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Congress of Troppau (1820)


In July 1820, the Neapolitan Revolution broke out in The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. King Ferdinand I had to promise a constitutional monarchy and was forced to make concessions. These proceedings fed the fears of the Great Powers, especially of Austria and Prussia, regarding the threat of revolution and liberalism. Not completely unfounded, they feared that the revolutionary spirit might spread to other Italian states and could eventually lead to a general European uprising of liberals. Therefore, the Great Powers convened in October 1820 at Troppau, Austrian Silesia, to discuss the options to restore the House of Ferdinand and to halt the revolution.

Britain, out of principle, objected to the suggestion of concerted action against the liberals in Naples. Therefore, it sent a representative instead of a plenipotentiary with diplomatic powers. Lord Stewart, the half-brother of Lord Castlereagh, attended the meetings. Similarly, France had not given any plenary powers to her representatives, although its policy regarding the possibility of intervention in Naples was less clear than that of Britain. France did question why interference in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was favoured by the majority, whereas the revolution in Spain, that dethroned the absolutist King Ferdinand VII, apparently did not pose enough of a threat to the European balance of power and the Great Powers to take action against it.

That the representatives of both Britain and France had no diplomatic powers and refrained from signing the Troppau Protocol that resulted from the deliberations of the Courts, indicated the beginning of a rift between the western and eastern powers of Europe. Subsequently, the representatives of both states were not admitted to the meetings in which the preliminary protocol was drafted, since they were only empowered to report, and not to decide. This preliminary protocol, drafted by Kapodistrias, was signed by Metternich, Hardenberg, Bernstorff, Nesselrode, and Kapodistrias on November 8.

Friedrich von Gentz, again acting as the conference’s secretary, drafted an ‘Act of Guarantee’, an adaptation of Kapodistrias’ preliminary protocol. Gentz emphasised the distinction between changes introduced by legitimate authority and by genuinely ‘revolutionary’ states in order to legitimate and justify the right of the Allied Powers to intervene:

  1. Every revolution brought about by usurped power or in a manifestly illegal fashion, and even more so, every revolution conceived and executed by criminal means, becomes ipso facto, whatever its character, its course, or its effects, the object of a just and legitimate intervention by foreign powers.
  2. Revolutions conceived and executed by the legitimate powers of the state justify foreign intervention only in cases where they expose the primary interests of neighbouring states or the whole of civilized society to evident danger by their character, their course or their effects.
  3. When a revolution combines these two characteristics — both an illegal origin and a dangerous and hostile tendency towards other states — the right of intervention attains its maximum force.


In accordance with these principles, the revolutionary changes in Naples allowed for the Allied intervention. The Great Powers were determined to take affirmative steps to restore the royal authority of King Ferdinand I on a solid basis.  For this purpose, the kingdom would be occupied by an Austrian army acting in the name of the Allied Powers.

Main actors involved:

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