Thursday, February 12, 2015
Monarchist Profile: General Julius Jacob von Haynau
In 1809, only a year after his wedding, Haynau fought at the Battle of Wagram, where he was wounded in a crushing Austrian defeat at the hands of Napoleon. His father-in-law died the same year at the Battle of Aspern-Essling. It was a difficult period for Austria but von Haynau gained valuable experience in the art of war and continued to distinguish himself in numerous battles. His military star continued to rise as the Napoleonic Wars threw into sharp contrast where the talent and the incompetence was in the Austrian army. Even as a young officer von Haynau was known for being rather volatile and ill-tempered but very effective against the enemy. When he had an army of Frenchmen in front of him, his personality was a strength, his fury an asset but when battles were not raging he tended to clash with his superiors. Nonetheless, his violent tendencies on and off the battlefield were not an impediment to his career and he earned numerous promotions, rising to the rank of field marshal lieutenant during extensive and meritorious service from 1815 to 1847. He reached the pinnacle of his career with a reputation for fiery aggression and also with a deep-seated hatred of rebels, republicans and revolutionaries, no doubt due to experiences in the wars with France.
Because so many were killed, and not just the guilty, von Haynau became a hated figure known to the Italians as “the Hyena of Brescia”. This was the image that became best known, while the atrocity of the rebels was often conveniently omitted of course. Still, it must be said that von Haynau was not terribly bothered by such name-calling and believed that such ruthlessness would instill fear and obedience. As such, being called horrific names was simply proof, to his mind, that he was succeeding in eliminating the enemies of his emperor. And there were certainly plenty of enemies to choose from, even as 1848 turned to 1849. One of the most serious rebellions to shake the Austrian Empire was in the Kingdom of Hungary and with so much trouble to quell in so many areas, defeating the Hungarian rebels was proving to be despairingly difficult. General von Haynau was recalled to Vienna from Italy and given orders to go to Hungary and put down the revolutionary forces there. So perilous was the situation that Emperor Francis Joseph had accepted the offer of assistance from Tsar Nicholas I of Russia who sent his reliable army in to aid in crushing the Hungarians.
General von Haynau was appointed to a garrison command in Hungary when the trouble was over but, again, his temperament was not made for peacetime and he soon resigned after feuding with the local civilian officials. General von Haynau retired from the army and traveled around Europe, though his unsavory reputation reached across the continent and even to America. While visiting London he was assaulted by two laborers and more than once had to endure ugly scenes on his travels. He died on March 14, 1853 and was buried with all due honors for a man who had been a loyal soldier and defender of his Emperor and the Hapsburg monarchy. To much of the rest of the world, he was remembered as an almost storybook villain, his name being resurrected during the First World War even in Britain to stoke hatred of the Austrian enemy who most Brits were not sure why they were even fighting.