Metternich deserves, and here thoroughly receives, re-examination. It’s a biography for anyone who seriously wants to learn about its remarkable subject. But for the casual reader unprepared for an endless procession of unpronounceable principalities and
actors — from Von Trautmansdorff to Grillparzer — it could be quite baffling.
This is the achievement of Wolfram Siemann, emeritus professor of history at Munich and already author of monographs on several crucial episodes in Metternich’s long life: the Congress of Vienna, the beginnings of the German secret police, the 1848 revolution and Metternich’s Britain. Metternich: Strategist and visionary is thus the culmination and encapsulation of a life’s work, and despite its length, twice as long as anybody else’s except Srbik, it is a running joy, full of winking sidelights and delightful detours, many of which are not really detours at all – for example, Metternich’s endless struggles to recover or replace the princely estates which had been torn away by the war and then to restore the family finances which had been frittered away by Franz Georg.
This impressive biography is welcome. It covers every aspect of Metternich’s life with a wealth of detail, and dishes up some delightful gems. A hand-drawn sketch recording where every Italian subversive had gone to ground, from Buenos Aires to Brussels, brings to life his obsession with the threat they posed. A bizarre diagram showing the relative ages of sexual activity of the two sexes provides a valuable insight into the way his mind worked — it puts 49 as the age of mort sexuelle in women.