This timeline forms part of our close-up on: the Treaty of Vienna, the Franco-Austrian treaty that brought an end to Napoleon’s Austrian campaign of 1809. The Treaty of Vienna closes our series on the campaign, which includes the Battle of Aspern-Essling, the Battle of Wagram and Andreas Hofer and the insurrection in the Tyrol.
4-6 July: the Battle of Wagram
Following the Austrian defeat at Wagram between 4 and 6 July, 1809, the Austrians retreated in good order. Not long after the end of the battle, Napoleon dispatched troops under Marmont in direction of Nikolsburg (Mikulov, Czech Republic), heading for Hungary or Bohemia, depending on the intelligence that the French Emperor received. At the same time, Masséna was given the order to regroup his troops and depart for Znaïm (Znojmo, in the Czech Republic). Bernadotte and the Armée d’Italie were to remain around Wagram and await orders whilst Eugène de Beauharnais secured Vienna.
10-11 July: the Battle of Znaïm
Napoleon, however, was unsure as to where Archduke Charles was heading and so dispatched Davout to follow Marmont. This, in fact, was a mistake for, accompanied by the majority of his troops, the Austrian commander was actually on the road to Znaïm. Marmont, arriving in Hollabrün and receiving information from Montbrun regarding the whereabouts of the Austrians, quickly turned away towards Laa (Laa An Der Thaya), on the road to Znaïm. Arriving in Znaïm late on 10 July, Marmont and his 10,000-strong force mounted an attack on the Austrian defenders and, facing nearly 60,000 troops, were quickly in dire need of reinforcements.
On 11 July, 1809, troops under Masséna advanced on the city. Having succeeded in crossing the Thaya, he launched an attack on a convent building that was being defended by Hungarian chasseurs. Refusing to surrender, they were eventually pushed back into the chapel where the remaining soldiers were massacred. An Austrian counter-attack briefly retook the bridge but troops under Carra-Saint-Cyr intervened and drove through onto the Znaïm plain. By 7pm, Marmont had joined up with Masséna. At this point, Napoleon intervened, having received Charles’ request for a cease-fire. The French Emperor would be heard remarking: “Enough blood has been spilled, let us make peace.” Znaïm would be the last battle of the Austrian campaign of 1809. Berthier, for France, and de Wimpffen, acting on behalf of the Austrian Emperor, undertook the discussion of the cease-fire’s conditions. The Austrians were forced to acquiesce to Napoleon’s demands, and more than a third of Austrian territory was to remain under French control.
11 July: armistice signed
The armistice was signed on 11 July, 1809 and would lead to the eventual Treaty of Schonbrünn, signed on 14 October, 1809.
Having agreed the armistice immediately after the Battle of Znaïm on 11 July, 1809, negotiations were pursued by the French Foreign Minister Champagny with Austrian minister Metternich. After initially envisaging (immediately post-Wagram) the removal of the House of Habsburg from the Austrian throne, Napoleon decided rather to demand the retention of the huge swathes of Austrian territory still under French control following the campaign (the principle of uti possidetis, Latin for “the land you occupy now”).
Cessions of “four or five million inhabitants” [Letter from Napoleon to Champagny dated 22 August, 1809, n° 15700] were demanded.
However, a few weeks later, when little progress had been made, Napoleon lowered his sights slightly:
“I would consent to Austria bearing a loss equal to that which she experienced at Pressburg; three or four million of the population [|is all that I require].” [Letter from Napoleon to Champagny dated 15 September, 1809, n° 15816]
This was further reduced in a letter to Francis II, the Austrian Emperor, on the same day:
“I am prepared to make peace with Your Majesty, in settling for cessions on the Inn frontier and that of Italy equivalent to 1,600,000 individuals, and the cession of less than half of Galicia to the King of Saxony and to the Emperor of Russia. It will not escape Your Majesty that, of this sacrifice of three million and a few hundred thousand individuals that I propose, I reserve for myself only what is necessary to link Dalmatia with my other Italian states and that I am able to ensure that nothing untoward happens regarding the interests of my people.” [Letter from Napoleon to Francis II dated 15 September, 1809, n° 15823]
Another week passed, Austria had not budged and Napoleon, in his note to Champagny which was destined for the Austrian Emperor, could barely hide his displeasure at the Austrian plenipotentiaries, this time threatening violence:
“The Austrian plenipotentiaries continue to risk the resumption of hostilities; this language is nothing less than peaceful, and the future will prove, just as experience has proved more than once, to whom such renewals will be fateful. Never have there been negotiations so lacking in dexterity, conciliatory spirit and amenity.” [Letter from Napoleon to Champagny dated 22 September, 1809, n° 15835]
Despite the French Emperor’s threats, negotiations dragged on into the second week of October.
12 October: Frederick Staps attempted to assassinate Napoleon during a military parade at Schönbrunn Palace.
On 12 October, 1809, two days before the treaty was signed in Vienna, Napoleon wrote to Fouché, his Police Minister, informing him of a brief incident during a troop review at Schönbrunn Palace:
“A young man of seventeen years, son of a Lutheran minister from Erfurt, tried, at the parade today, to approach me. He was stopped by officers, and, noticing a suspicious nature in him which aroused suspicions, he was searched, upon which a dagger was discovered. I had him brought before me, and this miserable scoundrel, who [nevertheless] appeared reasonably educated, informed me that he intended to assassinate me to deliver Austria from French presence.”
The young man, a German named Frederick Staps, was offered his life if he asked for pardon. He refused, informing Napoleon that he was fulfilling a sacred mission. After interrogation, he revealed that he was acting alone. He was tried on 15 October, 1809, and executed by firing squad on 16 October, 1809.
Napoleon continued in his letter to Fouché:
“I wanted to inform you of this event, in order that it is not made more important than it appears to be. I hope that it will not reach you; if it were to, you would portray this individual as a madman. […] It caused no scene at the parade; I myself was not aware of it.” [Letter from Napoleon to Fouché dated 12 October, 1809, n° 15935]
14 October, 9am: the Treaty of Vienna was signed by the French and Austrian representatives.
In Schönbrunn Palace, Champagny, French Foreign Minister, and the Prince of Liechtenstein signed the treaty, over three months after the armistice had been agreed. Austria formally ceded huge swathes of territory, including Salzburg and the upper valley of the Inn (which went to Bavaria), and Trieste, Carniola and Croatia (which became part of the French Empire in the form of the Illyrian Provinces). Included in the secret articles of the treaty was the provision that the Austrian army could not exceed 50,000 men until peace with Britain had been signed.
On the same day, Napoleon issued Eugène de Beauharnais with instructions to invade the Tyrol region in the south and put an end to the insurrection which had been raging there for six months. Berthier was to be left in command of the army once the treaty had been ratified, whilst some of the French troops began to retire from Austrian territory.
15, 16 and 17 October: days set aside for the destruction of Vienna’s fortifications.
In actual fact, the destruction would take more than three weeks.
15 October: Frederick Staps was tried before a military court, found guilty of espionage, and condemned to death. Staps’ last words before being executed are reputed to have been “I die for Germany, content in having acquitted myself before God of the promise that I made to Him.”
16 October, 2pm: Napoleon left Schönbrunn Palace and began the journey back to Paris.
16 October: Frederick Staps was executed by firing squad.
18 October: Napoleon arrived in Passau.
19 October: the Treaty of Vienna was ratified.
23 October: Eugène de Beauharnais left Vienna for the Tyrol.
26 October, 10am: Napoleon arrived back in Fontainebleau.