Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June 9

Red Baron just learned that June 9 indeed is a very special day not only for him. Two hundred years ago the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna was signed definitely ending the Napoleonic rule in Europe.

Signing the Final Act in 1815
The Final Act also meant the end of 600 years of Austrian reign over the Breisgau; Freiburg was degraded to a provincial city in the Grand Duchy of Baden. Already from the start the Freiburgers had not liked the change from the milde Hand Österreichs (Austria's mild had) to the Baden rule that Napoleon had decreed in the Treaty of Pressburg in December 1805 when the winner of the Battle of Austerlitz decided: Sa Majesté l'empereur d'Autriche cède et abandonne à son Altesse l'électeur de Bade le Brisgau, l'Ortenau et leur dépendances (His Majesty the Austrian Kaiser yields and transfers the Breisgau, the Ortenau, and their dependences to his Highness the Prince-Elector of Baden).

In the run-up to the Vienna conference the Freiburgers did everything to stem the tide. A delegation of Freiburg's city council visited the Austrian Emperor Franz when he paused in Basel on his way back from Paris to Vienna in June 1814. They subserviently begged "Him" for the reunification of the city and its surroundings with the Austrian Empire. In an audience the emperor fed the men with hopes about a restoration although a decision would still take a couple of months. In the meantime the Breisgauers should remain calm, obedient, refraining from any public demonstrations.

In spite of those warnings the city council had a medal struck showing on one side the Minster church and bearing the following inscription: In remembrance of the reunification of the Breisgau with Austria, Freyburg 1814. Following the warning of the emperor about a possible delay the year was later changed to 1815.

The other side of the medal shows a bust of Franz I on a pedestal with his people hailing him: To Franz I in loyalty and love. On the pedestal you can barely read: Our wishes are fulfilled. This medal issued by the city supposed to be loyal to the House of Baden is known in Freiburg's history as the Hochverratsmedaille (high treason medal).

Eventually the decision-makers at the Congress of Vienna put the final nail into the Freiburg coffin. Austria abandoned the far-away Breisgau for the nearby Salzburg territories. This also meant that Austrian Chancellor Metternich cleverly left the watch against the "arch-enemy" France on the Upper Rhine to the Prussians, happy to acquire new territories on the Lower Rhine. In fact, the carefully adjusted balance of power on the continent achieved in Vienna lasted 51 years until 1866, the year of the fraternal war between Austria and Prussia.

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