Quadruple Alliance and Quintuple Alliance

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The Quadruple Alliance was signed in November 1815 by Russia, Britain, Austria, and Prussia, following the long series of wars that began in the aftermath of the French Revolution and concluded with the defeat of Napoleon. It was essentially a continuation of the Treaty of Chaumont of 1814, in which the four powers vowed to defeat France and remain allied for twenty years to keep France in check. At the time Russia was the preeminent military power in Europe. From 1813 to 1814, Europeans had watched with a mixture of amazement and horror as Russian soldiers drove Napoleon's Grand Army out of their country and, joined by Prussia, Britain, and finally Austria, all the way to Paris. Britain ruled the seas, but no army rivaled Russia's, and fear of this new power was keen in Austria and Britain until its disastrous defeat in the Crimean War.

The individual most responsible for the complete destruction of Napoleon's power was Emperor Alexander I (r. 18011825). The other continental powers had been willing to negotiate a settlement with Napoleon, but Alexander had insisted on total victory. Since at least 1805 he had been convinced that only Russia and Britain had the resources to vanquish Napoleon and reestablish order in Europe based on a new treaty system.

With the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the victorious powers faced two related problems: how to contain France, and how to prevent revolution. In November, the British foreign secretary, Viscount Castlereagh, proposed a continuation of the alliance system, bolstered by a system of greatpower congresses to deal with crises as they arose. Alexander's vague response was a "Holy Alliance" of Christian monarchs who would treat one another with Christian brotherhood and charity. This proposal had no practical effect.

Castlereagh had his way, and in the Quadruple Alliance the victorious powers pledged to maintain the political system established at the Congress of Vienna for the next twenty years, by force if necessary, and to meet periodically to consult on the maintenance of order and stability. The foreign secretary declared that Britain would never intervene militarily in the internal affairs of another state. When Alexander pressed him to promise support for the restored Bourbon monarchy in France, Castlereagh refused. This did much to fuel Alexander's suspicions of British policy.

As Alexander's anti-British feelings grew, he came to regard France in a more favorable light. Prodded by his advisers, particularly Corfiote Capodistrias, he concluded that if France were admitted into the Quadruple Alliance, it could become a counterweight to Britain and, to a lesser extent, Austria, especially if Prussia continued to follow Russia's diplomatic lead.

The result was the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818. Ostensibly convened to end the military occupation of France, it really had the goal of restoring France into the great-power system. Its outcome was twofold: France joined the alliance, which became the Quintuple Alliance, but the Quadruple Alliance was reconfirmed because the victors, despite their mutual distrust, were still fearful of a resurgent France. Over the next few decades, however, fear of Russian power and expansionism would seize all the great powers except Prussia, until they united to defeat Russia in the Crimean War.

See also: crimean war; holy alliance; napoleon i; vienna, congress of


Albrecht-Carrie, Rene. (1958). A Diplomatic History of Europe Since the Congress of Vienna. New York: Harper.

Bridge, F.R., and Bullen, Roger. (1980). The Great Powers and the European States System: 18151914. New York: Longman.

Jelavich, Barbara. (1974). St. Petersburg and Moscow: Tsarist and Soviet Foreign Policy: 18141974. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Hugh Phillips