Conference of Dresden (1812)

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The Conference of Dresden was a May 1812 gathering of European leaders arranged by Napoleon I of France as part of his preparations for the invasion of Russia. It was intended as a demonstration of his power and to seek military assistance for his campaign and began upon Napoleon's arrival in the Saxon capital on 16 May. Attendees included at least one emperor, six kings and numerous princes, grand duke, dukes and field marshals. Elaborate banquets, concerts and theatrical performances were laid on at the expense of the French state though Napoleon was largely pre-occupied with final planning for the invasion. Whilst at the conference Napoleon sent General Narbonne to meet with Alexander I of Russia with his final ultimatum. Alexander refused to make the territorial concessions demanded and stated that he would prefer to fight rather than agree to a "disgraceful peace". On 29 May, the day after receiving Alexander's reply, Napoleon left Dresden to lead his army into Russia. The conference has been cited as a factor in the United States' commencement of the War of 1812 against Britain and the first indication of Napoleon's desire to wage war upon Russia since the signing of the 1807 Treaties of Tilsit.

French invasion of Russia Napoleon Bonapartes attempted conquest of the Russian Empire

The French invasion of Russia, known in Russia as the Patriotic War of 1812 and in France as the Russian Campaign, began on 24 June 1812 when Napoleon's Grande Armée crossed the Neman River in an attempt to engage and defeat the Russian army. Napoleon hoped to compel Tsar Alexander I of Russia to cease trading with British merchants through proxies in an effort to pressure the United Kingdom to sue for peace. The official political aim of the campaign was to liberate Poland from the threat of Russia. Napoleon named the campaign the Second Polish War to gain favor with the Poles and provide a political pretext for his actions.

Louis, comte de Narbonne-Lara French noble, soldier and diplomat

Louis Marie Jacques Amalric, comte de Narbonne-Lara was a French nobleman, soldier and diplomat.

Alexander I of Russia Emperor of Russia

Alexander I reigned as Emperor of Russia between 1801 and 1825. He was the eldest son of Paul I and Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg. Alexander was the first Russian King of "Congress" Poland, reigning from 1815 to 1825, as well as the first Russian Grand Duke of Finland, reigning from 1809 to 1825.

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Conference

Europe in 1812. Napoleon's empire and dependencies in blue, Austria in yellow and Russia in green Europe 1812 map en.png
Europe in 1812. Napoleon's empire and dependencies in blue, Austria in yellow and Russia in green

Napoleon arrived in Dresden on 16 May 1812 from Saint-Cloud, France. [1] He was accompanied by more than three hundred carriages, recently commissioned in Paris, and a considerable number of carts carrying silver plate, tapestries and other luxuries. He was accompanied by his empress, Marie Louise and her maids of honour. [2] Napoleon's empire was at its greatest extent and he held dominion over most of the sovereigns of Western continental Europe. [3] Napoleon arranged a gathering of the kings and princes of Germany to demonstrate his power and gather support for his planned invasion of Russia. [1] [4] A series of banquets, fetes and concerts were held and plays were put on by actors brought from the finest theatre companies of Paris all funded by the French emperor. [1] [5] [6] The conference was so grand it was compared to the gatherings of the Grand Mughals. [7]

Saint-Cloud Commune in Île-de-France, France

Saint-Cloud is a commune in the western suburbs of Paris, France. It is located 9.6 kilometres from the centre of Paris. Like other communes of the Hauts-de-Seine such as Marnes-la-Coquette, Neuilly-sur-Seine or Vaucresson, Saint-Cloud is one of the wealthiest towns in France, ranked 2nd in average household income among communities with 10- to 50-thousand tax households.

Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma Empress of France

Marie Louise was an Austrian archduchess who reigned as Duchess of Parma from 1814 until her death. She was Napoleon's second wife and, as such, Empress of the French from 1810 to 1814.

Grand Mughal

Grand Mughal or Mogul, also Great Mughal, is a title coined by Europeans for the ruler of the Mughal Empire of India. It is especially associated with the third in the line, Akbar the Great (1542-1605). The Mughals themselves used the title Padishah.

The conference was attended by Francis I, Emperor of Austria; Frederick William III, King of Prussia and Frederick Augustus I, King of Saxony – all recent allies of Napoleon. [5] Also attending were Maximilian I Joseph, King of Bavaria; Frederick I, King of Württemberg; Jérôme Bonaparte, King of Westphalia; Joachim Murat, King of Naples together with almost all the princes of the smaller German states, grand dukes, dukes, field marshals and Marshals of the Empire. It was said that fear and hatred of Napoleon guaranteed many of the attendees' loyalties, as much as admiration and friendship and that more than half of those attending would rather wish that Napoleon were dead. [8] [9] Napoleon's time was largely taken up by meetings to finalise the preparations for war and, though he was the principal attraction of the conference, for much of the time the assembled monarchs were deprived of his presence. [6]

Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor also known as Francis I, Emperor of Austria

Francis II was the last Holy Roman Emperor, ruling from 1792 until 6 August 1806, when he dissolved the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation after the decisive defeat at the hands of the First French Empire led by Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz. In 1804, he had founded the Austrian Empire and became Francis I, the first Emperor of Austria, ruling from 1804 to 1835, so later he was named the one and only Doppelkaiser in history. For the two years between 1804 and 1806, Francis used the title and style by the Grace of God elected Roman Emperor, ever Augustus, hereditary Emperor of Austria and he was called the Emperor of both the Holy Roman Empire and Austria. He was also Apostolic King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia as Francis I. He also served as the first president of the German Confederation following its establishment in 1815.

Frederick William III of Prussia King of Prussia

Frederick William III was king of Prussia from 1797 to 1840. He ruled Prussia during the difficult times of the Napoleonic Wars and the end of the Holy Roman Empire. Steering a careful course between France and her enemies, after a major military defeat in 1806, he eventually and reluctantly joined the coalition against Napoleon in the Befreiungskriege. Following Napoleon's defeat he was King of Prussia during the Congress of Vienna, which assembled to settle the political questions arising from the new, post-Napoleonic order in Europe. He was determined to unify the Protestant churches, to homogenize their liturgy, their organization and even their architecture. The long-term goal was to have fully centralized royal control of all the Protestant churches in the Prussian Union of Churches.

Frederick Augustus I of Saxony king of Saxony

Frederick Augustus I was a member of the House of Wettin who reigned as Elector of Saxony from 1763 to 1806 and as King of Saxony from 1806 to 1827. He also served as Duke of Warsaw from 1807 to 1813.

Napoleon reviewed an army comprising 500,000 men and 1,200 guns from France and the numerous allied states which would form his invasion force. [3] Despite the obvious preparations and gathering together of men and materiel (including 100,000 ammunition wagons) Napoleon sought to keep his ambitions secret, issuing orders to his officers that they were not to discuss their potential opponents. It was even rumoured that he intended to join Russia in a war against the Ottoman Empire. [7] The rulers of the German-speaking peoples assured the French emperor of their military support with Francis I stating that Napoleon could "fully rely upon Austria for the triumph of the common cause" and Frederick William III swearing his "unswerving fidelity". [7]

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Asia, Europe and Africa

The Ottoman Empire, also historically known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Communications with the Tsar

Napoleon's army crossing the Neman Crossing the Neman in Russia 1812 by Clark.jpg
Napoleon's army crossing the Neman

During the conference Napoleon heard of Russian Tsar Alexander I's arrival at Vilna (modern Lithuania) and sent General Narbonne with an ultimatum. [10] [6] Napoleon desired the ceding of lands to Prussia in compensation for those lost in previous wars and the creation of independent dukedoms from the Russian territories of Smolensk and of St Petersberg with Alexander reduced to ruling Asian Russia. [11] Alexander showed Narbonne a map of Russia, demonstrating its vastness and stated that he would not commence hostilities but would fight if attacked and, if necessary, would withdraw his troops to the far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula rather than surrender. [8] Narbonne returned on 28th May with Alexander's rejection of the demands and a statement that Russia preferred war to a "disgraceful peace". [6] [10] Narbonne stated that he believed it would be best to agree to a short term of peace and to rest the French army at Warsaw for the winter. [9] Napoleon was of the opinion that he now had no choice but to open hostilities stating "the bottle is opened – the wine must be drunk" and left the next day for the Neman River to commence his invasion. [7] [10]

Smolensk City in Smolensk Oblast, Russia

Smolensk is a city and the administrative center of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Dnieper River, 360 kilometers (220 mi) west-southwest of Moscow. Population: 326,861 (2010 Census); 325,137 (2002 Census); 341,483 (1989 Census).

Kamchatka Peninsula peninsula in Eastern Russia between the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Okhotsk

The Kamchatka Peninsula is a 1,250-kilometre-long (780 mi) peninsula in the Russian Far East, with an area of about 270,000 km2. The Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Okhotsk make up the peninsula's eastern and western coastlines, respectively. Immediately offshore along the Pacific coast of the peninsula runs the 10,500-metre (34,400-ft) deep Kuril–Kamchatka Trench.

Legacy

The power and reach that Napoleon demonstrated at Dresden may have helped persuade the American government of the advantages of entering into a war with Britain. [12] The War of 1812 was declared in June of that year. [13] Prior to the conference Napoleon had maintained a mask of friendship towards Russia and it was the first time that his intentions towards that country became apparent. [14]

War of 1812 32-month military conflict between the United States and the British Empire

The War of 1812 was a conflict fought between the United States, the United Kingdom, and their respective allies from June 1812 to February 1815. Historians in Britain often see it as a minor theater of the Napoleonic Wars; in the United States and Canada, it is seen as a war in its own right.

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Napoleonic Wars Series of early 19th century European wars

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References

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  13. "Today in History – June 18". The Library of Congress. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
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