The Meeting at Erfurt

Period : Directory / 1st Empire
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This timeline forms part of our close-up on: the Meeting at Erfurt. It is also worth investigating our close-up on: Tilsit.

Between 27 September and 14 October 1808, in the small town of Erfurt, in Thüringen, central Germany, the famous Meeting at Erfurt took place. Originally envisaged by Napoleon as a compliment to the Treaty of Tilsit which would cement Franco-Russian relations and leave the French emperor free to deal with the Spanish situation, the meeting at Erfurt would prove to be a turning point in European political relationships and a disappointment for Napoleon.

7 July 1807
Treaty of Tilsit signed by France and Russia

9 July 1807
Treaty of Tilsit signed by France and Prussia

7 November 1807
In accordance with the Treaty of Tilsit, Alexander reluctantly declares war on England.

January 1808
Talleyrand writes in his Mémoires that Napoleon first broaches the subject of exchanging Moldova and Wallachia for continued French-occupation of Silesia in a court-conversation with de Tolstoy, Russian ambassador in Paris. This proposition is poorly received by Alexander.

2 February 1808
A letter dated 2 February 1808 from Napoleon to Alexander outlines Napoleon's grandiose plans for the Orient, including the mooted expedition into Turkey and down to the Bosphorus with a combined force of 50,000 men, aimed at attacking British interests in the Indies. Napoleon also raises the necessity of a meeting in person between the two emperors. Napoleon continues: “Everything can be signed and decided before 15 March. On 1 May, our troops can be in Asia, and at the same time, the Your Majesty's troops can be in Stockholm. The English, threatened in the Indies and driven from the Levant will be crushed under the weight of events…” 
13 March 1808
Alexander's response to Napoleon's letter of 2 February 1808 is positive and the town of Erfurt is suggested as a possible site for the meeting. The letter also includes a note resuming the Russian propositions for a complete division of the Ottoman Empire. France would receive Albania, Morea, Crete, the Cyclades, Rhodes, Cyprus, Salonika, Syria and Egypt. Russia, for its part, would receive Moldova, Wallachia, Bulgaria, the straits and Constantinople. Serbia and Croatia would also be granted to Austria. Caulaincourt appeared favourable to this plan, but harboured reserves regarding Constantinople.
19 March 1808
The Mutiny of Aranjuez results in Charles X abdicating the Spanish thrown in favour of his son, Ferdinand.
19-22 July 1808
At Bailén, in Andalusia, Dupont and his French troops, numbering about 20,000, are surrounded by Spanish forces, cut off from their supplies and forced to surrender. This disaster, at a point when Napoleon's armies were considered to be invincible, becomes the rallying cry for many patriots.
22 August 1808
A letter from Caulaincourt to Napoleon is dispatched informing Napoleon that Alexander will arrive in Erfurt on 27 September.
8 September 1808
Franco-Prussian treaty signed in Paris. Prussian reparations to be paid to France were fixed at 140 million francs, and French troops were to evacuate Prussia, with the exception of those stationed at Glogau, Stettin and Küstrin.
22 September 1808
Napoleon leaves St. Cloud at 5am.
Members of the Comédie Française arrive in Erfurt.
24 September 1808, 10am
Talleyrand arrives in Erfurt.
27 September 1808, 9am
Napoleon arrives in Erfurt.
28 September 1808
Alexander arrives in Erfurt having spent the night in Weimar.
2 October 1808
Napoleon receives Goethe.
4 October 1808
Napoleon and Alexander attend the production of Œdipe, during which Alexander makes his famous gesture of friendship towards Napoleon.
6-7 October 1808
Napoleon and Alexander visit Weimar and on 7 October, the two emperors tour the battlefield of Jena.
12 October 1808
The Erfurt Convention is signed by the two parties.
A letter signed by Alexander and Napoleon is addressed to George III proposing negotiation.
14 October 1808
Napoleon and Alexander leave Erfurt and return to their respective capitals.

The meeting proved to be a great disappointment for Napoleon who found Alexander difficult and unyielding. The French emperor would eventually refuse to ratify the agreement made at Erfurt, indicating how much the final product differed from what he had envisaged in the early months of 1808.

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