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The Battle of Wagram

Consequences of Wagram

The political consequence of Wagram was the reduction of Austria as a truly great power on the world stage. France imposed very harsh peace terms with the Treaty of Schonbrunn signed on the 14th October 1809.


Austria lost its access to the sea and had to cede provinces to Bavaria. The treaty would remove one fifth (3.5 million people) of Austria’s population. They would also have to join Napoleon’s anti-British alliance; joining the blockade of British goods.


To remain a significant player in European politics, the Austrians would have to cooperate with the French. Therefore, you could view Napoleon’s marriage with the Austrian princess Marie Louise as a sign that the Austrians were willing to work with France. 


The marriage with the Austrian princess strikes a remarkable similarity with Louis XVI marriage with the Austrian, Marie Antoinette.


It begs the question of whether Napoleon was now actively depicting himself as similar to the other European monarchs. If that is the case, we can question to what extent Napoleon strayed away from the French Revolution.


Napoleon was acting more like a traditional monarch than a republican statesman.

Princess Marie-Louise von Habsburg

From a tactical standpoint, the Battle of Wagram and the overall Austrian campaign was a sign of things to come. The Austrians had shown that the famed Grande Armee could be beaten in the field.


The level of casualties sustained by the French would also take its toll. Both at Aspern-Essling and Wagram, the French received 30,000 or more casualties for each battle. Veterans are not easy to obtain. When an experienced soldier falls they are replaced by a raw recruit.


The loss of experience from this many casualties would be troublesome for the army from a tactical standpoint. Complex manoeuvres that were accomplished by these veterans would be difficult to repeat for raw recruits.


The Death of Marshal Lannes

The Death of Marshal Lannes.jpg

Many of these casualties were not just to the rank and file of Napoleon’s armies. Officers and commanders were also among the casualty lists. Perhaps the most significant being the death of Marshal Lannes at Aspern-Essling. Marshal Lannes was one of the most competent commanders of Napoleon’s army and had proven his ability time and time again. Friedland (1807) was a notable example of this. The army had lost a distinguished commander that was difficult to replace. More than that, Napoleon had lost a close ally.  The more wars France would fight in, the more likely its experienced veterans would become casualties. This was pressing in a climate where other European powers were actively improving their armies.


The Battle of Wagram, and indeed the War of the Fifth Coalition, undermined the idea of Napoleonic invincibility. Aspern-Essling was one of Napoleon’s first significant defeats and showed that he was not infallible. The French no longer had a monopoly on good strategy and tactics. The Battle of Wagram would represent the final war victory for Napoleon. The subsequent Sixth and Seventh Coalitions would all end in defeat and exile for the Emperor. Hence, if Napoleon’s career were a narrative, Wagram would be a turning point for Napoleon’s fortunes.


Superficially, it would appear that Napoleon was supreme. He had defeated the Austrians yet again. The British were without Great Power allies. Other than the conflict in Spain, Europe was seemingly at peace. Indeed, Napoleon had also been able to secure a marriage alliance with Austria despite the latter’s defeat.


Yet, this was all superficial. The harsh terms imposed on both Prussia and Austria would incentivise revolt rather than collaboration from both powers. Russia’s keenness for an alliance with France was waning due to the economic blockade on Britain. Napoleon’s empire at this point was not sustainable. European powers were ready to take advantage of the second an opportunity was afforded to them.


All they needed was a mistake.


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