the Battle of Austerlitz made the treaty worthless. His assessment of the political conditions in Prussia was extremely negative, and he predicted an imminent collapse of the system. In Berlin, Metternich also heard lectures by Johann Gottlieb Fichte and August Wilhelm Schlegel , which impressed him.

Ambassador to Paris

After the Peace of Pressburg in 1805, Metternich again had several options. Both Tsar Alexander I of Russia and Emperor Napoleon wanted to bring him to their court as Austrian ambassador . Metternich chose France because he considered this post to be more important. He later wrote: "Napoleon appeared to me as the revolution incarnate, while in the power that I had to represent with him I saw the most secure guardian of the foundations which alone guarantee general calm and political balance."

Caroline Bonaparte with her daughter Laetitia (painting by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun from 1807)

The official assumption of office was delayed for various reasons. When Metternich arrived in Paris in 1806, Franz II had laid down the crown of the Holy Roman Empire and Napoleon had founded the Confederation of the Rhine . Because Metternich recognized that Napoleon was overwhelming after the Peace of Pressburg, he saw it as his task to relax relations between Austria and France. He was helped by the fact that the emperor turned against Prussia and Russia. In order not to endanger Austria too, he pleaded for a policy of adjustment and waiting.

As in Dresden and Berlin, Metternich, called “le beau Clement” in Paris, also shone as a grand seigneur on the social floor. Some authors such as Karl Otmar von Aretin describe him in an unfriendly manner as a “rampant bon vivant”. With Caroline , Napoleon's sister and wife of Joachim Murat , he had an affair that lasted for years. At this time he also had amorous relationships with Andoche Junot's wife and with numerous other women. He also used this as an opportunity to obtain information that was difficult to access.

Acting outwardly as a bon vivant, he began to develop into a serious politician with a conservative character during his time in Paris. He not only established close relationships with important French politicians such as Joseph Fouché and Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord , who would be of use to him in the future, but also learned about the political importance of the press. He wrote in a letter: "Public opinion, like religion, is the most powerful instrument of power that penetrates even the most hidden corners where government directives lose all influence."

He also got to know the character of Napoleon during this time. However, he misjudged the political situation, influenced by his relations with opposition circles of the old nobility, in important aspects. The importance of the Spanish uprising for the system was overestimated by Metternich. He spoke out in favor of Austria's military actions against France, since Napoleon was bound in the Spanish war, the population was tired of war and Napoleon himself was isolated in his own family. In doing so, he gave the war party around Johann Philipp von Stadion arguments for a declaration of war and, in the background, played a key role in the outbreak of the war of 1809 . When the war broke out, Metternich returned to Vienna. During this time he seemed to have at times approached newer national ideas and pleaded for a people's war against Napoleon similar to that in Spain. When the defeat began to emerge, Metternich quickly spoke out in favor of ending the war.

Head of Foreign Policy in Vienna

Franz I with the insignia of the Austrian Empire ( painted by Friedrich Amerling in 1832 )

After the defeat of Austria , Metternich took over the Foreign Ministry and the management of the State Chancellery on October 8, 1809, and has since headed the foreign policy of the Austrian Empire. Franz I now trusted Metternich completely because he was convinced that his political skill had prevented Napoleon from breaking up the Austrian Empire in 1809. For tactical reasons, Metternich again advocated rapprochement with France. Before the peace treaty was signed, he wrote:

“Whatever the terms of peace, the result will always be that we can only seek our security in our clinging to the triumphant French system. [...] So from the day of peace onwards we have to limit our system to meandering, evading, and flattering. So alone we may live our existence until the day of universal redemption. So we have only one way out: to pick up our strength for better times, to work on our preservation through gentler means - without looking back at our previous course. "

Metternich acted in this spirit when Napoleon showed interest in marrying an Austrian imperial daughter . Supported by his wife, who had stayed behind in Paris, Metternich was one of the main participants in the initiation of Marie-Louise's marriage to Napoleon. It was he who broke the princess's resistance to such an association. However, this ultimately did not lead to the desired relief, for example with regard to the Austrian war debts.

Although Metternich met with rejection and opposition both in public and in court after his return to Vienna, he was able to assert himself as a minister. As his memoranda from the period between 1810 and 1812 show, his policy was based on the conviction that Napoleon's rule was a temporary phenomenon that would ultimately fail because of its own contradictions. Austrian politics must adopt a wait-and-see attitude, as the time of this collapse cannot be predicted. For the time being, Metternich's aim was to preserve as much political leeway as possible in relation to Napoleon. A diplomatic success was the alliance treaty of March 14, 1812. While Friedrich Wilhelm III. From Prussia had to enter into an unequal treaty that gagged his country and his position, Metternich reached an alliance treaty with France in which Franz I could appear as a partner on an equal footing with Napoleon. Austria did not have to join the Confederation of the Rhine, nor was it included directly in the Napoleonic state system. At the same time, Austria was safe from possible attacks by Napoleon during this time, and Metternich was able to keep all further options open.

Domestically, Metternich pleaded in 1811 for a federal structure of the Habsburg monarchy . With this he encountered resistance from Franz I and gave up these plans. During this time, Metternich's reservations about all popular movements, which he saw as a threat to the continued existence of the multi-ethnic Austrian state , increased. Based on Gentz, he has since represented the idea of ​​European equilibrium as the highest maxim of the state of affairs.

At the beginning of the Russian War , Metternich was still convinced that Russia would lose the conflict. In any case, the war, he said, would weaken both sides, which could only strengthen Austria's position. Metternich could not completely avoid Austria's participation in Napoleon's war; but he succeeded in securing freedom of operation for the Austrian contingent as an independent association, so that these troops under Karl Philipp zu Schwarzenberg could agree on a separate, unlimited armistice with the Russians on January 30, 1813 .

Rise to the leading statesman in Europe

After Napoleon's defeat in Russia, Metternich held a key political position in the spring of 1813. Prussia and Russia had entered into an alliance in the Treaty of Kalisch , but a decision to continue the war had not yet been made. The decision depended on how Austria positioned itself. Since Metternich still wanted to prevent Russian superiority, he delayed the decision for or against the coalition for a long time. Various reasons played a role here. First he wanted to complete the Austrian armaments, he also wanted to keep the war out of Austrian countries and was also reluctant to break the formal alliance treaty with France. Metternich had a popular uprising planned in Vienna with the participation of the highest circles in the Alpine countries from Tyrol to Switzerland suppressed and the initiators arrested because this disrupted his cabinet policy.

Another reason for Metternich's hesitant attitude was that he wanted to determine the character of the war. According to his ideas, Austria should not just become part of the coalition , but the regulatory power that determines it. A people's war with the character of a national uprising contradicted Metternich's intentions. In order to limit the enthusiasm during the Wars of Liberation , Metternich endeavored to turn the campaign into a dynastic war. Its aim was to restore the European balance and the legitimate order. In terms of power politics, Metternich was also concerned with preventing a possible hegemony in Russia. Therefore he wanted to strengthen Prussia so that it would not become dependent on its eastern neighbor, and for this reason France also had to remain as a major European power . In addition, it was necessary to prevent Germany and Italy from becoming nation states, because this would have endangered the stability of the Austrian multi-ethnic state.

During the war of 1813, Metternich prevailed with his reorganization plans against Karl Freiherr vom Stein (painting by Johann Christoph Rincklage).

Without initially changing sides externally, Metternich gradually dissolved the Austrian Empire from its alliance with France and went over to the anti-Napoleonic coalition via the intermediate stages of neutrality and diplomatic mediating role. On June 4, 1813, he brokered the Pläswitz armistice . He managed to get the coalition to accept his war aims. In the Treaty of Reichenbach of June 17, 1813, he agreed to join the coalition if Napoleon did not agree to the peace conditions worked out by Metternich. An attempt on June 26, 1813 in Dresden to persuade Napoleon to make concessions in Poland , Prussia , Northern Germany and Illyria in a conversation with Napoleon , failed. In the nine-hour conversation, Metternich tried to mediate between the alliances, proposed a retreat by France to the borders of 1792 and the dissolution of the Rhine Confederation, referred to the enormous danger of war and, in particular, to the threatened further victims of the wars, which by then had already thousands had cost their lives. Napoleon did not respond to the suggestions (“A man like me doesn't care much about the lives of a million people”). Austria therefore entered the war on August 11, 1813, and in the Teplitz Alliance of September 9, in line with Metternich's goals, the aim of the war was to restore the European balance. On this occasion, the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. on September 13, 1813 the Order of the Black Eagle . Metternich had succeeded in making Austria the center of the coalition and himself the decisive politician.

His position was so strong that he was able to extend the Pläswitz armistice of July 10th without authorization. Metternich also arranged the ultimately unsuccessful peace conference in Prague . After the expiry of a final ultimatum, the war continued with the support of Austria. Through his tactics he succeeded in promoting the Austrian general Karl Philipp zu Schwarzenberg to the position of commander-in-chief of the coalition troops. Immediately after the Battle of Leipzig , Emperor Franz I raised Count Metternich to the rank of prince in Rötha Castle .

As a result, his diplomacy in the background was instrumental in ensuring that the Confederation of the Rhine fell away from Napoleon. The Treaty of Ried of October 8, 1813 between the Empire of Austria and the Kingdom of Bavaria was of central importance for the political structure of Germany in the 19th century . Austria guaranteed the existence and sovereignty of Bavaria in order to join the Allies. With this, the Austrian emperor recognized the states in southern Germany created by Napoleon . The Ried Treaty was therefore an important prerequisite for the creation of the German Confederation . At the same time Metternich wanted to bind Bavaria more closely to Austria through this contract. Similar treaties followed with other Rhine Confederation states . In this way Metternich prevented the demolition of the Confederation of the Rhine, which was demanded by Baron von Stein . Stein's central administration could not become the basis of a new German statehood.

After Napoleon was ousted from Germany, there was a dispute about how the coalition should proceed. In the interests of political equilibrium, Metternich pleaded not to cross the Rhine . The “falcons” around Stein and the majority of the Prussian military, but also national journalists, such as Ernst Moritz Arndt , demanded the march on Paris. Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher judged: "The Metternich, the millionaire dog, the villain who deserves to be hanged, has you all on a leash and lead rope, serious difficulty!" After Metternich's renewed attempt to get Napoleon to give in had failed the coalition troops down the Rhine. There were still conflicts among the allies over the military approach, but also over the future order in France. While Metternich initially advocated keeping Napoleon in office, Czar Alexander I proposed that the Swedish Crown Prince Bernadotte be appointed as French ruler. Finally they agreed on the Bourbon restoration under Louis XVIII . At times the coalition threatened to break up; Metternich and the British Foreign Minister Castlereagh only managed to bridge the tensions with difficulty . The Allies marched into Paris at the end of March 1814, but the first Paris Peace on May 30, 1814 was - as Metternich wished - mild for France and did not damage France's position as a major European power.

Congress of Vienna

Delegates of the Congress of Vienna in a contemporary copper engraving (colored) by Jean Godefroy after the painting by Jean-Baptiste Isabey

Metternich was the dominant person at the Vienna Congress on the reorganization of Europe . In terms of power politics, the balance of power was of central importance to him. Together with the British Foreign Minister Castlereagh, he opposed a decisive weakening of France, since he saw this country as a counterweight to Russia. In fact, Talleyrand was accepted as representative of France and the Marqués de Labrador as representative of Spain in November 1814, alongside the envoys from Austria, Russia, Prussia and Great Britain in the decisive committee. France was no longer an enemy, but a partner in the new order.

Ultimately, Austria should become the decisive power on the continent. Metternich's goal was the formation of a German and an Italian confederation, within the framework of which Austria was to become the leading power. He soon gave up his initial plan to install a hereditary empire in Germany, as this would have increased the Austro-Prussian tensions . He massively cut a draft constitution for Germany drawn up by Karl Freiherr vom Stein and Wilhelm von Humboldt because he believed that the planned alliance should initially only be implemented as a loose framework that could later be expanded. In order to accelerate the debate about the future of Germany, Metternich convened a German committee made up of representatives from the larger German states. The agreement already seemed within reach when Metternich initially suspended the deliberations on November 18, 1814.

The reason was profound conflicts between the great powers. In order to secure Austria's position, especially vis-à-vis Russia and its allied Prussia, Metternich opposed the Russian desire for rule over Poland and the Prussian goal of taking over Saxony . On October 24, 1814, this led to a violent argument with Alexander I. As a result, the alliance threatened to break up. This led to a secret alliance between Austria, France and Great Britain. British Foreign Secretary Castlereagh played an important role in overcoming the crisis. Eventually the congress agreed on a compromise which provided for the creation of congress Poland , the partition of Saxony and the relocation of Prussia to the west.

The news of Napoleon's return gave Metternich more leeway to implement his ideas of order, which were in the interests of Austria. Although Austria renounced the former Dutch possessions, Metternich prevailed with regard to the reorganization in Germany, albeit renouncing a hereditary empire. With the preservation of the southern German states of the Rhine Confederation, the German Confederation was formed , in which Austria played the decisive role as the presidential power. The realization of other ideas - such as a reconstruction of the old empire or the creation of a German national state - was not least prevented by Metternich. The German Federal Act also fully complied with Metternich's wish to only lay down a rough framework that could later be further specified in negotiations.

However, Metternich failed with his attempt to create an Italian confederation. With the creation of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia , which was linked to the Austrian emperor in personal union, and the award of further Italian states to members of the imperial family, however, Austrian supremacy in Italy was initially secured.

After the final defeat of Napoleon and the Second Peace of Paris on November 20, 1815, the common policy of Metternich and Castlereagh led to the four great allied powers Russia, Prussia, Austria and Great Britain renewing their alliance ( quadruple alliance ). It was planned to hold regular conferences in the future in order to resolve any conflicts through negotiation.

Although the results of the congress did not mean a restoration of the pre-revolutionary state of affairs, Metternich had nevertheless succeeded in pushing back the national and liberal ideas in favor of the monarchical principle. With that he became the main political designer of the restoration period .

After the Congress of Vienna in 1816, Prince von Metternich received the domain of Schloss Johannisberg from the hands of Emperor Franz I as a gift. He often spent several weeks there in the summer. In 1818 Metternich also received the title of Duke of Portella, succeeding his father .

Prince Metternich (around 1835/40, portrait of an unknown master; Museum of Military History , Vienna)

Württemberg nobleman

Since the death of his father in 1818, Metternich was the mediatized Prince of Ochsenhausen and as such was a member of the Württemberg state assemblies in 1819, which ended with the adoption of the constitution of the Kingdom of Württemberg . Metternich did not come to the meetings in Stuttgart in person, but was represented by Count Klemens von Salm-Reifferscheid-Krautheim. From 1820 to 1825 Metternich was a member of the First Chamber of the Württemberg estates , but always stayed away from the local parliaments. In 1825 Metternich sold the estates of the Ochsenhausen class for 1.2 million guilders to the Württemberg state, thereby leaving the Chamber in Stuttgart for himself and his descendants.

Metternich's system

Domestic Policy and the German Confederation

As in 1811, Metternich had less success with the internal organization of Austria and the newly acquired territories than with foreign policy. He pleaded for a connection to class structures and historical landscapes as they had existed before the era of absolutism. With this, as well as with the introduction of a government divided into departments, it failed due to the strict resistance of Franz I. Exceptions were only made in areas that had previously belonged to the Rhine Confederation or had been under Napoleonic rule. In Galicia , Lodomeria and Tyrol , the old state constitutions were restored. In Lombardy-Veneto a system of indirectly elected “congregations” was created. In all other parts of the empire there was no class representation.

This contradicted the provision of the federal act, which provided for the introduction of country-class constitutions. In the years 1817/18 Metternich promoted the introduction of the old state constitutions as a replacement for the modern central parliaments in the German Confederation, with reference to Tyrol and Galicia. He was effectively supported by the writing of his confidante Gentz ​​“On the difference between the rural and representative constitutions.” On the constitutional question, there were agreements with the Prussian state chancellor Karl August von Hardenberg . The pressure exerted by the two major German powers was, however, perceived by the medium-sized states as an attack on their sovereignty. The result was that some states - starting with Bavaria and followed by Baden - adopted a constitution based on the French Charte constitutionnelle of 1814. It was only at the Troppauer Congress at the end of 1820 that Metternich succeeded in stopping this trend. The Prussian provincial parliaments established in 1825 , however, corresponded to his ideas.

The murder of August von Kotzebue was a welcome occasion for Metternich to fight the opposition.

The fight against all attempts to change the existing political and social order became the central concern of the so-called Metternich system . The supposed and actual opposition was fought with state police means such as censorship and informers . This was not limited to Austria, but Metternich endeavored to extend the restoration suppression to the entire area of ​​the German Confederation. The murder of the playwright August von Kotzebue by the fraternity member Karl Ludwig Sand was a welcome opportunity for Metternich to take action against the national and liberal movement. Metternich wrote to his confidante Gentz ​​on April 23, 1819 about the measures taken against the fraternity: “I have been able to use truly liberal words to set barriers to ultra- liberalism and it is my luck […] that I open the building on Weimarschem basic [meaning a request of the Duke of Weimar] can embellish and on examples of how the excellent sand delivered to me at the expense of the poor Kotzebue. "Especially in Metternich's operation were 1,819 Carlsbad resolutions adopted and the Demagogenverfolgung initiated. The activities of the fraternities were banned, the freedom of the press and universities were massively restricted and the constitutional discussion was ended for the time being. The establishment of the Mainz- based Central Investigation Commission as a means of fighting the opposition was not least due to Metternich .

In 1820 Metternich was the dominant figure at the Vienna Ministerial Conference, at which the Vienna Final Act was adopted as a supplement to the Federal Act. This document essentially corresponded to Metternich's intentions. To the astonishment of the southern German states, their constitutions were recognized therein. The Bundestag's room for maneuver , which has since been more closely bound by instructions, was restricted . In terms of Metternich's stability policy, it was important to lay down the monarchical principle.

External relationships

Contemporary caricature of the Congress of Verona (1822)

In 1815 Metternich took up Alexander I's idea of ​​a holy alliance . The Tsar's draft was still about a vague “fraternization of the peoples”. The Austrian Chancellor reformed this text so that the alliance could be used effectively to promote the “solidarity of the monarchs” in terms of power politics. The members pledged to uphold legitimacy and the monarchical principle on the basis of Christianity. The Holy Alliance became the basis of Metternich's foreign policy and his congress diplomacy. At the height of its influence, the "Metternich system" determined politics in almost all of Europe. Only England and the Papal States stayed away from the Holy Alliance.

Metternich put his ideas through particularly at the conferences in Aachen (1818), Troppau (1820), Laibach (1821) and Verona (1822).

At the Troppau conference, Metternich succeeded in dissuading the tsar from supporting constitutional constitutions. He was convinced by Metternich that the revolutionary movement that had started out from the Spanish Revolution and had reached the Italian peninsula must be resolutely opposed. At the Verona conference, Metternich succeeded in ensuring that, from 1823 , French troops could suppress the revolution in Spain with international approval. The beginning of the Risorgimento in Italy was suppressed by the Austrian military . Against the national movement in Austrian Italy, too, Metternich let go of the toughest. The state prison in the fortress Spielberg near Brno became a symbol of this policy of oppression.

Metternich was at the height of his influence in the early 1820s. On May 25, 1821 he was granted the dignity of house, court and state chancellor.

Erosion of Metternich's foreign policy system

The erosion of Metternich's system of foreign policy began in Troppau. Great Britain no longer supported the resolutions there. After the Castlereagh suicide , England began to break away from the alliance system. After Verona the Austro-British alliance broke up. Great Britain under George Canning committed itself to the right of peoples to self-determination with a view to the South American independence movement . This deprived Metternich of an important basis for the implementation of his policy since 1815. In the question of the Orient, which came on the international agenda with the Greek independence movement from 1821, Metternich saw himself increasingly pushed into a defensive and passive role. When Tsar Alexander I died in 1825 and Prussia also increasingly opposed Metternich, he seemed to have already lost his dominant European influence.

A new situation arose when the July Revolution in France in 1830 and, with the support of England, the Belgian Revolution . Since Metternich himself could not influence the changes in France, he recognized Louis Philippe relatively quickly as the new French king. In the state reorganization that became necessary in the wake of the Belgian Revolution, it was Palmerston and not Metternich who played the central role.

At the international level, the conservative powers Prussia, Austria and Russia again converged, although now, contrary to Metternich's intentions, Russia assumed the leading role. Although the alliance of Münchengrätz was able to achieve a balance of power politics between Austria, Prussia and Russia in 1833, it was already foreseeable that at the latest with the accession of Tsar Nicholas I to the throne, the leading role among these three conservative states would lie with Russia. This alliance came into effect for the last time in 1846 when the Cracow uprising was put down . In the meantime, England and France united to form the first Entente cordiale , which was directed in particular against Metternich's policy of intervention.


German Confederation

The national and liberal movement that Metternich opposed was increasingly expressed in the form of revolutionary activities in the German Confederation and in Italy. In Italy, Austrian troops put down all revolts in 1830. There were open constitutional conflicts in the German Confederation, for example in the Kingdom of Hanover and in Kurhessen . After the Hambach Festival, especially at Metternich's insistence, this led to renewed intensification of political repression in Germany. At the federal level, this happened through the Frankfurt resolutions of 1832 and the Vienna Conferences of 1834. A central investigation authority was set up in Frankfurt and a central information office with a network of informers was set up in Mainz . Metternich himself had the reports submitted to him on a regular basis.

For Metternich, the German Confederation was now almost exclusively an instrument of political repression. Other tasks, such as the creation of a uniform economic area as set out in Article 19 of the Federal Act , were neglected. Metternich fought against Friedrich List's demand for a customs union, as he recognized it as a programmatic concern of the national movement. As a result, Austria did not participate in the regional mergers or in the German customs union , so that a preliminary decision in favor of the small German solution is already emerging.


In Austrian domestic politics, especially since 1826, Metternich had to share power with the director of state and conference minister Franz Anton von Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky . This had a considerable influence on the emperor. Metternich's idea of ​​a state reform through the establishment of a state ministry divided into clearly delimited departments and the ministers' own responsibilities failed because of Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky, who was as absolutist as the emperor on government issues. In addition, Metternich's political goals differed considerably from those of Kolowrat. For the latter, the restructuring of public finances was right at the top of the political agenda. He was quite successful at this and was even able to present a balanced budget once. However, his policy of budget consolidation also threatened spending on the military. This brought him into conflict with Metternich, who for foreign policy reasons did not believe he could do without a strong army.

Metternich encouraged Emperor Franz I to appoint Archduke Ferdinand as heir to the throne, even though he was considered incompetent and weak-minded. In his will, Franz I emphasized the important role Archduke Ludwig played in state affairs, but referred the heir to the throne to Metternich. “ Transfer to Prince Metternich, my most loyal servant and friend, the trust that I have given him over such a long number of years. Do not make any decisions about public matters or people without hearing them. "

In addition to the principle of legitimacy, power-political aspects also played a role for Metternich in the implementation of Ferdinand. He wanted to use the opportunity of a ruler who was weak in decision-making and easily influenced, in order to gain decisive influence on domestic politics based on the imperial testament and to implement the reforms he deemed necessary.

When Franz died in 1835, Metternich tried to achieve this goal. A secret state conference had ruled Austria since 1836 to represent the new emperor Ferdinand . The old emperor had appointed Archduke Ludwig of Austria-Tuscany to its head, not Metternich. Metternich and Kolowrat belonged to Archduke Franz Karl of Austria as further members of the body that was soon ridiculed as the "Greisenregiment".

The core of Metternich's reform plan once again included the restructuring of the state leadership. The state conference should work as an executive cabinet. The archdukes should belong to it under his own chairmanship. In addition, a Reichsrat consisting of ministers and high ministerial officials was also to be chaired by him. Had this been implemented, his competitor Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky would also have been subordinate to him. However, he immediately recognized the threat to his position and secured the support of Archduke Johann . He also portrayed Metternich in public as reactionary and stylized himself as a liberal-minded personality. To do this, he used, among other things, Metternich's plan to re-admit the Jesuits . Metternich believed that in this way he could strengthen the alliance with the Catholic Church, which is seen as important for the preservation of the state. Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky succeeded in bringing about a majority against Metternich among the archdukes and thus preventing the state reform. The structure of the state conference remained, in which Metternich could not prevail against Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky in case of doubt. Metternich's willingness to join the Zollverein in order to prevent Austria from being forced out of Germany was met with resistance . The same happened when Metternich tried to initiate a reform of the Hungarian constitution in the 1840s.

A decisive disadvantage for Metternich was that in the past decades he had made opponents of many archdukes and other important personalities in the imperial family, such as the empress widow Karoline Auguste . You and other actors were easily influenced by Metternich's domestic rivals. He only had a good relationship with Archduke Joseph , the Palatine of Hungary . As a result, his influence was largely limited to foreign policy.


Metternich's flight (contemporary caricature, March 1848)
St. Wenceslas cemetery church in Plasy , Metternich's grave

Although Metternich sometimes opposed certain repression measures taken by Police President Sedlnitzky , he was seen by the public as the embodiment of anti-liberal and anti-national forces. On the other hand, Kolowrat, who was much more responsible for the political repression in Austria during the pre-March period , was viewed by public opinion as downright liberal as a result of his skilful political stylization.

In the Swiss Sonderbund War of 1847, Metternich advocated the suppression of the Protestant-liberal cantons. The victory of the liberal forces meant a heavy defeat for Metternich.

In the course of the liberal March Revolution in Austria and most other states of the German Confederation ( German Revolution 1848/1849 ) and against the background of the upheavals in other European monarchies , the revolutionary movement in Vienna succeeded in making Metternich resign on March 13, 1848 Forcing leaving the country. He fled to London , but returned to Vienna in 1851. Until his death he advised the Austrian government under Emperor Franz Joseph I , who ascended the throne in December 1848. After the turning point of 1848, the era of Franz Joseph followed immediately after the Metternich era, who ruled until 1916.

Prince Metternich's final resting place is in Bohemia on his estate, the former Plass monastery .

Private life

Relationship with Metternich since around 1818: Princess Dorothea von Lieven

Marriages and offspring

Prince Metternich was married three times:

  • (1795) Countess Maria Eleonore von Kaunitz-Rietberg (1775–1825), with whom he had seven children:
    • Princess Maria Leopoldina von Metternich-Winneburg (1797–1820) ∞ Count József Esterházy de Galántha
    • Count Franz Karl Johann Georg von Metternich-Winneburg (1798–1799)
    • Count Clemens Eduard von Metternich-Winneburg (* / † 1799)
    • Hereditary Prince Viktor von Metternich-Winneburg (1803–1829)
    • Princess Clementine Marie Octavie von Metternich-Winneburg (1804-1820)
    • Princess Leontine Adelheid Maria Pauline von Metternich-Winneburg (1811–1861) ∞ Count Móric Sándor de Szlavnicza
    • Princess Hermine Gabriele Marie Eleonore Leopoldine von Metternich-Winneburg (1815–1890)

The relationship with Maria Eleonore was definitely characterized by love, as the correspondence between the two shows, even if Metternich later spoke of a marriage of convenience. The marriage with the granddaughter of the famous state chancellor made it easier for him to enter the imperial diplomatic service and promoted his position at court.

  • (1831) Countess Melanie Zichy-Ferraris (1805–1854), daughter of Field Marshal Count Franz Zichy-Ferraris. They had five children:
    • Princess Melanie von Metternich-Winneburg (1832–1919) ∞ Count Joseph Zichy
    • Prince Clemens von Metternich-Winneburg (* / † 1833)
    • Prince Paul Clemens Lothar von Metternich-Winneburg (1834–1906) ∞ his cousin Countess Melanie Zichy-Ferraris (1843–1925)
    • Princess Maria von Metternich-Winneburg (* / † 1836)
    • Prince Lothar von Metternich-Winneburg (1837–1904) ∞ (April 21, 1868) Karoline Anna Rosalia Johanna Reitter ∞ Countess Karoline Franziska Mittrowsky von Mittrowitz

Extramarital affairs

In his private life, Metternich was still completely shaped by the 18th century with his conventional understanding of marriage and aristocratic libertinage, and throughout his life he had numerous affairs with women in society, from which some illegitimate children also emerged. In the course of the spread of the bourgeois family ideal and the general "desensitization" in the first half of the 19th century, this way of life often met with disapproval from its bourgeois critics and formed a welcome occasion for condemnation of Metternich as a reactionary and immoral, the moral new beginning of a new one Time reluctant figure.

Metternich had relationships with the Duchess Wilhelmine von Sagan , with the Princess Dorothea von Lieven and with the Princess Katharina Bagration . With the latter he had an illegitimate daughter, Princess Marie Klementine Bagration (1810-1829; legitimized by the mother's husband). Another illegitimate son from a liaison with Elisabeth Hafenbredel (1788–1862) was the Austrian diplomat Alexander von Hübner .

Historiography and assessment

Metternich in old age (from Hugo Bürkner ). The engraving is based on the last photograph by Metternich, which was in the possession of the Metternich family.

Historiography's judgment of Metternich was determined by the political standpoints of the respective historians from the 19th to well into the 20th century. A central problem in assessing Metternich is that his political goals were already obsolete during his lifetime, at the latest by the middle of the 19th century.

The liberals of the 19th century viewed Metternich as a shallow courtier, smooth diplomat and enemy of the national movement, as a prince servant and oppressor of the people. Heinrich von Treitschke Metternich , who had a little German attitude, was particularly harsh . Heinrich Heine, on the other hand, gave the politician high credit for never lapsing into nationalistic and anti-Jewish pathos and for campaigning for Jewish emancipation in 1814/15 . Heine himself was affected by Metternich's repressive measures and therefore had to go into exile . But he wrote Metternich had "never played the demagogue in fear of his heart, he never Arndt sang songs ... he has never been on the Hasenheide gymnastics , he never pietistic gefrömmelt." With all the differences will Metternich in those judgments recognizable as a sober realpolitician who was uncomfortable with idealistic exaggeration: “Just no pathos” he once wrote under his picture.

Metternich research only gradually broke away from overly ideological approaches. The two-volume biography of Heinrich von Srbik from 1925 is still indispensable. He described Metternich's policy as a "system", although he himself had expressly rejected such a designation. Srbik saw Metternich as a conservative from pre-revolutionary times, who aimed to defend the monarchical-class against the revolutionary-egalitarian principle. Even if he propagated the “pure monarchy” and rejected the constitutional system, after Srbik he was also an enemy of arbitrary monarchy. For Metternich, the legitimate rule of the monarch was tied to the law.

Despite all the relativization of earlier ideologically tinged judgments, more recent research also comes to an ambivalent, generally rather critical picture of Metternich.

Golo Mann described Metternich as an “old school man. Beautiful, vain, educated and clever; happy and lustful for his person, but pessimistic as a statesman and only concerned with defending the status quo. "Metternich was" the enemy of every movement, of every possible, noticeable progress. (...) The Austrian imperial state could not exist if they triumphed [popular sovereignty, nation state and constitutional monarchy]. ”But Mann also emphasized the merits of Metternich. He then foresaw the destructive effects of nationalism and had a sense of shared European responsibility. A reasonable peace was owed to him in 1814. “Tolerant and friendly, even if unkind by nature, he became cruel for reasons of state.” With his “fearful defensive” Metternich “made some things tragic at first, which, if left its natural course, would not be so terrible in the end Golo Mann concludes that with Metternich, ultimately, the debit is greater than the credit.

Manfred Botzenhart thinks that if Metternich also rejected the concept of system, he spoke of "political principles" which for him had the same claim to validity as the laws of nature. It was precisely these principles that were not observed in the period after 1789. The basis of restorative politics was the attempt to reconsider these principles, not simply to restore the old conditions. If you follow Botzenhart, Metternich's aim was to establish and maintain peace, law and order as well as stability and security in Europe. In contrast, the idea of ​​freedom played no role for Metternich. The longer, the more the struggle against the revolution became the dominant motive for Metternich. "Metternich's system" was a system of the defensive against the advancing social and political forces. But he was not an ideologist, and as a political pragmatist he tried to adapt to the circumstances without giving up his principles. Botzenhart: “However, he was incapable of constructive, creative action. He once described it as the task of statesmanlike politics to channel currents that cannot be stopped into the bed of calm and beneficial evolution - but that is precisely what he was unable to do. "

Karl Otmar von Aretin assigns Metternich great services for securing peace. Aretin, however, is extremely critical of his role in Austria's internal development. The economic and constitutional reforms that were not carried out in Austria during Metternich's time were a failure that could not be made up for later. Even if the emperor in particular has resisted this, Metternich shares responsibility insofar as he recognized the necessity of changes, but in case of doubt took the path of least resistance. In some cases, as in the case of the establishment of a comprehensive political monitoring system by Kolowrat and Sedlnitzky, Metternich did nothing about it and instead even presented the procedure as a separate achievement. "Predominantly diplomatically gifted, he lacked the determination and the courage to take on the role of the great Austrian statesman, the necessity of which nobody recognized as clearly as he himself." a typical representative of cabinet politics who believed that he could master the dangers of democratic and national ideas through administrative measures. Metternich's dominant figure has covered the overall weak basis for Austria's international reputation for more than two decades. “He finally failed because of this discrepancy. His influence on Germany turned out to be disastrous as it lost contact with the liberal-minded West during the years of his term in office. "

"Last photograph of Metternich" 
Metternichia principis , illustration

Trivia and miscellaneous

Metternich was very interested in the invention of photography . When the new technique of the daguerreotype was presented in Paris at the beginning of 1839 , the then Austrian State Chancellor instructed his Paris ambassador a few days after the news became known to gather all available information about it. In July 1839 Louis Daguerre sent two photographs to Vienna, on which he had handwritten a dedication to Metternich. These daguerreotypes from Metternich's possession, which show still life motifs, are now kept in the Vienna Art Museum Albertina and in the National Museum of Technology in Prague.

The sparkling wine brand Fürst von Metternich from the Söhnlein Rheingold Sektkellerei is named after him. The Riesling grapes used grow in the vineyards of Johannisberg Castle in the Rheingau . The castle and wineries were given to Metternich in 1816 by the Austrian Emperor Franz I as thanks for his services. The well-known Metternich portrait of Thomas Lawrence is shown on the bottle label .

In 1871 the Metternichgasse in Vienna-Landstrasse (3rd district) was named after him. A plant from the nightshade family (Solanaceae) is also named after Prince Metternich: Metternichia principis J.C. Mikan . It occurs in Brazil. After his third wife, Melanie Fürstin von Metternich (Molly Zichy-Ferraris), the plant genus Zichya Hügel with the species Zichya molly from the sunflower family (Asteraceae) is named.

The future US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger dealt in his first book A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812-1822 in detail with Metternich's foreign policy. Kissinger is often said to have raised Metternich to his own role model in his ideas of “ realpolitik ” and “ political realism ”, which Kissinger himself denies.



Literature on the epoch

  • Alexandra Bleyer : The Metternich system. The reorganization of Europe after Napoleon. WBG, Darmstadt 2014, ISBN 978-3-86312-081-8 .
  • Karl Kraus: Political balance and the idea of ​​Europe at Metternich. Haag + Herchen, Frankfurt am Main 1993, ISBN 3-86137-017-4 .
  • Golo Mann : German history of the 19th and 20th centuries. especially third chapter Metternich Germany. Hamburg 1966.
  • Thomas Nipperdey : German History 1800–1866. Citizen world and strong state . CH Beck, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-406-44038-X .
  • Karel Schelle, Jaromír diving, Renata Veselá, Miroslav Šedivý: State and law in the time of Metternich. Dr. Hut Verlag, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-86853-376-7 .

Web links

Commons : Klemens Wenzel Lothar von Metternich  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. de Bertier de Sauvigny, Metternich, p. 13.
  2. a b Oestreich, Metternich, p. 503.
  3. ^ Oestreich, Metternich, p. 503f.
  4. a b c d Aretin, Metternich, p. 236.
  5. Order Pour le Mérite for Science and the Arts. The members of the order. First volume 1842–1881; Gebr. Mann-Verlag, Berlin, 1975
  6. ^ Oestreich, Metternich, p. 504.
  7. Quoting from Hartau: Metternich ; P. 33f.
  8. a b Aretin: Metternich ; P. 237.
  9. Quoted from Hartau, p. 40.
  10. ^ Oestreich: Metternich ; P. 506.
  11. Quoted from Hartau, p. 46.
  12. ^ Wolfram Siemann: Metternich. Statesman between restoration and modernity. Munich 2010, p. 46ff.
  13. Nipperdey, Bürgerwelt und starker Staat, pp. 84–87.
  14. Castle to Rötha in Rötha-Info.net ( memento of the original from February 26, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (accessed on March 6, 2011) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.roetha-info.net
  15. ^ Nipperdey, Bürgerwelt und starker Staat, pp. 87f.
  16. cit. after Hartau, p. 76.
  17. ^ Nipperdey, Bürgerwelt und starker Staat, pp. 88f.
  18. ^ Aretin, Metternich, p. 238.
  19. ^ Nipperdey, Bürgerwelt und starker Staat, pp. 272 ​​f.
  20. ^ Aretin, Metternich, p. 239.
  21. Metternich to Gentz, Rome, April 23, 1819, quoted from: Werner Pöls (Ed.): Historisches Lesebuch I. 1815–1871 . Frankfurt (Main) 1966, p. 76.
  22. Aretin, Metternich, p. 239 f.
  23. ^ Wolfram Siemann: Metternich. Statesman between restoration and modernity. Munich 2010, p. 97.
  24. cit. after Wolfram Siemann: Metternich. Statesman between restoration and modernity. Munich 2010, p. 96.
  25. ^ Aretin, Metternich, p. 241.
  26. ^ Wolfram Siemann: Metternich. Statesman between restoration and modernity. Munich 2010, pp. 97–99.
  27. ^ Wolfram Siemann: Metternich. Statesman between restoration and modernity. Munich 2010, p. 100 f.
  28. http://www.almanachdegotha.org/id86.html House of Metternich-Winneburg - Almanach de Saxe Gotha
  29. ^ Ingrid Haslinger: Archduchess Sophie. A biography based on the personal notes of Emperor Franz Joseph's mother. Residenz Verlag , Salzburg / Vienna 2016, p.? u. Note 47.
  30. Little Chronicle. (...) Prince Lothar Metternich-Winneburg †. In:  Wiener Zeitung , supplement Wiener Abendpost , No. 226/1904, October 3, 1904, p. 5, bottom left. (Online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / Maintenance / wrz.
  31. Nippderdey: Citizens' World and Strong State ; P. 128.
  32. a b Legend for a print based on this photograph in Heinrich von Srbik : Metternich , in: Walther Gehl, Georg Wolff (ed.): Hirts Deutsche Sammlung. Expert department. History and Citizenship. Gruppe V, Volume 1, Berlin 1931, pp. 36–45 (print on page 43, view in the digitized collections of the Berlin State Library ).
  33. ^ Wolfgang Hartwig: Vormärz. The monarchical state and the bourgeoisie. Munich, 1985, p. 32.
  34. ^ Golo Mann: German history of the 19th and 20th centuries. Frankfurt am Main 1992, p. 116.
  35. cf. Anselm Doering-Manteuffel: The German Question and the European State System 1815–1871. Munich, 2001, p. 60ff.
  36. ^ Golo Mann: German history of the 19th and 20th centuries. Frankfurt, 1992, p. 115f.
  37. ^ Manfred Botzenhart: Reform, Restoration and Crisis. Germany 1789–1847 . Frankfurt, 1985; Pp. 85-88
  38. ^ Aretin, Metternich, p. 242.
  39. Albertina shows pioneers of the daguerreotype. Report on ORF of September 20, 2006, accessed on March 17, 2017.
  40. ^ Martina Schneibergová: Metternich's daguerreotype and Franz Josef's wagon: National Museum of Technology invites you. Report on Radio Prague on October 7, 2011, accessed on March 17, 2017.
  41. ^ Wolfram Siemann: Metternich. Statesman between restoration and modernity. Munich 2010, p. 20.
  42. a b Lotte Burkhardt: Directory of eponymic plant names - extended edition. Part I and II. Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin , Freie Universität Berlin , Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-946292-26-5 doi: 10.3372 / epolist2018 .
  43. ^ Robert D. Kaplan : Kissinger, Metternich, and Realism , The Atlantic Monthly , June 1999
predecessor Office successor
Joseph Andreas von Buol-Berenberg (Gt) Austrian envoy in Dresden
Joseph Andreas von Buol-Berenberg (Gt)
Franz Binder von Krieglstein (Gt) Austrian envoy in Berlin
Franz Binder von Krieglstein (Gt)
Peter of Floret (Gt) Austrian ambassador in Paris
Karl Philipp zu Schwarzenberg
Johann Philipp von Stadion Austrian Foreign Minister
Karl Ludwig of Ficquelmont
Johann Philipp von Stadion Senior Minister of the Austrian Empire
Franz Anton von Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky