Klemens von Metternich

Klemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar, Prince of Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein[nb 1] (15 May 1773 – 11 June 1859),[1] known as Klemens von Metternich or Prince Metternich, was a conservative Austrian statesman and diplomat who was at the center of the European balance of power known as the Concert of Europe for three decades as the Austrian Empire's foreign minister from 1809 and Chancellor from 1821 until the liberal Revolutions of 1848 forced his resignation.

The Prince of Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein
Portrait by Thomas Lawrence, 1815
Chancellor of the Austrian Empire
In office
25 May 1821  13 March 1848
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byFranz Anton as Minister-President
Foreign Minister of the Austrian Empire
In office
8 October 1809  13 March 1848
Preceded byCount Warthausen
Succeeded byCount Charles-Louis de Ficquelmont
Personal details
Born15 May 1773 (1773-05-15)
Koblenz, Electorate of Trier, Holy Roman Empire
Died11 June 1859 (1859-06-12) (aged 86)
Vienna, Austrian Empire
NationalityGerman Austrian
  • Princess Eleonore von Kaunitz
    (m. 1795; died 1825)
  • Baroness Antoinette Leykam
    (m. 1827; died 1829)
  • Countess Melanie Zichy-Ferraris
    (m. 1831; died 1854)
ChildrenSee list
  • Franz Georg Karl, Count of Metternich-Winneburg
  • Countess Beatrix von Kageneck
EducationUniversity of Strasbourg, University of Mainz
Known forThe Congress of Vienna, Minister of State, Conservatism, Concert of Europe

Born into the House of Metternich in 1773 as the son of a diplomat, Metternich received a good education at the universities of Strasbourg and Mainz. Metternich rose through key diplomatic posts, including ambassadorial roles in the Kingdom of Saxony, the Kingdom of Prussia, and especially Napoleonic France. One of his first assignments as Foreign Minister was to engineer a détente with France that included the marriage of Napoleon to the Austrian archduchess Marie Louise. Soon after, he engineered Austria's entry into the War of the Sixth Coalition on the Allied side, signed the Treaty of Fontainebleau that sent Napoleon into exile and led the Austrian delegation at the Congress of Vienna that divided post-Napoleonic Europe amongst the major powers. For his service to the Austrian Empire, he was given the title of Prince in October 1813. Under his guidance, the "Metternich system" of international congresses continued for another decade as Austria aligned itself with Russia and to a lesser extent Prussia. This marked the high point of Austria's diplomatic importance and thereafter Metternich slowly slipped into the periphery of international diplomacy. At home, Metternich held the post of Chancellor of State from 1821 until 1848 under both Francis I and his son Ferdinand I. After a brief exile in London, Brighton, and Brussels that lasted until 1851, he returned to the Viennese court, only this time to offer advice to Ferdinand's successor, Franz Josef. Having outlived his generation of politicians, Metternich died at the age of 86 in 1859.

A traditional conservative, Metternich was keen to maintain the balance of power, particularly by resisting Russian territorial ambitions in Central Europe and the Ottoman Empire. He disliked liberalism and strove to prevent the breakup of the Austrian Empire, for example, by crushing nationalist revolts in Austrian northern Italy. At home, he pursued a similar policy, using censorship and a wide-ranging spy network to suppress unrest. Metternich has been both praised and heavily criticized for the policies he pursued. His supporters pointed out that he presided over the "Austrian system" when international diplomacy helped prevent major wars in Europe. His qualities as a diplomat were commended, some noting that his achievements were considerable in light of the weakness of his negotiating position. Meanwhile, his detractors argued that he could have done much to secure Austria's future, and he was deemed a stumbling block to reforms in Austria. Metternich also was supporter in the arts particularly music. He had high esteem for Beethoven, Rossini, Paganini and Strauss.

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