Adam Albert von Neipperg

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Adam Albert, Count von Neipperg

Adam Albert, Count von Neipperg (8 April 1775 – 22 February 1829) was an Austrian general and statesman. He was the son of a diplomat famous for inventing a letter-copying machine, and the grandson of Count Wilhelm Reinhard von Neipperg.

Early life[edit]

Adam Neipperg was born in Vienna as a son of Count Leopold von Neipperg and his fourth wife Countess Marie Wilhelmine von Hatzfeld-Wildenburg. In 1766, the County of Neipperg, centred on Schwaigern, had become an Imperial State of the Holy Roman Empire, but was mediatised to the Kingdom of Württemberg in 1806.

At the age of fifteen, Neipperg enlisted in the French army at Strasbourg but, in 1790, he joined the ranks of the Austrians. In 1794, at Dolens, he received such serious bayonet wounds that he was left for dead on the battlefield; he lost his right eye in this battle. The following day, while burying the dead, the French found him still breathing and hospitalised him. Speaking French rather too well, he was assumed to be a traitor and sentenced to be shot once his health had returned. However, his convalescence was lengthy: by the time he recovered, the command having changed, he became part of a prisoner exchange. He also participated in the Blockade of Mayence. Neipperg then rejoined the Austrian army in Italy and took part in the Battle of Marengo in 1800.

Diplomat and General[edit]

In 1809, after the Austrian campaign, he was appointed ambassador to Sweden and encouraged Bernadotte to enter in the coalition which was formed in 1813. In reward for this service, he was decorated by the Swedish king. Neipperg rejoined the Austrian army and fought at Leipzig where he distinguished himself sufficiently to be appointed as lieutenant field marshal.

In 1814, Klemens von Metternich sent him to negotiate with the King of Naples, Joachim Murat, who signed a secret treaty with Austria in order to keep his throne. Metternich's other intrigue was to try to distance Prince Eugene (stepson of Napoleon and son-in-law of King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria) from the French. By negotiating with Murat, Neipperg was again playing the role of an agent in treason after the Peace of Fontainebleau.[citation needed]

Marriages[edit]

Neipperg family coat of arms

Neipperg married Countess Theresia von Pola (1778-1815) in 1806 and they had four sons. He was succeeded in the headship of the House of Neipperg by his eldest son Alfred (1807–1865) who married, secondly, Princess Marie (1816-1887), daughter of King William I of Württemberg (Alfred died childless and his brother Erwin (1813–1897) followed him. The heirs male of this senior line of counts still live at Schwaigern in Germany,[1] the present head of the house Karl-Eugen, Count von Neipperg (born 1951), is the husband of Archduchess Andrea von Habsburg).

In August 1814, he was instructed to escort Napoleon's wife, the Empress Marie Louise, to Aix-les-Bains to take the waters. However, the true purpose of his mission was to prevent the Empress from joining Napoleon in exile in Elba. Neipperg, who had understood this perfectly, said on leaving: "In six weeks, I will be her best friend and in six months her lover".[citation needed] He did not need that long, Marie-Louise soon fell into his arms and talk of Elba never arose again. When Napoleon returned from exile, Murat once again allied with his Emperor, triggering the Neapolitan War. Neipperg commanded a corps during the war and played a crucial role in the decisive Battle of Tolentino despite not participating in the battle.

Neipperg was in command of a corps in the Austrian army (called the Army of Naples) under Field Marshal Friederich Bianchi. Murat dispatched General Caracosa with a division of Neapolitan troops to prevent Neipperg's corps linking up with Bianchi and the Austrian main body. Neipperg defeated Caracosa at Scaporezzo on 1 May 1815. The main Neapolitan force under Murat's command attacked Bianchi's smaller force, which was in a strong defensive position, at Tolentino on 2 May 1815. The attack was renewed on 3 May and the Neapolitan force was gaining an advantage over the Austrians, when Murat received news of Carcosa's defeat. With the threat of Neipperg's large force approaching his flank, Murat had to order the Neapolitan army to withdraw, turning Tolentino from a potential Napoleonic victory into defeat.

In 1815, Neipperg participated in the short occupation of France. In July 1815, as the Austrian army crossed the Rhone, he took command of the troops in the French departments of Gard, Ardèche and Hérault. He was under the supervision of Bianchi, commanding the Austrian army in the south of France. He lived in Nîmes and left the city with the rest of the troops on 14 September 1815.

Four months after the death of Napoleon in 1821, he married Marie-Louise in a morganatic marriage. She had become sovereign Duchess of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla in the final act of the Congress of Vienna on 9 June 1815. From this union, three children were born, the first two before the marriage, whilst Marie-Louise was still legally married to Napoleon:

  • Countess Albertine di Montenuovo (Italian translation of Neipperg) (1817–1867), who married Luigi Sanvitale, Count di Fontanellato;
  • William Albert, Count then 1st Prince von Montenuovo, (1819–1895), who married Countess Juliana Batthyány von Németújvár;
  • Countess Mathilde di Montenuovo, born in 1822, died young.

Neipperg died in Parma. His descendants with the Empress Marie Louise, the Princes von Montenuovo, intermarried with the Austro-Hungarian nobility and served as courtiers and diplomats at the Imperial Hofburg in Vienna, dying out in the male line in 1951.

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