Karl Schwarzenberg

Austrian Field Marshal

Michael MelasKarl Schwarzenberg was possibly Austria's leading soldier of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Brave, skilled in warfare and a talented organiser, Schwarzenberg was also the man who helped arrange Napoleon Bonaparte's marriage to Marie-Louise and created the Austrian Landwehr.

As a young man he not only honed his military skills and physical fitness, but also studied hard - particularly science.

His first taste of real action came when he joined the Austrian army in 1787 and fought against the Turks, although it was for his performances against revolutionary France in the Netherlands that brought him to his superior's attention.

In 1796 Schwarzenberg was promoted to major-general and was leading a division as a lieutenant-general by 1800. At Hohenlinden he is credited with saving the Austrian right wing during the loss to Jean Moreau.

In 1801 he became the Austrian representative to Tsar Alexander I.

During the Austerlitz campaign in 1805 Schwarzenberg led an army corps and was one of the determined men who left General Mack and fought their way out of the trap at Ulm. He then rallied the other escapees.

Plagued by ill health, Schwarzenberg briefly retired but, in 1808, played a major role in forming Austria's landwehr forces and was again sent as ambassador to Russia.

In 1809 he returned to leading a reserve cavalry division at Wagram during which his energetic and skilled rearguard defence earnt him promotion to General of Cavalry.

His next diplomatic posting was to Paris where he became very friendly with Napoleon and negotiated the marriage with Marie-Louise. While in Paris tragedy struck Schwarzenberg when a fire interrupted a ball held at his home and his sister-in-law, among many others, died.

Having good relations with the French emperor meant Schwarzenberg was the obvious choice as the general to lead the Austrian corps against Russia in 1812. He did very well in the position and came out of the campaign as a Field Marshal.

Another period as ambassador to France followed but when relations soured between Bonaparte and the Austrians he returned home to head the Army of Bohemia.

Chosen to lead the allied armies in the Liberation of Germany Schwarzenberg's diplomatic skills were much needed. He was defeated at Dresden on 26-27 August, he recovered - despite the presence of three monarchs - to crush Napoleon's chances of reviving his fortunes at Leipzig.

In 1814 he again took on the French, this time on French soil, and after Napoleon's exile became President of the Hofkreigsrat or Austrian War Council.

Schwarzenberg was given great honours for his part in defeating the French emperor but was given little time to celebrate them or the peace. In 1817 he suffered a paralysing stroke and only three years later was killed by a second.

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