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Archduke Charles of Austria

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Commander during the Napoleonic Wars.

Born in 1771, Charles / Karl was the third son of the man who’d later become Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II. Charles spent his early years in Italy and entered the military, and in the early encounters of the French Revolutionary Wars he won several victories and became governor-general of the Austrian Netherlands. In 1796 he was given command of the Austrian Rhine army and named Field Marshall; he repaid the Empire by hammering Jourdan and Moreau, after which he was considered one of Europe’s brightest military leaders.

He fought in the Rhine again for the Second Coalition, defeating French commanders, but wasn’t able to prevent Moreau this time. In 1801 he was appointed president of the Supreme War Council, and head of the Austrian army, and he began widespread reforms which produced what was, for the time, a modern army. However, despite some success in the wars of the later coalitions, Charles was unable to stop Napoleon, and while Charles temporarily halted Napoleon at Aspern-Essling, he was beaten at Wagram in 1809 and retired. He had long counselled the need for peace to allow reform and rebuilding, and had long been ignored. He lived to see Napoleon defeated, and died in 1847.

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