Image: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Detail from Map of Alois von Coulon, Carl Schleich, Johann Baptist Seitz, Post-Karte von Baiern, (Munich, 1810)

By the end of 1813, Napoleon’s Grand Empire had collapsed in central Europe and, apart from a few isolated garrisons, French forces had withdrawn from all the territories east of the Rhine. With their coordinated military operations, the alliance between Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Britain had achieved its goal. Most recently, a series of uprisings had forced the French to withdraw from the territory of the Netherlands and present-day Belgium, which Napoleon had annexed in 1810. In Italy, Viceroy Eugène Beauharnais was struggling to hold his position on the Adige River; meanwhile, the Austrians had already regained control of the region to the east, Veneto, and the British field marshal, Lord Wellington, had retaken the Iberian Peninsula and advanced deep into southern France.

Significant differences emerged among the allies over whether to continue the offensive. Klemens von Metternich, Austria’s leading statesman, was willing to recognize the Rhine and the Alps as France’s “natural borders.” Tsar Alexander I of Russia, by contrast, pushed for an invasion of France, arguing that a lasting peace could only be agreed upon in Paris, and only with someone other than Napoleon. The British cabinet in London, primarily concerned with the fate of the Netherlands, was wary of offering overly generous concessions to the defeated French emperor and took the unusual step of dispatching the foreign secretary, Lord Castlereagh, to the continent.1

As 1813 drew to a close, the allied powers resolved to continue the military campaign, and Karl Philipp of Schwarzenberg’s and Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher’s armies marched into France, experiencing a series of victories and defeats in the early months of 1814. Meanwhile, Napoleon rebuffed all diplomatic overtures. When Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Britain signed the Treaty of Chaumont on March 9, 1814, Castlereagh was one step closer to achieving his great ambition of turning the wartime coalition into a “quadruple alliance” for peace. The terms of the treaty were utterly unprecedented in the diplomacy of the day: a twenty-year military alliance, a coordinated continuation of the war until Napoleon’s defeat, and jointly conducted peace negotiations. The intention, in Castlereagh’s words, was “not only to procure, but to preserve peace.2 The allied forces renewed their westward push and captured Paris on March 31, 1814; having lost the support of his marshals, Napoleon subsequently abdicated on April 6. Two weeks later, on April 23, the four allied powers—now joined by Portugal—signed an armistice with France, represented by the new French foreign minister, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, acting on behalf of Louis XVIII, who had been restored to the throne.

Austria’s War in Italy, 1813/14

The implosion of Napoleon’s Grand Empire in the second half of 1813 and his retreat to France left central Europe to the north and south of the Alps in a “limbo of unresolved questions.”3 The territories from which Napoleon’s troops had withdrawn found themselves facing very different fates. The governor of the Russian tsar asserted claims to Poland by right of military conquest, and the representative of the Austrian emperor laid claim to northern Italy for similar reasons. Meanwhile, the German territories recovered from the French were, except where the allies acknowledged their ruler, placed under the control of a provisional central administration for the transition period, which had been set up in 1813 under the leadership of Baron vom Stein on behalf of the alliance.4 Matters were different yet again in those south German members of the Confederation of the Rhine that had voluntarily switched to the side of the anti-French coalition; Bavaria led the way with the Treaty of Ried (October 8, 1813).

On both sides of the Alps, the decisive factor in the potential new state order was the political interests of the Austrian Empire. At the same time that the far better-known battles of the “Wars of Liberation” were taking place in in Saxony and along the Main River, Austrian forces were independently (with only occasional support from the British) waging war against the Italian viceroy Eugène, Napoleon’s stepson and general.

Vienna had never taken its eyes off the Duchy of Milan, an economically important territory that Austria had acquired in 1713 but been forced to cede to Napoleon’s Cisalpine Republic in 1797; the empire had likewise ruled the regions of Veneto, Istria, and Dalmatia from 1797 to 1805 before losing them to the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy. The Austrians’ military victories against Eugène, a celebrated general, in 1813 and 1814 allowed them to secure control of northern Italy, paving the way for the proclamation of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia in April 1815.

Italy was high on the political agenda of Emperor Francis I of Austria and his leading minister, Metternich. Metternich’s first “vision of a rebuilt Europe in a state of peace,” which he devised in May 1813 as Austria was tentatively drawing closer to the anti-Napoleon coalition, called for the restitution of the Papal States and for Austria to be given the region of Veneto to the east of the Adige.5 At the talks with Napoleon in February 1814, Metternich called for the restoration of Italy’s independent states (états indépendans).6

After prolonged hesitation, a phase of neutrality, and several attempts at mediation, the Habsburg Empire finally sided with Russia and Prussia in mid-August 1813 and declared war on France. The largest of the alliance’s three armies, the Army of Bohemia, with just under 240,000 troops under Schwarzenberg’s command, set off towards Dresden to the north, where an inconclusive engagement ensued in late August.7

At the same time, the far smaller Army of Inner Austria, an all-Austrian force of 50,000 men under the command of General Johann von Hiller, began operations against Viceroy Eugène along the border between Carinthia, Carniola, and Friuli. By mid-October 1813, when the Battle of the Nations was fought at Leipzig, the viceroy had been forced to abandon Illyria, Friuli, and eastern Veneto (apart from a few fortresses and the city of Venice) and withdraw his French–Italian troops beyond the Tagliamento.8

The Austrians now attempted to come at their enemies from behind through the Adige and Eisack valleys, a plan that required control of the road through the Puster valley, over which the Austrian lieutenant field marshal Franz Philipp Fenner von Fenneberg and Italian general Alessandro Gifflenga fought in October. This military situation explains Metternich’s interest in quickly concluding the Treaty of Ried with Bavaria; the seventh secret article of that document allowed the Austrians to conduct military operations in Tyrol.9 Austria could thus move troops and supplies through Bavarian territory in the Inn valley without disruption, and from there south via the Brenner Pass, even before a decision had been made about returning Tyrol to Austria. Moreover, the troops stationed in Upper Austria to defend against Bavaria—around 25,000 men under the command of the general Prince Heinrich XV of Reuss-Plauen—could now be redeployed to reinforce the Army of Inner Austria. Emperor Francis appointed Reuss military governor of all conquered territories in Italy.10

By the end of October, Hiller’s Austrian troops had passed through the Puster valley and occupied the cities of Bolzano and Trento. To circumvent Gifflenga’s blockade of the Chiusa di Verona, he advanced toward Vicenza via the Sugana valley, forcing Eugène to beat a rapid retreat to the west bank of the Adige, where he set up headquarters in Verona. The viceroy now found his position threatened from the south as well, for the Austrians, supported by the British Navy, had landed on the Adriatic coast and taken control of Ferrara.

In early 1814, as the allied forces were marching into France, the new commander-in-chief of the Austrian army in Italy, Field Marshal Heinrich von Bellegarde, initiated negotiations with King Joachim Murat of Naples. Bellegarde, who now had 55,000 men at his disposal, did not want to attack Eugène’s position on the Adige without the support of Murat, whose army controlled the areas south of the Po. In a treaty of alliance signed on January 11, 1814, the king pledged to send 30,000 men into battle against Eugène. He launched his first offensive near Ancona in mid-February.

Thereupon, Eugène withdrew from Verona, the southern Alpine passes, and the line of the Adige to a position on the far side of the Mincio, between Lake Garda and Mantua. Neither side advanced significantly at the Battle of the Mincio River on February 8. Clashes with Murat along the Po continued, and Eugène’s position came under a new threat when British troops under Lord William Bentinck landed in Tuscany in early March 1814 and occupied the Ligurian coast up to Genoa.

Eugène’s position in Italy finally became unsustainable with Napoleon’s abdication on April 13, 1814; the viceroy and Bellegarde formally ended armed conflict in Italy with the conventions of Schiarino-Rizzino and Mantua (on April 16 and 23, respectively). The whole of Lombardy (up to the old border along the Ticino) came under Austrian control, and the remaining French and Italian garrisons were ordered to surrender. Hostilities ceased and the French troops withdrew to the west. In the face of mass unrest in Milan, Eugène declared his abdication on April 26 and left Verona with his wife Augusta and two-week-old daughter Théodelinde. Accompanied by an Austrian escort, they set out for the court of Eugène’s Bavarian stepfather, King Maximilian I Joseph in Munich.11

Just as the Russian tsar now controlled most of Poland, the Austrian emperor, thanks to the conquests by his troops, had taken control of the region north of the Po, from the Adriatic to the Ticino (between Lake Maggiore and Pavia), which marked the border with Sardinia-Piedmont. This was the region granted to the Habsburg Empire in the second secret article of the First Peace of Paris of May 30, 1814: “Les possessions de Sa Majesté Impériale et Royale Apostolique en Italie seront limitées par le Pô et le Tesin et le lac majeur.”12 The public part of the treaty executed Metternich’s plan of dividing the rest of Italy into sovereign states (etats souverains).13

In the fluid situation during the campagne de France and the engagements along the Mincio in spring 1814, various plans were drawn up for reorganizing central Europe, based on the principles to which the four powers had agreed. For example, in April 1814, Karl August von Hardenberg, prime minister of Prussia, set out a “plan for the future arrangement of Europe” (Plan für die künftige Gestaltung Europas).14 Napoleon’s defeat, the document begins, has “undone his monstrous plans of world domination”; the victors must now, “through a just equilibrium and balanced distribution of power,” establish a European order that would ensure a stable, manageable peace. France was to be limited to its 1789 borders, while Russia had “every right to a considerable enlargement. Austria, Prussia, Sardinia, and Holland shall be restored, and receive the power and territorial expansion necessary to maintain both equilibrium and their […] independence.” Regarding Tuscany, Modena, the Papal States, and Naples, the document makes a less binding commitment: they were to be “restored as circumstances permit.” Switzerland would be “free and independent of any external influence,” while Germany was to be “a confederation of sovereign states united by a federal treaty.” Bavaria also gets a mention: as compensation for territories ceded to Austria, it was to receive Würzburg, Aschaffenburg, Hammelburg, districts in Baden and Hesse between the Main, Tauber, and Neckar, and territories on the left bank of the Rhine between Speyer, Landau, and Kaiserslautern.

Imaginary maps were a key component of the political plans. New borders were imposed on rulerless regions, with the promise of bringing stability and greater security to Europe and preventing a revival of French hegemony. The major German-speaking powers, Prussia and Austria, sought to compensate themselves for the extensive territories they had lost in the treaties of Pressburg (1805) and Tilsit (1807). Hardenberg’s plan aimed to restore both powers to the size they had been in 1805—measured not in terms of geographical area, but of population. The process of tallying up subjects and shuffling them around had its roots in cameralist resettlement theories and the mechanistic calculi born of the eighteenth-century faith in numbers. The Congress of Vienna was denounced even at the time for attempting it. Other powers articulated their interests more emphatically. For example, Britain insisted that the French withdraw from the Dutch-Belgian region and that the port of Antwerp be demilitarized; furthermore, the British delegation did not want colonial matters to so much as appear on the agendas at the peace talks or the congress.

The fundamental decisions about the new European order had already been made before the Congress of Vienna convened in late 1814 and early 1815. According to the First Peace of Paris,15 signed on May 30, 1814, the Netherlands were to be enlarged and ruled by the House of Orange, the independent states of Germany were to be united by a “federative bond,” Switzerland was to be constituted as independent of all external influences, and Italy was, in the document’s succinct formula, to be composed of sovereign states. These fundamental arrangements had first been formulated when the four allies met in February 1814; they arose out of an interest in creating a line of militarily strong buffer states along France’s eastern border to prevent any future incursions into central Europe and the Italian peninsula. Secret articles appended to the Paris treaty settled France’s Alpine border in favor of Sardinia-Piedmont and Austria, though Savoy was to remain in French hands for the time being. The former territories of the Holy Roman Empire on the left bank of the Rhine, which France had occupied since 1792 and now had to return, were to be used for the expansion of Holland and to compensate Prussia and other German states.

Italy’s Political Landscape in 1814/1815

Austria’s dominance in northern Italy was the result of the military developments between August 1813 and April 1814: Austria had fought the war against the Kingdom of Italy, which was collapsing along with Napoleon’s empire, singlehandedly, which meant that time-consuming diplomatic agreements or complex transitional administrations were not necessary. All the Great Powers were prepared to recognize the Austrian Empire’s exclusive control over northern Italy, provided that the House of Savoy’s legitimate claims in Piedmont-Sardinia were respected. Britain played a special role due to the superiority of its navy. It controlled the island of Sicily and gave protection to the Bourbons, the ruling family of Naples, who were living there in exile. Britain also supported the Austrians in the North Adriatic and intervened in the Tuscany-Liguria region.

As already noted, the peace treaty of May 1814 formalized the Habsburgs’ dominance, fixing Sardinia’s border along the line of the Ticino and awarding all the territories to its east, from the Alps to the Po, to the Austrian emperor. At the Congress of Vienna, Metternich was able, by doggedly exploiting disagreement among the Swiss cantons, to successfully assert a further claim to a small but strategically important Alpine region: in March 1815, the three districts of Valtellina (Bormio, Sondrio, and Chiavenna), located to the north of Lake Como, became part of Austria.16 Between 1822 and 1825, a new road was built there that directly linked Tyrol to Lombardy via the Stelvio Pass; at an elevation of 2,758 meters, it remains the second-highest paved Alpine pass to this day.

It was only the Peace of Paris that confirmed that not just Veneto but also Lombardy would return to Habsburg control.17 Already in March 1814, however, Emperor Francis had begun issuing decrees over what he termed his “conquered provinces” in Italy.18 Following the peace agreement, Field Marshal Bellegarde, commander-in-chief of the Austrian troops, was appointed commissioner of the occupied Italian territories. Returning from London to Vienna in July 1814, Metternich pushed for Austria’s sovereignty over the occupied territories in northern Italy to be formally recognized as soon as possible.19 Provisional civil administrations were set up in Milan and Venice. They assisted the Central Organizing Court Commission (Central-Organisirungs-Hof-Commission), established in Vienna in late July 1814 to reorganize the territories Austria had won back or newly acquired.

In February 1815, Emperor Francis decided on the proposals of the organizing commission, and in April 1815 awarded “my Italian states” the status of a kingdom, though the name Regno Lombardo-Veneto was only introduced at the last minute.20 As the name suggests, this kingdom, established by the highly condensed atto costitutivo of April 7, 1815, was a composite state, with two separate governors (Franz Joseph Graf Saurau in Milan and Peter Graf Goëss in Venice) and two advisory assemblies known as “congregations.”21 The final institutional arrangement, based on the structures of the Austrian states, was agreed upon during the emperor’s lengthy tour of the kingdom between October 1815 and May 1816; Metternich’s proposals on this matter consistently sought to strengthen the state’s rights to self-government.22 Francis’s younger brother Archduke Anton was appointed viceroy, but he never took up the office and was replaced by his brother Rainer in 1818.23

Austria’s “sphere of hegemony” on the Italian peninsula24 extended far beyond the new regno, encompassing Tuscany, Modena, Parma, and Piacenza as well. In summer 1814, Austria had contingents stationed throughout this region to defend the Habsburg Empire’s claims if necessary. Victor Emmanuel I of Sardinia–Piedmont, who was restored to his throne in May 1814 with the support and close involvement of Austria, immediately laid claim to western Lombardy and Parma. King Murat of Naples, despite having nominally been an ally of Austria since the start of 1814, was also considered a loose cannon, especially given that he had troops stationed far outside his territory.

Hence, Metternich’s political plans to stabilize Europe involved not just central Europe but also Italy in its entirety. In mid-1814, before the start of the Congress of Vienna, he considered founding a Lega Italica, which was intended to serve a twofold security function: firstly as a defensive military alliance to protect against France and secondly as a kind of “central police force” to ward off Jacobinism, which Metternich viewed as a perpetual threat. He saw the principles of the French Revolution and the possible foundation of a unified Italian state codified in a constitution as an ever-present danger that had to be “killed off.”25 Metternich’s policy on Italy was—from an earlier stage and to a more pronounced extent than his policy on the German Confederation—dominated by considerations of security. As a result of these concerns, he sought to maintain direct or indirect control over the peninsula so that Austria could maintain a military defense able to quash any effort to expand on France’s part while also keeping a watchful eye on the Italian territories, ready to intervene swiftly in the event of revolutionary unrest.26 The restitution of the individual states of the ancien régime (with minimal changes to borders) and a rejection of constitutions were further cornerstones of Metternich’s plans for Italy. Vienna avoided any policy or terminology that so much as hinted at “the idea of unifying Italy into a single power.”27 It was primarily for this reason that the Napoleonic Regno d’Italia was replaced by the Habsburgian Regno Lombardo-Veneto.

Metternich’s tactic for the negotiations at the Congress of Vienna, which began in September 1814, was to delay any discussion of Italian matters for as long as possible.28 He thereby intended to win time while developments unfolded in Naples, where King Murat was opposing French and Spanish demands for the restitution of the Bourbon monarchy. When, at the first official meeting of the decision-making Committee of Eight on November 13, 1814, the Spanish representative Pedro Gómez Labrador proposed the formation of a separate committee to specifically address Italy’s restructuring, along the same lines as had been done a month earlier for Germany, Metternich, who was chairing the meeting, rebuffed him with uncharacteristic verve: Italy, he said, had never been a “true political body” but “only a collection of independent states […] grouped under a single geographic designation,” and, moreover, unlike with Germany, no agreement had been made to form a “federative bond” for Italy. The territorial configuration of the individual Italian states should therefore be discussed “separately and successively,” going from north to south.29 Metternich’s characterization of Italy for tactical reasons as a mere “geographic designation” led to his being depicted as the archenemy of Italian unification during the Risorgimento.

Metternich succeeded in that the eight powers’ negotiations in Vienna began with a matter that had essentially already long been settled: the proposal that the king of Sardinia-Piedmont be given control of Genoa as compensation for having ceded territories in Savoy to France. After brief hearings on the precise arrangements, the congress agreed to this proposal on December 12, 1814, and King Victor Emanuel had annexed Liguria before the year was out. The disappearance of the ancient maritime republic from the map of Europe, without Genoa being given a special status within the kingdom of Piedmont or at least that of a free port, sparked outrage among the opposition in the British House of Commons. Victor Emanuel’s plans to annex parts of Lombardy, by contrast, quickly proved to be wishful thinking.

After arrangements for the two major northern territories, Lombardy-Venetia and Sardinia-Piedmont, and the Papal States in central Italy had been settled, Metternich introduced a master plan for the remaining territories on the peninsula in January 1815.30 The Austrians now gradually distanced themselves from King Murat of Naples and instead sided with the Bourbon claims. The fact that Napoleon’s brother-in-law had continued to station troops in central Italy, beyond the borders of his kingdom, was steadily eroding trust in his reliability as an ally.

To bypass dealing with Talleyrand in Vienna, Metternich did not negotiate his plans for the Italian peninsula at the congress but dealt directly with the French government in Paris. Metternich’s “principle of legitimacy,” according to which monarchs who had lost power under Napoleon’s reign should be restored, played a key role, but even more important was his fear that Murat could trigger a revolutionary war in Italy “under the banner of […] national freedom.”31 The British foreign secretary, Castlereagh, discussed Metternich’s plans with the French king Louis XVIII in person on his return journey to London and secured his support.

Napoleon’s escape from Elba in late February 1815 and the “Hundred Days” reign rendered all diplomatic plans for Italy obsolete. Murat sided with the returned emperor and issued the Rimini Proclamation, calling on all Italy, from the Alps to Sicily, to rise up against the Austrians and create an independent nation. In response, Austria declared war on Murat, and then defeated him in a brief but psychologically important campaign at the foot of the Apennines in April/May 1815; this lesser-known military action took place at the same time that allied forces were marching against Napoleon in Belgium. Based on this victory, in late May, the Bourbon monarch Ferdinand IV returned to Naples as king under the protection of the Austrian army and British navy. Formal treaties tied his political future closely to the interests of the Habsburg Empire.

In early June 1815, in the final days of the congress, the Committee of Five quickly agreed upon territorial arrangements for Italy based on Metternich’s program from the start of the year. No mention was made of Tuscany; the emperor and his family had already decided in early 1814 that Grand Duke Ferdinand III, the emperor’s brother, should return from Würzburg to Florence (though without actually consulting Ferdinand on the matter).32 Meanwhile, Archduke Francis IV of Austria-Este was finally able to assume the rule of the Duchy of Modena, more than a decade after his family had inherited the ducal title back in 1803.

In reality, the situation in Tuscany was extremely complex. In 1801, it had been elevated to the status of the Kingdom of Etruria, and, until Napoleon integrated the region directly into France in 1808, it was ruled by a branch of the Spanish Bourbons who had formerly ruled Parma. The Spanish infanta Maria Luisa, sister of the Spanish king, Ferdinand VII, laid claim to these lands, and one of the key tasks of Labrador, the chief Spanish delegate, and Talleyrand was to support her claims. Metternich had not originally included the Parma Bourbons in his plans for Italy, but was forced to revise these plans and concede the heritable Duchy of Lucca. Spain was not content with this meager territory, however, and was the only major European power to refuse to sign the congress’s Final Act. Ferdinand VII did not ratify the treaty until 1817, when a new treaty offered the Parma Bourbons succession rights to the duchies of Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla. The Congress of Vienna had granted these duchies to Napoleon’s second wife, Marie Louise, daughter of the Habsburg emperor, but only ad personam and for her lifetime; the new treaty meant that after her death (which came in 1847), they would revert from the Habsburgs to the Bourbons.

A quick glance from Italy to the opposite coast to the east reveals that Austria conceived of itself not just as an Italian but as an Adriatic power. The reconstituted kingdoms of Illyria (including Laybach and Trieste) and Dalmatia, and the portion of Croatia returned to the Kingdom of Hungary, which included the port of Fiume, extended the full length of the Adriatic coast from Istria to Dubrovnik. Vienna also showed an interest in the protectorate of the Ionian islands off the west coast of Greece, which had been controlled by Britain since 1809, but Russia repeatedly vetoed this proposal during the negotiations.33

Bavaria’s Compensation and the Dispute over Salzburg

Metternich had to contend with a far greater range of interests during the negotiations over the areas of central Europe north of the Alps than he did during those over Italy: the “wing powers” of Russia and Britain; Austria’s traditional rival, Prussia, which had an interest in Saxony and its own ideas about what form the German Confederation should take; and “middle states” such as Bavaria, Württemberg, and Baden, which owed their elevation in status and sovereignty to Napoleon’s protectorate but had abandoned the French coalition before the end of 1813. Their prize for joining the alliance against the French was a guarantee that they would retain their territory and sovereign status. Thus, even before the Congress of Vienna, it was clear that the results of the territorial revolution that had transformed central Europe during the Napoleonic era between 1803 and 1810 would remain in place; there was no question of a “restoration” of the prerevolutionary status quo.

The discussion in this section will concentrate on the region of the eastern Alps, which was the subject of bilateral negotiations between the Habsburg Empire and the Kingdom of Bavaria. The key decisions in the territorial disputes between the two neighboring powers (whose relations had been marked by frequent conflict throughout the eighteenth century) were not hammered out at the Congress of Vienna, but before and afterwards. Hence, the final territorial configuration of the Wittelsbachs’ kingdom was only settled in April 1816—and it looked rather different than Bavaria had envisioned.

From April 1813 onward, the option of switching sides against Napoleon gained increasing ground in Munich.34 The question took on a new urgency when Austria declared war on France; in late summer 1813, Bavarian and Austrian troops were mustered against each other in the Innviertel and Upper Austria. The Russian tsar called on the Bavarian king Maximilian I Joseph to join the alliance against Napoleon, leading to direct negotiations between the two commanders-in-chief, General Karl Philipp von Wrede on the Bavarian side and Prince Heinrich XV of Reuss-Plauen on the Austrian side. From mid-September, any hopes that Bavaria could remain neutral in the ongoing conflict had disappeared, but it was only with considerable reservations, and at the last minute, that Max Joseph—having written that “betraying” Napoleon “would be a cowardice incongruous with the loyalty of my character”—assented to the signing of the Treaty of Ried, which took place on October 8, 1813.35

Max Joseph allied himself with Napoleon’s opponents just as the French emperor was planning his offensive against Bernadotte’s and Blücher’s armies to the north of Leipzig, making it a very risky move for the Bavarian king. In exchange for this volte-face, however, his kingdom’s powerful neighbor, Austria, guaranteed Bavaria absolute sovereignty and constitutional independence, as well as the retention of its territory. There was no time to reach agreement on specific questions of territory; Max Joseph had wanted Franconia and Swabia to be named as preferred territories in any compensation to Bavaria, but this did not make it into the final version of the text.36 All that was agreed upon was the principle that any adjustments of borders would be made without compulsion and through the exchange of territories that were of equal value and contiguous with existing possessions.

The allied forces received an additional 36,000 Bavarian soldiers as reinforcement. Moreover, Austria benefited from the immediate opening of Tyrol for military operations to support Hiller’s Italian campaign in the Puster and Eisack valleys; it was for this reason that Austria had repeatedly stressed its interest in controlling the Inn–Brenner route during the treaty negotiations.37

For Metternich, the main factors in the decision of October 1813 were calculability and stability: “any reversal of Napoleon’s new territorial order would have triggered a chaos of old and new claims.”38 He also needed Bavaria as an ally, as part of a “fixed system,” as he called it, that was intended to bring Bavaria to the side of Austria, Prussia, and Britain and thereby keep France and Russia in check.39 The priorities were to prize Bavaria away from the French coalition as quickly as possible, to gain access to the new ally’s military resources, and, hopefully, to trigger a domino effect that would bring further members of the Confederation of the Rhine over to the allies’ side. The principles of the Treaty of Ried, which ruled out both the dissolution of the large Rhine Confederation states and a return to the order of the Holy Roman Empire, prefigured the federal solution for central Germany that Metternich outlined shortly afterwards: “Allemagne composée de princes souverains uni par un lien fédératif qui assure et garantisse l’indépendance de l’Allemagne.40 Metternich had explicitly recognized the sovereign status of the princes of the Confederation of the Rhine ever since the Treaty of Teplitz, which founded the Coalition.41 Bavaria’s carefully worded proclamation of war on October 14 therefore justified the change of sides in terms of “securing the independence of the Germanic nation and the states comprising it.”42

Because it was too late for the Bavarian troops under Wrede’s command to be mobilized for the Battle of Nations at Leipzig, they occupied Würzburg instead. In late October 1813, they were defeated in the Battle of Hanau as they attempted to cut off Napoleon’s retreat to France, but they played a successful part in the invasion of France in February/March 1814. Max Joseph, his foreign minister Maximilian von Montgelas, and his commander-in-chief Wrede, who was sympathetic to the offensive course favored by the Russian tsar, thus earned a place in the allied powers’ inner circle.43

After the allied forces reached Paris and forced Napoleon’s abdication, peace talks began in the French capital in April 1814. Wrede—who had been promoted to field marshal and granted the status of prince—had been named Bavaria’s chief negotiator, despite his own vehement objections, because he was the “most credible” representative of “Bavaria’s new political position”44 and had proved himself a capable commander in the campagne de France. The Bavarian foreign ministry now contemplated various scenarios for an exchange of territories with Austria. It was considered certain that Bavaria would be able to hold on to the Innviertel, but the claim to Tyrol had already been as good as abandoned. The only part of Tyrol to remain under nominal Bavarian control was the Inn valley, which had been practically ungovernable due to unrest and revolts ever since Austrian troops had occupied the eastern and southern areas of the region until November 1813. Maximilian Graf Lerchenfeld, commissioner-general of the Innviertel, was removed from his post in January 1814.45

A question mark hung over Salzburg. The Peace of Pressburg of December 26, 1805, had granted the Duchy of Salzburg, as it was then, along with Berchtesgaden, to the Habsburg Empire as compensation for the loss of Tyrol to Bavaria. After the 1809 conflict and a prolonged French occupation, Salzburg and Berchtesgaden were awarded to Bavaria in early 1810, along with the Innviertel, the western part of the Hausruckviertel, Bayreuth, and Regensburg. Faced with the prospect of ever less palatable losses in the Alpine region, Munich increasingly looked north for suitable compensation: to Main-Franconia (especially Würzburg), the Neckar-Kreis, and other areas along the Main and Rhine.46

In May 1814, Wrede negotiated on these matters in parallel with the Paris peace talks: firstly with Johann von Wessenberg, the Austrian envoy in Munich, and then with Metternich himself.47 Wessenberg wanted Salzburg, the Innviertel, and the Hausruckviertel in their entirety for Austria, whereas Wrede wanted Bavaria to retain at least the northern parts of Salzburg (the city and the lower-lying parts of the Flachgau). Metternich steered Wrede’s gaze to Würzburg, Aschaffenburg, Fulda, and—repeatedly—Mainz. In the end, however, Prussia—represented by Karl August von Hardenberg—laid claim to Mainz, which was a key strategic fortress that controlled the line of the Main, had served on a number of occasions as an important base for Napoleon, and lay at the intersection between the two military defensive blocs that Austria and Prussia were seeking to establish within the German Confederation.

The treaty that Metternich and Wrede signed in Paris on June 3, 1814, fleshed out the declarations of principle in the Treaty of Ried with concrete details.48 The territorial arrangements were divided into two groups, according to when they would take effect:

– Bavaria had to immediately (within two weeks) relinquish Tyrol (excluding the district of Vils and Kufstein Fortress) and Vorarlberg (excluding the district of Weiler) to Austria; in return, it was to receive Würzburg and Aschaffenburg. This exchange was completed by the end of June; Wrede had already occupied the Franconian territories since October 1813.

– Bavaria would also have to return to Austria the Innviertel, the Hausruckviertel, and the Principality of Salzburg, except for the district of Laufen and the territory on the left banks of the Salzach and Saalach. However, Munich would only be obliged to hand over these territories once it had been given what it considered an acceptable “equivalent.” To this end, Metternich offered the city and fortress of Mainz and the “ancient Rhine-Palatinate” (l’ancien Palatinat du Rhin), which had passed to Baden in 1802/03. Other exchanges with Baden, Württemberg, Hesse-Darmstadt, and Nassau were considered in order to create a land bridge between the Main and the Palatinate.

To consolidate Bavarian claims on the left bank of the Rhine, too, Austria involved Bavaria in the provisional administration of the territories to the south of the Mosel that were being held in reserve to offer as compensation.

Neither Munich nor Vienna was especially happy with this compromise; Emperor Francis himself made a written note on Metternich’s report from Paris: “The treaty with Bavaria is bad. In particular, I do not like that we will not obtain Bertolsgaden or the Bohemian possessions [i.e., Redwitz in the Upper Palatinate].”49 In reply, Metternich reminded his emperor of the overarching political interests, especially the need to cultivate good relations between Bavaria and Austria, so as to prevent Munich from developing any sort of closer political ties with Prussia. His words, surprisingly for the man in charge of the Habsburg Empire’s foreign policy, have the air of a profession of faith: “We have only one fixed point in our relationship with Germany. That point is Bavaria.”50

Negotiations in Vienna

Despite reservations on both sides, Montgelas briefed the Bavarian king’s representative at the Congress of Vienna on the basis of the Peace of Paris. This representative was once again Marshal Wrede, since Montgelas himself refused to travel to the congress despite repeated urging from Max Joseph—a move he himself later conceded was a mistake. Montgelas hoped that Bavaria would be required to cede Salzburg and the Innviertel in exchange for the territories Austria had promised along the Main and Rhine. His instructions for the congress make explicit mention of Mainz, Wetzlar, Frankfurt, Hanau, and Fulda, as well as the “whole of the area on the left bank of the Rhine between this river, the new French border, and the Mosel.”51

The negotiations at the Congress of Vienna initially centered on Prussia’s claims to compensation—i.e., on Poland and Saxony. Once the crisis that threatened to derail the talks had been averted at the start of 1815, it was necessary to deal with Prussia’s territorial claims first, since these would determine the range of options available for all subsequent agreements. At the first meeting of the Committee of Five on January 12, 1815, Metternich had announced that Austria and Bavaria would deal with unresolved issues through bilateral talks.52 Wrede’s negotiations with Wessenberg and Metternich began on February 19 and centered once again on Frankfurt and Mainz. The Austrian minister consulted the Great Powers’ leading diplomats—Hardenberg for Prussia, Nesselrode for Russia, Wellington for Britain—to sound out the feasibility of meeting Bavaria’s demands. Wellington reported home that Wrede was not remotely interested in territories to the left of the Rhine for Bavaria and favored maintaining the status quo; he would in no case be given Mainz or Frankfurt.53 Wellington further noted that territory still had to be found for the former viceroy Eugène Beauharnais, which should remain subordinate to the sovereignty of the king of Bavaria. Salzburg—“to which both Austrians and Bavarians attach the utmost importance”—was the thorniest issue. The Bavarian crown prince, Ludwig, who was especially attached to Salzburg, had made the matter personal; resolving it would require—to quote Wellington—“a good deal of coolness.” Discussing the strategic position of Salzburg, the British marshal sided with Austrian representatives such as Field Marshal Schwarzenberg, who saw Bavarian control of Salzburg as a potential threat to the line of the Danube and Austria’s links to Italy.54 Therefore, Wellington concluded, “I conceive that Salzburg ought to belong to Austria.” In late February, Emperor Francis instructed his foreign minister to support all Bavarian claims in western Germany, and ordered him, with an air of finality, “to explain that I shall not concede the return of Salzburg under any circumstances.”55

In the subsequent course of the talks, Mainz was taken off the table as a bargaining chip and replaced by the parts of the Palatinate on the right bank of the Rhine around Mannheim and Heidelberg, an area that had long been ruled by the Wittelsbachs. For a while, despite the emperor’s order, plans were also discussed to divide the Duchy of Salzburg along a line from Radstadt to the Gerlos Pass, via St. Johann im Pongau and Zell am See; Bavaria would retain the territory to the north of this line, while the area to the south would go to Austria. Wellington shared the view that Salzburg’s chief strategic value for Austria lay in the intra-Alpine link from Styria to Tyrol along the Enns and the Salzach, and that it would thus suffice to cede the southern portion of the duchy to Austrian control.56

On April 23, 1815, representatives of the five powers in Vienna agreed to a treaty between Austria and Bavaria that had been negotiated by Wessenberg, Wrede, and Nesselrode; Metternich referred to it right from the outset with the qualifier “éventuelle.”57 This treaty would have allowed Bavaria to retain the northern part of the Duchy of Salzburg and part of the Innviertel. The expansive potential gains for Bavaria along the Rhine and Main were subject to the results of as-yet-unconcluded negotiations with the governments of Baden (from which Munich hoped to obtain the entire Main-Tauber-Kreis and part of the Neckar-Kreis), Württemberg (where it hoped to obtain Nördlingen, Dinkelsbühl, Isny, Leutkirch, and other towns), the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt (Alzenau, Seligenstadt, Miltenberg, Amorbach, Wimpfen, etc.), and the Electorate of Hesse (the city of Hanau).58 However, it could scarcely be expected that the princes of these states would consent to cede these territories to Bavaria. Especially unlikely was that the rulers of Baden would agree to return the Electoral Palatinate to Bavaria (“la réversibilité des parties de l’ancien Palatinat”) in the event that the male line of the ruling ducal house died out (article 16 of the treaty).59 The text of the treaty was never formally ratified and thus is not included in the Congress of Vienna’s Final Act. As Wrede sarcastically yet clear-sightedly remarked to Montgelas: “It is a veritable sea we have to drink up. Now it is the turn of Baden, Württemberg, and Hesse to make difficulties for us.”60

The Congress of Vienna thus “failed to resolve the Bavarian border and compensation problem.”61 As if that were not enough, on Metternich’s initiative the Austrian promises from April were quietly dropped in the final days of the congress. Article 51 of the Final Act gave Austria sole possession of the territories held in reserve on the left bank of the Rhine, which it had co-governed with Bavaria since summer 1814. On June 12, 1815, by which time the official negotiations were already over, Wilhelm von Humboldt signed a secret agreement (to which Russia and Britain were privy) in which Prussia supported Austria’s claims to Salzburg, the Innviertel, and even the Palatinate. A series of other reserve territories that might conceivably also have been used to compensate Bavaria were instead awarded to Austria, with full rights of sovereignty. Vienna and Berlin planned to share provisional command of the Fortress of Mainz; the city itself would later pass to the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt.62

Given this closing of ranks by the Great Powers over the settlement of south German affairs, the only political avenue left to Bavaria was to bide its time, engage in tactical maneuvers, and score the occasional pinprick against Austria. Wrede’s refusal to withdraw Bavarian troops from the left bank of the Rhine initially prompted displeasure and threats from Vienna. Later, when Metternich, in the course of the protracted, complicated negotiations over a second peace treaty with France in the fall of 1815, was looking for ways to curb Prussia’s aggressive claims, an unexpected opportunity opened up for Bavaria to retain the northern part of Salzburg. In a long memorandum from Paris in September, Metternich once again tried to persuade his emperor to claim the strategically important Mainz for Austria, and give up part of Salzburg by way of compensation: “If Austria wishes to play a worthy role in Germany, and not wholly relinquish this arena to Prussia, then there can be no doubt that it is essential to have possessions in Germany, specifically on the Rhine. Were Austria to hold Mainz with ample surrounding lands, it would truly rule the politics of all south German courts […] Acquiring the whole Bishopric of Salzburg, by contrast, will always be faced with considerable difficulties.”63 Having presented Emperor Francis with the alternative of giving up either Salzburg or Mainz, Metternich was informed in a meeting with Field Marshal Schwarzenberg and General Duka, the emperor’s adjutant general, that the emperor had rejected his advice and that “for military reasons, the possession of Salzburg would have to take precedence over the possession of Mainz.”64 Thus—as the Austrian emperor ordered with uncharacteristic bluntness and finality on September 28, 1815—the city itself and the entire Principality of Salzburg, the whole Innviertel, “every last village,” and the ceded part of the Hausruckviertel must be returned to Austria. Even the matter of the “Rupertiwinkel” was reopened, the cluster of judicial districts on the west banks of the Salzach and Saalach whose cession to Bavaria had been taken for granted since the bilateral negotiations began.65 Ultimately, despite further appeals in which he went so far as to elevate the Austrian acquisition of Mainz to the status of a “moral question,”66 Metternich had no choice but to reluctantly execute the decision to retain Salzburg, as ordered by the emperor in ever-sharper words. On November 3, 1815, the minister agreed to a treaty with the other Great Powers requiring Munich to immediately cede Salzburg and the territories around the Inn, and in return to accept the territory on the left bank of the Rhine, including the Fortress of Landau, that Austria offered as compensation. Metternich sent his emperor the following report on Ludwig’s reaction: “The crown prince of Bavaria is in a mighty rage over the cession of the city of Salzburg. He is [practically] knocking on the doors of all my colleagues in a blind fervor to assert his right.”67 Count Aloys von Rechberg, who Montgelas had authorized to undertake further negotiations in Paris in the causa Salzburg, lodged a protest, but stood no chance against the united front of the Great Powers.68

Lower Franconia, the Palatinate, and the Consequences of the Treaty of Munich (1816)

The final act of the territorial dispute between Bavaria and Austria—which proved brief but highly dramatic—began after the signing of the Second Peace of Paris with France on November 20, 1815.69 Emperor Francis instructed Metternich: “I must order you to press through the Salzburg, Innviertel, and Hausruckviertel matter, if not by gentle means, then by force, and to do so soon.”70 Before the year was out, Metternich had dispatched a high-ranking military official familiar with the area to Munich for bilateral talks,71 namely, Lieutenant Field Marshal Johann Peter von Wacquant de Geozelles, who had been Austria’s commissioner for handing over Salzburg and Berchtesgaden in 1810. Montgelas began the talks with a show of intransigence, insisting that Salzburg remain under Bavarian control and demanding better compensation, referring among other things to the claims of Eugène Beauharnais. This provoked a note of protest from the Great Powers and an advance of Austrian troops along the Enns at the beginning of 1816. In his comments on Metternich’s reports, Emperor Francis worked himself up into an uncharacteristically agitated state, declaring that he would “put an end to the affair with Bavaria” and assert his rights, by force if need be, and with “no half measures.”72 However, he did not believe the breakdown in relations was irreparable, and wanted to limit the military measures to threatening gestures.73 In the end, it was the Bavarian king who backed down: in late January, he sent Crown Prince Ludwig, escorted by Rechberg, to speak directly with Emperor Francis, who was touring his new Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia. It was “not exactly a pleasure trip” (voyage de plaisir), Ludwig wrote to his father.74 The emperor was unwilling to concede anything except in regard to Bavaria’s claims to the Main-Tauber-Kreis, to the south of the new Bavarian possessions on the Main between Würzburg and Aschaffenburg. This area, around Boxberg, Wertheim, and Tauberbischofsheim, currently belonged to Baden. In a letter to Max Joseph, dated February 7, 1816, Emperor Francis offered the king an annual compensation of 100,000 gulden if the Main-Tauber-Kreis were not ceded to Bavaria.75

In February 1816, while the final negotiations were taking place, preparations were made in Munich for the withdrawal from Salzburg. Furniture from Schloss Mirabell and important documents were transported to Munich, and the quarries near Fürstenbrunn at the foot of the Untersberg were declared the private property of the Bavarian crown prince. In Munich, Prime Minister Montgelas refused with increasing stubbornness to be the sole signatory to the treaty with Austria, as he did not want to become the scapegoat for the loss of Salzburg. He bluntly declared, “I hate the treaty,”76 and demanded that Rechberg, the envoy in Vienna, sign it instead. Rechberg sent his superior a barbed reply: “If one has had the rare fortune to idle around in the foreign ministry for seventeen years, it is scarcely comprehensible that one should fear a momentary storm.”77 The king summoned the two quarreling officials, whereupon his minister said to his face that he had three portfolios to manage and hence no time for negotiations; Rechberg, who had been the king’s friend since his Zweibrücken days, responded that, as a Swabian who did not own an inch of land in Bavaria, he feared the nation would accuse him of having sold Bavaria to Austria. The agitated Max Joseph took to bed with colic; he had failed to “mediate between his two old confidants.”78 It was Crown Prince Ludwig who finally managed to broker a compromise a few days later; as a result of his efforts, the Treaty of Munich of April 14, 1816, was signed not by the usual two parties, but by three: Montgelas and Rechberg both added their signatures next to that of the Austrian envoy Wacquant.79

The provisions of the Treaty of Munich have shaped Bavaria’s outline on the map right down to the present day. The Innviertel, including Braunau, Ried, and Schärding, and the regions bordering it to the east, from the Hausruck to Vöcklabruck, returned to Austrian control, as did the Tyrolean district of Vils and the greater part of the Duchy of Salzburg. However, as agreed in 1814, Bavaria retained the areas of Salzburg on the left banks of the Salzach and the Saalach (and, as article 19 mentions in passing, Berchtesgaden). This area, known as the “Rupertiwinkel” and comprising the judicial districts of Tittmoning, Laufen, Waging, and Teisendorf, which have been part of Bavaria ever since, was equivalent to around 15 percent of the old archbishopric by population, 20 percent by area, and moreover contained the region’s best farmland—and therefore represented a significant loss for Salzburg.

Consequently, the new Bavaria of the nineteenth century expanded not southeastwards, but northwestwards. Numerous legal titles and lands belonging to myriad former owners were amalgamated into a new Lower Main District (Untermain-Kreis), which in 1817 comprised no fewer than forty-six judicial districts (Landgerichte) and thirteen judicial districts of the nobility (Herrschaftsgerichte).80 From 1814, the chief part of the territory was made up of the “Grand Duchy” of Würzburg, which had formerly been under Bavarian control in 1802 and from 1803 to 1805 and then granted to the Habsburgian grand duke of Tuscany, and the “Principality” of Aschaffenburg, which in the Holy Roman Empire had formed the core of the Mainzer Oberstift, and, since 1803, had been part of the succession of states ruled by the archbishop, archchancellor, and prince-primate Karl Theodor von Dalberg (most recently, in 1810, the Grand Duchy of Frankfurt). Bavaria had been able to take possession of these two large territorial units following the Peace of Paris of May 30, 1814. Only two years later, with the Treaty of Munich of April 14, 1816, did (parts of) the districts of Hammelburg, Brückenau, and Bieberstein, nestled between Würzburg and Aschaffenburg, pass to Bavaria. This strip of land in the Rhön Mountains—which in the past had changed hands between the Bishopric of Fulda, the Principality of Nassau-Orange-Fulda, and the Grand Duchy of Frankfurt—had been occupied by Austrian troops since late November 1813, meaning that Vienna could cede it directly to Munich.81 With regards to the other areas mentioned in the Treaty of Munich, by contrast, Austria could merely promise to intercede with their current owners and attempt to persuade them to make concessions to Bavaria. These efforts bore fruit very quickly in the case of the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt, which on July 7, 1816, transferred to Bavaria several districts on the Main that consolidated the Aschaffenburg territory. These were Alzenau (which Darmstadt had acquired from Mainz in 1803), and then—up toward the Odenwald Mountains—Miltenberg and Amorbach (both of which had also originally belonged to Mainz and passed to Darmstadt in 1810, having been held by the Principality of Leiningen and by Baden in the interim), and Kleinheubach, which in the eighteenth century had belonged to the princes of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rochefort.82 Only in the Frankfurt General (Territorial) Recess of July 20, 1819, did Baden, with the mediation of the Great Powers and in exchange for an extensive package of political guarantees (articles 6–10), cede the part of the district of Wertheim situated around Steinfels to the south of Lohr on the left (east) bank of the Main, which before 1806 had also been a Löwenstein possession (article 1).83

It was not just Lower Franconia (known from 1837 as “Lower Franconia and Aschaffenburg”) that was born from the spirit of a provisorium; the Austrian reserve territories on the left bank of the Rhine, chiefly comprising the districts of Zweibrücken, Kaiserslautern, and Speyer and the city of Landau, became the “Rhine Circle” (Rheinkreis). Although Ludwig I renamed this Bavarian Rhine Circle of 1816 “the Palatinate,” so as to suggest a historical continuity, in reality it was a new construct, assembled from territories previously belonging to over forty non-Wittelsbach owners during the Holy Roman Empire; that is to say, Bavaria was not having old lands restored to it, but rather being given a package of territories pieced together to compensate for the loss of Salzburg. However, the “old” Electoral Palatinate on the right bank of the Rhine did make a reappearance in the Treaty of Munich, whose first secret article confirmed the Wittelsbachs’ right of succession should the House of Baden die out (“la reversion de la partie du Palatinat du Rhin dite le cercle de Neckar”).84 This clause was long a cause of tension in southern Germany, particularly between Baden and Bavaria, until it was revoked by the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818, which recognized the succession rights of the morganatic Hochberg line (the issue had assumed particular urgency following the death of Grand Duke Karl Ludwig Friedrich of Baden that same year). The Frankfurt Recess (July 1819) revoked any further claims Bavaria might have been able to derive from the treaty of 1816, which is why Ludwig I never formally acknowledged it, instead repeatedly pressing his claims to the Palatinate.85

Bavaria was included in the French reparation payments, but there was no direct land link between the new territories on the Main and those on the Rhine. The treaty of April 14 provided only for a military road running from Würzburg to Frankenthal through Baden’s territory; secret article 5 also gave the option of a second military road through Hessian territory. The lack of a direct land bridge (Amorbach and Mannheim were separated by a distance of just under fifty kilometers, as the crow flies) violated the terms of the Treaty of Ried of 1813, and this was why the Austrian emperor had in principle recognized Bavaria’s claims to the Main-Tauber-Kreis (supplementary article 2). The territory remained under Baden’s control, but from 1820 onward Austria paid Bavaria an annual sum of 100,000 gulden (the expected annual revenue from the region, as calculated by the crown prince) as indemnity for there being no land bridge between Franconia and the Palatinate. This “contiguity compensation” (Kontiguitätsentschädigung) was not paid directly, but instead offset against the cost of the 200,000 centners of salt from Hallein that Austria supplied to Bavaria each year at a preferential price (supplementary articles 2–4).

As a result of the territorial exchanges between 1814 and 1816, Bavaria made a net gain of just under 100,000 inhabitants, meaning that, within borders more or less corresponding to those of the present day (apart from the Rhine Circle, a few towns along the Kinzig and in the Rhön Mountains, and the town of Coburg), it was home to a population of 3.5 million; by way of comparison, the equivalent figure today stands at 12.7 million, while at the start of the Napoleonic period, in 1801, the total population of the Wittelsbach possessions had been 2.3 million.

Like Prussia, Bavaria was not compensated in the east, as it had hoped and expected to be, but rather with territories to the west. It thus became part of the barrier of “middle states” (Mittelstaaten; mid-sized German states smaller than Prussia and Austria) established on the left bank of the Rhine in line with British policy so as to curb future expansion attempts by France, and thereby also a player in one of Europe’s central political arenas. The political and economic dynamism of the territories on the Rhine provided crucial impulses and challenges that fueled Bavaria’s modernization in the nineteenth century; by contrast, Salzburg, after its return to Austria on May 1, 1816, was downgraded to a district (Kreis) of Upper Austria, and, in 1825, Franz Schubert reported that grass was growing between the cracks of the paving stones in the city’s plazas.86

Unlike the dispute over Poland and Saxony, which involved all the European powers and dominated the negotiations at the Congress of Vienna, Bavaria’s territorial claims and disputes were strictly between itself and Austria. This meant they could be resolved through bilateral agreements before and after the congress, in June 1814 and April 1816—though Viennese politicians did not shy away from mobilizing the support of Britain, Russia, or Prussia on the emperor’s behalf at critical moments, as in June and November 1815. At the congress itself, the Bavarian representative, Rechberg, played a key role in the final phase of negotiations in May/June 1815 in ensuring that the sovereignty of former members of the Confederation of the Rhine was recognized, that the results of the territorial consolidation of 1803/1806 were preserved, and that the German Confederation—i.e., the concrete realization of the “federative bond” stipulated by the earlier Peace of Paris, the details of which were fleshed out during the “second German conferences” in May/June 1815—only took the form of a very loose association.87

The Treaty of Munich is, in many respects, better than the bad reputation it enjoyed in some quarters at the time—indeed, it proved, in the words of Eberhard Weis, to be a “real stroke of fortune for Bavaria.” The provisions of this treaty, signed precisely two hundred years ago, allowed Bavaria to develop lasting “good neighborly relations” with Austria,88 following almost constant military confrontation between Munich and Vienna in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, from the War of the Spanish Succession through to the Tyrolean rebellion of 1809.

In late 1816, Emperor Francis I married the second daughter of King Max Joseph, Princess Caroline Augusta (it was his fourth and final marriage).89 This marked the start of a series of better and lesser-known marital unions between the Habsburgs and Wittelsbachs in the nineteenth century. Personal relations never recovered between Metternich, who described the territorial negotiations with Bavaria as a “wretched” business, the “trickiest” and “most arduous” of his political life (the emperor seconded this view, describing them in March 1816 as “highly disagreeable” and thanking God they were over),90 and the Bavarian crown prince, the later Ludwig I; the two men had taken too high a toll on each other’s nerves in the years from 1814 to 1816.91 However, there was gradual progress in terms of concrete economic collaboration: a series of treaties governing the borders around Berchtesgaden were agreed (the last coming in 1851), and salt production in the neighboring districts was coordinated. The Bavarian–Austrian Salt Treaty of 1829, which is still valid to this day (albeit revised in 1957), regulates mining and forestry rights in Hallein and Pinzgau in the mutual interest of both sides—a subtle continuation of premodern traditions that not only established Bavarian-owned woodlands on Austrian soil, but also respected the rights of the local population to the use of the land.92 The Munich–Salzburg–Vienna telegraph line was opened in 1850, and subsequent planning for the railway line connecting Munich to the east was coordinated across borders between the Maximilian Railway (Munich–Salzburg) and Empress Elisabeth Railway (Salzburg–Linz–Vienna). In 1860, the first train from Bavaria arrived at the new railway station in Salzburg.93

The treaties of Ried, Paris, and Munich, concluded between 1813 and 1816, thus ushered in a profound transformation of relations between Bavaria and Austria.94 A “secular rivalry” that just a few decades earlier, under Joseph II, had posed a very real threat to the integrity of the Wittelsbach possessions, came to an end in 1813. Austria “moderated its political interests,” “respected Bavaria’s independence,” and accepted the neighboring kingdom as a “strategic partner,”95 as reflected in Metternich’s above-quoted description of Bavaria as a “fixed point” in Vienna’s relations with Germany.

Despite the conflicts described here in the years 1813–1816, in the critical situation in the second half of 1813, when Bavaria became the first member of the Confederation of the Rhine to join the alliance against Napoleon, it was Bavaria’s old rival Austria that recognized its status as a consolidated “middle power,” which Napoleon had initially granted it, respected its sovereignty, and became the guarantor of its continued existence in the new European order—and thus, as Michael Doeberl puts it, became Bavaria’s “savior.”96



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Originally published as

Reinhard Stauber, “Die Neuordnung Europas nördlich und südlich der Alpen. Bayern, Österreich und die italienischen Staaten 1814–1816” in Zeitschrift für bayerische Landesgeschichte (2015), 481-512.