The Vienna Congress

With Napoleon defeated by the coalition forces in the BATTLE OF LEIPZIG, Europe's diplomats met in VIENNA to discuss post-revolutionary Europe's new order. General consensus was that after decades of constantly changing constitutions as well as political borders, stability should be achieved.
The domination figure at the VIENNA CONGRESS (1813-1815) was Austria's chancellor, CLEMENS VON METTERNICH. Britain was represented by LORD CASTLEREAGH, France by TALLEYRAND. Russia's Czar ALEXANDER I. was personally present.
The new European order was based on five great powers (the PENTARCHY) - Russia, Austria, Prussia, Britain and France. It was hoped that the BALANCE OF POWER would guarantee the stability desired. France did, compared to it's pre-revolutionary borders, not loose any territory and could be satisfied with the outcome of the Congress. The victors had acquired territorial gain - Russia had gained Finland (1809) and Congress Poland (1813/15). Prussia had gained parts of Saxony, as well as the Rhine Province and Westphalia. Austria had lost the Habsburgian Netherlands, but had gained Venetia (1797), Salzburg and the domination over most of Italy. Sweden had gained Norway (1814) as a compensation for the loss of Finland (1809), and the Netherlands, now a kingdom, had acquired the Southern Netherlands (1815), a step intended to enhance the country's ability to defend itself.
The losers were those who either had been too small to resist (such as numerous statelets in the former Holy Roman Empire) and those who sided with Napoleon until the end (Denmark, Saxony, the Poles and Italians).
Britain had gained a number of Dutch colonies (the Cape Colony, Ceylon). However, the British delegation was sceptical toward Europe's new order.
Metternich, Czar Alexander and many other rulers were concerned to prevent a repetition of the French Revolution. They regarded the decisions of the Vienna Congress as lasting, the borders and states created as permanent and inviolable.

The treatment of France at the Vienna Congress had been a matter of dispute; Russia and Prussia had demanded France to be forced to cede territory and to pay reparations; Austria and the United Kingdom favoured a lenient treatment of France, in order to prevent Russia's position in Europe becoming too strong; Metternich prevailed.
In order to maintain the Balance of Powers, and the political order here created, the Holy Alliance was founded. Follow-up congresses were held at Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle 1818), Ljubljana (Laibach) 1820, Verona 1822.

At the Vienna Congress, Europe's dynasties were represented, which desired, with modifications, the RESTAURATION of the ANCIEN REGIMES; however, in popular revolts and during the WARS OF LIBERATION, the bourgeoisie had made significant sacrifices, and they desired written Constitutions. The Vienna Congress stipulated that individual sovereigns were to grant constitutions, a promise some rulers broke, while others promulgated conservative constitutions and only a few fulfilled expectations by promulgating liberal constitutions.

The Congress was not only a historic, but also a social event, as Europe's high nobility met there. For many of them, ballroom dancing was more attractive than diplomatic meetings. It was the time of the VIENNA WALTZ, and the VIENNA OPERA BALL still continues the tradition.

Article Vienna Congress, from EB 1911
Stephanie Verbeure, What was the Congress of Vienna?, from Napoleon Series
Talleyrand and the Congress of Vienna, by Rosemary Beard
Biography of Metternich from aeiou
Delegates to the Congress of Vienna, from Killeen Harker Heights Connections
DOCUMENTS Image : Congress of Vienna, from Center for History
Pages with signatures of the Plenipotentiairies of the European Powers (Metternich, Talleyrand, etc.) affixed to the final act of the Vienna Congress of 1815. from Österreichisches Staatsarchiv
REFERENCE Harold Nicolson, The Congress of Vienna, A Study in Allied Unity 1812-1822, NY : Grove (1946), reprint Harvest Books 1970, 312 pp. [G]
Historical Section of the Foreign Office, Peace Handbooks : The Congress of Vienna 1814-1815, London : H.M.S.O. 1920 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on June 4th 2001, last revised on November 3rd 2008

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