Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel von Waldstein

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Count von Waldstein
Counts von Waldstein coat of arms

Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel von Waldstein (24 March 1762, Vienna – 26 May 1823, Vienna) was a German nobleman and patron of the arts. A member of the Waldstein family and an early patron of Beethoven, his political and military roles included Geheimrat in Bonn, lieutenant-general in the British army, and Komtur in the Teutonic Knights.


He joined the Teutonic Knights in 1787 and became a novice of the order in Ellingen. He was made a knight of the order by its Grand-Master, Max Franz, on 17 June 1788.

Living in Bonn from early 1788 onwards, Ferdinand was admitted to the court of the Prince Elector of Cologne. A year later he became "privy councillor" of the order and a member of its Staatskonferenz in Bonn. Two years later, he acquired a knightly estate in Godesberg and thus became a member of the Cologne's Landstandschaft. From 1788 to 1792, Ferdinand was sent on various diplomatic missions. In 1792, he received the Komtur of the order in Virnsberg, in the Deutschordensballei Franken. In early 1794, he was in the entourage of the elector on a mission to the French in Vienna.

In Bonn, he noticed the young Ludwig van Beethoven and became one of his early patrons. It was he who recommended young Beethoven to Joseph Haydn in 1792.[1] His words to Beethoven on the composer's departure for Vienna in November 1792 remain famous:

Beethoven dedicated Sonata No. 21 in C Major, Op.53 to him.[2]

He became obsessed with the idea of defeating Napoleon's army, and squandered all his money raising an army.[3] On 3 June 1795, Ferdinand sealed a contract with England on creating a "Mergentheim regiment". From 1796, he was in London. On 23 July 1797, the elector wrote, "For over a year neither the order nor his creditors have heard anything from Ferdinand von Waldstein, I wish him much money and intelligence". Evidence shows Ferdinand was occasionally with his regiment in west India. In 1807, he left the British army.

From 1809, Ferdinand lived in Vienna or on his Bohemian estates. He withdrew from the order in 1811. On 9 May 1812, Ferdinand married Countess Isabella Rzewuska. After unfortunate financial transactions, he became impoverished, and died in 1823 in Vienna.