Maximilian, Count of Merveldt

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Maximilian, Count von Merveldt
Maxmilian von Merveldt.jpg
Maximilian Friedrich, Count von Merveldt
Born29 June 1764 (1764-06-29)
Münster, Westphalia
Died5 July 1815 (1815-07-06) (aged 51)
London, United Kingdom
Allegiance Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Habsburg Monarchy
Service/branch Cavalry
Years of service17821814
RankGeneral of Cavalry
Battles/wars Austro-Turkish War (1787–1791)
French Revolutionary Wars
Napoleonic Wars
AwardsKnight's Cross, Military Order of Maria Theresa
Order of Leopold
Other workNovice, Teutonic Order, 17901808.
Ambassador, Second Congress of Rastatt
Ambassador, St. Petersburg
Envoy Extraordinaire, Court of St. James's

Maximilian, Count von Merveldt (29 June 1764 – 5 July 1815), among the most famous of an illustrious old Westphalian family, entered Habsburg military service, rose to the rank of General of Cavalry, served as Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor's ambassador to Russia, and became special envoy extraordinaire to the Court of St. James's (Great Britain). He fought with distinction in the wars between the Habsburg and the Ottoman empires, the French Revolutionary Wars, and the Napoleonic Wars.

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 first 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.

Russia transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia

Russia, or the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), Russia is, by a considerable margin, the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, and the ninth most populous, with about 146.79 million people as of 2019, including Crimea. About 77% of the population live in the western, European part of the country. Russia's capital, Moscow, is one of the largest cities in the world and the second largest city in Europe; other major cities include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Extending across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. However, Russia recognises two more countries that border it, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia.

French Revolutionary Wars series of conflicts fought between the French Republic and several European monarchies from 1792 to 1802

The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of sweeping military conflicts lasting from 1792 until 1802 and resulting from the French Revolution. They pitted France against Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia and several other monarchies. They are divided in two periods: the War of the First Coalition (1792–97) and the War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802). Initially confined to Europe, the fighting gradually assumed a global dimension. After a decade of constant warfare and aggressive diplomacy, France had conquered a wide array of territories, from the Italian Peninsula and the Low Countries in Europe to the Louisiana Territory in North America. French success in these conflicts ensured the spread of revolutionary principles over much of Europe.


Maximilian entered the military as a young man, and acquired his first combat experiences the Habsburg wars with the Ottoman Empire. Following his experience in the Balkans, he retreated to the cloister at Bonn, where he spent a year as a novice in the Teutonic Order. At the outbreak of war between the Habsburg Monarchy and France in 1792, he returned to military service, and proved an intrepid and enterprising cavalry field officer. His role in the Habsburg victory at Neerwinden in 1793 earned him the honor of conveying the news to the Emperor in Vienna.

Battle of Neerwinden (1793) 1793 battle between the French and the First Coalition

The Battle of Neerwinden saw a Republican French army led by Charles François Dumouriez attack a Coalition army commanded by Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. The Coalition army of the Habsburg Monarchy together with a small contingent of allied Dutch Republic troops repulsed all French assaults after bitter fighting and Dumouriez conceded defeat, withdrawing from the field. The French position in the Austrian Netherlands swiftly collapsed, ending the threat to the Dutch Republic and allowing Austria to regain control of her lost province. The War of the First Coalition engagement was fought at Neerwinden, located 57 kilometres (35 mi) east of Brussels in present-day Belgium.

In the War of the Second Coalition, Maximilian served in Swabia and northern Italy and Switzerland. In subsequent wars between France and the Habsburg Monarchy, his role on the battlefield often meant the difference between defeat and victory. He was wounded and captured at the Battle of Leipzig and, as a condition of release, he agreed not to bear arms against France again. He was subsequently appointed as an envoy to Britain, where he died in 1815.

War of the Second Coalition Attempt to contain or eliminate Revolutionary France

The War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802) was the second war on revolutionary France by the European monarchies, led by Britain, Austria and Russia, and including the Ottoman Empire, Portugal, Naples, various German monarchies and Sweden. Their goal was to contain the expansion of the French Republic and to restore the monarchy in France. They failed to overthrow the revolutionary regime and French territorial gains since 1793 were confirmed. In the Treaty of Lunéville in 1801, France held all of its previous gains and obtained new lands in Tuscany, Italy, while Austria was granted Venetia and the Dalmatian coast. Britain and France signed the Treaty of Amiens in March 1802, bringing an interval of peace in Europe that lasted for 14 months. By May 1803 Britain and France were again at war and in 1805 Britain assembled the Third Coalition to resume the war against France.

Swabia Cultural, historic and linguistic region of Germany

Swabia is a cultural, historic and linguistic region in southwestern Germany. The name is ultimately derived from the medieval Duchy of Swabia, one of the German stem duchies, representing the territory of Alemannia, whose inhabitants interchangeably were called Alemanni or Suebi.

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.

Family and early career

Maximilian was born on 29 June 1764 in the ecclesiastical territory of Münster, in Westphalia. His was an old Westphalian family, raised to comital status in 1726. [1] He joined the military service in 1782, in a dragoon regiment, and was promoted to lieutenant and first lieutenant by 1787. In the wars between Austria and the Ottoman Empire, (1787–1791), he was a Rittmeister , or captain of cavalry and wing adjutant to Field Marshal Franz Moritz, Count von Lacy. In 1790, Merveldt commanded the Volunteers Grün-Loudon and later that year, after his promotion to major, he served on the staff of Field Marshal Ernst Gideon, Baron von Laudon in Moravia. [2]

Westphalia State part and historic region of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany

Westphalia is a region in northwestern Germany and one of the three historic parts of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It has an area of 20,208 km2 (7,802 sq mi) and 7.9 million inhabitants.

A lieutenant is the junior most commissioned officer in the armed forces, fire services, police, and other organizations of many nations.

First lieutenant is a commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces and, in some forces, an appointment.

Military career

War of the First Coalition

Following the defeat of the insurrection in the Austrian Netherlands, he received permission from Field Marshal Laudon, shortly before the latter's death, to take a one year novitiate in the Teutonic Order, at Bonn where he remained until April 1792. [3] The outbreak of the War of the First Coalition against France required his military talents and Mervelt rejoined the Habsburg army at as adjutant to Josias, Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. He led two infantry battalions in the Habsburg victory at Neerwinden (18 March 1793), during which his battalions repulsed a strong French column. For his role at the head of his battalions of grenadiers, which his commander considered greater than duty required, in this victory, Merveldt received the honor of carrying the message to the Emperor Francis in Vienna. [4] There, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and awarded the Knight's Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa on 7 July 1794. Subsequently, he was appointed as an attaché to the staff of Frederick, Duke of York. [5]

Austrian Netherlands The larger part of the Southern Netherlands between 1714 and 1797

The Austrian Netherlands was the larger part of the Southern Netherlands between 1714 and 1797. The period began with the Austrian acquisition of the former Spanish Netherlands under the Treaty of Rastatt in 1714 and lasted until Revolutionary France annexed the territory during the aftermath of the Battle of Sprimont in 1794 and the Peace of Basel in 1795. Austria, however, did not relinquish its claim over the province until 1797 in the Treaty of Campo Formio.

Teutonic Order Medieval military order

The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, commonly the Teutonic Order, is a Catholic religious order founded as a military order c. 1192 in Acre, Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Bonn Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

The Federal City of Bonn is a city on the banks of the Rhine in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, with a population of over 300,000. About 24 km (15 mi) south-southeast of Cologne, Bonn is in the southernmost part of the Rhine-Ruhr region, Germany's largest metropolitan area, with over 11 million inhabitants. It is famously known as the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven in 1770. Beethoven spent his childhood and teenage years in Bonn.

In the 1794 campaign, Merveldt fought at the Battle of Famars and again at the Battle of Villers-en-Cauchies, 15 kilometres (9 mi) south of Landrecies on 22 April, during which he commanded the right wing. After the Battle of Tournai (22 May 1794), he was promoted on the field to Oberst (colonel). His failing health prevented him from continued field service and he took sick leave until early 1796. [6] In 1796 he transferred to the 18th Chevau-légers Regiment Karaczay and fought at the Battle of Kircheib, [7] in the Westerwald, where, despite the French superiority of numbers, the Habsburgs eked out a victory. At Kircheib, with two squadrons of Chevaux-legers, Merveldt saved the Austrian artillery from French capture, thus contributing to the Hahsburg victory. [8] The Tagebericht (daily dispatch) of the Army of the Rhine referred to his keen sense of duty, and his ability to seize the moment, which, in this case, proved a vital element in the extraordinary success of the small Habsburg force against the considerably larger French one. [3] Afterward he was promoted to major general. He was assigned as proprietor of the First Lancer's Regiment, and given command of a cavalry brigade in Franz von Werneck's Reserve of the Army of the Lower Rhine. [9]

Battle of Famars battle

The Battle of Famars was fought on 23 May 1793 during the Flanders Campaign of the War of the First Coalition. An Allied Austrian, Hanoverian, and British army under Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld defeated the French Army of the North led by François Joseph Drouot de Lamarche. The action occurred near the village of Famars in northern France, five km south of Valenciennes.

In the Battle of Villers-en-Cauchies, fought on 24 April 1794, a small Anglo-Austrian cavalry force routed a vastly more numerous French division during the Flanders Campaign of the French Revolutionary Wars. Villers-en-Cauchies is 15 km south of Valenciennes.

Landrecies Commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Landrecies is a commune in the Nord department in northern France.

Merveldt was known to his contemporaries for his strength of will, presence of mind, and his self-control. Those same qualities made him attractive to his military superiors as part of the negotiation party in the cease-fire preliminaries at Leoben in 1797. He opposed Napoleon's desire to move a general peace congress closer to Vienna, and later was a co-signator of the Peace of Campo Formio on 17 November 1797. He brought the document to Rastatt, where the Rastatt Peace Congress convened. He stayed in Rastatt in the capacity of ambassador. [3]

War of the Second Coalition

At the outbreak of the War of the Second Coalition in March 1799, and the dissolution of Congress on 7 April 1799, Merveldt returned to his regiment, which by this time had crossed the Lech and Iller rivers, and was advancing into Swabia. During the campaigns of 1800, he commanded the left wing by Eckartsweiler at the Battle of Alt-Breisach on 25 April, and on 10 May conducted a rear-guard action to protect the Imperial army's withdrawal. He remained with his brigade on the right bank of the Danube, where he directed a series of bold actions against the French, and then along the Iller and Lech rivers, he organized a series of well-timed thrusts designed to keep the French from pushing the retreating army. After the battle at Offenburg, he was promoted to lieutenant field marshal on 4 September 1800. At the Habsburg defeat in the Battle of Hohenlinden on 3 December, Merveldt commanded a division in the left wing. [9] He signed the 24-hour cease-fire at Kremsmünster with Jean Victor Moreau on 22 December. During the cease-fire, he retreated to Pressburg. [10]

Diplomatic and military career during the Napoleonic Wars

Napoleonic Wars

In 1805 he was in Berlin when the hostilities between France and Austria resumed, and he returned to the Danube valley, where he fought a series of rearguard actions. [9] He avoided being caught in the capitulation of Ulm and fell back toward Mikhail Kutuzov's Russian army. With 6,000 soldiers in six line and ten Grenz infantry battalions plus 14 squadrons of cavalry, Merveldt made for Styria, hoping to join the army of Archduke Charles. Napoleon detached Louis Davout's III Corps in pursuit. Slowed by heavy snow in the mountains, his "poorly-handled corps" was overtaken by the French [11] at Gross-Ramig, also called Mariazell, in the Austrian Steiermark, on 8 November. His exhausted troops were routed by General of Brigade Etienne Heudelet de Bierre's advanced guard of Davout's III Corps; half, about 2,000, were taken prisoner, and they lost four colors and 16 guns. [12]


  • Major: 14 February 1790
  • Lt. Cologne: 03 April 1793
  • Colonel : 26 April 1794
  • Major General: 8 September 1796 (effective 10 September 1796)
  • Lt. Field Marshal 4 September 1800 (effective 5 September 1800)
  • General of Cavalry: 22 July 1813

After the War of the Third Coalition, he acted as ambassador to St. Petersburg for over two years, with the assignment of improving military relations between the armies of the respective countries. [3] He attempted to do this, including trying an offer to mediate between Britain and France, [13] and was appointed Privy Councilor. During this time, he married Maria Theresia Gräfin von Dietrichstein. [14]

In 1808 he was given command of a cavalry division in Lemberg. [9] In early 1809, Merveldt became a prominent member of the group pushing for war against France, together with such notables as Archduke Ferdinand, Archduke John, Empress Maria Ludovika of Austria-Este, and Count Heinrich von Bellegarde. [15] In the 1809 campaign, Merveldt's force was stationed in the Bukowina and part of Galicia, and from 1809 to mid-1813, he spent three years in Moravia. [9]

On 22 July 1813 he was appointed governor of the fortress of Theresienstadt and shortly after that Commanding General in Moravia and Silesia. He then became commander of II Corps; the First Division held the village of Nollendorf, in the French defeat at the Battle of Kulm (now Chlumec) on 29–30 August 1813. [16]

On 16 October, during the Battle of Leipzig, Merveldt's forces were arrayed on the right flank of the French center, commanded by Napoleon. On his own right stood Wittgenstein's Corps, and beyond that, Johann von Klenau's. His troops were interspersed among several wooded sections and surrounding several small villages: Dölitz, Mark-Kleeburg and Gautsch. Opposite him were the forces of Józef Antoni Poniatowski and Pierre Augereau. [17] He rode out to view the battlefield and to direct the disposition of his force. Near Dölitz, which lay close to the French line, he wandered into a troop of Hungarians, or so he thought, but they were actually a mixed group of Saxons and Poles, whom he mistook for Hungarians, and was captured. [18] Most of the action, on the first day, occurred to the north, where Blücher's Prussians repelled Michel Ney's cavalry, but when Napoleon heard that Ney and Marmont had been forced back, he sought a cease-fire from the Allied monarchs. He called for Merveldt, and, after a meeting, Merveldt carried Napoleon's proposal to the allied monarchs, which they refused. [19]

Final diplomatic missions

As a condition of his release at Leipzig, he agreed not to participate in combat against France. Subsequent to his release, Merveldt was appointed commanding general of Moravia, and lived in Brno, where he received in January 1814 the instructions to proceed to London as an envoy extraordinaire to the Court of St. James's, replacing Baron Wessembourg. He arrived in London in early March, and met the Prince Regent at Carlton House on 7 March 1814, where he ceremoniously presented his ambassadorial credentials. [20] He was well-received in Britain, and became a notable personage, invited to many social events; he told good stories about the wars and the various people he had encountered, which made him popular in social circles. [19] His comings and goings were widely reported in the society columns: For example, on 4 July 1814, he attended a lecture by the Abbé Secard, and was listed among the distinguished persons present. [21] When he died in 1815, the British government proposed to bury him at Westminster Abbey. However, his widow took into account his last wishes and had the remains sent to Germany. He was buried in the crypt of the Michaelis chappel in Lembeck Castle where his grave still exists. [19]

In 1903, in the Lößnig neighborhood of the city of Leipzig a square and a street were named after Maximilian von Merveldt, in honor of his contribution to the Battle of Leipzig. In 1950, the communist authorities of East Germany renamed Merveldt square to Rembrandt square and Merveldt street to Rembrand street. [22]

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Notes and citations

  1. Dietrich Burchard, Freiherr (Baron) von Merveldt appears in the documents of the Teutonic Knights in 1700. (in German) Leopold Nedopil, for Wilhelm, Erzherzog von Oesterreich, Deutsche Adelsproben aus dem Deutschen Ordens-Central-Archive. II. Band. Wien: 1868. In 1726, all his descendants were raised to the status of counts (Reichsgrafenstand) by Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor. (in German) "Merveldt, Maximilian Graf von" in: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB), herausgegeben von der Historischen Kommission bei der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Band 21 (1885), ab Seite 476, Digitale Volltext-Ausgabe in Wikisource, (Version vom 27. Dezember 2009, 21:48 Uhr UTC).
  2. Digby Smith & Leopold Kudra. "Mervelt." A biographical dictionary of all Austrian Generals in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1792–1815. Napoleon Series. Robert Burnham, editor in chief. April 2008 version. Accessed 15 December 2009.
  3. 1 2 3 4 (in German) "Merveldt, Maximilian Graf von" in: ADB.
  4. (in German) Jens Florian Ebert, Mervelt, Maximilan. In Die Österreichischen Generäle 1792-1815., October 2003. Accessed 26 December 2009.
  5. Smith, Mervelt.
  6. Smith. Mervelt..
  7. See (in German) Schlacht bei Kircheib, 19 June 1796, near the Imperial City of Wetzlar and in the district of Uckerath. The French had 24,000 troops, the Habsburgs only 14,000.
  8. (in German) Ebert. Mervelt, Maximilan.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 Smith. "Mervelt.".
  10. (in German) "Merveldt, Maximilian Graf von" in: ADB;
  11. Gunther E. Rothenberg, Napoleon's Great Adversaries, The Archduke Charles and the Austrian Army, 1792-1814. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1982. ISBN   0-253-33969-3, p. 95.
  12. Digby Smith. "Gross-Ramig." The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill, 1998. ISBN   1-85367-276-9, p. 212.
  13. "State Paper. Answer To The Note Of Count Merveld [sic] (The Austrian Ambassador)". The Times (London), Friday, 31 Jul 1807; p. 3; Issue 7113; col D.
  14. Maria Theresia (1768-1822) divorced Philip Joseph, Count von Kinsky in 1788. Smith, Kinsky.
  15. Rothenberg, p. 121.
  16. Smith, "Kulm." pp. 447–448.
  17. See map of dispositions, "The Battle of Leipzig." Map, Leipzig. At Napoleon, His Army and Enemies. Accessed 27 December 2009.
  18. F. Loraine Petre, Napoleons̓ last campaign in Germany, 1813. London: John Lane Co., 1912, p. 335. Petre claims Merveldt was short-sighted, and could not see properly; while he may have been short-sighted (near-sighted), the similarity in uniforms may also have been confusing in the smoke.
  19. 1 2 3 (in German) "Merveldt, Maximilian Graf von" in: ADB; Smith. "Mervelt.".
  20. He was introduced by the Earl of Liverpool. "The Prince Regent's Court," The Morning Chronicle, (London, England), Tuesday, 8 March 1814; Issue 13990.
  21. The Morning Chronicle. (London, England), Wednesday, 5 July 1815; Issue 14405.
  22. Merveldt, Maximilian Freiherr von


Newspaper sources

  • "State Paper. Answer To The Note Of Count Merveld [sic] (The Austrian Ambassador)". The Times (London), Friday, 31 Jul 1807; p. 3; Issue 7113; col D.
  • "The Prince Regent's Court", The Morning Chronicle, (London, England), Tuesday, 8 March 1814; Issue 13990.
  • The Morning Chronicle. (London, England). Wednesday, 5 July 1815; Issue 14405.