Count Karl Ferdinand von Buol

Count Karl Ferdinand von Buol
Karl Ferdinand Graf von Buol-Schauenstein
Lithograph by Josef Kriehuber, 1854
Chairman of the Austrian Ministers' Conference
In office
11 April 1852 – 4 May 1859
Monarch Franz Joseph I
Preceded by Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg
(as Minister-President)
Succeeded by Johann Bernhard von Rechberg
Foreign Minister of the Austrian Empire
In office
11 April 1852 – 17 May 1859
Preceded by Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg
Succeeded by Johann Bernhard von Rechberg
Personal details
Born 17 May 1797(1797-05-17)
Vienna, Archduchy of Austria,
Holy Roman Empire
Died 28 October 1865(1865-10-28) (aged 68)
Vienna, Austrian Empire

Karl Ferdinand von Buol (German: Karl Ferdinand Graf von Buol-Schauenstein; 17 May 1797 – 28 October 1865) was an Austrian diplomatist and statesman, who served as Foreign Minister from 1852 to 1859.


Buol was born in Vienna, a scion of a Grisons noble family descending from Fürstenau. His father Johann Rudolf von Buol (d. 1834) from 1816 until 1823 chaired the Austrian delegation to the Bundesversammlung of the German Confederation.

He joined the Austrian foreign service and served successively as envoy to Baden at Karlsruhe (1828–1838), to Württemberg at Stuttgart (1838–1844), to Sardinia-Piedmont at Turin (1844–1848), to Russia at Saint Petersburg (1848–1850), to the German ministerial conference at Dresden 1850/51, and to the United Kingdom at London (1851–1852). He became an increasingly close associate of the Austrian Minister-President, Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg, and when Schwarzenberg suddenly died in April 1852, Buol succeeded him as foreign minister, although not as Premier, as the young Emperor Franz Joseph himself now took a more direct role in directing cabinet affairs than he had previously.

As foreign minister, Buol soon had to deal with the Near Eastern crisis which had erupted by early 1854 into the Crimean War, as France and Britain had declared war on Russia in an effort to support the Ottoman Empire. In this crisis, Austria's position was a tenuous one. Russia's intervention to suppress the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, and its subsequent intervention on behalf of Austria against Prussia leading to the Punctation of Olmütz in 1850, put the Austrians substantially in the debt of the Tsar Nicholas I. Furthermore, the geographical positions involved meant that in any war with Russia, Austria, even if allied with France and Britain, would bear the brunt of the fighting. On the other hand, permanent Russian control of the Danubian Principalities (the later Romania) would greatly endanger Austria's strategic position, and the Austrians were more generally opposed to any expansion of Russian influence in the Balkans. Thus, Buol attempted to pursue a middle course, trying to mediate between the belligerent parties.

Soon, however, this did not prove enough, and Buol, who was noted in Austria as an Anglophile, soon cast his lot more clearly with the western powers. An ultimatum was sent to Russia to demand that it evacuate the Principalities. The Russians agreed, and Austria occupied the Principalities for the remainder of the war. This perceived betrayal by the Austrians insured the Tsar's undying enmity, but proved not enough to satisfy the western powers. As the conflict dragged on into 1855, Buol sent another ultimatum to Russia, this time demanding that it accede to the French and British terms, or face a war with Austria. This time the Russians, now under Tsar Alexander II, acceded, and preliminary peace accords were signed at Vienna later that year.

Buol's policy in the Crimean War had managed to keep Austria out of the war, but had left it badly isolated. Russia, Austria's only reliable ally, had been completely alienated, while the French and British had not been impressed by Austria's failure to come into the war on their side, and continued to oppose Austrian influence in the Italian Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia. The French, eager to form an entente with the Russians in the wake of the war, also took it upon themselves to oppose Austrian projects in the Balkans. The Prussians, as always, demanded a high price in terms of Austrian acquiescence to Prussian domination of northern Germany, in exchange for any support for their German neighbors.

The consequences of this were to make themselves clear in 1859. Now Camillo di Cavour, the Prime Minister of Sardinia-Piedmont, anxious to goad the Austrians into a war in which he knew he would have French support, engaged in a series of provocations against the Austrian position in Italy. Although Buol and the Austrians initially seemed unperturbed, to the extent that Cavour and his ally, King Napoleon III of France, feared they would not be able to have their war, Buol soon gave them what they wanted by a clumsy ultimatum demanding Piedmontese demobilization. The Sardinian War which followed would prove disastrous for the Austrian position in Italy, but Buol himself was already dismissed in May 1859, for the missteps which had brought about the war.

Buol spent the rest of his life in retirement and died in 1865 in Vienna, aged 68.


See also

  • Internationalization of the Danube River
Government offices
Preceded by
Prince Schwarzenberg
Chairman of the Austrian Ministers' Conference
Foreign Minister of the Austrian Empire

Succeeded by
Count Rechberg

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