10 Violent Battles that Defined the Holy Roman Empire
10 Violent Battles that Defined the Holy Roman Empire

10 Violent Battles that Defined the Holy Roman Empire

Patrick Lynch - December 11, 2017

10 Violent Battles that Defined the Holy Roman Empire
Prince Eugene of Savoy – Wikipedia

9 – Battle of Blenheim (1704)

The War of Spanish Succession began in 1701 and ended in 1714, and the Battle of Blenheim is arguably the most famous battle during the conflict. It pitted the Franco-Bavarian army against the Grand Alliance which included the Holy Roman Empire, England, Scotland, Austria and a few other allies. The French King, Louis XIV, made a bold move to remove the Holy Roman Empire, under the leadership of Emperor Leopold I, from the war by taking the Habsburg capital Vienna.

The city of Vienna was under threat from two sides; the forces of Marshal Marsin and the Elector of Bavaria from the west, and Marshal Vendrome’s huge army in the north of Italy. There was also the small matter of a Hungarian revolt in the east. The Duke of Marlborough understood the danger, and the English commander brought his army towards Vienna to assist Leopold. Marlborough used his cunning to march 400 kilometers to the River Danube in five weeks in relative secrecy. He aimed to force the Bavarians and Marsin into battle before Marshal Tallard arrived with reinforcements.

He was unsuccessful as Tallard arrived, but Marlborough was boosted by the arrival of Prince Eugene of Savoy who brought reinforcements. There is some dispute over the respective strength of the armies, but they were probably comparable in size. Modern estimates suggest the French and Bavarian forces had 60,000 men against the 56,000 strong force of the Grand Alliance. In the midst of battle, Marlborough was able to sustain an assault against the French center with the aid of Eugene’s cavalry corps. Tallard was taken prisoner and while the Allies lost 12,000 men, the French and Bavarians lost over 30,000 men; 18,000 died, and the rest were taken, prisoner.

It was the French army’s first defeat in over half a century and proved that Louis’ army was not the invincible force of lore. The victory at Blenheim looked set to turn the tide of the war in favor of the Grand Alliance as it captured several towns in preparation for an assault on France in 1705. However, the French launched a counteroffensive which forced the Allies to defend the city of Liege. The war continued until 1714 when the treaties of Utrecht (1713) and Rastatt (1714) partitioned the Spanish Empire and ended the conflict.

10 Violent Battles that Defined the Holy Roman Empire
Napoleon Bonaparte – Britannica

10 – Battle of Austerlitz (1805)

Often regarded as Napoleon’s greatest victory, the Battle of Austerlitz marked the end of the Holy Roman Empire. It was also a crucial battle in the Napoleonic Wars and is sometimes known as the Battle of Three Emperors. It featured the Grand Armee of France under the command of Napoleon against a combined force of Russian and Austrian armies led by Tsar Alexander I and Emperor Francis II of the Holy Roman Empire.

Napoleon took Vienna in November 1805, and the Austrians decided not to face the Grand Armee again until they were aided by Russian reinforcements. The French commander was eager for battle and went to great lengths to dupe the enemy into thinking his army was in a terrible state. Overall, he had 65,000 men against almost 90,000 and Napoleon masterfully lured the enemy into a trap.

He abandoned Pratzen Heights which was located near Austerlitz and weakened his right flank on purpose. Napoleon wanted the enemy to launch a massive attack as it would weaken their center. The allies did exactly what he wanted, and Napoleon ensured that his III Corps arrived on time to plug the gap. Meanwhile, the IV Corps under the command of Marshal Soult attacked the enemy’s center and demolished it.

Next, Napoleon ordered attacks on both enemy flanks, and the result was total annihilation. 16,000 allied soldiers died, and 20,000 were captured. 1,300 French soldiers died, several thousand were wounded, and only a few hundred were captured. The allies fled the battlefield in a panic, and within two days, Austria had agreed to an armistice with France. The Treaty of Pressburg was signed on December 26, 1805, and per its terms, Austria agreed to pull out of the war and out of the Coalition.

One of the most important outcomes of the Battle of Austerlitz was the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine, a group of German states designed to act as a buffer zone between Central Europe and France. Its creation ensured the Holy Roman Empire was obsolete and in 1806, its Emperor abdicated its throne and from that point on, he was known as Emperor Francis I of Austria. An empire which began with the crowning of Emperor Charlemagne ended after over 1,000 years.