Graf Neipperg

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The lover of Napoleon's wife: Neipperg

While savoring a splendid glass of red wine, the thought struck me: why not use Sophie Salm's ancestor, Adam Albert von Neipperg (1775-1829), as the inspiration for a new project?

Wer ist Graf Neipperg?

Given that Sophie is his direct descendant, I couldn't help but be drawn to the idea of utilizing his intriguing life as a proof of concept for something fresh and exciting.

Wer ist Graf Neipperg?

Adam Albert von Neipperg's journey through history was undeniably captivating, and I felt a strong urge to share his narrative in a meaningful way. As I embarked on this endeavor, I couldn't help but wonder if Sophie could do justice to his remarkable legacy.

Adam Albert von Neipperg was a complex and fascinating figure. He was a successful military man, a diplomat, and a patron of the arts. He was also a controversial figure, due to his relationship with Marie-Louise of Austria. However, there is no doubt that he was a significant figure in Austrian and Italian history.

Who is Graf von Neipperg ?

Adam Albert von Neipperg

Adam Albert von Neipperg personality was described by Méneval - Napoleon et Marie-Louise, Vol. II, pp. 166-167 1843 - in mostly positive tones:

"The behaviour of Count Neipperg was that of a circumspect man. His usual expression was kind, mixed with eagerness and gravity. His manners were polite, insinuating and flattering. He possessed pleasant talents; he was a good musician. Active, clever, unscrupulous, he knew how to conceal his guile under a guise of simplicity; he expressed himself well and also wrote well. He combined with much tact a very observant mind; he had the art of listening and of giving thoughtful attention to the words of his interlocutor. At one moment his face would assume a caressing expression, at another his glance sought to guess thoughts. He was as clever in penetrating the designs of others as he was prudent in managing his own. Combining an appearance of great modesty with a deep foundation of vanity and ambition, he never talked about himself. He was brave in war; his many wounds showed that he had not spared himself."

Translation as per Shannon Selin

napoleon louise meneval biographie

Education of a young German nobleman

 Adam Albert was educated at the Karlsschule military academy in Stuttgart. He joined the Austrian army in 1791 and served in the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He rose to the rank of field marshal-lieutenant.

Neipperg's eye injury: a lesson in adversity

Adam Albert von Neipperg lost his right eye in a skirmish on September 14, 1794, at the village of Doel, during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was on a mission to deliver secret instructions to forts in the Dutch Republic when he became trapped behind enemy lines. He received such serious bayonet wounds that he was left for dead, and lost his right eye in the skirmish.

Neipperg was found alive the next day by the French, who assumed he was a traitor because he spoke French too well for a common soldier. They sentenced him to be shot, but his convalescence was lengthy due to the seriousness of his injuries. By the time he recovered, the command had changed, and he was able to be part of a prisoner exchange.

Neipperg rejoined the Austrian army and took part in the Battle of Mainz in 1795, and led Austrian troops in Italy, culminating at the disastrous Battle of Marengo in 1800 that drove the Austrians out of Italy. Despite his injury, Neipperg went on to have a successful military career, and eventually became a close advisor to the Austrian emperor, Francis.

It is worth noting that there is some variation in the accounts of how Neipperg lost his eye. Some sources say that he was wounded by a saber, while others say that he was bayoneted. However, all accounts agree that he lost his right eye in a skirmish on September 14, 1794.

Neipperg family crest and jagdabzeichen

source: handmade by Sophie Salm in 2020

In addition to his military career, Adam Albert was also a successful diplomat. He served as Austrian ambassador to Sweden from 1811 to 1813. He was also a patron of the arts and sciences.

Adam Alberts first marriage

Adam Alberts children from the Neipperg Line

Adam Alberts's first wife, Josephine Walpurgis, Countess von Pola (1778-1815), whom he married in 1806, was an Italian countess from a family that was not well known at the Austrian court. The reasons for their marriage are not entirely clear, but it is possible that Adam Albert was attracted to her dowry. What is known is that Josephine Walpurgis was a divorcee, which made her a socially questionable choice for a wife. Despite this, the couple had a successful marriage and that produced 4 male issue.

Josephine and Adam Albert had four sons:

  1. Count Alfred von Neipperg (1807-1865)
  2. Count Karl von Neipperg (1809-1854)
  3. Count Franz von Neipperg (1810-1853)
  4. Count Wilhelm von Neipperg (1811-1881) 


Adam Albert von Neipperg Comte de Neipperg

Adam Alberts Second marriage

By the time his first wife, Josephine Walpurgis, passed away in 1815, Adam Albert had already met his second wife, Marie-Louise of Austria (1791-1847). From third party correspondence we know that they were spent time together in Prague in 1812, although their romantic liaison seems to have developed a few years later in 1814, when Adam Albert was tasked with accompanying Marie Louise from France back to Austria.

Just the lover of Napoleon's wife

or a right royal scandal in the making?

Despite his distinguished diplomatic career and experiences on the battlefield Neipperg is primarily remembered for his liaison with Marie Louise of Austria the second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Napoleon Bonaparte and Adam Albert von Neipperg

Whilst it is probable that Napoleon and Adam Albert never met, they did figuratively cross swords on more than one occassion.

Neippergs revenge is a dish best served cold

The County of Neipperg was a small sovereign territory within the Holy Roman Empire. It was ruled by the Neipperg family, who were a prominent German noble family. In 1806, Napoleon dissolved the Holy Roman Empire and created the Confederation of the Rhine. The County of Neipperg was one of the territories that was dissolved as part of this reorganization and eventually became part of the Kingdom of Württemberg.

Schwaigern Erbgraf von Neipperg Jagdabzeichen Map

While Adam Alberts decision to engage in an affair with Napoleons wife was not primarily driven by Napoleons mediatisation of the County of Neipperg, it likely provided him with a sense of satisfaction.

In August of 1814, he received orders to accompany Empress Marie Louise, Napoleon‘s wife, to Austria. The underlying aim of his assignement was to deter the Empress from reuniting with Napoleon in exilde on Elba. Neipperg who grapsed this intent clearly, was reportedly quoted as saying "Inside of six months I shall be her lover, and soon her husband" Geer, Walter (1925), Napoleon and Marie-Louise; the fall of the empire, New York, Brentano's, p.315. 

As Shanon Selin points out „if he did say this, he underestimated his skills. Shortly after Neipperg joined her in July, Marie Louise wrote to Napoleon that she was very satisfied with General Neipperg.  

How did Marie Louise of Austria become the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte?

Wasn't Napoleon married to Josephine ? ( According to an old story, Napoleon once said "Not tonight, Josephine" when he refused to have intimate relations with her, and now this phrase is sometimes used in a humorous way.)

Napoleon, who is subject to an upcoming 2023 film directed by Ridley Scott, famously annuled his marriage to Empress Josephine de Beauharnais because she was unable to produce any issue.

Napoleon is an unreleased feature film by Ridley Scott. The historical drama focuses on Napoleon Bonaparte, his rise to power and - assuming a director's cut is released - Joséphine de Beauharnais.

Napoleon Joaquin Phoenix

source: (c) 2023 imdb (dot) com

Joaquin Phoenix has been signed on to play the title role. Anna Mawn looks likely to play Archduchess Marie-Louise, Napoleon's second wife.

I guess I will have to wait until November 2023 before finding out if Adam Albert Neipperg makes a cameo appearances in the film.

Napoleon's marriage to Marie-Louise, was driven by his wish for an heir as well as a strategic alliance with a major European royal house such as the Habsburgs.

Habsburg-Lorraine heirloom

Habsburg family crest Royal House of Austria

 source: handmade by Sophie Salm in 2019

Heirloom showing the Double Headed Eagle as used by the House of Austria.

The Neipperg scandal in France

Of course the Neipperg - Empress Marie Louisa liaison was not without scandal

 „Everybody who has seen Sardou's great play, Madame Sans-Gene, or who has read the book bearing that title, will recall to mind that Count Neipperg, the Austrian chamberlain of Empress Marie-Louise, plays the role of the lover in the drama. The father of Prince Montenuovo was no other than the son of the empress and of this Count Neipperg.“

 „Indeed, it was in consequence of these circumstances in connection with the date of the birth that the Neipperg family, one of the most ancient and illustrious houses of the German empire, absolutely refused to permit the child to bear their time-honored patronymic“ p149 Secret memoirs

„The  <Austrian> emperor... invested his illegitimate grandson with the name and title of a Count Montenuovo, which is nothing more nor less than the Italian translation of the word "Neipperg," which is derived from Neu-Berg [new mountain] .“ Source: p150 Secret memoirs Vol 2, Fontenoy 1900

The main charge made by La Marquise de Fonteneoy seems to be that the children of Adam Albert and Marie Louise were illegitimate. Given that their first child was born some 2 years after their marriage in 1821 this conclusion seems erroneous.

Adam Alberts children from the Montenuovo line

In fact, whilst it is true to say, that the marriage between Adam Albert and Marie Louise was kept quiet, the marriage was a matter of fact and their offspring legitimate. 

It seems that the generally held opinion that this marriage was morganatic may have actually originated from Adam Albert himself, who often referred to his betothral as such.

Adam Albert may actually ( despite recent assertions to the contrary ) have been right in his assertion that his marriage to Maria Louise of Austria was morganatic.

If we look at the Familienstatut of the Durchlauchtigsten Erzhauses Österreichs  (3 Februar 1839) we find no mention of the Neipperg Family name (others such as Auersperg, Schwarzenberg and Salm Reifferscheidt (and many others) do appear).

Following the death of Napoleon Bonaparte on May 5th 1821 there were no more impediments to marriage. Marie Louise of Austria married Adam Albert Neipperg in a morganatic marriage on August 8, 1821, in Parma, Italy.  

Princes of Montenuovo

The marriage was recognized by the Austrian Emperor Francis I, and their offspring were given the title of Dukes of Montenuovo

  1. William Albert, 1st Prince of Montenuovo (1823-1895)
  2. Albertine, Countess of Montenuovo (1825-1867)

Although this line is extinct in the male line, descendants of this second marriage still live in Germany and Austria.


The Duchy of  Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla

Marie Louise ruled over the Duchy of Parma from 1814 to 1847 after Napoleon's downfall. During her reign, she focused on promoting the arts and culture in the region and left a significant impact on the duchy.

Not only was Adam Albert instrumental in helping Marie Louise to retain the Duchy of Parma during the Vienna Congress negotiations, he also helped her rule the Duchy during his lifetime.

Neipperg and the Duchy of Parma 1828

In the aftermath of the Napoleonic era, the Congress of Vienna designated Marie Louise as the Duchess of Parma. In April 1816, she relocated to Parma, leaving her son in Vienna. Count von Neipperg assumed a prominent role as her principal advisor, particularly in matters concerning foreign affairs and the military.

Neippergs primary objective was to safeguard Marie Louise from any potential influence or manipulation by Bonapartists. Marie Louise and Neipperg adopted a more lenient governing approach compared to many other Italian rulers, although some argue that this stemmed from Marie Louise's perceived frailty of character rather than a deliberate policy. In 1826, the Bonapartist Count d’Hérrison passed through Parma and observed that Generalissimo Neipperg, effectively fulfilled his duties.

After Marie Louises death in 1847, the duchy underwent various political changes and was eventually incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy in the 19th century.

Death of Adam Albert Neipperg 1829

Adam Albert of Neipperg died on February 22, 1829. He was 53 years old. He died of a heart condition in Parma, Italy. He was buried in the Church of San Francesco in Parma. Neipperg's death was a great shock to Marie Louise. She was banned by the Austrian court from mourning him in public.

Jagdabzeichen and bottle stoppers

Crafting wine bottle stoppers with historical figures as motifs is a captivating blend of artistry and history. Each stopper becomes a miniature tribute, capturing the essence of renowned personalities from the past. From regal monarchs to revolutionary thinkers, these stoppers pay homage to the icons who shaped our world. Each stopper becomes a conversation starter, inviting wine enthusiasts to raise a glass to the past while preserving the rich flavors of the present. It's a unique and tasteful way to merge history and wine, turning ordinary bottles into vessels of historical intrigue.

Wer ist graf neipperg?

It's a challenge Sophie has eagerly embraced, hoping to breathe new life into his extraordinary story and introduce it to a wider audience, all while raising a Grand Cru to Neippergs memory.

Jagdabzeichen Handarbeit Sophie Salm

Sophie Salm's workshop is your ultimate destination for exquisite handmade hunting jewelry crafted from sterling silver. This small gem celebrates the age-old traditions of alpine hunting through bespoke, custom creations that are as unique as your passion for the great outdoors. Whether you're a seasoned hunter or an admirer of this noble pursuit, our collection of jagdschmuck, jagdabzeichen, and grandelschmuck reflects the heart and soul of alpine hunting. Join Sophie Salm on this Jagdabzeichen journey through the world of hunting traditions, where craftsmanship meets camaraderie.


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(more to come!)