Conference of Dresden (1812)

Last updated

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



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 Hauts-de-Seine such as Marnes-la-Coquette, Neuilly-sur-Seine or Vaucresson, Saint-Cloud is one of the wealthiest towns in France, ranked second in average household income among communities with 10- to 50-thousand tax households. In 2006, it had a population of 29,981.

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. The Mughals themselves used the title Padishah. The title is especially associated with the third in the line, Akbar the Great (1542-1605). It is said that the Portuguese called Akbar the Grand Mughal and sent Jesuit missionaries to convert him to Catholicism.

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 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 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 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 Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa

The Ottoman Empire, 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 Petersburg 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 28 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.


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 and the United Kingdom, with their respective allies, from June 1812 to February 1815. Historians in Britain often see it as a minor theater of the Napoleonic Wars; historians in the United States and Canada see it as a war in its own right.

Related Research Articles

The 1810s decade ran from January 1, 1810, to December 31, 1819.

1812 Year

1812 (MDCCCXII) was a leap year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar and a leap year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar, the 1812th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 812th year of the 2nd millennium, the 12th year of the 19th century, and the 3rd year of the 1810s decade. As of the start of 1812, the Gregorian calendar was 12 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.

Napoleonic Wars Series of early 19th century European wars

The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, financed and usually led by the United Kingdom. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and its resultant conflict. The wars are often categorised into five conflicts, each termed after the coalition that fought Napoleon: the Third Coalition (1805), the Fourth (1806–07), the Fifth (1809), the Sixth (1813), and the Seventh (1815).

Battle of Leipzig 1813 Napoleonic battle

The Battle of Leipzig or Battle of the Nations was fought from 16 to 19 October 1813, at Leipzig, Saxony. The coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden, led by Tsar Alexander I of Russia and Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, decisively defeated the French army of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French. Napoleon's army also contained Polish and Italian troops, as well as Germans from the Confederation of the Rhine. The battle was the culmination of the German campaign of 1813 and involved 600,000 soldiers, 2,200 artillery pieces, the expenditure of 200,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and 127,000 casualties, making it the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I.

Battle of Borodino battle of the French invasion of Russia during the Napoleonic Wars

The Battle of Borodino was a battle fought on 7 September 1812 in the Napoleonic Wars during the French invasion of Russia.

Hundred Days Period from Napoleons escape from Elba to the second restoration of King Louis XVIII

The Hundred Days marked the period between Napoleon's return from exile on the island of Elba to Paris on 20 March 1815 and the second restoration of King Louis XVIII on 8 July 1815. This period saw the War of the Seventh Coalition, and includes the Waterloo Campaign, the Neapolitan War as well as several other minor campaigns. The phrase les Cent Jours was first used by the prefect of Paris, Gaspard, comte de Chabrol, in his speech welcoming the king back to Paris on 8 July.

Napoleonic era Wikimedia disambiguation page

The Napoleonic era is a period in the history of France and Europe. It is generally classified as including the fourth and final stage of the French Revolution, the first being the National Assembly, the second being the Legislative Assembly, and the third being the Directory. The Napoleonic era begins roughly with Napoleon Bonaparte's coup d'état, overthrowing the Directory, establishing the French Consulate, and ends during the Hundred Days and his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. The Congress of Vienna soon set out to restore Europe to pre-French Revolution days. Napoleon brought political stability to a land torn by revolution and war. He made peace with the Roman Catholic Church and reversed the most radical religious policies of the Convention. In 1804 Napoleon promulgated the Civil Code, a revised body of civil law, which also helped stabilize French society. The Civil Code affirmed the political and legal equality of all adult men and established a merit-based society in which individuals advanced in education and employment because of talent rather than birth or social standing. The Civil Code confirmed many of the moderate revolutionary policies of the National Assembly but retracted measures passed by the more radical Convention. The code restored patriarchal authority in the family, for example, by making women and children subservient to male heads of households.

Russo-Turkish War (1806–1812)

The Russo-Turkish War (1806–1812) between the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire was one of the Russo-Turkish Wars.

Vasily Vereshchagin 19th-century Russian painter

Vasily Vasilyevich Vereshchagin, was one of the most famous Russian war artists and one of the first Russian artists to be widely recognised abroad. The graphic nature of his realist scenes led to many of them never being printed or exhibited.

War of the Fifth Coalition 1809 conflict during the Napoleonic Wars

The War of the Fifth Coalition was fought in 1809 by a coalition of the Austrian Empire and the United Kingdom against Napoleon's French Empire and Bavaria. Major engagements between France and Austria, the main participants, unfolded over much of Central Europe from April to July, with very high casualty rates for both sides. Britain, already involved on the European continent in the ongoing Peninsular War, took advantage of the Austrian intervention to launch the Walcheren Campaign, although this effort had little impact on the outcome of the conflict.

Fyodor Rostopchin foreign minister of the Russian Empire and governor of Moscow

Count Fyodor Vasilyevich Rostopchin was a Russian statesman and General of the Infantry who served as the Governor-General of Moscow during the French invasion of Russia. He was also known as a satirical writer who ridiculed Francophiles.

Congress of Erfurt convention

The Congress of Erfurt was the meeting between Napoleon, Emperor of the French, and Alexander I, Emperor of All Russia, from 27 September to 14 October 1808 intended to reaffirm the alliance concluded the previous year with the Treaties of Tilsit which followed the end of the War of the Fourth Coalition.

Battle of Berezina battle

The Battle of Berezina took place from 26 to 29 November 1812, between the French army of Napoleon, retreating after his invasion of Russia and crossing the Berezina, and the Russian armies under Mikhail Kutuzov, Peter Wittgenstein and Admiral Pavel Chichagov. The battle ended with a mixed outcome. The French suffered very heavy losses but managed to cross the river and avoid being trapped. Since then "Bérézina" has been used in French as a synonym for "disaster".

Pyotr Aleksandrovich Tolstoy Russian general

Count Pyotr Aleksandrovich Tolstoy was a Russian general and statesman.

The Presidential Palace, located in Vilnius Old Town, is the official office and eventual official residence of the President of Lithuania. The palace dates back to the 14th century and during its history it has undergone various reconstructions, supervised by prominent architects, including Laurynas Gucevičius and Vasily Stasov. In 1997 the palace became the official seat of the President of Lithuania.

Prince Vasily Vasilyevich Vyazemsky was a Russian military regimental and divisional commander during the French invasion of Russia. He was also general of the Imperial Russian Army.

Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Bibikov Russian military officer

Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Bibikov was an officer of the Imperial Russian Army, who saw service during the Russo-Swedish War and the Napoleonic Wars. He was ambassador to several countries, and also served as a senator in the Governing Senate.


  1. 1 2 3 Burton, Lt-Colonel Reginald G. (2013). Napoleon in Russia. Pickle Partners Publishing. p. 23. ISBN   9781908902979 . Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  2. Nicolson, Nigel (1985). Napoleon: 1812. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 22. ISBN   9780297790198 . Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  3. 1 2 III, James Henderson (1994). The Frigates: An Account of the Lighter Warships of the Napoleonic Wars. Pen and Sword. p. 122. ISBN   9780850524321 . Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  4. Nafziger, George F. (2001). Historical Dictionary of the Napoleonic Era. Scarecrow Press. p. 107. ISBN   9780810866171 . Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  5. 1 2 Tolstoy, Leo; Maude, Louise (2010). War and Peace. OUP Oxford. p. 1334. ISBN   9780199232765 . Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Horne, Richard Henry (1841). The history of Napoleon. p. 169. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Vereshchagin, Vasily Vasilyevich (2016). "1812" Napoleon I in Russia. Library of Alexandria. p. 6. ISBN   9781465607560 . Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  8. 1 2 Herold, J. Christopher (2016). Napoleon. New Word City. p. 140. ISBN   9781612308623 . Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  9. 1 2 Life and times of Alexander i. emperor of all the Russias, by C. Joyneville. Tinsley Brothers. 1875. p. 149. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  10. 1 2 3 Burton, Lt-Colonel Reginald G. (2013). Napoleon in Russia. Pickle Partners Publishing. p. 24. ISBN   9781908902979 . Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  11. Vereshchagin, Vasily Vasilyevich (2016). "1812" Napoleon I in Russia. Library of Alexandria. p. 7. ISBN   9781465607560 . Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  12. III, James Henderson (1994). The Frigates: An Account of the Lighter Warships of the Napoleonic Wars. Pen and Sword. p. 122. ISBN   9780850524321 . Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  13. "Today in History – June 18". The Library of Congress. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  14. Vereshchagin, Vasily Vasilyevich (2016). "1812" Napoleon I in Russia. Library of Alexandria. p. 5. ISBN   9781465607560 . Retrieved 15 May 2018.