Holy Alliance

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Holy Alliance,

1815, agreement among the emperors of Russia and Austria and the king of Prussia, signed on Sept. 26. It was quite distinct from the Quadruple Alliance (Quintuple, after the admission of France) of Great Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia, arrived at first in 1814 and revived in 1815. Nevertheless, both were a part of the resettlement of European political boundaries after the fall of the Napoleonic empire. The alliance was essentially an attempt by the conservative rulers to preserve the social order. It was particularly the product of the religious zeal of Czar Alexander IAlexander I,
1777–1825, czar of Russia (1801–25), son of Paul I (in whose murder he may have taken an indirect part). In the first years of his reign the liberalism of his Swiss tutor, Frédéric César de La Harpe, seemed to influence Alexander.
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. Specifically, it accomplished nothing, since it was merely a vague agreement that the sovereigns would conduct themselves in consonance with Christian principles. Ultimately all the princes of Europe signed the alliance except three—George IV of England, who could not, for constitutional reasons; the pope, who could not, for religious reasons; and the sultan, who was not a Christian prince. The agreement was not important, but the name was applied to the cooperation of Russia, Austria, and Prussia, particularly in the period of the European conferences of Aachen, Troppau, Laibach, and Verona. The Holy Alliance became a symbol of the reaction dominated by MetternichMetternich, Clemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar, Fürst von
, 1773–1859, Austrian statesman and arbiter of post-Napoleonic Europe, b. Koblenz, of a noble Rhenish family.
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. Austria repressed revolution in Italy, and France interfered in Spain in the name of the Holy Alliance. It was against that reactionary solidarity that the British foreign policy under George CanningCanning, George,
1770–1827, British statesman. Canning was converted to Toryism by the French Revolution, became a disciple of William Pitt, and was his undersecretary for foreign affairs (1796–99).
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 was directed. The Monroe DoctrineMonroe Doctrine,
principle of American foreign policy enunciated in President James Monroe's message to Congress, Dec. 2, 1823. It initially called for an end to European intervention in the Americas, but it was later extended to justify U.S.
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 was, in part, an outgrowth of that same fear of the European reactionary powers.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Holy Alliance


an alliance of European monarchs, concluded after the fall of the Napoleonic Empire, with the purpose of resisting the revolutionary and national liberation movment and upholding the settlement reached by the Congress of Vienna of 1814–15.

The Act of Holy Alliance was signed in Paris on Sept. 26, 1815, by the Russian emperor Alexander I, the Austrian emperor Francis I, and the Prussian king Frederick William III. On Nov. 19, 1815, the French king, Louis XVIII, acceded to the Holy Alliance; most of the other European monarchs soon followed suit. Great Britain never formally adhered to the Holy Alliance but on many issues gave its support, especially during the immediate post-1815 period, and took a prominent part in the congresses of the Holy Alliance.

Alexander I and Metternich played the leading roles at the congresses of the Holy Alliance. The first, the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818, approved the early withdrawal of allied occupation troops from France and took measures to maintain the territorial status quo in Europe and to preserve absolutist regimes. In November 1820, at the Congress of Troppau, Russia, Austria, and Prussia signed a protocol that proclaimed their right of armed intervention in other states for the purpose of suppressing revolution. So armed, Austria proceeded to suppress the revolution of 1820–21 in Naples and the revolution of 1821 in Piedmont. The Congress of Laibach in 1821, which was essentially a continuation of the congress of Troppau, sanctioned the Austrian intervention in Naples and Piedmont. At the Congress of Verona in 1822, the last congress of the Holy Alliance, it was decided to intervene in Spain; in 1823 the French army invaded Spain and restored Spanish absolutism. The Congress of Verona also condemned the uprising against Turkish rule in Greece and refused to accept a Greek delegation that had come to Verona for help.

The differences between the Holy Alliance and Great Britain in no way diminished with the passage of time—especially their disagreements, revealed at the Congress of Verona, over the war for independence being waged by Spain’s colonies in Latin America. There were likewise growing differences within the Holy Alliance, especially between Russia and Austria over the Greek national liberation uprising of 1821–29.

Despite all the efforts of the European monarchs, the revolutionary and liberation movement gathered momentum. In 1825 the Decembrist uprising broke out in Russia. In 1830 revolutions took place in France and Belgium, and Poland rose in revolt (1830–31) against the tsarist regime. This struck a grave blow at the Holy Alliance. Attempts to revive the Holy Alliance ended in failure.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 2, pp. 573–74; vol. 5, pp. 310, 351; vol. 6, p. 521.
Vneshniaia politika Rossii XIX i nachala XX veka: Dokumenty Rossiiskogo Ministerstva inostrannykh del, series 1, vol. 8. Moscow, 1972.
Martens, F. Sobranie traktatov i konventsii, zakliuchennykh Rossieiu s inostrannymi derzhavami, vols. 4, 7. St. Petersburg, 1878–85.
Narochnitskii, A. L. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia evropeiskikh gosudarstvs 1794 do 1830 g. Moscow, 1946.
Manfred, A. Z. “Obshchestvenno-politicheskie idei v 1815 g.” Voprosy istorii, 1966, no. 5.
Zak, L. A. “Posle Vaterloo.” Novaia i noveishaia istoriia, 1969, no. 3.
Debidour, A. Diplomaticheskaia istoriia Evropy, vol. 1. Moscow, 1947. (Translated from French.)
Pirenne, J. H. La Sainte-Alliance, vol. 2. Paris, 1949.
Schaeder, H. Autokratie und Heilige Allianz. Darmstadt, 1963.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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