THIS AND THAT
THIS AND THAT
Before any building took place, this area in the Vienna Woods was part of the Katterburg Estate, a wooded hill called the gatterholz. On one side of the hill was a small village named Hietzing and on the other the village of Meidling. There was also a wild brook, the Vienna River (Wienfluss) and a natural spring, called the ‘Schöne Brunnen’ (the beautiful spring).
Maria Theresia commissioned architect Johann Ferdinand von Hohenberg to build a monument on the top of the hill which would crown the baroque gardens of Schönbrunn and requested that the building should incorporate parts of the old 17th century renaissance Palace ‘Neugebäude’ near to Kaiserebersdorf.
The Gloriette was completed in 1775. The central part has glass windows forming a pavilion and was used by the Imperial family.
Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg was, together with Adrian van Steckhoven - responsible for the design and completion of the nearly 200 acres of gardens, including the garden architecture and the majority of the buildings such as the Neptune Fountain, Obelisk and the Roman Ruins.
The letters to be seen on the inscription on the Gloriette symbolise the Roman numerals ‘D’ and ‘M’. The ‘D’ and ‘M’, which represent 500 and 1000 are derived from the Etruscan inscriptions and are often show IƆ and CIƆ.
CIƆ = M 1000 IƆ = D 500
Hercules Fighting the Dragon of the Hesperides and Hercules Slaying the Nemean Lion
The two Hercules bronze statuary groups in the central foyer of Schönbrunn Palace are assumed to be by Marc Chabris dated around 1700 and were most probably designed by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach.
They were made for the Winter Palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy and were hot-air stoves that served a practical as well as decorative function.
Following the death of Prince Eugene in 1736 his niece, Anna Victoria of Saxony-Hildburghausen, sold all the moveable contents of the Prince's Palaces. It is assumed these bronze groups came to Schönbrunn at this time and were installed as hot-air stoves in the dining room of the former hunting lodge.
Maria Theresia later had the Palace extended during which time the dining room was converted into a staircase (Blue Staircase) and the bronze statues were transferred to the main hall (Vestibule) on the ground floor.
The figures are hollow castings and originally had an opening at the back of their plinths through which hot air flowed into the hollow figures and out through the gaping mouth of the lion and jaws of the dragon thus heated the room.
These openings have since been sealed with welded metal plates.
The Plague - The Plague Laws
After the 9th century Austria was constantly harrowed by the plague and it was necessary to issue laws that concentrated on strict regulations regarding cleanliness and the usual epidemic-police measures.
Each case of the plague illness had to be announced immediately. The sick were taken into special plague insulation hospitals and those who had lived in the same house or household were put under observation. The doors of the houses of the sick were marked with a white cross and locked for forty days. Before the houses were re-inhabited they were cleaned, smoked and whitewashed. Clothing and articles belonging to the sick were burned.
Persons from infected areas, or those who could not provide a health certificate to prove they came from a non-infected area were subjected to a forty-day quarantine before they were allowed to enter the city.
In order to prevent the illness spreading through the city, bathing rooms and schools were closed, amusements, fairs and other public meetings were severely restricted.
O, my dear Augustin
In 1679 the Plague was raging harshly through Vienna and people were dying by the thousands. Augustin, a street musician (bagpiper), survived the plague but had l goneost most of his friends and he sat alone in the inn ‘Zum Roten Dachl’ whilst composing his song of despair:
O, my dear Augustin
O, my dear Augustin,
Money's gone, girlfriend's gone,
Everything`s gone, Augustin!
O, my dear Augustin,
Coat is gone, staff is gone,
Augustin in the dumps.
O, my dear Augustin,
Even that rich town Vienna,
Is devastated like Augustin.
Shares the same tears with him,
Every day was like a feast,
Now we have the plague!
Just a big death feast,
Is all, that remains.
Lay down in your grave!
O, my dear Augustin,
The Imperial Palace-Hofburg
The Imperial Palace - Hofburg in the centre of Vienna - was first mentioned in 1279 and was the main residence of the Austrian sovereigns until 1918.
The vast complex is not just one building, but more a collection of different buildings that have, over the centuries, been built around the old original fortified castle (Burg). The Schweizertrakt (Swiss Wing), the Schweizertor (Swiss Gate), the Stallburg (Stables) and the late-Renaissance Amalienburg all date back to the 16th century and during the following centuries they were all linked with the Court Library (Nationalbibliothek), the Spanish Riding School and the new wing of the Hofburg, the so-called Neue Burg.
Today one wing of the Hofburg is used by the Austrian Federal President. Other sections of the Hofburg are administrated by the Federal State of Austria (Burghauptmannschaft). The Imperial Apartments and the Imperial Collection of Court Tableware (Silberkammer) are open to the public.
The so-called Neugebäude was a palace on the outskirts of Vienna near to the Central Cemetery and was commissioned in 1568 by Emperor Maximilian II. Unfortunately the Emperor died in 1576 before the Palace was completed leaving a large building site for his successor Rudolf II. Rudolph however decided to leave Vienna and went to reside in Prague.
The history of the Neugebäude was extremely short. By the year 1600 the Palace had already begun to decay, and by the middle of the 17th century the complex of buildings, menagerie and gardens had already lost most of their former beauty.
In 1607 the menagerie was extended, but in 1704, the Hungarian so-called ‘Kurucs’ rebels devastated the whole complex. The Palace and the menagerie were slowly rebuilt but little was done to make the Palace into a future imperial residence.
In 1752 Maria Theresia decided to transfer the animals to the newly built menagerie at Schönbrunn.
In 1775 all of the re-useable ornamental parts of the Palace were removed and used to decorate the Gloriette and the Roman Ruins of Schönbrunn.
After the turn of the Millennium the main building of the original Renaissance Palace and the outbuildings have been partially restored and now have the required facilities to make them available for events of all kinds.
The Favorita in the forth-district of Vienna was the former Imperial Summer Residence just outside the old city of Vienna. The residence was built in the year 1623 but was heavily damaged in 1683 by the Ottomans during the second siege of Vienna. The Palace was rebuilt between the years of 1687 and 1690 and thereafter it was used for court festivities and as a hunting lodge.
After the sudden death of her father Maria Theresia moved the Imperial Summer Residence to Schönbrunn Palace.
In 1746 Maria Theresia established the Theresianum a noble academy in the former residence and employed Jesuit monks as teachers. After the abolition of the Jesuits the Piarists and secular teachers, together with the Savoyan Knights, continued the work of the Academy.
The Theresianum experienced many ups and downs and political upheavals during the following centuries and is now run as a private school (*public school) with boarding facilities.
* In Britain private fee paying schools are known as public schools.
In 1697 Prince Eugène of Savoy purchased land on the outskirts of Vienna on which he built Belvedere Palace as his summer residence. The Lower Belvedere was built between 1714 and 1716, and the building of Upper Belvedere was commenced in 1720 and completed in 1723 by the architect Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt.
Prince Eugène's heiress, Duchess Viktoria of Saxony-Hildburghausen, sold the Palace in 1752 to Maria Theresia.
The small town of Laxenburg in Lower Austria is the site of an Imperial Residence first mentioned in 1136 and owned by the Habsburgs from 1333 onwards. The residence was extended during the 17th century and is now situated in the middle of a large English-style landscape park.
Laxenburg was used by many monarchs such as Maria Theresia, Joseph II, Franz II/I and Franz Joseph and today it is popular venue for day trips and picnics.
Klosterneuburg -The Austrian Escorial
The origins of the Augustine monastery of Klosterneuburg in Lower Austria near to Vienna can be traced back to the Babenberg Margrave Leopold III, who founded the monastery in the year 1114. During his reign Leopold established numerous other monasteries such as Heiligenkreuz, Klosterneuburg and Klein-Mariazell.
Leopold was canonised in 1485 and later became patron saint of Lower Austria.
Since the foundation of the monastery of Klosterneuburg Augustinian Canons (monks) have lived and worked there according to the Rule of Saint Augustine.
In 1730 Karl VI decided to make the monastery of Klosterneuburg into a Summer Residence according to plans drawn up by Donato Felice d'Allio. These plans envisaged the Emperor Karl VI’s Imperial Residence becoming the ‘Austrian Escorial’, a huge complex with nine domed towers each of which was to be surmounted by one of the crowns of the House of Austria.
After the death of Karl VI in 1740 the work on the residence was halted and little work was done until the years between 1834 and 1842. Only a quarter of the original plan was completed.
The Vienna World Fair of 1873
The Austro-Hungarian Empire had lost much of its power during the mid-19th century and the war with France, together with conflicts with Prussia, led to social and economic problems within the Empire.
During the previous decade Austria-Hungary had enjoyed a period of economic growth and domestic prosperity, and was now eager to show its achievements to the world and thereby renew its reputation as a reliable and stable industrial power.
Vienna's Prater with its more than 1 500 acres of lawns, gardens and wooded areas was chosen as the ideal exposition site. It was to be the first of its kind to use a complex of separate buildings instead of just one main hall to accommodate the numerous exhibits on display. The Rotunde, a large enclosed circular building, was to form the centre of the fair and gigantic halls on either side extended the exhibition area to a length of about 1,000 metres. The Rotunde was the largest building of its kind being three times larger than the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, and twice the size of Crystal Palace in London.
Within this complex were twenty-eight galleries in which an array of industrial products from all over the world were on display. The Rotunde was designed to be used after the World Fair for future expositions. This magnificent building was the heart of the exhibition, and was to lend a sense of dignity, elegance and nobility to the opening ceremonies. .
The Machinery Hall, located to the north of the Rotunde, was more than six-hundred metres long, forty metres wide and twenty metres high. It was built to accommodate two parallel railway tracks and was to be re-used as a storage building for the Great Northern Railway after the fair ended. The Art Hall to the east of the Rotunde was thirty metres wide and two-hundred metres long.
The location of the participating countries within the fair was determined according to their position on the globe from east to west: Japan, China, Turkey, Egypt, Russia, Greece, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain, Portugal, Great Britain, Brazil, South America and the United States, in that order. Austria's own exhibits took up nearly half the available room leaving the other half for the display of the exhibits from the rest of the world. Great Britain brought nothing new. France was unable to prepare for the exposition due to its financial situation after losing the Franco-Prussian war. The United States showed no interest until it was too late to prepare exhibits. The site itself was not finished in time for the official opening, and just a fortnight later the Viennese stock market crashed, causing havoc in the domestic economy.
An outbreak of cholera in Vienna was followed by flooding that damaged some of the new buildings of the World Fair and the fact that vendors were charging high prices for their goods and services, discouraged people from visiting the exhibition. Although most of the other countries still experienced a certain amount of success selling their products, the Austrian exhibits were a flop and the Vienna World Fair thus became a memorable disaster that finally removed any thoughts of future World Fairs taking place in Vienna.
During the middle of the 19th century Vienna still had its city walls. The fortifications, bastions and glacis (an artificial slightly slanted mound of earth outside a ditch or wall intended to deflect or absorb cannon fire) were maintained by forbidding any development in the area surrounding the walls. This vast open area beyond the walls was used as a recreation area for the people of Vienna.
The Revolution of 1848 politicised the issue of the removal of the city walls. The vast majority of the population wanted to see them removed, but the aristocracy preferred them to remain, citing the revolution as proof they were still needed as protection for the Imperial Family and as a deterrent to further uprisings.
In 1857, Franz Joseph ordered the demolition of the walls and the redevelopment of the area around the city and its suburbs. An aqueduct was to be built to supply the city with fresh water from the surrounding areas and a drainage system, together with gas lighting, formed part of the overall plan. In 1860 the development plan was published showing the area surrounding the city was to become a broad heptagonal shaped avenue with new buildings on either side, which was to be called the Ringstrasse.
The Imperial Army had the responsibility of protecting the Imperial Family and insisted that the Ringstrasse should be constructed in such a way as to provide a maximum amount of safety. Two new barracks and an arsenal were built in strategic locations near to the city to ensure a quick military response should the city need it. The area between the Hofburg and surrounding suburbs (Heldenplatz) was kept open and formed an empty space that could easily be reached by military forces. The Ringstrasse itself was to be some sixty-to-seventy metres wide to avoid any possible barricading. It would completely encircle the old city and would so as to enable rapid troop movements from the new barracks to the city centre.
The construction of the Ringstrasse was an enormous project. Roads leading into the inner city from the suburbs were to feed into the circular flow of the Ringstrasse that separated the city from its suburbs. The new buildings such as the Parliament, Rathaus and University were to be constructed along the side of the Ringstrasse facing towards the street.
Private individuals, who purchased the land from the city, erected the majority of the new residences. Building restrictions only affected the height of the new buildings but left all other details open.
Leopold r. 976-994
Heinrich I r. 994-1018
Adalbert r. 1018-1055
Ernst r. 1055-1075
Leopold II r. 1075-1095
Leopold III r. 1096-1136
Leopold IV r. 1136-1141
Heinrich II r. 1141-1177
Leopold V r. 1177-1194
Friedrich I r. 1194-1198
Leopold VI r. 1198-1230
Friedrich II r. 1230-1246
The Babenbergs ruled over Austria between 976 and 1246 during which time they gradually acquired provinces roughly corresponding to today’s provinces of Upper Austria and Lower Austria. They also expanded their influence eastwards toward the Hungarian border and southwards into Styria and Carinthia. The name ‘Ostarrichi’ (Eastern Empire) was first mentioned in 996 before the duchy of Austria was detached from Bavaria in 1156.
Margrave of Austria
Saint Leopold of Austria
Leopold III, also known as Saint Leopold, was married to Agnes widow of Duke Friedrich I of Swabia. He was canonised in 1485 and is the patron saint of Lower and Upper Austria.
Leopold succeeded his father as Margrave of Austria in 1095 at the age of twenty-three.
SHORT REFERENCE TO ENGLISH HISTORY PARALLEL TO THE BABENBERGS
King Richard I (Plantagenet)
King of England (1189-1199)
Richard Coeur de Lion or Richard the Lion-heart
Richard Duke of Aquitaine, the third son of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine was born in England but preferred to speak the southern French dialect used in Aquitaine (Southern France) and only used English as his second language
In 1173, Richard, like his brothers Henry and Geoffrey, was discontent with his lack of power and joined his brothers in a revolt against their father King Henry II. In 1183 Richard fought against his brothers because of their support of a rebellion against him in Aquitaine. John and Geoffrey supported the rebellion because of Richard's refusal to honour his father's wishes to surrender Aquitaine to John, who, as the fourth child, was not eligible to inherit lands, hence the name John Lackland.
King Henry II decided to send John to rule over Ireland in his name, but John and the Anglo-Norman nobility aroused the hatred of the native Irish, which led to John having to return to England within six months.
Richard's elder brother Henry died and Richard became the heir to the English throne.
In 1189, after the death of Henry II, Richard was crowned king of England and immediately started to concentrate on his Holy commitment ‘The Third Crusade’ and introduced the ‘Saladin’ taxation to raise funds for his mission.
In 1190 Richard set out on the Third Crusade and captured Messina and later also Cyprus where he married Berengaria of Navarre in 1191.
Richard had tried to appease his younger brother John with vast estates in England, but John attempted to overthrow Richard's administrators during his absence. He became extremely unpopular with his subjects and even conspired with Philip II of France.
Richard had to abandon his attempt to seize the strongly fortified city of Jerusalem and decided to return to England after concluding a treaty with Saladin that allowed Christians access to the holy places of Jerusalem. Richard began his homeward journey to England but got shipwrecked due to bad weather and found himself in Austria, the home of the Babenberg Duke, Leopold V, whom Richard had insulted during the Third Crusade.
Leopold captured King Richard in Erdberg near Vienna and imprisoned him in his castle at Dürnstein in the Danube Valley (Wachau) and later gave Richard to the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI in return for 75,000 Marks. Henry VI then released King Richard from captivity in 1194 for 150,000 marks in silver. This enormous ransom was raised by his English subjects, an amount equal to three years of the tax revenue of England and weighing thirty-five tons.
Richard returned to England to continue with the suppression of the revolt raised against him by his brother John and forced John to seek for pardon. England was in financial troubles due to the tremendous cost of the Third Crusade and the large ransom.
Richard did not stay very long in England before returning to France to fight against Philip II.
Finally he was killed in a minor engagement in Chalus, Aquitaine on the 6th April 1199 and was buried in the Fontvraud Abbey in Anjou, France.
Richard (the absent King) spent just six months of his reign in England, during which time he was concerned with raising funds for his campaigns.
His ministers, William of Longchamp and Hubert Walter, were able to rule the kingdom effectively due to the excellent administrative system set up by Henry II.
The Legend of Blondel de Nesle
Blondel de Nesle was a French troubadour and a favourite of King Richard I. The legend relates that after Richard was captured and imprisoned by Leopold V of Austria in 1193, Blondel wandered from castle to castle, singing a song known only to him and his missing master, until Richard answered from his prison window and finished the verse of the song.
Blondel returned to England and was able to tell the English where Richard was being held captive.
After King Richard's death his brother John became King of England and soon started to introduce new taxes. The nobility revolted against King John and entered London in May 1215. King John was forced to sign the so-called ‘Magna Carta’ in Runnymeade, which was an agreement that gave the church and the people of England certain rights.
John only signed the document as a means of buying time and was hesitant to implement its principles.
The nobility had to seek French assistance and offered the English throne to the son of Philip II, Louis.
The frustrated king died in October 1216 with England being invaded by the French in the South and a rebellion by his barons in the North.
The Legend of Robin Hood
In the 13th century most people lived the life of peasants and were subject to corruption and exploitation by those charged with upholding law and order.
For many it was better to risk life as an outlaw than face a justice system open to bribery and intimidation.
The plight of the poor in 13th century England, under the brutal authority of the nobility, created such legends as that of Robin Hood.
The name Robin Hood was related to a hero and ‘defender of the poor’.
Many references to ‘Robert Hod’ and ‘Hobbehod’ are to be found in the 13th century. By the turn of the century the legend had achieved such fame that many outlaws of that time had taken on his name.
The first ballads relating to Robin Hood's adventures date back to the 14th century.
In 1510 a poem entitled ‘a Lytell Gest of Robin Hood’ gave those seeking after the identity of Robin Hood clues and information as to the possible area where he may have lived with references to Nottingham, Barnsdale, Sherwood and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
The First Turkish Siege of Vienna
The Ottomans (Turks) crossed into Habsburg territory and became a threat to the villages and towns within the Empire. After the battle of Mohacs in 1526 and the defeat of Hungary, Sultan Suleiman marched his army on towards Vienna.
The city had only 8 000 defenders, an army of 1 700 armoured knights and fortifications which dated back to the 13th century and were in a very bad state of repair.
The Emperor Ferdinand I was in Innsbruck at the time of the siege.
Sultan Suleiman had an army of 100 000 soldiers but was not able to transport his heavy artillery due to the very poor weather conditions.
The Ottoman light cavalry was sent in advance to take control of the villages on the outskirts of the city. The Sultan made his headquarters near to Kaiserebersdorf (later the site of the so-called Neugebäude) after positioning the majority of his troops around the city toward the end of September 1529. A fleet of over 600 ships stationed on the Danube River, supplied the invading army.
The weak calibre artillery could not break through the surrounding walls and made the storming of the city impossible. In October the Ottomans started to undermine the city’s walls, placing mines beneath the walls in an attempt to breach them. The walls near to the Kärntner Tor and Burgtor (Castle Gate) were badly damaged by the mines.
The defenders of the city had developed a simple early warning system using rainwater and dried peas. Buckets and bowls were filled with rainwater. Dried peas were placed on the surface of inverted barrels and other containers covered with skins similar to a drum. These vessels were then placed at regular intervals along the wall. Any trembling of the surface of the water or movement of the dried peas alerted the defenders to any imminent danger and helped them to foil the attacks by the Ottomans before they could detonate their mines.
The besieging army tried again and again to break through the badly damaged walls of the city, but the Ottomans had mounting problems supplying their army and this, together with the cold weather and a lack of hygiene, led to the Sultan’s soldiers becoming demoralised.
Towards the end of October 1529, as snow started to fall, the Sultan realised the city could not be taken before the onset of winter, so he decided to withdraw his troops.
The Second Turkish Siege of Vienna
In 1683 the Ottomans (Turks) besieged Vienna again and were very close to defeating the city. However, in September 1683 King John Sobieski III of Poland led an army of 60 000 Polish and allied troops and they joined forces with the combined armies of Austria, Saxony and Bavaria, to lift the siege of Vienna. Sobieski and the Emperor Leopold I had made a pact of alliance earlier that year.
The relief army gathered on top of the hills surrounding Vienna and attacked the Ottomans on the morning of 12th September 1683. The Ottomans were completely surprised by the attack. The battle raged for fifteen hours before the beleaguers were driven from their trenches. The Ottomans were routed and over 70 000 were killed. Reports relate that it took a week to collect the booty left behind in the Ottoman camp.
The war continued, and the dangerous situation in Europe prompted Poland, Venice and Russia to join the Habsburg Empire in repelling the Ottomans threat.
In 1686 Habsburg forces moved into central Hungary and captured Buda, and by 1687 the Ottoman Empire had been virtually defeated in central Hungary. In 1697 battle after battle took place until Prince Eugene of Savoy led an imperial army and finally defeated the Ottomans at Zenta and forced them to sign the ‘Treaty of Karlowitz’, which gave Austria nearly all of Hungary.
The Austrian Succession War (1740-1748)
Karl VI realised the lack of a male heir to the throne was a threat to the unity of the Habsburg Empire and in 1713 promulgated the ‘Pragmatic Sanction’ to allow his daughter Maria Theresia to inherit the Habsburg Lands.
Austria had to pay a high price to the other European powers for their approval of the Pragmatic Sanction, and this led to the abandonment of many centralising reforms. However, on Karl’s death, the treaty failed to prevent the War of the Austrian Succession from breaking out. In fact the treaty turned out to be nothing more than a worthless piece of paper, and it made Maria Theresia an instrument of Europe’s politics.
In 1736 Maria Theresia married Franz Stephan von Lothringen. The French objected to the union of Lorraine (Lothringen) with the Habsburg lands, forcing Franz Stephan to exchange his Duchy for the right of succession to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
The Austrian Succession War (1740-48) broke out shortly after Maria Theresia ascended the throne because of the refusal of the neighbouring powers to accept the principals of the Pragmatic Sanction (Treaty) of 1713.
Financially the Habsburg Empire was in a very poor state, but even after the invasion of Silesia (Schlesien), one of Austria’s wealthiest provinces, Maria Theresia refused to negotiate with Friedrich II of Prussia.
Prussia occupied Silesia in 1740, and within a year an alliance of Bavarian, Saxon and French troops, under the command of Karl Albrecht of Bavaria, also captured Prague. Karl Albrecht was crowned King of Bohemia and elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1742.
Maria Theresia needed all of her diplomatic skills to make an appeal to the Hungarians for troops and support for her cause. Her skilled advisors helped her to confront and face down the opposition of the Austrian nobility. She drastically reduced the powers of various dominions that had been responsible for the financial crisis within the Empire and abolished tax exemptions held by the powerful landowners.
The Austrian army regained control of Prague, and Maria Theresia was crowned Queen of Bohemia in the spring of 1743. Austria and her British allies also managed to make important military gains in Central Europe, and when Karl Albrecht unexpectedly died in January 1745 his son negotiated a peace treaty with Austria and promised to endorse the Habsburg candidature for Emperor. Maria Theresia supported her husband Franz Stephan’s election as Holy Roman Emperor in October 1745.
In the west, the War of Succession had reached a military stalemate and negotiations finally led to the Peace Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748. This treaty led to the loss of Silesia to Prussia and was a tremendous blow to the Habsburg Empire. Nevertheless Maria Theresia began the modernisation of the army. Her new chancellor, Kaunitz, supported her determination to recover Silesia from Prussia.
Due to the assistance Maria Theresia had received from the Hungarian nobles, Austria had emerged with most of her Empire intact. Austria soon realised that the costly war against France had done more to help the British colonial interests in North America than its own interests in Central Europe. Austria abandoned the partnership with Britain in favour of an alliance with France and Russia. This forced Britain, Austria’s ‘old ally’, to leave the alliance and to link with Prussia in order to protect Britain’s interests in Hanover against the French.
This reversal of alliances was sealed by the marriage of Maria Theresia’s youngest daughter Marie Antoinette to the future Louis XVI of France.
In 1756 Maria Theresia started a full-scale war against Prussia with the intention of regaining the lost provinces.
Seven Years War (1756-1763)
In an effort to win back the rich province of Silesia Austria formed a new alliance with France, Saxony, Sweden and Russia against Prussia, Hanover and Britain.
By the summer of 1756, the Austrian alliance was ready to attack Prussia, but Prussia, attacked first by invading Saxony in August 1756 in an attempt to detach Saxony from its alliance with the Austrians. The Prussians occupied Dresden and Saxony capitulated.
In the spring of 1757 Prussia advanced into Bohemia and defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Prague in May 1757.
The so-called Seven Years War had raged for more than a year when the Austrian army, under the command of Prince Karl von Lothringen, (Lorraine) having already lost the Battle of Prague, had withdrawn to the city of Prague with the remaining units of his army.
Maria Theresia gave the order “…the army shall face the enemy and wage a battle”. An Austrian counter-attack a month later in the Battle of Kolín, led by the Austrian Field Marshal Graf von Daun, forced the Prussians to retreat from Bohemia.
Prussia was facing a war on several fronts.
- The French advanced towards Prussia’s western frontier.
- Sweden joined the Austrian alliance and attacked the Prussians.
- Austria moved into Silesia and the Russian army entered into East Prussia.
In November 1757 Prussia faced a Franco-German army at Rossbach in Thuringia. Although the Prussian army was only half the size of their opponents the Prussian losses were only 550 compared to their enemies 7 000. The Prussian army then turned to meet the Austrians in Silesia and although again heavily outnumbered they still managed to win the Battle of Leuthen at the end of that year.
Between 1758 and 1761 the fortunes of war swung back and forth between the adversaries. After the death of the Russian Empress Elisabeth and the succession of Tsar Peter III, Russia made peace with Prussia and negotiated a peace treaty between Prussia and Sweden. Russia joined with Prussia in an attempt to push the Austrians out of Silesia.
The assassination of Tsar Peter made way for Tsar Catherine The Great, who immediately put an end to the conflict.
Prussia was still able to make gains against the French and Saxons and captured the important town of Göttingen, finally managing to drive the Austrians out of Silesia.
Eventually, in February 1763, the Treaty of Hubertusburg, in which Silesia (Schlesien) fell to Prussia, brought an end to the Seven Years War.