Congress of Hanover
The Congress of Hanover took place in the Electorate of Hanover in 1752. It was convened by the British government who wished to agree up a schedule for the election of the next Holy Roman Emperor. All of the eight voting German electors were invited to attend, as was a representative of France. The Congress lasted, intermittently, from June until October 1752.
The British wanted a swift election of their favoured candidate, the Austrian heir apparent Joseph, Duke of Lorraine. The British Secretary of State the Duke of Newcastle had travelled to the continent with George II of Great Britain to oversee the Congress. The French were represented by Count Vergennes a young diplomat.
The British had agreed to pay some of the smaller electors subsidies in order to gain their votes. Saxony received a yearly payment of £48,000. The French perceived this as an attempt to forge a pro-British alliance of the German states to create a military coalition in any future war. They saw the sudden British interest in the election as a smoke screen behind which they were advancing their own interests in Germany. In response France applied pressure on Austria to try to block the scheme while Vergennes attempted to appear co-operative with Newcastle at the Congress.
The Congress finally concluded with the intention to elect the Austrian candidate.
Newcastle believed that the election of Joseph was sealed, but when he travelled to Vienna he found the Austrians were unwilling to proceed using the requirement that they be forced to pay a small payment of money to the Palatine as justification for their refusal. The Austrians were preparing for a war with Prussia in which they would need France as allies, and so they had no wish to risk offending them. They also attempted to appease the British by suggesting alternative candidates.
Even when the British offered themselves to compensate the Palatines, Austria refused to agree. The Austrian rejection of the scheme was the beginning of the end for the long-standing Anglo-Austrian Alliance which collapsed in 1756. Newcastle and his Austrophile allies in the British cabinet were severely weakened by this and Newcastle was personally disappointed at the failure of a scheme into which he had put so much effort.
Joseph did eventually become Holy Roman Emperor in 1765 following the Seven Years' War. The lack of Austrian interest in acquiring the throne demonstrated how dramatically less important the role had grown in the eighteenth century.
- Browning, Reed. The Duke of Newcastle. Yale University Press, 1975.
- Murphy, Orville T. Charles Gravier: Comte de Vergennes: French Diplomacy in the Age of Revolution. New York Press, 1982.