Declaration of Pillnitz

The Declaration of Pilnite, more commonly referred to as the Declaration of Pillnitz, was a statement issued on 27 August 1791 at Pillnitz Castle near Dresden (Saxony) by Frederick William II of Prussia and the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II who was Marie Antoinette's brother.[1] It declared the joint support of the Holy Roman Empire and of Prussia for King Louis XVI of France against the French Revolution.[2]

Pillnitzer Deklaration
The meeting at Pillnitz Castle in 1791. Oil painting by J. H. Schmidt, 1791.


Since the French Revolution of 1789, Leopold had become increasingly concerned about the safety of his sister, Marie-Antoinette, and her family but felt that any intervention in French affairs would only increase their danger.[3] At the same time, many French aristocrats were fleeing France and taking up residence in neighbouring countries, spreading fear of the Revolution and agitating for foreign support to Louis XVI.[4] After the Flight to Varennes in June 1791, Louis had been arrested and was imprisoned. On 6 July 1791, Leopold issued the Padua Circular, calling on the sovereigns of Europe to join him in demanding Louis' freedom.[5]


The declaration stated that Austria would go to war if and only if all the other major European powers also went to war with France. Leopold chose this wording so that he would not be forced to go to war; he knew the British prime minister, William Pitt, did not support war with France. Leopold issued the declaration only to satisfy the French émigrés who had taken refuge in his country and were calling for foreign interference in their homeland.

Calling on European powers to intervene if Louis was threatened, the declaration was intended to serve as a warning to the French revolutionaries to stop infringing on the king's prerogatives and to permit his resumption of power.[6]

(The Pillnitz Conference itself dealt mainly with the Polish Question and the war of Austria against the Ottoman Empire.)

Text of the Declaration

"His Majesty the Emperor and His Majesty the King of Prussia (…) declare together that they regard the actual situation of His Majesty the King of France as a matter of communal interest for all sovereigns of Europe. They hope that that interest will be recognized by the powers whose assistance is called in, and that they won't refuse, together with aforementioned Majesties, the most efficacious means for enabling the French king to strengthen, in utmost liberty, the foundations of a monarchical government suiting to the rights of the sovereigns and favourable to the well-being of the French. In that case, aforementioned Majesties are determined to act promptly and unanimously, with the forces necessary for realizing the proposed and communal goal. In expectation, they will give the suitable orders to their troups so that they will be ready to commence activity."[7]


The National Assembly of France interpreted the declaration to mean that Leopold was going to declare war. Radical Frenchmen who called for war, such as Jacques Pierre Brissot, used it as a pretext to gain influence and declare war on 20 April 1792, leading to the campaigns of 1792 in the French Revolutionary Wars.[8]


  1. ^ Schama, S. Citizens p.586 penguin 1989
  2. ^ Chronicle of the French Revolution p.232 Longman Group 1989
  3. ^ Schama S. Citizens p.590 Penguin 1989
  4. ^ Schama, S. Citizens p.586 Penguin 1989
  5. ^ Chronicle of the French Revolution p.225 Longman Group 1989
  6. ^ Karl Otmar von Aretin: Vom Deutschen Reich zum Deutschen Bund. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1993, ISBN 978-3-525-33583-3, p. 24. (in German)
  7. ^ Translation of the text as given in the French Wikipedia, fr:Déclaration de Pillnitz, section La conference
  8. ^ Thomas Lalevée, « National Pride and Republican grandezza: Brissot’s New Language for International Politics in the French Revolution », French History and Civilisation (Vol. 6), 2015, pp. 66-82.

External links

Media related to Declaration of Pillnitz at Wikimedia Commons


1791 (MDCCXCI)

was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Wednesday of the Julian calendar, the 1791st year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 791st year of the 2nd millennium, the 91st year of the 18th century, and the 2nd year of the 1790s decade. As of the start of 1791, the Gregorian calendar was

11 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.

1792 Imperial election

The imperial election of 1792 was an imperial election held to select the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. It took place in Frankfurt on July 5.

Battle of Emmendingen

At the Battle of Emmendingen, on 19 October 1796, the French Army of Rhin-et-Moselle under Jean Victor Marie Moreau fought the First Coalition Army of the Upper Rhine commanded by Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen. Emmendingen is located on the Elz River in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, 9 miles (14 km) north of Freiburg im Breisgau. The action occurred during the War of the First Coalition, the first phase of the larger French Revolutionary Wars.

After a summer of parrying between the two sides, the French were already withdrawing through the Black Forest to the Rhine. In close pursuit, the Austrians forced the French commander to split his force so he could cross the Rhine at three points via the bridges at Kehl, Breisach, and Hüningen. By mid-September, though, the Austrians controlled the approaches to the crossings at Breisach and Kehl. Moreau still wanted half his army to approach the Austrians at Kehl. The rugged terrain at Emmendingen complicated fighting, making it possible for the Habsburg force to snipe at the French troops, and to block any passage toward Kehl; rainy and cold weather further hampered the efforts of both sides, turning streams and rivulets into rushing torrents of water, and making roadways slippery. The fighting was fierce; two generals died in the battle, one from each side.

Habsburg success at Emmendingen forced the French to abandon their plans for a three-pronged, or even a two-pronged, withdrawal. The French continued their retreat through the Black Forest mountain towns to the south, where the armies fought the Battle of Schliengen five days later.

Campaigns of 1792 in the French Revolutionary Wars

The French Revolutionary Wars began in April 1792.

Charles Alexandre de Calonne

Charles Alexandre de Calonne (20 January 1734 – 30 October 1802), titled Count of Hannonville in 1759, was a French statesman, best known for his involvement in the French Revolution.

Realizing that the Parlement of Paris would never agree to reform, Calonne handpicked an Assembly of Notables in 1787 to approve new taxes. When they refused, Calonne's reputation plummeted and he was forced to leave the country.

Childers Incident

The Childers Incident of 2 January 1793 marked the opening shots between British and French forces during the French Revolutionary Wars, the first phase of a 23-year-long war between the two countries. Following the French Revolution of 1789, diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the French Republic had steadily deteriorated and France was in political and social turmoil. One of the strongest hotbeds of republican activity was the principal Atlantic naval base of the French Navy at Brest in Brittany, the scene of a significant mutiny in 1790.

On 2 January a small British warship, the 14-gun brig HMS Childers under Commander Robert Barlow, was ordered to enter the Roadstead of Brest to reconnoitre the state of readiness of the French fleet. As Childers entered the Goulet de Brest, the vessel came under fire from French batteries flying the tricolour. Although Barlow clearly identified his brig as a neutral British vessel the fire continued until he was able to withdraw. Although Childers had been struck by a 48 lb (22 kg) cannonball, none of the crew were wounded. The incident was of itself inconsequential, with minimal damage and no casualties on either side, but it marked a symbolic moment in the deterioration of relations between Britain and France in the approach to war, which broke out on 1 February 1793.

First Battle of Zurich

In the First Battle of Zurich on 4 – 7 June 1799, French general André Masséna was forced to yield the city to the Austrians under Archduke Charles and retreat beyond the Limmat, where he managed to fortify his positions, resulting in a stalemate.

The Helvetic Republic in 1798 became a battlefield of the French Revolutionary Wars. During the summer, Russian troops under general Korsakov replaced the Austrian troops, and in the Second Battle of Zurich, the French regained control of the city, along with the rest of Switzerland.

French Revolutionary Army

The French Revolutionary Army (French: Armée révolutionnaire française) was the French force that fought the French Revolutionary Wars from 1792 to 1802. These armies were characterised by their revolutionary fervour, their poor equipment and their great numbers. Although they experienced early disastrous defeats, the revolutionary armies successfully expelled foreign forces from French soil and then overran many neighboring countries, establishing client republics. Leading generals included Jourdan, Bonaparte, Masséna and Moreau.

As a general description of French military forces during this period, it should not be confused with the "revolutionary armies" (armées révolutionnaires) which were paramilitary forces set up during the Terror.

Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor

Leopold II (Peter Leopold Joseph Anton Joachim Pius Gotthard; 5 May 1747 – 1 March 1792) was Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary, and Bohemia from 1790 to 1792, and Archduke of Austria and Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1765 to 1790. He was a son of Emperor Francis I and his wife, Empress Maria Theresa, and the brother of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France and Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor. Leopold was a moderate proponent of enlightened absolutism. He granted the Academy of Georgofili his protection.

List of international declarations

This is a chronological list of international declarations, declarations of independence, declarations of war, etc.

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Maria Theresa of Austria (Maria Theresia Josepha Charlotte Johanna; 14 January 1767 – 7 November 1827) was born an Archduchess of Austria and a Princess of Tuscany. She was later Queen of Saxony as the second wife and consort of King Anthony of Saxony.

National Legislative Assembly (France)

The Legislative Assembly (French: Assemblée législative) was the legislature of France from 1 October 1791 to 20 September 1792 during the years of the French Revolution. It provided the focus of political debate and revolutionary law-making between the periods of the National Constituent Assembly and of the National Convention.

Padua Circular

The Padua Circular was a diplomatic note produced by Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II on 6 July 1791. Prompted by the arrest of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette after the Flight to Varennes, the Circular called on the sovereigns of Europe to join him in demanding their freedom. It was followed by diplomatic initiatives in which the Holy Roman Empire looked for rapprochement with its traditional enemy, Hohenzollern Prussia.The Padua Circular met with little enthusiasm by the other powers of Europe so there was no basis for any kind of collective action by the powers on behalf of the French king.

However, it led to a convention between Prussia and Austria on 25 July 1791, which settled all outstanding disputes, pledged co-operation over France and paved the way for the more substantive Declaration of Pillnitz, authored jointly by Austria and Prussia, in August 1791.


Pillnitz is a quarter in the east of Dresden, Germany. It can be reached by bus, ship, walking along the river or by bicycle. Pillnitz is most famous for its Baroque palace and park, the Pillnitz Castle.

Pillnitz Palace consists of the Riverside Palace (Wasserpalais) at the river, the parallel Upper Palace (Bergpalais) towards the hills and the linking building New Palace (Neues Palais). The first two were designed by Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann. The buildings frame the Baroque inner garden; this entire ensemble is surrounded by a park.

Pillnitz is known for the Declaration of Pillnitz of 1791: Emperor Leopold II and King Frederick William II of Prussia, urged by Charles X, then Comte d'Artois, declared that the French King Louis XVI was not to be harmed or deprived of power as a way to attack the progress of the French Revolution.

Pillnitz is also a site of wine production. During the millennium flood of 2002 in Dresden, it was one of the most affected areas.

Pillnitz Castle

Pillnitz Castle (German: Schloss Pillnitz) is a restored Baroque palace at the eastern end of the city of Dresden in the German state of Saxony. It is located on the bank of the River Elbe in the former village of Pillnitz. Pillnitz Castle was the summer residence of many electors and kings of Saxony; it is also known for the Declaration of Pillnitz in 1791.

The Pillnitz Castle complex consists of three main buildings, the Riverside Palace (Wasserpalais) on the riverfront; the Upper Palace (Bergpalais) on the hillside, both Baroque with Chinoiserie elements; and the later Neoclassical New Palace (Neues Palais), which links them together on the east side. The buildings enclose a Baroque garden and are surrounded by a large public park.

Today, the palace houses the Arts and Crafts Museum (Kunstgewerbemuseum) of the Dresden State Art Collections and a Palace Museum (Schlossmuseum).

Reign of Terror

The Reign of Terror, or The Terror (French: la Terreur), is the label given by most historians to a period during the French Revolution after the First French Republic was established.

Several historians consider the "reign of terror" to have begun in 1793, placing the starting date at either 5 September, June or March (birth of the Revolutionary Tribunal), while some consider it to have begun in September 1792 (September Massacres), or even July 1789 (when the first lynchings took place), but there is a consensus that it ended with the fall of Maximilien Robespierre in July 1794.Between June 1793 and the end of July 1794, there were 16,594 official death sentences in France, of which 2,639 were in Paris.

Treaty of Sistova

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Trial of Louis XVI

The trial of Louis XVI was a key event of the French Revolution. It involved the trial of the former French king Louis XVI before the National Convention and led to his execution.

War of the First Coalition

The War of the First Coalition (French: Guerre de la Première Coalition) is the traditional name of the wars that several European powers fought between 1792 and 1797 against the French First Republic. Despite the collective strength of these nations compared with France, they were not really allied and fought without much apparent coordination or agreement. Each power had its eye on a different part of France it wanted to appropriate after a French defeat, which never occurred.France declared war on the Habsburg Monarchy (cf. the Holy Roman Empire, Austrian Empire etc.) on 20 April 1792. In July 1792, an army under the Duke of Brunswick and composed mostly of Prussians joined the Austrian side and invaded France, only to be rebuffed at the Battle of Valmy in September.

Subsequently these powers made several invasions of France by land and sea, with Prussia and Austria attacking from the Austrian Netherlands and the Rhine, and the Kingdom of Great Britain supporting revolts in provincial France and laying siege to Toulon in October 1793. France suffered reverses (Battle of Neerwinden, 18 March 1793) and internal strife (War in the Vendée) and responded with draconian measures. The Committee of Public Safety formed (6 April 1793) and the levée en masse drafted all potential soldiers aged 18 to 25 (August 1793). The new French armies counterattacked, repelled the invaders, and advanced beyond France.

The French established the Batavian Republic as a sister republic (May 1795) and gained Prussian recognition of French control of the Left Bank of the Rhine by the first Peace of Basel. With the Treaty of Campo Formio, the Holy Roman Empire ceded the Austrian Netherlands to France and Northern Italy was turned into several French sister republics. Spain made a separate peace accord with France (Second Treaty of Basel) and the French Directory carried out plans to conquer more of the Holy Roman Empire (German States, and Austria under the same rule).

North of the Alps, Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen redressed the situation in 1796, but Napoleon carried all before him against Sardinia and Austria in northern Italy (1796–1797) near the Po Valley, culminating in the Treaty of Leoben and the Treaty of Campo Formio (October 1797). The First Coalition collapsed, leaving only Britain in the field fighting against France.

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