The Congress of Vienna and the Restoration of the European order

The Congress of Vienna was the conference that brought together the greatest powers in Europe at the time.
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| 07/06/2019 | Last update:


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The Congress of Vienna was chaired by Prince Von Metternich and it met in Vienna between October 1, 1814 and June 9, 1815, with the mission of restoring European order after the defeat of Napoleon in Waterloo.

After the seizures provoked during the Napoleonic Era throughout Europe, in which the French Empire will redraw the borders of the continent in its favour, and once Napoleon was defeated in 1814, the European powers had to re-establish the political map, try to control and eliminate the liberal revolutions that they had produced or would have occurred in the future, and to re-establish in power the absolute monarchies that General Bonaparte had overthrown from power.

The Congress of Vienna was the conference between ambassadors of the greatest powers in Europe and was chaired by the Austrian statesman Klemens Wenzel von Metternich. The Congress met at Schoenbrun Castle between October 1, 1814 and June 9, 1815.

The Congress of Vienna and the Holy Alliance: the new geopolitical map of Europe and the absolutist restoration

After the defeat of Napoleon, the European powers tried to restore the past: the absolute monarchy and the estates’ society. After the convulsive period of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, the previous political and social order had to be reconstructed, to return   to the old European order.  

The Congress of Vienna was the attempt of the absolutist monarchies to return to the pre-revolutionary era and to establish a “stable” order to their interests, which would stop the wave of the liberal revolutions. The time of the Restoration, between 1815 and 1848, it was based on the following principles:

The restoration of the old regime that the monarchies claimed was impossible. The revolutionary past left a deep footprint in Europe. Not all Europe behaved the same. There were countries where the restoration of the old order was impossible while in others, in some way, it was easier.

The Congress of Vienna

The Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) was the largest diplomatic meeting held until then in Europe. The leadership of the Congress fell on the four powers that defeated Napoleon: Great Britain, Austrian Empire, Russia and Prussia.

Main participants:

Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna. In this image: 1. Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington 2. Joaquim Lobo Silveira, 7th Count of Oriola 3. António de Saldanha da Gama, Count of Porto Santo 4. Count Carl Löwenhielm 5. Jean-Louis-Paul-François, 5th Duke of Noailles 6. Klemens Wenzel, Prince von Metternich 7. André Dupin 8. Count Karl Robert Nesselrode 9. Pedro de Sousa Holstein, 1st Count of Palmela 10. Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh 11. Emmerich Joseph, Duke of Dalberg 12. Baron Johann von Wessenberg 13. Prince Andrey Kirillovich Razumovsky 14. Charles Stewart, 1st Baron Stewart 15. Pedro Gómez Labrador, Marquis of Labrador 16. Richard Le Poer Trench, 2nd Earl of Clancarty 17. Wacken (Recorder) 18. Friedrich von Gentz (Congress Secretary) 19. Baron Wilhelm von Humboldt 20. William Cathcart, 1st Earl Cathcart 21. Prince Karl August von Hardenberg 22. Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord 23. Count Gustav Ernst von Stackelberg

The congress began in May 1814. It was interrupted until June 1815 (Napoleon’s return to France, during the “100 days”). It ended in November 1815, with the most rigorous treaty possible for France.

Problems to solve

Principles that inspired the debates of the Congress of Vienna

Territorial agreements

Europa 1815
The new map of Europe emerged from the Vienna Congress in 1815

To the east of France It is established:

In Central Europe:

The establishment of the Holy Alliance

One of the basic agreements of the Vienna Congress was the establishment of “principle of military intervention”. It was an agreement in order to help each other between states at any time and place: a military intervention was established in case one of the signatories was threatened by some liberal revolution.  

The “Holy Alliance” was created of restoring by the force of absolutism where it was necessary. It was signed in 1815 by three powers: Austria, Prussia, and Russia, to which most of the European states, except the Ottoman Empire, the Papal States, and the United Kingdom, will later join.

In the agreement of 1815 between the four great powers gathered in Vienna, all are committed to take a joint action against any French attempt to expand their borders.

The new geopolitical map of Europe

The new political map of Europe emerged from the Congress of Vienna in 1815 had as main points:

The new Germanic Confederation

It was a union of federated States. A Diet is instituted, under the Austrian presidency. The different states had to send delegates. The Diet was an assembly with permanent headquarters in Frankfurt. Each state maintained its independence in internal affairs. War between states of the Confederation was forbidden. It was needed consent of all states to either declare war on a third country.

It will last until 1866, when its dissolution took place. At this stage, the Confederation of North Germany have been created by Bismarck, a step that is both significant and necessary for the future German unification.

Key concepts:

The complete collection of this online course: Late modern History in Europe (19th and 20th Centuries)

Europe and the colonial world at the end of the 18th centuryThe Napoleonic era (1799-1815)The Congress of Vienna and the Restoration of the European orderSocial and economic changes on the 19th centuryLiberalism and nationalism in the 19th centuryThe Revolutions of 1820, 1830 and 1848The expansion of the great industrial capitalismBismarck’s Europe and the liberal nation-stateImperialism and colonial expansion in the 19th centuryWorld War I (1914-1918)Consequences of the First World WarThe new territorial map of interwar EuropeThe Revolutions of Russia (1917) and Germany (1918)The democracies of interwar Europe: Britain, France and GermanyFascism's rise to power in Italy[Book] Capitalism and democracy 1756-1848

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