What was the Foreign Policy of Metternich?


His Views about Napoleon I:

The character and personality of Napoleon Bonaparte was well known to Metternich. He was much influenced by the qualities of Napoleon I. He often said that “He (Napoleon) would have played a prominent part at whatever epoch he had appeared.”

But he always hated him. The high ambitions and rigid nature of Napoleon were, according to Metternich, the most important causes which led to his downfall. Although, he was the greatest political opponent of Napoleon, he sometimes tried to establish good relations with him.


For example, he arranged the marriage of the daughter of Francis I, the king of Austria, with Napoleon.

On the other hand, he spared himself no pains in defeating him. He established the coalition of four countries against Napoleon and defeated him in the battle of Waterloo.

His Views about Czar Alexander I:

Although Alexander I, the Czar of Russia, was a good friend of Metternich, the latter always regarded the former a most dangerous man. Since the Czar of Russia was a sentimental man, Metternich always remained cautious about the schemes of Alexander.


He knew well that the schemes of the Czar would create a danger to the internal and external peace of Austrian empire. It was, therefore, essential for Metternich to behave with the Czar in such a way that he might not prove to be a dangerous man for him.

He always taught the Czar about the evils of the democratic and national movements. At last, Metternich succeeded in persuading the Czar to his views. By the end of 1818, Alexander I had become a true follower of the policy of Metternich.

Metternich and the Congress of Vienna:

After the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, a Congress was convened at Vienna in 1815, in which almost all countries of Europe took part. This Congress was called for the reconstruction of Europe.


Metternich, the convener of the Congress, was the most conspicuous diplomat. His aim was to reconstruct Europe in such a way that peace might be established in the continent on permanent basis.

Besides, he also succeeded in extending the boundary of the Austrian empire. Belgium was detached from Austria, but she was compensated by letting her annex the provinces of Lombardy and Venetia of northern Italy.

She also recovered the Illyrian provinces along the eastern coast of the Adriatic. As a result of these annexations, Austria emerged with considerable accession of strength, after a long period of twenty years of war. Not only this, Metternich could also establish indirect control over the other Italian provinces.

The second aim of Metternich was to make Austrian empire free from the direct influence of France. He knew that it was only France in Europe where the revolutionary feelings could develop easily.


As Metternich was the bitter enemy of the principles of revolution, he decided to keep his empire away from the evils of revolution. That is why, he declared:

“We wished to establish our empire without there being any direct contact with France.”

Besides the above, Metternich wanted to maintain status quo in Europe. For this purpose, the diplomats of Vienna Congress, under the influence of Metternich unanimously agreed on the principles of “going back to 1789”.

It meant that the princes deprived of their thrones or driven from their states by Napoleon should be given their rights again. In this way, Metternich played an important and decisive role in the Congress of Vienna.


Metternich and the Holy Alliance:

The period from 1815 to 1822 is called the Age of Congresses in the history of Europe. During this period, the countries of Europe gave up the policy of war, and they decided the international issues through mutual talks and diplomacy.

For this purpose, two schemes were introduced: (i) Holy Alliance, and (ii) Quadruple Alliance. The Holy Alliance preceded from the initiative of Alexander I of Russia.

In the wake of the momentous events of recent years, the sentiments, feelings and thoughts of the Czar had become deeply religious.

His scheme of Holy Alliance was not accepted by the European countries. Metternich had bitterly criticised the Holy Alliance. According to him, the Holy Alliance was ‘high sounding nothing’ and ‘a moral demonstration’.

Metternich and the Quadruple Alliance:

The Quadruple Alliance was established by Russia, Prussia, Austria, and England as a result of the aspirations of Metternich. France was included in this Alliance in 1818 and thus, it came to be called the Quintuple Alliance.

The members of the Alliance decided to hold congresses from time to time to consider over their common interests. But soon this was converted into the means of suppressing liberalism and nationalism in Europe.

This was the ultimate aim of Metternich. He used this organisation for the suppression of the national and democratic movements in Europe. England did not agree with the views of Metternich. C. D. Hazen remarks:

“The Congresses that were held during the next few years in accordance with this agreement were converted into engines of oppression everywhere, largely through the adroitness of Prince Metternich, chancellor of the Austrian empire, whose influence upon their deliberations was decisive.”

Thus, the alliance was divided into two groups. One group was led by Metternich and supported by Russia, Prussia, and France. Metternich began to interfere in the internal affairs of European countries.

The decisions taken in the congresses of Troppau, Laibach and Verona were reactionary and against the principles of democracy, liberty and nationalism.

Metternich had firmly determined to maintain the status quo in Europe and controlling of the tide of revolution was inevitable for this purpose. The ideas of Metternich have been explained by C D Hazen in the following words:

“A revolution in one country may encourage a revolution in another and thus the world, set in order by the Congress of Vienna may soon find itself in conflagration once more, the established order everywhere threatened.”

Being discontented with the working system the concert of Europe, England separated herself from it. In this way Metternich with the help of the Concert of Europe, tried his best to maintain the status quo in Europe.

Metternich and Germany:

According to the decisions taken in the Congress of Vienna, the confederation of the Rhine, established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806 for the administration of the German states was abolished.

Germany was divided into thirty-eight states, and he German confederation was established comprising the delegatesappointed by the rulers of different states. A Federal Diet was alsoconstituted for the administrative purpose.

The Presidentof this Diet was Austria. The working system of the Diet and the confederation was loose and complicated. Each state was to be free in its internal affairs.The rulers of the German states had no faith in one another.

They were jealous of one another and each of them was always concerned with the preservation of his own power. Thus, they had no time to think of the good of the people. Metternich, who was a great reactionary, took full advantage of the jealousy and selfishness prevailing among German rulers.

His motive was to stop the tidal flow of the revolutionary principles in Germany and to establish the same principles in Germany that prevailed in Austria. This was the arrangement of Germanadministrationwhich was made in 1815 at Vienna.

The nationalist leaders and liberals of Germany were greatly discontented with this arrangement. They were highly encouraged the War of Liberation which had been started by Prussia to free the Germans from the domination of Napoleon Bonaparte.

They felt a lot of frustration when they came to know about the decisions of the Vienna Settlement. They decided to put their demands before the rulers for the establishment of the constitutional governments in their respective states.

Although the King of Prussia was inclined to consider the demands of the people and his attitude was sympathetic, still he could do nothing due to the fear of Metternich. Metternich was in no case, ready to giveanyright tothe people. He declared:

“To encourage republican tendencies and constitutional government was to invite anarchy. It is the prime duty of every ruler to continue suppressing and crushing all the efforts ofthe nationalists and the republicans.”

In spite of the declarations of Metternich the national movement was started in German states just after the Vienna settlement. The universities of Germany were the main centres of this movement.

The students and teachers formed secret committees in order to spread the national movement all over the country. Among them, Burschenschaft was the most prominent committee. It was the organisation of the students. Its branches were established in sixteen universities.

Their aim was to achieve the great goal of national unity by moral elevation and patriotic inspiration. On October 18, 1817, the students of the German Universities celebrated a patriotic festival at Wartburg in honour of Martin Luther.

This function was celebrated with great enthusiasm in every part of Germany. Not only this, the students murdered Kotzebue who was a journalist. The students hated him as a spy and an opponent of the unification of Germany.

The above occurrences challenged the system of Matternich. He could not tolerate such a kind of awakening in the German states. He had proved himself a great reactionary and a high priest of the old conservatism.

He thought it necessary to adopt necessary and effective measures for the suppression of the national movement of Germany. In the congress of Aix-la-Chappele, he was authorised for tackling this problem.

The murder of Kotzebue provided a golden opportunity to Metternich to crush the national movement of Germany and to reestablish reactionary system there.

A meeting of the Federal Diet of German states was immediately summoned by Metternich in 1819 at Carlsbad. Some important regulations were passed in the meeting which is known as the ‘Carlsbad Decrees’.

These regulations were presented before the German confederation at Frankfort and passed. Although many of the German rulers did not take part in the meeting at Carlsbad, still they had to obey the laws.

Metternich did not allow any representative to make any comment about these laws. The laws were as follows:

(i) No state would frame any constitution of popular character.

(ii) A representative of the government would be appointed in each university. The teachers were directed not to propagate harmful doctrines hostile to public order or subversive of existing governmental institutions.

They should in no way criticize Metternich’s ideas of government. The teacher, who would disobey the order, would be removed from the institution and he could not be appointed in any other institution.

(iii) The student societies like Burschenschaft were suppressed, “since the very conception of the society implies the utterly unallowable plan of permanent fellowship and constant communication between the various universities.” Any student expelled from one university was not to be admitted in any other university of Germany.

(iv) A vigorous censorship was imposed upon the press.

The Carlsbad Decrees were implemented with great care. As a consequence of these laws, the liberty of the people of Germany was suppressed for a generation and the political system of Germany was settled till 1848.

Restrictions were strictly imposed upon the liberty of speech. When the patriots of Germany again revolted against their rulers in 1830 as a result of the July Revolution of France, Metternich crushed these movements with the help of the Carlsbad Decrees.

In this way, Metternich succeeded in establishing his influence over the German states till 1848.

Metternich and Italy:

In the Congress of Vienna, the unity of the Italian states which had been established by Napoleon Bonaparte was dissolved. Italy was again divided into different small units.

The old rulers were restored to their thrones in respective states according to the principle of legitimacy. Metternich played an important role in their rights being restored to them.

They established their autocratic rule over the Italian provinces. The provinces of Lombardy and Venetia, the richest states of the kingdom of Italy, were given to Austria to compensate it for the loss of Belgium.

The princess of the province of Parma and the princes of the provinces of Modena and Tuscany were directly connected with the house of Hapsburg of Austria. Thus, Austria was the real master of Northern Italy.

Besides Ferdinand, the king of Naples, had concluded a treaty with Austria and promised that he would make no change in his administration without the permission of Austria. In this way, the whole of Italy, except Rome and Piedmont, was under the direct influence of Metternich.

This was the political system of the provinces of Italy which was decided in the Congress of Vienna. The diplomats of Vienna feared the growth and development of the concepts of nationalism, liberty and equality in Italy.

They had, therefore, made provisions for preventing the revolutionary changes. But the people of Italy were dissatisfied with the decisions of the Congress of Vienna.

They had tasted the delicious fruits of national unity, liberalism and equality in the times of Napoleon I. Being discontented with the decisions; they prepared themselves for revolution against their autocratic rulers.

On the other hand, the rulers of the Italian provinces were directly or indirectly guided by Metternich, who always advised them not to introduce any constitutional, social or political reform in their respective states.

When the news of the successful Spanish Revolution of 1820 reached Italy, the patriots of Italy were highly stimulated and they rose against the autocratic rule of Ferdinand, the king of Naples.

They demanded the constitution of 1812, which had been implemented in Naples in 1812, but Ferdinand, under the influence of Metternich, refused.

The patriots of Piedmont followed the policy of the people of Naples and they too revolted. Metternich was watching the situation carefully. He was the most influential personality in Europe at that time. He was of the opinion:

“A revolution in one country may encourage a revolution in another, and thus the world, set in order by the Congress of Vienna, may soon find itself in conflagration once more, the established order everywhere threatened.” C. D. Hazen.

Metternich proposed to solve the problems of Naples and Piedmont by the system of congresses. The congresses of the Concert of Europe were convened in Troppau and Laibach in 1820 and 1821 respectively.

Metternich wanted that the revolts of the Italian states should be invariably suppressed in order to maintain the status quo. But England strictly opposed the ideas of Metternich. She argued that we should have no right to interfere in the internal problems of other states.

In spite of the opposition of England, Metternich was empowered to suppress the revolts with the help of the military. According to this decision, Metternich sent his army to Naples, crushed the revolt and dissolved the constitution of 1812.

The autocratic rule of Ferdinand was again established there. While returning home, the Austrian army easily suppressed the revolt of Piedmont.

In this way, Metternich ruthlessly quelled the revolt of Italian states in 1820 and helped preserve the status quo. Now he was quite satisfied. He said:

“I see the dawn of a better day. Heaven seems to will it that the world shall not be lost.”

After the failure in their campaign, the patriots of Italy gave a new turn to their movement. It became clear to them that Austria was the real master of Italy and Metternich was the bitter enemy of the independence and political unity of Italy. Mazzini, a prominent patriot of Italy and a great leader of the Unification of Italy, had expressed his views in this connection:

“Country, liberty, brotherhood all are wrested from them; their facilities are mutilated, curbed, chained within a narrow circle traced for them by men who are strangers to their tendencies, to their wants, to their wishes, their tradition is broken under the care of an Austrian corporal, their immortal soul feudatory to the stupid caprices of a man seated on a throne at Vienna.”

In order to achieve the goal, the patriots established secret committees, named ‘Carbonari’ and after that Mazzini established the ‘Young Italy’ for the youth of the nation.

As a result of the July Revolution of France in 1830, the patriots of the Italian states, such as, Parma, Modena, Tuscany, Piedmont and the dominion of Pope revolted against their rulers.

These revolts were so effective that the rulers had to leave their thrones and flee. They asked Metternich for help. Metternich was at the zenith of his power.

He suppressed the revolts in such a ruthless manner that the patriots of Italy could not raise their heads till 1848. In the words of Hayes:

“Italy like Germany appeared to be bound band and foot to the triumphant but reactionary chariot of Austria.”

In this way, the revolts of the Italian states collapsed due to the repressive policy of Metternich. He interfered a lot in Italy like in Germany.

Metternich and Spain:

In 1820, the people of Spain revolted against their ruler, Ferdinand VH. They demanded a liberal constitution. The king agreed to the demands of the people but, on the other hand, he sought help from the European powers.

The problem of Spain was brought up for consideration in the Congress of Verona in 1822. France, a member of the Concert of Europe,” wanted to help Ferdinand VII, because he belonged to the House of Bourbons.

Metternich was the first man who supported the proposal of France. Although England was against the proposal of France, France was authorised to suppress the revolt of Spain and help Ferdinand VII. With the military help of France, Ferdinand VII was restored to his throne. This was also a great success of the policy of Metternich.

When the absolute monarchy was reestablished in Spain, the European powers (except England) considered restoring to Spain the American colonies which had revolted against her.

These powers, under the able leadership of Metternich, had achieved great triumphs in Italy and Spain. By that time, the system of Metternich had been successfully entrenched in every corner of the continent.

In spite of this dominant position, Metternich and the European powers had to face the pronounced opposition of England on the question of American colonies of Spain.

On December 2, 1823, James Monore, the President of the United States announced very clearly that the European powers should not interfere in the internal affairs of America.

This declaration, known as ‘Monroe Doctrine’ was made with the consent of England. Thus, Metternich and the European powers gave up the above plan. When the revolution broke out in France in 1848, the system of Metternich was demolished.

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