Metternich’s short time as acting president was characterized by two things; controversy and catastrophe.

Prince Metternich by Lawrence

A portrait of Prince Metternich while he was still serving under the Imperial administration (c.1825)

The former pertains to the tiny city-state of Krakow, which had been formally independent for many years, but in that time it had always been firmly in Austria’s sphere. It distinguished itself during the Danubian Revolution in that it was the only of Austria’s allied states to side with either faction. During the war, Krakovian troops had supported Royalist forces in numerous battles throughout the Polish and Slovak regions of the country.

On Ferdinand’s death, Krakow made peace with the Federation, but by November, Krakow was making it very clear it was not impressed. Ferdinand’s nephew, the 18 year old Franz Joseph, had appeared in the city and using it as a base to rally the Royalist cause. Congress quickly labelled him a traitor, facing execution should he be captured, but agreement could not be reached over what should be done. Many thought that the Federation should demand that Krakow extradite him; Metternich, however, felt that that would both push the city and the Prince towards the Russians, with whom the young Federation could ill afford. He proposed annexing the city into Galicia with sufficient speed that Franz Joseph could not escape. It was a risky plan, for Russia’s rising influence in the city could lead her to try and protect her claims more quickly, but Metternich felt that it was better to take the chance than risk Russia support intervening to restore the crowd. He therefore proposed the Krakow Act, which declared the city of Krakow a de jure part of Galicia.
Franz Joseph of Austria young

A portrait of Prince Franz Joseph of Austria painted in 1848 during his time in Krakow

He never got to see the vote go through though, as, on 1st December, just four days before he was due to gain an overwhelming majority thanks to his universal support as the creator of the nation, a German ultra-royalist, by the name of Albrecht Kurtzler, shot the acting-President clean through the spine. He was rushed from the scene just outside parliament to hospital, where he died a slow, agonizing death. In death, as in life, Metternich brought no end of controversy; with his death so close to the next presidential election, the factions had no time to solidify into true political parties. The resulting election was arguably the messiest in the country's history, with four separate candidates, none of whom had previously believed they stood any chance of winning, running separate campaigns without any organised support base and during a period of national mourning.

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