Birthday: May 15, 1773
Nationality: Austrian, German
Died At Age: 86
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Klemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar, Prince von Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein, Klemens Wenzel Lothar von Metternich
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Koblenz, Germany
Famous as: Former Chancellor of Germany
Spouse/Ex-: Antoinette Leykam, Eleonore von Kaunitz, Melanie Ferraris
father: Franz George Karl Count Metternich
mother: Maria Beatrice Aloisia von Kagenegg
children: Marie-Clementine Bagration, Melanie Metternich-Zichy, Richard von Metternich
Died on: June 11, 1859
place of death: Vienna, Austria
education: Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Strasbourg University
awards: Knights of the Order of the Holy Spirit
Knight in the order of Saint-Michel
Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece
Order of the Black Eagle
Order of Merit for Arts and Science
Pour le Mérite
Order of Saint Anna
Order of St. Alexander Nevsky
Order of St. Andrew
Who was Klemens von Metternich?
Klemens von Metternich, or Klemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar Fürst von Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein, was an Austrian diplomat who was the Austrian Empire's foreign minister (1809–1848) and chancellor (1821–1848). He is remembered for his role in the Napoleonic Wars and for hosting the ‘Congress of Vienna’ in 1814–1815. He has been praised by many for creating the victorious alliance against Napoleon I and making Austria a significant European power. He was also criticized for being an enemy of freedom and was viewed as someone who attempted to stop the unification of Germany and Italy. However, he is also remembered as a visionary who helped maintain peace in Europe between 1815 and 1914.
Childhood & Early Life
Klemens Metternich was born on May 15, 1773, into the House of Metternich, a Rhenish noble family, in Coblenz. His father, Franz George Karl Count Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein, was a diplomat who had worked under the Archbishopric of Trier and had then moved on to the imperial court. His mother was Countess Maria Beatrice Aloisia von Kageneck.
He was named after Prince Clemens Wenceslaus of Saxony, the archbishop-elector of Trier, who was his father’s former employer. He was the eldest son of his parents and had an older sister.
In 1788, Metternich joined the ‘University of Strasbourg,’ where he studied law and diplomacy. He came in touch with the Prince Maximilian of Zweibrücken, while he was a student. The French Revolution made him leave Strasbourg in 1790. From 1790 to 1792, he studied law at the ‘University of Mainz.’
He worked with his father during the summers. By then, his father had been made the plenipotentiary and effective ruler of the Austrian Netherlands. After France declared war on Austria, giving rise to the War of the First Coalition (1792–1797), Metternich had to give up his studies in Mainz.
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In 1794, he went on a diplomatic mission to England, where he published a pamphlet declaring the need for building an army of German people. In October that year, he went back to his father, who had by then fled to Vienna, after the French attacked the Netherlands. Metternich immersed himself in medical and scientific studies in Vienna.
He represented the Roman Catholic Westphalian counts toward the end of the ‘Congress of Rastatt’ (1797–1799). The ‘Congress’ ensured compensation for the German princes who had been forced to leave by the French.
In 1801, Metternich was made the Austrian minister to the Saxon court in Dresden. There, he came in touch with German diplomat Friedrich von Gentz. He served as an Austrian minister in Berlin after 1803 but failed to convince Frederick William III of Prussia to support Austria in the war against France in 1805. However, he gained knowledge of the internal conflicts of the Prussian state and calculated its end.
The Napoleonic Wars
In 1806, Metternich was made the Austrian ambassador to France, after Austria lost the Battle of Austerlitz and also had to give away major portions of their territory in the ‘Treaty of Pressburg.’
In France, he came in touch with Emperor Napoleon I’s sister, Caroline Murat, and other Parisian socialites. His relations with these ladies, foreign minister Talleyrand, and the Russian envoy helped him obtain knowledge of the internal matters in France.
He gathered a lot of information about Napoleon. However, in 1809, Austria lost the Battle of Wagram, against France. Following this, his attempts for peace negotiations were rejected by Napoleon.
In October 1809, Metternich was made Austria’s foreign minister. He tried to end Napoleon’s reign. He arranged Napoleon’s marriage to Marie Louise, who was Austrian Emperor Francis I’s daughter.
Metternich tricked Napoleon into thinking that Austria would support France during its 1812 invasion of Russia. In reality, Austria secretly supported Russia. After the French were forced to retreat, Metternich revealed his true intentions.
He allied with the forces against Napoleon. On June 26, 1813, Metternich and Napoleon came face to face for the last time, in Dresden, where Metternich told Napolean that his reign was about to end.
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Thus, Austria allied with Russia, Prussia, and Britain, and together, they overthrew Napoleon in 1814. Following this, Metternich was made a hereditary prince of the Austrian Empire by King Francis I.
The Congress of Vienna & the German Confederation
The allies who won against Napolean congregated at the ‘Congress of Vienna’ (September 1814–June 1815), where Metternich ruled over the proceedings. However, Napoleon managed to escape from Elba and then lost the Battle of Waterloo.
At the ‘Congress,’ Metternich wished to secure Austria’s position by forming two confederations, one Italian and the other German, with Austria as the leading power in them.
He also suggested the formation of a hereditary imperial title in Germany. He wanted Austria and Prussia to work together to protect Germany’s western frontier.
With the help of the then-British foreign secretary, Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, Metternich stopped the complete destruction of France. He thought this was necessary as a precaution against Russia’s growing power.
He was also against the policy of annexation suggested by Russia and Prussia. He did not support Prussia’s wish to annex the whole of Saxony. However, his plans were not completely successful. The German imperial project was not supported by Francis. The Italian confederation was never formed. The German confederation was formed in June 1815 but was not strong.
However, Metternich gained equality of status for France. Prussia lessened its demands on Saxony. Even Russia was prevented from venturing into further annexations.
Thus, Austria became a strong power in the German confederation. However, since the emperor refused the German crown, Prussia had equal powers.
Metternich established a system whereby ‘Congresses’ would meet from time to time to discuss means to suppress revolution. The ‘Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle’ (1818), the ‘Congress of Troppau’ (1820), the ‘Congress of Laibach’ (1821), and the ‘Congress of Verona’ (1822) followed. However, later, Great Britain refused to intervene in the revolts of other countries. Viscount Castlereagh (at Troppau) and his successor, George Canning, thus reduced Metternich’s influence in Europe.
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In 1821, Metternich became the Austrian Court Chancellor and Chancellor of State. He was in charge of the detention of Napoleon’s son, the Duke of Reichstadt.
Although his system was interrupted by revolutions in 1830 and 1831, he was still a major influence in European politics until March 13, 1848, when he was forced to resign due to a revolution in Vienna.
Following this, Metternich went into exile with his family. They went to England, where the Duke of Wellington helped him. After this, they moved to Brussels. Metternich was allowed to go back to Vienna in 1851.
He was also a prolific writer. His memoirs were later edited and published by his son, Richard, who was the Austrian ambassador to Napoleon III.
Family & Personal Life
Metternich married Eleonore, Gräfin von Kaunitz, in September 1795. She was the granddaughter of former Austrian state chancellor Wenzel Anton, Graf von Kaunitz. Thus, through this marriage, Metternich established contacts with the nobility of Austria.
After Eleonore’s death in 1825, Metternich got married to Baroness Antoinette Leykam in 1827. After Antoinette’s death in 1829, he married Gräfin Melanie Zichy-Ferraris in 1831. Melanie died in 1854.
He had eight children with Eleonore, one with Antoinette, and five with Melanie. He also had an illegitimate child with his mistress, Katharina Skavronskaya.
His son from his marriage to Antoinette, Richard, Fürst von Metternich, served as the Austrian ambassador to Paris from 1859 to 1870.
Metternich lost two of his daughters to tuberculosis within a span of 3 months in 1820. His first wife and his eldest son, too, died from the same disease.
Metternich died in Vienna on June 11, 1859. He was 86 at the time of his death.