“Reads like a novel. A fast-paced page-turner, it has everything: sex, wit, humor, and adventures. But it is an impressively researched and important story.”
—David Fromkin, author of Europe’s Last Summer
Vienna, 1814 is an evocative and brilliantly researched account of the most audacious and extravagant peace conference in modern European history. With the feared Napoleon Bonaparte presumably defeated and exiled to the small island of Elba, heads of some 216 states gathered in Vienna to begin piecing together the ruins of his toppled empire. Major questions loomed: What would be done with France? How were the newly liberated territories to be divided? What type of restitution would be offered to families of the deceased? But this unprecedented gathering of kings, dignitaries, and diplomatic leaders unfurled a seemingly endless stream of personal vendettas, long-simmering feuds, and romantic entanglements that threatened to undermine the crucial work at hand, even as their hard-fought policy decisions shaped the destiny of Europe and led to the longest sustained peace the continent would ever see.
Beyond the diplomatic wrangling, however, the Congress of Vienna served as a backdrop for the most spectacular Vanity Fair of its time. Highlighted by such celebrated figures as the elegant but incredibly vain Prince Metternich of Austria, the unflappable and devious Prince Talleyrand of France, and the volatile Tsar Alexander of Russia, as well as appearances by Ludwig van Beethoven and Emilia Bigottini, the sheer star power of the Vienna congress outshone nearly everything else in the public eye.
An early incarnation of the cult of celebrity, the congress devolved into a series of debauched parties that continually delayed the progress of peace, until word arrived that Napoleon had escaped, abruptly halting the revelry and shrouding the continent in panic once again.
Vienna, 1814 beautifully illuminates the intricate social and political intrigue of this history-defining congress–a glorified party that seemingly valued frivolity over substance but nonetheless managed to drastically reconfigure Europe’s balance of power and usher in the modern age.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Vienna, 1814|
|Release Date: 03-11-2008|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Crown Publishing Group|
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|Parent title||Vienna, 1814|
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Bread and Circuses
There is literally a royal mob here. Everybody is crying out:
Peace! Justice! Balance of power! Indemnity!
As for me, I am a looker-on. All the indemnity I ask for is a new hat.
-Prince de Ligne
Ornate rococo carriages rumbled through a landscape scorched by twentysome years of revolution and warfare. Dangers lurked everywhere on the poor, unlit roadways. Cutthroat highwaymen preyed on isolated travelers, and inns were hardly safe havens, either, often little better than "murderer's dens." Venturing out into the bleak postwar world was for "the fearless, the foolish, or the suicidal." During the autumn of 1814, it was also for the idealistic and the idle. Hordes of pleasure-seekers would flock to Vienna for an unprecedented pageant.
The occasion was the Congress of Vienna, the long-awaited peace conference to decide the future of Europe. Kings, queens, princes, princesses, dukes, duchesses, diplomats, and about a hundred thousand other visitors would make their way to the central European city, swelling the population by as much as a third. No one, though, it must be said, really had an idea of what to expect. The invitation for the congress had been sent by way of an announcement in the newspaper.
The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars had ripped Europe apart. For the first time in history, enormous armies based on universal conscription had marched across the continent to wage a "total war." France had set the standard for this comprehensive mobilization of the people with the famous decree of August 1793:
The young shall fight; married men shall forge weapons and