Metternich, Klemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar, Prince of

(1773–1859)
   Born in Koblenz, Metternich was the offspring of a Rhenish noble house that had worked its way up the rungs of titled distinction in the Holy Roman Empire during the 17th and 18th centuries. Like his father, he entered diplomatic service with the Habsburg emperors. He served as legate from Vienna in Dresden, Berlin, and after 1806 in Paris.
   A marriage in 1795 to Countess Eleonor Kaunitz, the granddaughter of Empress Maria Theresa’s state chancellor, gave Metternich access to the houses of the court nobility of Vienna. In 1809, he became the foreign minister of Emperor Francis I (1768–1835). In this position, he did his best to shield the Habsburg monarchy from the intense military and diplomatic pressure of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1813, he joined with the pan-European coalition that eventually defeated the French emperor and permanently exiled him in 1815. Metternich’s political and diplomatic skills were conspicuously on display at the Congress of Vienna, which met from 1814 to June 1815. He had no desire to restore the Habsburgs to imperial status in a revived Holy Roman Empire. Nevertheless, he succeeded in creat204 • METTERNICH, KLEMENS WENZEL NEPOMUK LOTHAR, PRINCE OF ing a German Confederation, with the house of Austria serving in its presidency. He worked to reestablish Habsburg influence in Italy, where Napoleon had made major political changes. Metternich also brought a re-created Bourbon monarchy in France back into the mainstream of European state relations. Through his efforts, consultative procedures were developed from the 1820s through the 1840s by means of which the major powers of Europe together could maintain international peace and localize domestic unrest, particularly of nationalist leanings. As a reward for the prince’s efforts, Emperor Francis I made Metternich his chancellor of state in 1821, a rare distinction in the Habsburg Empire.
   Metternich had little sympathy with the nationalist and democratic impulses of his age. Although he was not a knee-jerk reactionary—he encouraged the study of ethnic cultures and national languages in the Habsburg lands—he loathed the pretensions of middle-class revolutionaries who demanded greater control over their government. Out of such movements would come, in his opinion, partisan factionalism, which would lead to political catastrophe. Nor did he sympathize with political nationalism, which he thought would destroy the multiethnic Habsburg state. In this, he was one with Emperor Francis I. Nevertheless, Metternich had his enemies in the Habsburg government, most notably the influential minister of state, Count Franz Anton Kolowrat (1778–1861). When liberal revolution broke out in Vienna in 1848, the mobs demanded Metternich’s removal; a frightened Habsburg regime complied. Metternich fled to England, then in 1849 to Brussels. In 1851 he returned to Vienna, where he led an elegant, if politically marginalized, existence until his death.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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