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Johann Bernhard, Count von Rechberg und Rothenlöwen

Johann Bernhard, Count von Rechberg und Rothenlöwen (1806-1899) Austrian diplomat and statesman, born July 17, 1806 in Regensburg, Bavaria; died February 26, 1899 in Schwechat, Lower Austria. Second son of Count Aloys von Rechberg, Bavarian foreign minister at the time of the Congress of Vienna, and descended from an old Swabian noble family, Bernhard von Rechberg was educated at Strasbourg and Munich. At age twenty-two he entered Austrian service as legation secretary at Berlin (1828-1830) and subsequently London (1830-1833); served as chargé d'affaires in Darmstadt (1833-1837), Brussels (1837-1839), and Stockholm (1841-1843); and became Habsburg minister plenipotentiary to Rio de Janeiro (1843-1847). In 1847 he declined an appointment as Habsburg Internuntius in Constantinople, and opted for private life. Rechberg accompanied Metternich and his family on their March 1848 flight from Vienna to the Hague. Thereafter he belonged to Metternich's inner circle for the Habsburg elder statesman became mentor to his "pupil's" conservative outlook and subsequent political career.

In March 1849 Minister President Felix Schwarzenberg appointed Rechberg Austrian plenipotentiary to Frankfurt where he served until Archduke Johann resigned as regent in December 1849. He remained in Frankfurt to represent Austria before the "Interim" provisional central power until November 1850, when Schwarzenberg named Rechberg federal civil commissioner (Bundeszivilkommissar) to accompany the confederate Austrian and Bavarian forces then engaged in a federal execution in Electoral Hesse. Rechberg accomplished this potentially Austro-Prussian confrontational mission, but requested his recall. Returning to Vienna, he served as a consultant on German affairs in the foreign ministry. In June 1851 Schwarzenberg designated him Internuntius in Constantinople, but Rechberg never assumed this post. In 1851 and 1852 he toured the German middle states, especially Bavaria and Wurtenberg, seeking their support for Austria's leadership of a strengthened confederation and Austria's admission into the Zollverein , but encountered steadfast Prussian opposition. Foreign Minister Karl Buol transferred Rechberg from the Germanies to Milan where from 1853-1855 he served as civil administrator (Ziviladlatus) for Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky. In Lombardo-Venetia he terminated military rule and re-implemented a civilian administration. Successful in northern Italy, he returned to Germany from 1855-1859 as Habsburg ambassador or presiding delegate (Präsidialgesandter) at the Frankfurt Bundestag. Such responsibilities earned Rechberg considerable expertise in German and Italian affairs.

With the commencement of hostilities between Austria, France, and Sardinia in April 1859 and Buol's dismissal, Metternich secured Rechberg's appointment on May 15, 1859 as Habsburg foreign minister and acting minister president. He represented Austria at the peace negotiations in Zurich (November 1859), but advised Franz Joseph that an active foreign policy was possible only after domestic consolidation. Although he favored centralized state power over a provincial or federalized administration, Rechberg co-signed both the 1860 October Diploma and 1861 February Patent. He deferred to Anton von Schmerling as Staatsminister and to Minister President Archduke Rainer in internal matters. In foreign policy Rechberg advocated Metternich's principles of cooperation with Prussia and loyalty to the treaties. Although in 1862 he reluctantly pursued Reinhard von Dalwigk's and in 1863 Anton von Schmerling's plans to restructure the German Confederation, he ran afoul of Otto von Bismarck's masterful calculations to exalt Prussia. Increasingly dependent upon Baron Ludwig von Biegeleben, Ballhausplatz secretary for German Affairs, the mild-mannered, principled but ill-fated Rechberg foundered on the harsh realities of Confederate reform, the Schleswig-Holstein, and Zollverein issues. He resigned as foreign minister on October 17, 1864.

Rechberg was mentioned as a possible successor to Julius Andrássy (1879) and Heinrich von Haymerle (1881) upon their retirement as Austrian foreign minister, but nothing came of this. In 1834 Rechberg married Barbara Jones, daughter of Thomas, Viscount Ranelagh; they had one son, Louis (b. 1835). After 1861 a lifelong member of the upper house of the Austrian Reichsrat and a knight of the Golden Fleece (1864), Rechberg exercised minimal political influence during the last thirty years of his life.
Kenneth W. Rock


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Kraehe, Enno E. "Austria and the Problem of Reform in the German Confederation, 1851-1863." American Historical Review. LVI (January 1951), 276-294.

Lutz, Heinrich and Helmut Rumpler, eds. Österreich und die deutsche Frage im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert: Probleme der politisch-staatlichen und soziokulturellen Differenzierung im deutschen Mitteleuropa. "Wiener Beiträge zur Geschichte der Neuzeit." Bd. 9. Vienna: Verlag für Geschichte und Politik, 1982.

Rumpler, Helmut. "Johann Bernard Graf von Rechberg." Tausend Jahre Österreich: Eine biographische Chronik. Walter Pollak (ed.) Vienna and Munich: Jugend & Volk, 1973-74, 200 ff.

Srbik, Heinrich von. Deutsche Einheit: Idee und Wirklichkeit vom Heiligen Reich bis Königgrätz. 4 vols. Munich: F. Bruckmann, 1936-1942.

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