Lust: A Hidden Influence on Foreign Policy

tags: diplomatic history



Franz-Stefan Gady is a senior fellow at the EastWest Institute, where he was a program associate and founding member of the Worldwide Cybersecurity Initiative. Follow him on Twitter (@HoansSolo).

...[T]he impact of romance on international affairs could never have been more evident than during the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15, an episode still hailed as one of the most important diplomatic events in modern history. The chief architect of this gathering, the Austrian foreign minister, Klemens von Metternich, whom Henry Kissinger described as the “prime minister of Europe,” a “genius,” and a man “extraordinarily skilled in diplomacy,” was notorious for his love affairs and emotional outbursts.

The Congress of Vienna brought to an end almost twenty-five years of constant European warfare. In Leipzig two hundred years ago, the largest battle fought in European history prior to the First World War, with more than six hundred thousand soldiers involved and around one hundred thousand killed, wounded or missing, took place. It solidified the last coalition against Napoleon and brought his first total defeat on the battlefield. After the end of the campaign, the delegates of the great powers came to Vienna to make peace, which, with brief martial interludes, would last until 1914.

Yet, surprisingly, if one studies the documents of Metternich prior to and during the Congress, his principal concern seems to have been the love of a woman, Wilhelmine, Duchess of Sagan, a German noble. Their affair––Metternich was married at the time––lasted from spring of 1813 to the fall of 1814 and resulted in around six hundred letters exchanged between the two. Meanwhile, Austria finally decided to turn against Napoleon, join the coalition of Prussia, Russia, and Britain, fight a protracted war, and negotiate a pan-European peace settlement....



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