Austria (unlike Prussia) "rebelled" against Napoleon during the War of the Fifth Coalition. After putting down this country (but not Spain, Portugal, and the U.K.), Napoleon allowed the Empire to keep most of its possessions, instead of breaking it up. Austria lost its coastal regions in the later Yugoslavia and Italy, but kept its Hungarian, Czech, and Polish possessions.

Was there a reason he did not break up the Austrian Empire by giving Hungary its independence and adding Austrian Galicia to the Duchy of Warsaw, leaving Austria with only its modern, "core" territory, and maybe the modern Czech Republic? Napoleon did marry Austria's Marie Louise. Was that the "tribute" that Austria paid to maintain its territorial integrity?

  • Direct quote from the very link you show “ The resulting Treaty of Schönbrunn was the harshest that France had imposed on Austria in recent memory.” Considering that Napoleon already chipped a lot form the newly formed Empire a couple years earlier, would you explain why you think it was lenient?
    – Greg
    Jul 7, 2020 at 14:24
  • @Greg: It's called the Battle of Leipzig, where the Austrians played a key role in his defeat. Instead, he could have "Balkanized" Austria, to the point where it would never be a threat to him again.. Because he could have created/strengthened allies like the Hungarians and the Duchy of Warsaw out of what was formerly enemy territory.
    – Tom Au
    Jul 7, 2020 at 19:33

1 Answer 1


As listed in the Wikipedia link on the War of the Fifth Coalition: Austria lost ~20% of its population through ceded territory and had to pay heavy fines while not yet totally defeated in 6 months of warfare, which is by no means leniency.

A complete breakup of Austria by military means would have likely required further resources from an already strained French economy after decades of postrevolutionary struggles and an ongoing continental blockade. Ongoing war or too harsh a punishment for Austria would have also opened up the possibility of intervention by the other Great Powers, all of which favored a reverse to a balance of power in Europe and the restoration of the pre-revolutionary Monarchy in France.

Likewise, a complete humiliation,defeat and breakup of Austria would have only further stoked nascent German nationalism, which, contrary to its revolutionary rhetoric, was not in the interest of France given its recent acquisitions of German territories. The Holy Roman Empire, for the longest time under Austrian leadership was only dissolved 3 years before the end of the war.

edit: Sources:

Losses of Austria in the Treaty of Schönbrunn: https://www.britannica.com/event/Treaty-of-Schonbrunn

General overview of the war: http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/wars_franco_austria_1809.html based on the books 1809: Thunder on the Danube: Napoleon's defeat of the Habsburgs, Vol 1-3, John H. Gill

Sources on nascent German Nationalism (examples):
Tyrolean nationalist rebellion during the war: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrolean_Rebellion

Assassination-attempt on Napoleon based on German nationalism at the signing of the peace treaty of the war: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Sch%C3%B6nbrunn#Assassination_attempt

Dörnberg-uprising in Hessen during the war: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_von_D%C3%B6rnberg#D%C3%B6rnberg's_Uprising_(22%E2%80%9324_April_1809)

German Source: Archduke Charles, stating that Austria took up arms not only for Austrian independence, but for German independence and German national honor («Nicht bloß für seine Selbständigkeit, sondern für Deutschlands Unabhängigkeit und Nationalehre» habe Österreich das Schwert ergriffen.): Napoleon I. by August Fournier, p. 289 https://books.google.de/books?id=fWV9yHRNjW0C&pg=RA1-PA289&lpg=RA1-PA289

  • 2
    You make some interesting points, but your answer would be greatly strengthened by the addition of sources. Jul 7, 2020 at 13:26
  • In agreement with @LarsBosteen on need for sources. In particular the claim "would have only further stoked nascent German nationalism" is hard to substantiate before the fact. German nationalism really doesn't show up in any of my research until 1813, four years after the 1809 war. So while a correct observation, I see no means for it to be a valid policy basis in 1809. The Tyrolean Rebellion, to my mind, looks in 1809 to be a one-off, not the mere beginnings of something much bigger. Jul 7, 2020 at 13:30
  • I will try to dig up some sources. As a one-off anecdote rather than a full list of sources: There was a failed assassination attempt on Napoleon during the negotiations of the Treaty of Schönbrunn. The failed assassin Friedrich Staps, during his execution, shouted: "Long live freedom, long live Germany!". See e.g.:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Sch%C3%B6nbrunn
    – R.K.
    Jul 7, 2020 at 13:36
  • 1
    @R.K. That's a start, worth an edit to your answer rather than a comment.
    – Brian Z
    Jul 7, 2020 at 13:49
  • Under my proposal, a relatively small additional force would be needed, because he could have gotten the Hungarians and Poles do what they wanted to do anyway.. Or do you consider that a wrong assumption?
    – Tom Au
    Jul 7, 2020 at 19:35

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