KAUNITZ, WENZEL ANTON, PRINCE VON ( 1711-94), Austrian foreign minister during the early years of the Revolution. Kaunitz was born in Vienna on 11 February 1711, the son of a Moravian count. He was originally destined for the church, but the death of an older brother gave him the opportunity to study law and prepare for service in the Hapsburg diplomatic corps.
He served first at Turin, then as chief minister to the governor of the Austrian Netherlands. In 1748 he represented Austria at the Aix-la-Chapelle peace congress. In 1749 he called for a major change in Hapsburg foreign policy. Prussia, he argued, had become Vienna's most dangerous enemy; moreover, Austria could expect little help from its traditional allies, England and Holland, against Prussia. Therefore Austria should form an anti-Prussian coalition with Russia and France. As ambassador to France from 1750 to 1753 and afterward as state chancellor, Kaunitz worked to secure an alliance with the Hapsburg's age-old enemy. His diplomatic revolution was finally achieved and set the stage for the Seven Years War.
After 1763, Kaunitz followed a more cautious policy designed to expand Austrian territory and power without undue risks. Austria successfully gained a substantial portion of Poland in 1772 but failed to obtain Bavaria or engineer the Belgian-Bavarian exchange. An alliance with Russia for a war against the Ottoman Empire led to a serious confrontation with England and Prussia during the first years of the French Revolution.
Kaunitz neither liked nor understood the Revolution but agreed with his emperor, Leopold II, that a war with France was undesirable. Austria was deeply involved in the eastern crisis, trouble was brewing in Poland, and Vienna preferred to try to keep France as an ally rather than add it to the list of real and potential enemies. Leopold and Kaunitz therefore devised a policy of threat and intimidation designed to frighten French radicals, strengthen the moderates, and keep Louis XVI on his throne. Austrian policy was successful until late 1791, when the political balance in France shifted and many individuals and factions