How Conservative Was the Holy Alliance Really? Tsar Alexander’s Offer of Radical Redemption to the Western World in Cosmopolitan Conservatisms
Countering Revolution in Transnational Networks, Ideas and Movements (c. 1700‒1930)
Beatrice de Graaf
This chapter argues that tsar Alexander’s Holy Alliance of 1815 was far less conservative and far more revolutionary than it was later understood to be. To make this point, the chapter reconstructs how this “secret plan” came to be understood as “conservative” and how this reading of the Holy Alliance Treaty was influenced by latter-day interpretations and machinations far more than by its concrete substance at the time. Subsequently, the origins and constitutive elements of the plan are delineated in order to demonstrate that it was a revolutionary amalgam of Christian pietism, semi-scientific Enlightenment theories, and a dose of modern, bureaucratic state centralism. Based on new archival evidence, it will transpire how both Prussian security experts and French semi-scientist scholars contributed to the design of the Holy Alliance. The Holy Alliance contained conservative ingredients, but the liberal and provocative elements stood out—these were however suppressed within a few years by political appropriations by other statesmen.