• Napoleon and Metternich in 1813: some new and some neglected evidence

      Price, Munro (2012-11)
      The eight-hour meeting at Dresden between Napoleon and Metternich on 26th June 1813 is a famous moment in modern French and European history. It marked a decisive stage in Austria’s tortuous path from ally to enemy of France, and thus played a crucial part in Napoleon’s downfall. Yet it still remains unclear exactly what transpired during the interview—the three published accounts, two by Metternich himself and one by Napoleon’s secretary Baron Fain, are contradictory and incomplete. There are, however, two further accounts of the Dresden meeting, one unpublished, the other almost completely neglected since its publication in 1933. The first is a revealing letter from Metternich to his wife Eleonore two days after the interview. The second is a narrative of the meeting taken down from Napoleon’s own words by his Grand Equerry Caulaincourt just a few hours after it ended. This sheds important new light on some of the key issues discussed. In particular, it clarifies the central question of whether or not Metternich offered concrete peace terms to Napoleon. Finally, the question of how far, if at all, the wider French public supported Napoleon’s determination not to conclude a ‘dishonourable’ peace in 1813 is examined.