Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine
Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine (French: Charles Alexandre
Emanuel de Lorraine; German: Karl Alexander von Lothringen und Bar; 12 December 1712 in Lunéville
– 4 July 1780 in Tervuren) was a Lorraine-born Austrian general and soldier, field marshal of the Imperial Army, and
governor of the Austrian Netherlands.
Charles was the son of Leopold, Duke of Lorraine, and Élisabeth Charlotte d'Orléans.
When his elder brother Francis III, Duke of Lorraine, married the Archduchess Maria Theresa, daughter of Emperor Charles VI,
Charles Alexander entered the Imperial service in 1737. When his brother Francis traded the duchy to the ex-Polish king Stanisław Leszczyński
in exchange for the Grand Duchy of Tuscany as one of the terms ending the War of the Polish Succession in November 1738, the ducal title to Lorraine and Bar passed beyond Charles to King Louis XV of France
upon Leszczynski's death in 1766, though Francis and his successors retained the right to style themselves as dukes of Lorraine
During the War of the Austrian Succession, he was one of the principal
Austrian military commanders. He was most notable for his defeats by better trained and superior forces under Frederick the
Great. At the Battle of Chotusitz in 1742, his forces lost the battle but were able to inflict greater loss of life and
retreat in good order. However, he lost more decisively to Frederick at the Battle of Hohenfriedberg and the Battle of Soor
in 1745. He was also defeated by Maurice de Saxe at the Battle of Rocoux in 1746. On 7 January 1744 he married Maria Theresa's
only sister, Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria, thus making him doubly Maria Theresa's brother-in-law. The couple were jointly
made Governors of the Austrian Netherlands. Although Maria Anna died later
the same year after marriage, Charles' popularity and lack of clear replacement allowed him to continue as governor and
de facto sovereign until his own death in 1780. Charles also became Grand Master of the Teutonic Order in 1761.
Seven Years' War
Despite his record of defeats, he was able to retain his position. He was able to attain
command ahead of the more popular Marshal Browne because of the support of his brother who had significant influence over
military appointments. During Austria's Third Silesian War against Prussia (part of the wider Seven Years' War), he commanded
the army of the Roman-German Emperor at the Battle of Prague, where he was again defeated by Frederick the Great, king of
Prussia, but was able to inflict heavy casualties on the superior Prussian forces. He subsequently defeated a smaller Prussian
army in 1757 at the Battle of Breslau before being completely routed by Frederick the Great at the Battle of Leuthen, which
is considered one of Frederick's most brilliant victories. During the battle, he was commander of the Imperial Army as appointed
by Maria Theresa.
At Leuthen, the Austrians
were soundly beaten by an army half their size, with fewer guns, and tired after a long march over 12 days. Charles and
his second in command, Count Leopold Joseph von Daun , sank "in the depths of despondency", and the Prince could
not fathom what had happened. Charles had a mixed record against Frederick in past encounters but had never fared so badly
as at Leuthen. After this crushing defeat, Maria Theresa replaced him with Daun; Charles retired from military service and
subsequently served as the governor of the Habsburg Netherlands. Though an unsuccessful military leader, Charles proved to be a competent administrator,
well-liked by the population. Under him, the Austrian Netherlands flourished, and he was deeply involved in the cultural
life of his province.
Family and Private Life
Because Charles ruled by right of his marriage to Maria Anna of Austria, Maria Anna's
death very shortly after marriage created a situation where his mistress Elisabeth de Vaux, other mistresses, and children,
were kept under strict privacy and not made public; indeed, his children were to present themselves only under the surnames
of their mothers while in public so long as they were in the Netherlands. Though there is obscurity about his private affairs after the death of Maria Anna, it is known
that from his mistress Elisabeth de Vaux, Charles had a son Charles Alexandre Guillaume Joseph, and a grandson through the
same; a stillborn daughter by an unnamed mistress; a son Charles Frédéric by an unnamed mistress; a son Jean
Nicholas and a daughter Anne Françoise by an unnamed mistress, and an unnamed daughter through a mistress named Regine
von Porthenfeld. Some of his children were known
to have lived in Dutch-speaking parts of Belgium temporarily or permanently, including his first son Charles Alexandre Guillaume
Joseph, who was later known to have returned to Lunéville in Lorraine, to have claimed a substantially bountiful
inheritance, to have had a son Gustav Auguste in 1788, and to have died in Nancy.