Eugene, Prince of Savoy

(1663–1736)
   Prince Eugene was one in a long line of military leaders who came from other lands to lead the Habsburg armies in desperate moments. Indeed, he is the most celebrated of all the house of Austria’s generals. Born in Paris, he was the son of a member of the Italian house of Savoy and Olympia Mancini, a great-niece of Louis XIII’s chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin.
   Denied a career befitting his station in the French army, Prince Eugene entered imperial service in 1683. He took part in the defense of Vienna against the Turks during that year, then fought to push back the sultan’s armies in Hungary. From 1689 to almost the end of his life, he fought against both the forces of Louis XIV on the western front in the War of the Spanish Succession and the everretreating Ottoman Empire in the east. In both theaters, he quickly gained a reputation for imaginative strategies and boldness in applying them. The latter quality was especially helpful in winning for him the confidence and cooperation of Habsburg troops, who were often underpaid and underfed.
   As commander in chief of the imperial armies in the east, Eugene masterminded several spectacular victories against the Ottoman Empire, the most notable being the battle of Zenta in 1697. Twenty thousand of the sultan’s troops were killed in the encounter; another 10,000 drowned in the Tisza River as they fled the imperial onslaught. By 1717, the prince’s forces had reached Belgrade, though Habsburg armies were unable to maintain this position for long. Against the French, Eugene joined his army with the British Duke of Marlborough. Although he participated in some notable victories between 1704 and 1709, he was not playing a prominent role by the end of the protracted conflict.
   Prince Eugene was unusually versatile, as much at home as a diplomat and administrative official as he was in military affairs. He negotiated the Treaty of Rastatt (1714), which ended the War of the Spanish Succession advantageously for Austria. He was a key advisor to Emperors Leopold I (1640–1705), Joseph I (1678–1711), and Charles VI (1685–1740), acting as president of the imperial military council from 1703 on. He served as Charles VI’s governor in Milan from 1716 to 1724, and later he was general overseer of all the Habsburg possessions in Italy. He was governor-general of the Austrian Netherlands, which came under Austrian Habsburg control at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession. Eugene also contributed some key components to the Austrian cultural legacy. Among them are his garden palace, the Belvedere, and his collection of rare books, which are a central part of the collection of the Austrian National Library.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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