Charles Joseph, Prince de Ligne

Charles Joseph Fürst von Ligne (or Fürst de Ligne), (1735 - December 13, 1814), soldier and writer, came of a princely family of Hainaut, and was born at Brussels in 1735.

As an Austrian subject he entered the imperial army at an early age. He distinguished himself by his valour in the Seven Years' War, notably at Breslau, Leuthen, Hochkirch and Maxen, and after the war rose rapidly to the rank of lieutenant field marshal. He became the intimate friend and counsellor of the emperor Joseph II, and, inheriting his father's vast estates, lived in the greatest splendour and luxury till the War of the Bavarian Succession brought him again into active service.

This war was short and uneventful, and the prince then travelled in England, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France, devoting himself impartially to the courts, the camps, the salons and the learned assemblies of philosophers and scientists in each country.

In 1784 he was again employed in military work, and was promoted to Feldzeugmeister. In 1787 he was with Catherine II in Russia, accoinpanied her in her journey to the Crimea, and was made a Russian field marshal by the empress. In 1788 he was present at the siege of Belgrade. Shortly after this he was invited to place himself at the head of the Belgian revolutionary movement, in which one of his sons and many of his relatives were prominent, but declined with great courtesy, saying that "he never revolted in the winter." Though suspected by Joseph of collusion with the rebels, the two friends were not long estranged, and after the death of the emperor the prince remained in Vienna. His Brabant estates were overrun by the French in 1792-1793, and his eldest son killed in action at La Croix-duBois in the Argonne (September 14, 1792). He was given the rank of field marshal (1809) and an honorary command at court, living in spite of the loss of his estates in comparative luxury and devoting himself to literary work. He lived long enough to characterize the proceedings of the congress of Vienna with the famous mot: "Le Congrès danse mais ne marche pas." He died at Vienna on the 13th of December 1814. His grandson, Eugene Lamoral de Ligne (1804-1880), was a distinguished Belgian statesman.

His collected works appeared in thirty-four volumes at Vienna during the last years of his life (Mélanges militaires, littéraires, sentimentaires), and he bequeathed his manuscripts to the emperor's Trabant Guard, of which he was captain (Œuvres posthumes, Dresden and Vienna, 1817). Selections were published in French and German:

  • Œuvres choisies de M. le prince de Ligne (Paris, 1809)
  • Lettres et pensées du Maréchal Prince de Ligne, ed. by Madame de Staël (1809)
  • Œuvres historiques, littéraires ... correspondance et poésies diverses (Brussels, 1859)
  • Das Prinzem Karl von Ligne militärische Werke, ed. Count Pappenheim (Sulzbach, 1814)

The most important of his numerous works on all military subjects is the Fantaisies et préjuge's militaires, which originally appeared in 1780. A modern edition is that published by J Dumaine (Paris, 1879). A German version (Miltarische Vorurtheile und Phantasien, etc.) appeared as early as 1783. This work, though it deals lightly and cavalierly with the most important subjects (the prince even proposes to found an international academy of the art of war, wherein the reputation of generals could be impartially weighed), is a military classic, and indispensable to the students of the post. Frederician period. On the whole, it may be said that the prince adhered to the school of Guibert, and a full discussion will be found in Max Jahns' Gesch. d. Kriegswissenschaften. Another very celebrated work by the prince is the mock autobiography of Prince Eugène (1809).


Template:German title Fürst

See Revue de Bruxelles (October 1839); Reiffenberg, "Le Feld. maréchal Prince Charles Joseph de Ligne," Mémoires de l'académie de Bruxelles, vol. xix.; Peetermans, Le Prince de Ligne, ou un écrivain grand seigneur (Liege, 1857), Etudes et notices historique concernant l'histoire des Pays Bas, vol. iii. (Brussels, 1890)

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.


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