Congress of Troppau

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The principles of reaction established after 1815 by the conservative powers of Austria, Russia, and Prussia and manifested in the Holy Alliance worked temporarily to suppress revolutionary movements and activities. In 1820, however, revolutions in Portugal, Spain, and Naples compelled the respective monarchs to accept constitutional governments. The creation of constitutional monarchies was clearly the product of revolutionary contagion, yet the legitimate monarchs of the three states remained on their thrones.

The situation presented particularly ominous and complex problems for Clemens von Metternich, the Austrian foreign minister, and Alexander I, the Russian tsar. Before 1819, Alexander had encouraged liberal movements in Italy and Germany, and this presented Metternich with both ideological and political dilemmas. Russia's diplomatic influence in Europe was substantial and often ran counter to Austrian interests. In 1819 Alexander experienced a significant transformation in which he fundamentally rejected liberalism and embraced reaction. The tsar's reversal was triggered by the assassination that year of his favorite conservative writer, August Kotzebue, in Germany. Although Metternich capitalized on this event to suppress revolutionary movements in Germany, he was less inclined to encourage the tsar when it came to matters in Italy.

Metternich was far more concerned about Italian events than what was occurring in the Iberian Peninsula. Austria had held Lombardy-Venetia since 1814 as part of the emperor's new patrimony. The Habsburgs' extended family occupied the thrones of Modena, Parma, and Tuscany. In 1815 in Naples, Austrian forces restored Ferdinand IV to his throne (as Ferdinand I, king of the Two Sicilies). When Alexander reacted to the Neapolitan revolution of 1820 by threatening to send troops to restore Ferdinand as an absolute monarch, Metternich was compelled to act quickly to discourage Russian intervention in Italy.

Thus, Metternich convened a meeting of the Quintuple Alliance on 25 October 1820 at Troppau, in Silesia (modern-day Opava, Czech Republic). This was the first serious test of the Holy Alliance, and at the same time it illustrated the differences between those states and the other members of the Quintuple Alliance. Great Britain, a vital part of the latter alliance, was not sympathetic to Austrian and Russian concerns; the British recused themselves from the affair and sent only their ambassador in Vienna to observe the proceedings. Britain did not perceive constitutionalism as a threat to its national interests, and relations between Naples and London had been quite good since the late eighteenth century. France as well did not participate, but sent only an observer. Frederick William III, the Prussian king, agreed to participate, and dispatched Baron Karl von Hardenberg, his foreign minister, to Troppau, although the king had little interest in encouraging Russia and Austria to expand their influence in Europe.

Metternich sought to establish a principle of intervention that would preclude Alexander from using military force, but permit Austria to represent the Holy Alliance and the Concert of Europe and to act against revolutionary movements when necessary. To this end Metternich and Alexander hammered out a statement of intent to be broadcast to the revolutionary governments. The Troppau Protocol, of 19 November 1820, proclaimed that governments that arose as a consequence of revolution were illegitimate and could be declared outside the European concert. Such states would face sanctions that could include armed intervention in order to restore the legitimate monarchy to full power.

Metternich made no immediate decision to dispatch troops to Italy, as the Austrian army in Lombardy-Venetia was not prepared for military operations. Metternich and Alexander, however, agreed to meet again in several months at Laibach to discuss the specifics of armed intervention in Italy. The Troppau Protocol gave Metternich the right of intervention, specifically because Ferdinand requested it, but also because the threat of revolution was very real throughout the peninsula. The protocol further provided Metternich with a means of limiting Alexander's options in Italy and Germany. Yet, at the moment of his victory at Troppau, Metternich alienated Great Britain, which essentially withdrew from the alliance, although it remained an interested observer in Continental affairs.

See alsoAlexander I; Concert of Europe; Congress of Vienna; Holy Alliance; Metternich, Clemens von.


Artz, Frederick B. Reaction and Revolution, 1814–1832. New York, 1934. Reprint, New York, 1963.

Reinerman, Alan J. "Metternich, Alexander I, and the Russian Challenge in Italy, 1815–1820." Journal of Modern History 46, no. 2 (1974): 262–276.

Schroeder, Paul W. The Transformation of European Politics, 1763–1848. Oxford, U.K., 1994.

Frederick C. Schneid

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Congress of Troppau

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Congress of Troppau