Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg

Karl Philipp
Prince of Schwarzenberg

Portrait of Karl Philipp
Born (1771-04-18)18 April 1771
Vienna, Austria
Died 15 October 1820(1820-10-15) (aged 49)
Leipzig, Saxony
Allegiance  Archduchy of Austria
 Austrian Empire
Years of service 1789–1820
Rank Generalfeldmarschall
Battles/wars French Revolutionary Wars
Napoleonic Wars
Awards Order of the Golden Fleece
Military Order of Maria Theresa
Military Order of Max Joseph
Legion of Honour
Order of the Holy Spirit
Schwarzenberg Monument at Schwarzenbergplatz, Vienna, by Ernst Julius Hähnel
Engraving from "Zweihundert deutsche Männer in Bildnissen und Lebensbeschreibungen", by Ludwig Bechstein, 1854

Karl Philipp, Fürst zu Schwarzenberg (or Charles Philip, Prince of Schwarzenberg; 18 April 1771 15 October 1820) was an Austrian field marshal.[1]


Portrait in uniform

Karl Philipp was born 19 April 1771 in Vienna,[2] the son of Johann Nepomuk Anton of Schwarzenberg and Marie Eleonore Countess of Öttingen-Wallerstein.

He entered the imperial cavalry in 1788, fought in 1789 under Lacy and Loudon against the Turks, distinguished himself by his bravery, and became a major in 1792.[2] In the French campaign of 1793, he served in the advanced guard of the army commanded by Prince Josias of Coburg, and at Le Cateau-Cambrésis in 1794 his impetuous charge at the head of his regiment, vigorously supported by twelve British squadrons, broke a whole corps of the French, killed and wounded 3,000 men, and brought off 32 of the enemy's guns. He was immediately decorated with the Knight's Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa.[3]

After taking part in the battles of Amberg and Würzburg in 1796 he was raised to the rank of General-Major, and in 1799 he was promoted to Feldmarschall-Leutnant. At the Battle of Hohenlinden he led a division in the right wing, and was almost the only Austrian general who emerged from that debacle with distinction.[4] During the retreat, his promptitude and courage saved the right wing of the Austrian army from destruction, and he was afterwards entrusted by the Archduke Charles of Austria with the command of the rearguard.[3] In 1804, Prince Karl Philipp was created Fürst zu Schwarzenberg in a title identical to, but separate from, that of his brother, Joseph, Prince of Schwarzenberg. In the war of 1805 he held command of a division under Mack, and when Ulm was surrounded by Napoleon in October he was one of the brave band of cavalry, under the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Este, which cut its way through the hostile lines. In the same year, he received the Commander's Cross of the Order of Maria Theresa and in 1809 he was awarded the Order of the Golden Fleece.[3]

In 1806-1809, Schwarzenberg served as the Austrian ambassador to Russia.[2] Schwarzenburg returned in time to Austria to take part in the Battle of Wagram as another war against France had started, leading a cavalry division in the Reserve Corps.[5] and was soon afterwards promoted General of Cavalry. After the peace of Vienna, he was sent to Paris to negotiate the marriage between Napoleon and the Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria. The prince gave a ball in honour of the bride on 1 July 1810, which ended in a fire that killed many of the guests, including his own sister-in-law.[3]

Napoleon held Schwarzenberg in great esteem, and it was at his request that the prince took command of the Austrian auxiliary corps in the Russian campaign of 1812. The Austrian general won some minor victories against the Russians at Gorodetschna and Wolkowisk. Afterwards, under instructions from Napoleon, he remained for some months inactive at Pultusk.[6]

In 1813, when Austria, after many hesitations, took the side of the allies against Napoleon, Schwarzenberg, recently promoted to Feldmarschall, was appointed commander-in-chief of the allied Grand Army of Bohemia. As such, he was the senior of the allied generals who conducted the campaign of 1813-1814.[7] Under his command, the Allied army was mauled by Napoleon at the Battle of Dresden on 26–27 August and driven back into Bohemia. However, his army defeated pursuing French forces at the Second Battle of Kulm. Returning to the fray, he led the Allied army north again and played a major role in Napoleon's decisive defeat at the Battle of Leipzig on 16–18 October. During the invasion of France in 1814, he beat a French force at the Battle of Bar-sur-Aube in late February. He repelled an attack by Napoleon in the Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube on 20–21 March and overcame the last barrier before Paris by winning the Battle of Fère-Champenoise on 25 March. His capture of the French capital on 31 March after the Battle of Paris resulted in the overthrow of Napoleon.

The next year, during the Hundred Days when Napoleon escaped from Elba and regained the French throne, in the hostilities that followed Schwarzenberg commanded the Army of the Upper Rhine (an Austrian-allied army of about a quarter of a million men).[8]

It is the fashion to accuse Schwarzenberg of timidity and over-caution, and his operations can easily be made to appear in that colour when contrasted with those of his principal subordinate, the fiery Blücher. Critics often forget that Schwarzenberg was an Austrian general, that his army was practically the whole force that Austria could put into the field in Central Europe, and was therefore not lightly to be risked, and that the motives of his apparent pusillanimity should be sought in the political archives of Vienna rather than in the text-books of strategical theory. In any case his victory, whether it be via military or diplomacy, was as complete as Austria desired, and his rewards were many, the Grand Crosses of the Order of Maria Theresa and of many foreign orders, an estate, the position of President of the Hofkriegsrath, and, as a specially remarkable honour, the right to bear the arms of Austria as an escutcheon of pretence. But shortly afterwards, having lost his sister Caroline, to whom he was deeply attached, he fell ill. A stroke disabled him in 1817, and in 1820, when revisiting Leipzig, the scene of the Völkerschlacht that he had directed seven years before, he suffered a second stroke. He died there on 15 October.[7]


Coat of arms of the Schwarzenberg princes

Of Schwarzenberg's nephews, Felix Schwarzenberg, the statesman, is separately noticed, and Friedrich Johann Josef Coelestin (1809–1885) was a cardinal and a prominent figure in papal and Austrian history.[7]

His successors lived at Orlík Castle in Bohemia, and after the creation of Czechoslovakia were its citizens, speaking Czech. The present head of the family, Karel VII Schwarzenberg (born 1937), lived abroad during Czechoslovakia's communist period of 1948–1989, mostly in Austria. He supported Czechoslovak political exiles and was president of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights in 1980s. He returned after the Velvet Revolution and since then holds high political offices in Czech politics. From 1990–1992 was the chancellor during the Presidency of Václav Havel; later was elected a member of the Senate of the Czech Republic in 2004. In 2010 he was elected a member of the Chamber of deputies of the Czech republic. Between 2007 and 2009, he served as the 6th Minister of the Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic; and hold the same position between 2010 and 2013 (as 8th Minister).



  1. Regarding personal names: Fürst is a title, translated as 'Prince', not a first or middle name. The feminine form is Fürstin.
  2. 1 2 3 Tucker 2014, p. 673.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Chisholm 1911, p. 390.
  4. Arnold 2005, p. 249.
  5. Bowden & Tarbox 1980, p. 167.
  6. Chisholm 1911, pp. 390–391.
  7. 1 2 3 Chisholm 1911, p. 391.
  8. Siborne 1895, p. 767.


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