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The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Kaunitz, Wenzel Anton

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KAUNITZ, Wenzel Anton, prince, count of Rietberg, an Austrian statesman, born in Vienna in 1711, died June 27, 1794. One of 19 children, he was destined for the church; but after the death of some of his elder brothers, he chose a secular career, studying at Vienna, Leipsic, and Leyden. He became a chamberlain of the emperor Charles VI., travelled for some years in Germany, Italy, France, and England, and in 1735 was appointed aulic councillor of the empire. By marriage he became the proprietor of the county of Rietberg. His influence rose under the daughter and successor of Charles, Maria Theresa, when, after various and successful diplomatic missions to Rome, Turin, and Brussels, and a short administration of the Austrian Netherlands till their occupation by the French in 1746, he signed for Austria the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748). Shortly after he became minister of state, but soon left this post, being sent as ambassador to France, where he secured the influence of Mme. de Pompadour for an alliance with Maria Theresa. This was effected in 1756, and the seven years' war began, after the conclusion of which Kaunitz, who in 1753 had been appointed chancellor, was elevated to the rank of prince of the empire. He accompanied Joseph II. to the interview at Neustadt in Moravia with Frederick the Great, when the two monarchs concerted the scheme of the first partition of Poland, but against the opinion of the minister. Frederick speaks disparagingly of him in his memoirs; and Joseph, whom he served without success in his schemes for the annexation of Bavaria, gradually withdrew his favor from the old statesman during his actual reign (1780-1790). Kaunitz gained new influence during the short reign of Leopold II., but after the accession of his son Francis (1792) he resigned his offices. A taciturn and scheming diplomatist, Kaunitz was ceremoniously grave with his equals, fond of the French language, literature, and fashions, and with much frivolity, vanity, and self-love united probity, affability toward inferiors, and fidelity to the interests of the empire.