10 Most Famous Diplomats (part 3)

3 min readSep 15, 2020

5. Klemens Wenzel Lothar von Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein (1773–1859).

This Austrian diplomat went down in history as one of the main organizers of the reconstruction of Europe after the end of the Napoleonic wars. Metternich was Minister of foreign Affairs of the Austrian Empire from 1809 to 1848. An aristocrat by birth, he met the French revolution with hostility. In 1798, Metternich began his diplomatic career.

Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, German-Austrian diplomat, politician and statesman by Thomas Lawrence (1773–1859)

In 1801, he became Imperial envoy to Dresden, and from 1803 to Berlin. Here he began to prepare a coalition against France, seeking to persuade Prussia to join the Union of Russia, England, and Austria. At the same time, the diplomat became friends with the French, which was the reason to send him to the court of Napoleon. There Metternich defended the interests of his country, warning it of the impending French attack. Taking up the post of foreign Minister, the diplomat immediately changed the vector of European policy — the daughter of Emperor Franz, Marie-Louise, became the wife of Napoleon. Thus ended the friendship of Russia and France. In Napoleon’s Russian company, Austria, which was experiencing financial problems, was able to remain neutral.

In 1813, Metternich realized that peace with France would be impossible. Immediately Austria entered the war on the side of the allies. After the fall of Napoleon, Metternich opened the Congress of Vienna, which redrawn the map of Europe. Austria itself received the lion’s share of the spoils. The diplomat’s ideas triumphed — Italy and Germany remained fragmented. Metternich generally became famous for his conservatism and unwillingness to change anything in the established state of affairs. The national movements of 1820–1840 seemed superfluous to the diplomat. As a result, popular unrest against harsh policies and censorship forced Metternich to resign.

6. Alexander Gorchakov (1798–1883)

The diplomat was born in a princely family. His high birth helped him get into the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum, where he became a friend of Pushkin. Even then, the poet noted the qualities of his friend: observation, passion for light and fashion, which was so important for diplomacy. Wit and literary talents will then manifest in Gorchakov’s international notes. Already at the age of 22–24, a young diplomat accompanies count Nesselrode to congresses. In 1822–1833, Gorchakov worked in embassies of various European countries, gaining experience. In the 1840s, Gorchakov served in Germany, where the Prince met Bismarck. In 1854, already as Ambassador in Vienna, the diplomat managed to convince the Austrians to remain neutral and not support France and England in their Treaty against Russia.

Portrait of Alexander Mikhailovich Gorchakov by N. T. Bogatsky , 1873

The defeat in the Crimean campaign and the Treaty of Paris actually pushed Russia away from making decisions on political issues in Europe. In 1856, Gorchakov was appointed Minister of foreign affairs, realizing that it was necessary to restore Russia’s former influence. The Polish question consolidated Russia’s friendship with Prussia and allowed it to evade the persistent attempts of France, England and Austria to protect the national rights of poles. Correspondence on this issue brought Gorchakov fame as a prominent diplomat. The strengthening of Germany with the full support of Gorchakov helped him in 1870 to announce a revision of the terms of the Paris Treaty. Russia’s decision displeased the great powers, but it was impossible to disagree with such an influential rival. Thus, Gorchakov only managed to return the fleet on the Black sea and its former influence in the region to Russia through diplomacy, without entering into wars.

The last bright event in the career of a diplomat was the Berlin Congress, at which Gorchakov spoke little and rarely sat. The fate of the Balkan States was being decided, and Russia received back Bessarabia, which had been taken away by the Treaty of Paris. The great politician gradually retired from business, retaining the honorary title of state Chancellor.