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The Congress of Vienna was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by the Austrian statesman Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Viennamarker from November, 1814 to June, 1815. Its objective was to settle the many issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. This objective resulted in the redrawing of the continent's political map, establish the boundaries of France, Napoleon's duchy of Warsawmarker, the Netherlandsmarker, the states once part of the Confederation of the Rhinemarker, the German province of Saxonymarker, and various Italian territories, and the creation of a spheres of influence through which France, Austria, Russia and Britain brokered local and regional problems. The Congress of Vienna was a model for the League of Nations and United Nations due to its goal to constitute peace by all parties.

The immediate background was Francemarker's defeat and surrender in May, 1814, which brought an end to twenty-five years of nearly continuous war. Negotiations continued despite the outbreak of fighting triggered by Napoleon's dramatic return from exile and resumption of power in France during the Hundred Days of March-July, 1815. The Congress's "Final Act" was signed nine days before his final defeat at Waterloomarker on June 18, 1815.

An unusual feature of the "Congress of Vienna" was that it was not properly a Congress: it never met in plenary session, and most of the discussions occurred in informal, face-to-face, sessions among the Great Powers of France, United Kingdom, Austria, and Russia, and sometimes Prussia, with limited or no participation by other delegates. On the other hand, the Congress was the first occasion in history where on a continental scale people came together in place to hammer out a treaty, instead of relying mostly on messengers and messages between the several capitals. The Congress of Vienna settlement, despite later changes, formed the framework for European international politics until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.


Partial settlements had already occurred at the Treaty of Paris between France and the Sixth Coalition, and the Treaty of Kiel which covered issues raised regarding Scandinavia. The Treaty of Paris had determined that a "general congress" should be held in Viennamarker, and that invitations would be issued to "all the Powers engaged on either side in the present war." The opening was scheduled for July 1814.


[[Image:Vienna Congress.jpg|thumb|300px|

Wellington (UK)


Joaquim Lobo da Silveira (Portugal)


AntĂłnio de Saldanha da Gama (Portugal)


Count Carl Löwenhielm (Sweden)


Jean-Louis-Paul-François, 5th Duke of Noailles (France)


Metternich (Austria)


André Dupin (France)


Count Karl Robert Nesselrode (Russia)


Pedro de Sousa Holstein, Count of Palmella (Portugal)


Castlereagh (UK)


Emmerich Joseph, Duke of Dalberg (France)


Johann von Wessenberg (Austria)


Prince Andrey Kirillovich Razumovsky (Russia)


Charles Stewart, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry (UK)


Pedro GĂłmez Labrador, Marquis of Labrador (Spain)


Richard Le Poer Trench, 2nd Earl of Clancarty (UK)


Wacken (Recorder)


Friedrich von Gentz (Congress Secretary)


Baron Wilhelm von Humboldt (Prussia)


William Schaw Cathcart, 1st Earl Cathcart (UK)


Prince Karl August von Hardenberg (Prussia)


Talleyrand (France)


Count Gustav Ernst von Stackelberg (Russia)

24. probably Francis I of Austria


Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz (Austria)
The Four Great Powers—plus one

The three other signatories of the Treaty of Paris, 1814


Virtually every state in Europe had a delegation in Vienna – more than 200 states and princely houses were represented at the Congress. In addition, there were representatives of cities, corporations, religious organizations (for instance, abbeys) and special interest groups (for instance, there was a delegation representing German publishers, demanding a copyright law and freedom of the press).

Course of the Congress

Initially, the representatives of the four victorious powers hoped to exclude the French from serious participation in the negotiations, but Talleyrand managed to skillfully insert himself into "her inner councils" in the first weeks of negotiations. He allied himself to a Committee of Eight powers (including Spain, Sweden, and Portugal) to control the negotiations. Once Talleyrand was able to use this committee to make himself a part of the inner negotiations, he then left this committee.

The major Allies' indecision on how to conduct their affairs without provoking a united protest from the lesser powers led to the calling of a preliminary conference on protocol, to which Talleyrand and the Marquis of Labrador, Spain'smarker representative, were invited on September 30, 1814.

Congress Secretary Friedrich von Gentz reported, "The intervention of Talleyrand and Labrador has hopelessly upset all our plans. Talleyrand protested against the procedure we have adopted and soundly [be]rated us for two hours. It was a scene I shall never forget." The embarrassed representatives of the Allies replied that the document concerning the protocol they had arranged actually meant nothing. "If it means so little, why did you sign it?" snapped Labrador.

Talleyrand's policy, directed as much by national as personal ambitions, demanded the close but by no means amicable relationship he had with Labrador, whom Talleyrand regarded with disdain. Labrador later remarked of Talleyrand: "that cripple, unfortunately, is going to Vienna." Talleyrand skirted additional articles suggested by Labrador: he had no intention of handing over the 12,000 afrancesados - Spanish fugitives, sympathetic to France, who had sworn fealty to Joseph Bonaparte (with whom he had unscrupulous business connections) - nor the bulk of the documents, paintings, pieces of fine art, and works of hydrography and natural history that had been looted from the archives, palaces, churches and cathedrals of Spain.

Final Act

The Final Act, embodying all the separate treaties, was signed on June 9, 1815, (a few days before the Battle of Waterloomarker). Its provisions included:

Polish-Saxon crisis

The most controversial subject at the Congress was the so-called Polish-Saxon Crisis. The Russians and Prussians proposed a deal in which much of the Prussian and Austrian shares of the partitions of Poland would go to Russia, which would create a Polish Kingdom in personal union with Russia and Alexander as king. In compensation, the Prussians would receive all of Saxonymarker, whose King was considered to have forfeited his throne as he had not abandoned Napoleon soon enough. The Austrians, French, and Britishmarker did not approve of this plan, and, at the inspiration of Talleyrand, signed a secret treaty on January 3, 1815, agreeing to go to war, if necessary, to prevent the Russo-Prussian plan from coming to fruition.

Though none of the three powers were ready for war, the Russians did not call the bluff, and an amicable settlement was set on October 24, 1814, by which Russia received most of the Napoleonic Duchy of Warsawmarker as a "Kingdom of Poland" - called Congress Polandmarker - but did not receive the district of Poznańmarker, Grand Duchy of Poznańmarker, which was given to Prussia, nor Krakówmarker, which became a free citymarker. Prussia received 40% of Saxony - later known as the Province of Saxonymarker, with the remainder returned to King Frederick Augustus I - Kingdom of Saxonymarker.

Other changes

The Congress's principal results, apart from its confirmation of France's loss of the territories annexed in 1795–1810, which had already been settled by the Treaty of Paris, were the enlargement of Russia, (which gained most of the Duchy of Warsawmarker) and Prussia, which acquired Westphalia and the northern Rhineland. The consolidation of Germanymarker from the nearly 300 states of the Holy Roman Empire (dissolved in 1806) into a much more manageable thirty-eight states (4 of which were free cities) was confirmed. These states were formed into a loose German Confederationmarker under the leadership of Prussia and Austriamarker.

Representatives at the Congress agreed to numerous other territorial changes. Norwaymarker was transferred from Denmark to the king of Sweden, this sparked the nationalist movement which led to the establishment of the Kingdom of Norwaymarker on May 17, 1814. Austria gained Lombardy-Venetia in Northern Italy, while much of the rest of North-Central Italy went to Habsburg dynasties (the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Duchy of Modena, and the Duchy of Parma). The Papal Statesmarker were restored to the Pope. The Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia was restored to its mainland possessions, and also gained control of the Republic of Genoamarker. In Southern Italy, Napoleon's brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, was originally allowed to retain his Kingdom of Naplesmarker, but his support of Napoleon in the Hundred Days led to the restoration of the Bourbon Ferdinand IV to the throne.

A large United Kingdom of the Netherlands was created for the Prince of Orange, including both the old United Provinces and the formerly Austrian-ruled territories in the Southern Netherlands. There were other, less important territorial adjustments, including significant territorial gains for the German Kingdoms of Hanover (which gained East Frisia from Prussia and various other territories in Northwest Germany) and Bavaria (which gained the Rhenish Palatinate and territories in Franconia). The Duchy of Lauenburg was transferred from Hanover to Denmark, and Swedish Pomeraniamarker was annexed by Prussia. Switzerland was enlarged, and Swiss neutrality was established.Swiss mercenaries had played a significant role in European Wars for a couple of hundred years,and the intention was to put a stop to these actĂ­vities once and for all.

During the wars, Portugalmarker had lost its province of Olivençamarker to Spain and, at the Congress of Vienna, wanted it back. Portugalmarker is historically the oldest ally of the United Kingdommarker, and with its support succeeded in having their right to the re-incorporation of Olivençamarker decreed in Article 105 of the Final Act, which stated that the Congress "understood the occupation of Olivençamarker to be illegal and recognized Portugal's rights". Portugal ratified the Final Act in 1815 but the Spanish would not sign. Thus Spainmarker became the most important hold-out against the Congress of Vienna. Deciding in the end that it was better to become part of Europe than stand aside alone, Spainmarker finally accepted the Treaty on May 7, 1817, however, Olivençamarker and its surroundings have never actually returned to Portuguese control and this question is still unsolved. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Irelandmarker received parts of the West Indies at the expense of the Netherlands and Spain and kept the former Dutch colonies of Ceylonmarker and the Cape Colony, and also kept Maltamarker and Heligolandmarker. Under the Treaty of Paris, Britain obtained the protectorate over the United States of the Ionian Islands and the Seychellesmarker.

Later criticism

The Congress of Vienna was frequently criticized by nineteenth-century and more recent historians for ignoring national and liberal impulses, and for imposing a stifling reaction on the Continent. It was an integral part in what became known as the Conservative Order, in which the liberties and civil rights associated with the American and French Revolutions were de-emphasized, and peace and stability were purchased instead.

In the 20th century, however, many historians have come to admire the statesmen at the Congress, whose work prevented another widespread European war for nearly a hundred years (1815–1914). Among these is Henry Kissinger, who wrote his doctoral dissertation, A World Restored , on it. Prior to the opening of the Paris peace conference of 1918, the British Foreign Office commissioned a history of the Congress of Vienna to serve as an example to its own delegates of how to achieve an equally successful peace. Besides, the decisions of the Congress were made by the Five Great Powers (Austria, France, Prussia, Russia and the United Kingdom), and not all the countries of Europe could extend their rights at the Congress. For example, Italy became a mere "geographical expression" as divided into eight parts (Parma, Modena, Tuscany, Lombardy, Venetia, Piedmont-Sardinia, the Papal States, Naples-Sicily) under the control of different powers, while Poland was under the influence of Russia after the Congress. The arrangements that made the Five Great Powers finally led to future disputes. The Congress of Vienna preserved the balance of power in Europe, but it could not check the spread of revolutionary movements on the continent.

See also


  1. Article XXXII. See Harold Nicolson, The Congress of Vienna, chap. 9.
  2. Page 334 of:
  3. Page 158 of:
  4. Page 650 of:
  5. Page 116 of:
  6. Page 297: "[…] the Danish plenipotentiary Count Rosenkrantz."
  7. "[Castlereagh, during his stay in The Hague, in January 1813] induced the Dutch to leave their interests entirely in British hands." On page 65 of Nicolson (1946).
  8. Page 197: “Baron von Gagern – one of the two plenipotentiaries for the Netherlands.”
  9. Page 195 of Nicolson (1946).
  10. Page 257: "The Pope’s envoy to Vienna, Cardinal Consalvi […]"
  11. Page 2 of King (2008)
  12. See pages 258 and 295 of:
  13. Wenceslao Ramírez de Villa-Urrutia, Marqués de Villa-Urrutia, España en el Congreso de Viena según la correspondencia de D. Pedro Gómez Labrador, Marqués de Labrador. Segunda Edición Corregida y Aumentada (Madrid: Francisco Beltrán, 1928), 13.
  14. Antonio Rodríguez-Moñino (ed.), Cartas Políticas (Badajoz: Imprenta Provincial, 1959), 14 (Letter IV, July 10, 1814). Labrador’s letters are full of such pungent remarks, and include his opinions on bad diplomats, the state of the postal system, the weather, and his non-existent salary and coach and accompanying livery for the Congress.
  15. Villa-Urrutia, España en el Congreso de Viena, 61-2. The French had stripped an enormous amount of art from the country. Joseph had left Madrid with an enormous baggage train containing pieces of art, tapestries, and mirrors. The most rapacious of the French was Marshal Nicolas Soult, who left Spain with entire collections, which disappeared to unknown, separate locations around the world. According to Juan Antonio Gaya Nuño, at least "[the paintings] have come to spread the prestige of Spanish art around the whole word."
  16. Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition "Congress of Vienna"
  17. See also:

Further reading

  • ("Chapter II The restoration of Europe")

External links

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