From Revolution To Biedermeier
Prince Metternich 1848 Revolution. Austrian Chancellor Prince Metternich (1773 to 1859), the most hated man in Austria-Hungary, set another milestone of Vienna history. Read this page and you understand the Metternich system and what the big revolution of 1848 did to Austria.
Prince Metternich started his political career as foreign minister in 1809. It was a few months after Napoleon had defeated the Habsburg Empire. The Congress of Vienna 1814/15 was Prince Metternich’s biggest master piece.
The Metternich System
Prince Metternich 1848 Revolution. Metternich stood for ultraconservative and absolutistical politics. He set up an oppressive police state within the Empire in order to maintain the old absolutistic monarchy. It was the age of censorship, bureaucratic interference, spies and occasional arrests for expressing revolutionary thoughts. This early dictatorship came to be known later as the Metternich system.
On the one hand, Metternich’s politics saved the Habsburg Empire from crumbling in the early 19th century. On the other hand, the Austrian chancellor became the most hated man of Austria-Hungary.
Prince Metternich And The 1848 Revolution
Prince Metternich 1848 Revolution. The Revolution of 1848 was spreading across Europe and hit Vienna in full. The Austro-Hungarian Empire’s liberals, workers, and intellectuals joined their like minded French, Italian, German and Hungarian equal. They revolted against the absolutistic rules of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy of the Habsburgs. These had been re-installed before at the Congress of Vienna, following the defeat of Napoleon.
Prince Metternich 1848 Revolution. The revolution was one of the few big revolts in Vienna’s history. The Viennese wanted a sovereign nation within a Republican state, or at least a constitutional monarchy, freedom of speech and press, a civil militia, and a liberalised economy.
One of the most famous historic phrases from the Habsburgs: Emperor Ferdinand I, who was mentally retarded and euphemistically calledFerdinand, the Benign (Ferdinand der Gütige) to Prince Metternich 1848, when seeing the revolutionaries in front of Schönbrunn Palace,: “Ja, dürfen’s denn des?” (“Well, are they allowed to do this?”)
Prince Metternich 1848 Revolution. At first, the revolution seemed to succeed. The Austrian Court set up a constitution, replaced the State Council with a provisional state ministry and granted freedom of speech.
However, the revolutionaries thought the changes in the constitution were unsatisfactory. They called for direct elections. This was the start of the end of the revolution.
In 1848 Karl Marx visited Vienna – a major embarrassement for Prince Metternich. Marx held a famous speech in front of 1,000 members of the new workers’ union. He reported about the situation of the working classes in other European countries. Marx reassured the Viennese workers that only a well organised workers’ organisation would be able to succeed with their fight for democratic rules.
The last revolt took place in October 1848. By then, the Austrian Court and Ferdinand escaped to Olmötz in what is now the Czech Republic. Prince Metternich resigned and fled from Vienna to England. The revolution was beaten down with the help of Russian troops. Ferdinand abdicated in favour of his nephew Franz Joseph, who restored order. The few changes in the constitution were cosmetic. Some liberties for the peasants were granted. In total however, the system became even more oppressive. It was later known as Neo-Absolutism.
Biedermeier Culture: A Response To 1848
Prince Metternich 1848 Revolution. The Viennese Biedermeier culture, valuing the family and the home, dates back to that period and stands in contrast to the political turmoil and uncertainty. Biedermeier is also key to understanding local art. Paintings of that time are romantic and naturalistic. The furniture is characterised by simplistic interiors in light wood. The Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art and the Imperial Furniture Collection (Hofmobiliendepot) exhibit lovely Biedermeier chairs and furniture. You can see easily how much they demonstrate the desire for a good secure life of the Viennese citizens.
Prince Metternich 1848 Revolution: Further Reading
Prince Metternich 1848 Revolution. If you want to dig deeper into the revolution, Biedermeier art, and personalities of the time focus on
- books that cover the revolution 1848 in Austria, and those that set it within the framework of European revolutions at that time
- the cultural phenomenon of Biedermeier as a form of lifestyle and art,
- the original memoirs of one of the key politicians behind the revolution, Prince Metternich (from the horse’s mouth!) and
- finally a novel collection of Wikipedia articles about Austrian people from the 17th century, surrounding the era Metternich 1848. All of them have been bound into a paperback book, together with pictures from Wikimedia Commons.