Klemens Wenzel von Metternich

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Klemens Wenzel von Metternich

Portrait of Prince Metternich by Lawrence
Born 15 May 1773
Died 11 June 1859 (aged 86)
Vienna, Austria
Nationality Austrian
Education University of Strasbourg
Known for The Congress of Vienna, Minister of State, Conservatism, Concert of Europe
Religion Catholic
Spouse Baroness Antoinette Leykam (1827-1829), Countess Melanie Zichy-Ferraris (1831-1854)
Children Richard, Fürst von Metternich
Parents Franz Georg Karl, Graf von Metternich-Winneburg and Countess Beatrix Kagenegg

Klemens Wenzel, Prince von Metternich (German: Klemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar, Fürst von Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein) (May 15, 1773 – June 11, 1859) was an Austrian politician. He is thought of as one of the most important diplomats of all time. Metternich was Foreign Minister for Austria from 1809 until 1848. In this time, he got Austria out of a bad treaty with Napoleon that forced Austria to fight on the French side. Then he helped build a system in Europe that kept the peace for most of the next hundred years.

In 1809, when Metternich became Foreign Minister, Napoleon had gained control of most of Europe. France had taken over some of the closest countries directly. In more distant countries like Austria and Prussia Napoleon forced them to sign treaties saying they would fight on his side in wars. Metternich thought this was bad for Austria, and when Napoleon declared war on Russia, and raised a huge army to send to Moscow, Metternich told the Russians that the Austrian troops would not attack, only defend. Napoleon lost badly in Russia, and Metternich used that chance to get out of the treaty.

In 1814, troops of the Quadruple Alliance (Prussia, Russia, Austria and Great Britain) had entered France, and Napoleon had lost the war. For the next year, diplomats from all over Europe met at the Congress of Vienna to decide how things were going to be now that Napoleon was gone. Metternich believed that the best way to keep Europe peaceful was to create a balance of power, which means that no country is strong enough to beat all the other countries. To make sure this happened, he made some countries stronger, so that other countries (especially France) would have to think twice about going to war. Some of these changes were that he added Belgium and Luxembourg to the Netherlands, he grouped over 300 small countries of Germany into a group of larger countries, and he grouped together some countries in what we call Italy today.

After making this new order, Metternich also did a lot to make sure it stayed that way. For example, he talked Czar Alexander I out of sending troops into Greece. Alexander wanted to send troops to Greece to protect Orthodox Christians there who were rebelling against the Muslim Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire was weak by that time, and Alexander would most likely have won. Metternich was afraid that if Russia attacked the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman Empire would fall apart, and all the powerful countries of Europe would start fighting to get the Ottoman Empire's land. This would mess up Metternich's balance. Also, he was afraid that Russia would get too big and be too powerful. So Metternich convinced the czar that if he attacked now, the Ottoman Empire would fall apart before the czar was ready to take it for himself, and that Great Britain and France would get most of it. And so Alexander agreed to try and keep the Ottoman Empire going, so that someday Russia could take all of it.

Metternich kept peace in Europe for a long time. But there were still some revolts in Europe, and finally in 1848 a bunch of revolts happened at the same time. One of them was in Austria, and the rebels had Metternich taken out of office. After he was gone, Otto von Bismarck, in Prussia, managed to get too powerful, and took over the German Confederation and made one big German country, which still exists today. Having one big Germany, though, messed up Metternich's balance, and helped cause World War I.