Congress of Vienna is defined as an assembly held in 1814-1815 that was aimed to reorganize Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. Its purpose was to define the political power balance, provide a long-lasting peace plan, and divide European territories between the countries that played leading roles in Napoleon’s overthrow.
Congress of Vienna was organized in September 1814 and completed by its Final Act in June 1815. It began five months after the first abdication of Napoleon I and finished immediately before the Waterloo campaign that was marked by his final defeat. Congress of Vienna may be regarded as the most comprehensive and multifaceted treaty that had been ever held in Europe before. Russia, Prussia, Great Britain, and Austria were the main four powers that had contributed to Napoleon’s overthrow.
With the Treaty of Chaumont, these countries concluded a peculiar alliance among themselves in March 1814 before the Emperor’s first abdication. As Great Britain, Prussia, Russia, and Austria, subsequently followed by Portugal, Sweden, and Spain, signed peace treaties with France in 1814, all former belligerent parties were responsible for sending their plenipotentiaries to an assembly in Vienna.
However, four war leaders were planning to reserve the right of real decision-making concerning the reorganization of Europe for themselves.
In September 1814, the countries’ representatives, all European most influential statesmen, gathered in Vienna. Prussian king Frederick William III send the principal minister to speak from his name. Alexander I, the Russian tsar, arrived for the Congress to direct his own diplomacy. Austria was represented on behalf of its emperor, Francis II, by his principal minister as well.
Viscount Castlereagh, the minister of foreign affairs, the duke of Wellington, and Lord Clancarty were the representatives of Great Britain in succession. Sweden, Spain, and Portugal sent non-remarkable men as these countries had played secondary roles in the Napoleonic Wars. France was represented by Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand sent by the restored King Louis XVIII.
As the procedure of the assembly had no precedent, the Congress of Vienna was determined by the complexity of issues that had to be solved. As the ministers of Great Britain, Russia, Prussia, and Austria had initiated the Congress, they were determined to manage its process, control the solution of essential problems, and communicate their suggestions and decisions with the representatives of other countries.
The fundamental goals of the Congress included the providing of a long-term plan of Europe’s peaceful settlement and settling crucial issues that had derived from the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolutionary Wars. In addition, four leading countries aimed to establish their control over Europe as well. As a result of the Congress, the territory of Europe was separated among the countries who won the Napoleonic Wars.
Prussia got the part of Saxony, Westphalia, Pomerania, and the Rhine River’s left bank. Russia incorporated the Dutch of Warsaw under its emperor’s sovereignty. Austria was significantly compensated by Venice, Lombardy, Tuscany, Modena, and most of the territories of Bavaria, Tirol, Baden, and Württemberg. Italy got a substantial number of territories as well, and this decision was refused by Spain.
France lost all territories that were conquered during the Napoleonic Wars. The Final Act of the Congress of Vienna was signed on June 9, 1815, as the agreement between all European countries. The political boundaries between them that were established by the Congress remained for more than forty years.