On September 1814, the Congress of Vienna began. All the powers of Europe sent delegates to decide the issue of the day: the reorganization of the chaotic Europe Napoleon's conquest had left behind.

The members of the Congress were all afraid of a strong France, so they created strong border states. The Netherlands and the Italian Kingdom of Piedmont were created to this end. Prussia got the left bank of the Rhine, while Austria took territory in northern Italy, including Tuscany and Milan. In Naples, Murat actually kept his throne for a while. The Bourbons were restored in Spain. Restoring Germany to its previous status as the chaotic, fragmented Holy Roman Empire served no one's purposes. Instead, the relatively large kingdoms of Bavaria, Wurttemberg, and Saxony remained as Napoleon created them. However, no unified Germany would emerge. Small states remained for now.

The future of Napoleon's Polish Grand Duchy of Warsaw remained the most problematic issue. Alexander had desired over the territory for years, but Austria and Prussia both had parts of the old Polish kingdom. The Prussians entered an agreement with Russia, under which Russia would support Prussia's bid for Saxony and Prussia would support Russia's bid for Poland; in addition, Prussia would hand over its share of Poland to Russian. Metternich, however, feared that Russia would become too powerful in this deal. To combat the Russian-Prussian alliance, on January 3, 1815, Metternich, Castlereagh, and Talleyrand signed a secret treaty agreeing to oppose the Prussians and Russians. In the end, the Congress of Vienna created a small Poland ("Congress Poland") with Alexander installed as the king. With Russia satisfied, Prussia lost its ally and only was able to get a minor piece of Saxony.

As these details were being ironed out in Vienna, another problem suddenly arose. On March 1, 1815, Napoleon appeared in France, having escaped from exile in Elba. Promising to return France to glory, Napoleon swept through the country and raised an army. Louis XVIII quickly fled, and Napoleon made a last-ditch effort at conquest in a period called the Hundred Days. The Congress of Vienna was shocked, and immediately declared Napoleon an outlaw.

The Hundred Days came to climax and conclusion at the Battle of Waterloo, where the British army under Wellington was joined by a revitalized Prussian force under Blucher. Together, the British and the Prussians managed to defeat Napoleon. A second Treaty of Paris was signed, and Napoleon was exiled much farther away this time, to the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic, were he lived out the last six years of his life. The four victorious powers (Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia) agreed that no Bonaparte would ever be allowed to rule France again. Even Murat, who previously had been left as king of Naples, was now deposed and the Bourbon monarchy restored.

After the end of the Hundred Days, the finishing touches were put on the Congress of Vienna. Czar Alexander I, still looking for a collective security system that would prevent anyone from ever building such a large European empire again, convinced most European nations to sign a Holy Alliance. Under the terms of this agreement, which was taken seriously by few besides Alexander himself, the nations promised to strive for the Christian virtues of charity and peace.

Popular pages: Napoleonic Europe (1799-1815)