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Portrait of Clemens Wenzel Lothar Prince von Metternich (1815)
Clemens Wenzel Lothar Prince von Metternich (1773-1859), shown here as the suave aristocrat, was the dominant statesman in the German territories during the first half of the nineteenth century. In 1806, he was named Austrian ambassador to Paris, where he arranged for Marie Louise of Austria, the daughter of Emperor Francis I, to marry Napoleon. The two were wed in 1809, a year after Metternich had been appointed Austrian foreign minister. The opportune union cemented the political relationship between Austria and France and brought legitimacy to Napoleon’s emperorship. It did not, however, prevent Metternich from playing a decisive role in the overthrow of Napoleon five years later. After the French defeat in 1815, he headed the Congress of Vienna. As the leading figure in the conservative restoration of Europe, Metternich asserted the supremacy of monarchical government over the liberal and revolutionary ideas that were taking hold of Europe. Metternich’s tenure as Austrian foreign minister lasted 39 years. He was forced to resign on March 13, 1848, amidst the heat of the March Revolution sweeping through the German Confederation. Portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence, c. 1815.