Emperor Leopold II
Leopold II succeeded his brother Jospeh II as Holy Roman Emperor and Archduke of Austria in 1790 and as such became the head of a Habsburg monarchy centred on Austrian lands since the mid-sixteenth century. France had been a traditional enemy of Austria until the latter's growing discontent with Britain as an ally inspired an unlikely (and deeply unpopular) alliance from the mid-eighteenth century. This secured the marriage between the future king Louis XVI and the Austrian princess Marie-Antoinette (Leopold's youngest sister) - and is one reason for the latter's lasting unpopularity with the French public. The French Revolution pushed the alliance beyond breaking point. Leopold died in March 1792, just weeks before France declared war on its old ally. When the duchess was denounced to the authorities during the Terror, it was claimed that she had ordered her servants to go into mourning at news of his passing (see 'The Duchess' under the Resources tab for further information).
Appears in these Letters:
8 August: The Duchess Rides Through the Great Fear
The duchess felt trapped in Paris following the Revolutionary events of July 1789. She decided to leave Paris for her provincial estates at Moreuil in...
7 November: Life as an Émigré. Part 2
The duchess gives a more positive report of life in Tournai than in her Letter of the previous month, comparing the fear she would have been enduring...
Portrait of Leopold, c. 1790