It is the great paradox of the modern world that at the very time when the world decided that people should not be coerced about their form of religion, it also decided that they should be coerced about their form of education. — G. K. Chesterton

Historical Characters of Modern Europe

    French Revolution     Napoleonic Wars     Republican France     Unification of Italy     Rise of Prussia     German Empire     Tsarist Russia     Great War

French Revolution—1715 to 1794

Reign of Louis XV to Death of Robespierre


CharacterDate Short Biography

Enlightenment Philosophers

Voltaire1694–1778 Controversial "free-thinker", satirist, essayist, and Enlightenment philosopher.
Rousseau1712–1778 Romantic Political Philosopher who influenced both the American and the French Revolutions.
Abbe Sieyes1748–1836 Apostate abbot with republican leanings. Leading thinker of early years of the revolution, who was exiled during the most radical phase

Revolutionary Leaders

Jean-Paul Marat1743–1793 Radical Doctor who became Leader of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.
Toussaint L'Ouverture 1743–1803 Former slave who became the leader of rebel slaves seeking to overthrow the French government in Haiti.
Mirabeau1749–1791 Moderate leader of the French Revolution who died before he could effect a compromise.
Duke of Orleans1747–1793 Liberal cousin of Louis XVI who volted to execute the king, but was later beheaded by the Paris mob.
Robespierre1758–1794 Key figure of the French Revolution. Leader of the Reign of Terror.
Georges Danton 1759–1794 Key figure of the French Revolution who was eventually lost his head.
Camille Desmoulins1760–1794 Lawyer, journalist, and associate of Danton. Ralleyed the Paris mob in early days of the revolution. Leader of Cordelier club. Beheaded during the terror
Talleyrand1754–1838 Apostate bishop who organized Civil Constitution of Clergy. Stayed in favor during regime changes from the Estates General to the Restoration.

Monarchs

Louis XVI1754–1793 King during the French revolution. Beheaded by republicans who sought to overthrow the monarchy.
Louis XVII1785–1795 Dauphin of France, son of Marie Antoinette. Seperated from his family, tortured, and murdered during reign of terror.
Maria Antoinette1755–1793 Extravagant Queen of France. Beheaded during French Revolution.

Heroes and Martyrs

Madame Roland 1754–1793 Secretary of the Girondists party during the French Revolution. She was not considered republican enough by radicals and executed during the reign of terror
Lafayette1757–1834 French soldier who fought in American Revolution, and early leader of French Revolution.
Charlotte Corday1768–1793 Sacrificed her own life to kill the tyrant Jean-Paul Marat.
Charles Dumouriez1739–1823 French Revolutionary General and hero of the battle of Valmy. Deserted the cause after the execution of the king and joined the royalist allies

Napoleonic Wars—1795 to 1815

French Directory to Battle of Waterloo


CharacterDate Short Biography

Napoleon family

Napoleon1769–1821 Victorious general who rose to power during the French Revolution. Crowned himself Emperor and restored France to greatness.
Josephine de Beauharnais1763–1814 Aristocratic wife of Napoloeon Bonaparte.
Joseph Bonaparte1768–1844 Older brother of Napoleon who was crowned first, King of Naples, and then later, King of Spain.
Eugene de Beauharnais1781–1824 Stepson of Napoleon, who accompanied him on all his early campaigns. Later Prince of Italy.

Generals

Michel Ney1769–1815 One of Napoleon's most trusted generals and hero of many French battles. Executed for treason after Waterloo.
Marshal Blucher1742–1819 Prussian Field Marshall who opposed Napoleon at Leipzig and Waterloo. (At age 72!)
Duke of Wellington1769–1852 Napoleonic war general who fought in Spain and Portugal. Defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.
Horatio Nelson1758–1805 Great Naval hero of his age; victor at the Battle of the Nile, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar.
General Janssens1762–1838 Dutch General who surrendered Cape Town to the British after the Battle of Blaauwberg.
Alexander I1777–1825 Leader of Russia during the Napoleonic Wars.

Statesment and Diplomats

Talleyrand1754–1838 Apostate bishop who organized Civil Constitution of Clergy. Stayed in favor during regime changes from the Estates General to the Restoration.
Metternich1773–1848 Austrian statesman who was influential in bringing about a long lasting peace in Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. Hosted Congresss of Vienna.
Louise of Prussia1776–1810 Queen of Prussia who inspired Germany to resist Napoleon. Greatly honored in Prussia.
Pope Pius VII1742–1823 Pope during the reign of Napoleon and the early restoration period.

Arts and Science

Jacques-Louis David1748–1825 Neoclassical French painter of the revolutionary era famous for his historical subjects.
Georges Cuvier1769–1832 World expert on fossils and prehistoric animals. Proponent of catastrophism in contrast to uniformism.

Republican France—1815 to 1914

Restoration of Bourbons to First World War


CharacterDate Short Biography

Last Kings of France

Louis XVIII1755–1824 French monarch restored to the throne after the collapse of Napoleon's empire. Brother of Louis XVI killed during revolution.
Charles X1757–1836 Last French Bourbon King. Abdicated the throne during the Revolution of 1830.
Louis Philippe1773–1850 French prince with liberal sympathies. Proclaimed king after abdication of Charles X.
Maximilian of Austria1832–1867 Archduke who was proclaimed Emperor of Mexico. Overthrown and executed by Liberal republicans.

Bonapartists

Napoleon III1808–1873 Nephew of Napoleon, elected emperor of France after revolution of 1848. Deposed after disastrous Franco-Prussian War.
Eugene de Beauharnais1781–1824 Stepson of Napoleon, who accompanied him on all his early campaigns. Later Prince of Italy.
Hortense de Beauharnais1783–1837 Step-daughter, and sister-in-law of Napolean Bonaparte, and mother of Napoleon III of France.
Empress Eugenie1826–1920 Wife of Napoleon III and Empress of France. Influential figure in society and fashion as well as politics.

Statesmen

Leon Gambetta1838–1882 Radical Republican politician who came to prominance after the Franco-Prussian War. Served briefly as Prime Minister.
Patrice MacMahon1808–1893 First elected president of the Third French Republic. Conservative popular with both Monarchists and Bonapartists.
Adolphe Thiers1797–1877 Respected minister during reign of Louis Philippe, and chosen first president of the Third Republic.
Francois Guizot1787–1874 Served as a minister to Louis Philippe. Influential in establishing Publich education in France.
Ferdinand de Lesseps1805–1894 French diplomat in charge of development of the Suez canal. His canal project in Panama failed with great loss.

Notable Citizens

Alfred Dreyfus1859–1935 Jewish artillery officer, falsely accused of treason. Subject of international anti-semite scandal.
Louis Pasteur1822–1895 Renowned scientist in bacteriology. Helped develop germ theory of disease and pasteurization process.
Madame Curie1867–1934 A pioneer in the field of radioactivity, and first female winner of the Nobel prize in physics.
Victor Hugo1802–1885 French novelist, known for classics such as Les Miserables and Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Unification of Italy—1792 to 1925

Napoleonic Wars to Mussolini


CharacterDate Short Biography

Napoleonic Era

Eugene de Beauharnais1781–1824 Stepson of Napoleon, who accompanied him on all his early campaigns. Later Prince of Italy.
Alexander Suvorov1729–1800 Renowned general who won victories for Russia against Turks, Napoleon, and Polish rebels.
Napoleon1769–1821 Victorious general who rose to power during the French Revolution. Crowned himself Emperor and restored France to greatness.
Joseph Bonaparte1768–1844 Older brother of Napoleon who was crowned first, King of Naples, and then later, King of Spain.
Joachim Murat1767–1815 Leading general of Napoleonic Wars, brother-in-law of Napoleon. Appointed king of Naples after Joseph was installed as king of Spain.
Pope Pius VII1742–1823 Pope during the reign of Napoleon and the early restoration period.
Antonio Canova1757–1822 Renowned sculptor who showed talent at an early age by carving a lion out of butter.

Rigorgimento

Garibaldi1807–1882 Led several campaigns in the Wars of Italian Unification. Renowned as a hero patriot of Italy.
Pope Pius IX1792–1878 Long serving pope who reigned during the unification of Italy. Famous for Vatican I, papal infallibility doctrine, and Syllabus of Errors.
Mazzini1805–1872 Italian journalist and political activist who worked for the Unification of Italy and advocated popular democracy throughout Europe.
Cavour1810–1861 Prime minister of Sardinia who used skill and diplomacy to unite Italy under the rule of the Piedmont king.
Napoleon III1808–1873 Nephew of Napoleon, elected emperor of France after revolution of 1848. Deposed after disastrous Franco-Prussian War.
Victor Emmanuel II1820–1878 Became first king of a United Italy after Garibaldi handed over control of Naples. Previously Savoyard King of Sardinia.

After Unification

Saint Pius X1835–1914 Popular pope who resisted modernism and promoted the eucharist and classical philosophy.
Alexander Volta1745–1827 Invented the first usable electrical storage battery.
Guglielmo Marconi1874–1937 Inventor of a wireless telegraphy system, first used on ships.

Rise of Prussia—1740 to 1848

Frederick the Great to Revolutions of 1848


CharacterDate Short Biography

Prussian Leaders

Great Elector1620–1688 Calvinist Duke of Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg who made commercial and domestic reforms and laid the groundwork for the rise of Prussia.
Frederick William I1688–1740 Father of Frederick the Great who reformed the Prussian economy and built a strong standing army.
Frederick the Great1712–1786 Great Prussian military leader in the War of the Austrian Succession and Seven Years War.
Frederick William III1770–1840 Prussian king during and after the Napoleonic Wars. Reformed government and military after the neglect of his father's reign.
Louise of Prussia1776–1810 Queen of Prussia who inspired Germany to resist Napoleon. Greatly honored in Prussia.
Marshal Blucher1742–1819 Prussian Field Marshall who opposed Napoleon at Leipzig and Waterloo. (At age 72!)

Polish Leaders

Thaddeus Kosciusko1746–1817 Polish national who fought in the American Revolution, and later led a Polish uprising against Russia.

Austrian Leaders

Eugene of Savoy1663–1736 One of the Greatest generals of the Hapsburg Empire. Led Austria during the War of Spanish Succession.
Maria Theresa1717–1780 Head of Hapsburg Dynasty. Ruled over much of Eastern Europe. Opposed Frederick the Great.
Joseph II1741–1790 Eldest son of Maria Theresa who attempted to make dramatic changes to "modernize" Austria, with limited success.
Francis II1768–1835 Emperor of Austria during the Napoleonic Wars; last Holy Roman Emperor.
Andreas Hofer1767–1810 Patriot of the Austrian Tyrol who held Austria for the Hapsburgs against Napoleon's allies.
Metternich1773–1848 Austrian statesman who was influential in bringing about a long lasting peace in Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. Hosted Congresss of Vienna.
Archduke Charles1771–1847 Younger brother of Francis II. Important general of the Austrian army during the Napoleonic Wars.

German Arts, science, and Literature

Bach1685–1750 German composer associated with Baroque classical music.
Handel 1685–1759 Composer of Baroque Symphonies and Operas. Major influence on Beethoven and Mozart.
Goethe1749–1831 Influential literary persona of the 18th century. Wrote Faust.
Joseph Haydn1732–1809 Very influential composer from Vienna who was an associate of Mozart, and a teacher of Beethoven.
Mozart1756–1791 One of the most popular classical composers in history. Composed over 600 works including symphonies, operas, and chamber music.

German Empire—1862 to 1912

Bismarck Prime Minister to Balkan Wars


CharacterDate Short Biography

Prussian kings and statesmen

Frederick William III1770–1840 Prussian king during and after the Napoleonic Wars. Reformed government and military after the neglect of his father's reign.
Kaiser William I1797–1888 First Kaiser of a United German Empire. With Bismarck as Chancellor, defeated Austria and France.
Kaiser William II1859–1941 Second Kaiser built up a strong navy, , and bumbled into disastrous World War.
Helmuth von Moltke1800–1891 Military mastermind of the Austro-Prussian, and Franco-Prussian Wars.
Otto von Bismarck1815–1898 Prussian statesman and mastermind of German Unification. Strategically provoked wars against Austria and France.
General Hindenburg1847–1934 Field Marshal during WWI, and German Statesman. President of Germany after the War.

Austrian kings and statesmen

Louis Kossuth1802–1894 Patriot hero of Hungary who nearly won independence before being crushed by Austria-Russia.
Elizabeth of Barvaria1837–1898 Empress of Austria who was influential in 19th century society and known as a free spirit.
Francis II1768–1835 Emperor of Austria during the Napoleonic Wars; last Holy Roman Emperor.
Franz Joseph I1830–1916 Emperor of Austria during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Metternich1773–1848 Austrian statesman who was influential in bringing about a long lasting peace in Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. Hosted Congresss of Vienna.
Cavour1810–1861 Prime minister of Sardinia who used skill and diplomacy to unite Italy under the rule of the Piedmont king.
Napoleon III1808–1873 Nephew of Napoleon, elected emperor of France after revolution of 1848. Deposed after disastrous Franco-Prussian War.

German Arts, Science, and literature

Baron Humboldt1769–1859 Studied South American geology, climate, and plant and animal life, and other aspects of natural science
Beethoven1770–1827 One of the most brilliant classical composers of all time. Continued to compose, perform, and conduct, even when deaf.
Werner von Siemens1816–1892 Invented electronic telegraph and electromechanical transducer. Founded a German industrial complex.
Friedrich Nietzsche1844–1900 German philosopher of the 19th century, associated with nihilism, the 'Will to Power', the superman theory of history, and post-modern ethics.

Tsarist Russia—1682 to 1917

Peter the Great to Bolshevik Revolution


CharacterDate Short Biography

Tsars and Regents

Tsarevna Sophia 1657–1704 Regent of Russia during the youth of Peter the Great. Resisted her brothers reforms.
Peter the Great1672–1725 Modernized Russia in spite of great resistance. Improved the army. Won coastal territory.
Catherine I1684–1727 Wife of Peter the Great who rose from a low station to help Peter govern Russia, and succeeded him on his death.
Elizabeth of Russia1709–1762 Daughter of Peter the Great, who as empress was patron of the arts and the Orthodox Church and opposed Frederick the Great in Prussia.
Catherine the Great1729–1796 German Princess who was proclaimed Empress after the murder of her husband Peter III. Favored modernization and progressive policies.
Alexander I1777–1825 Leader of Russia during the Napoleonic Wars.
Nicholas I1796–1855 Russian czar who ruled Russia as an Autocracy after nearly being overthrown early in his reign.
Alexander II1818–1881 Nineteenth century Russian Czar who instituted many reforms, but was assassinated by Nihilists.
Alexander III1845–1894 Ascended to the throne of Russia after the assassination of his father, and rescinded reforms in progress.
Nicholas II1868–1918 Last Czar of Russia. Forced to resign during the Russian revolution, and eventually executed with his family.

Statesmen and Generals

John III Sobieski 1629–1696 King of Poland who rescued Vienna from the Ottoman Turks during the Siege of Vienna.
Alexander Menzikoff1673–1729 Advisor of Peter the Great who rose from a low station to unofficial regent of all of Russia under Peter's successor.
Charles XII1682–1718 Arch-rival of Peter the Great. Defeated the Russians in several battles before falling at the Battle of Pultowa.
Alexander Suvorov1729–1800 Renowned general who won victories for Russia against Turks, Napoleon, and Polish rebels.
Gregory Potemkin1739–1791 Leading minister of Catherine the Great who was influenced by 'enlightenment' ideas. Famous for building 'Potemkin villages' along Dneiper river.
Barclay de Tolly1761–1818 Leading Russian General during the Napoleonic Wars. Mastermind of the 'scorched earth' policy.

Scientists, explorers, authors

Vitus Bering1681–1741 Russian explorer who had boats built in Siberia, explored the North Seas, and discovered Alaska.
Carolus Linnaeus1707–1778 Great Taxonomist, who initiated naming conventions and classification of plants and animals.
Gustav Kirchhoff1824–1887 Known for his work in electrical circuit and spectroscopy. Discovered black body radiation.
Leo Tolstoy1828–1910 19th century Russian novelist, author of War and Peace, known for his dedication to social reform, asceticism, and pacifism.
Gregory Rasputin1869–1916 Controversial faith-healers and advisor to the Tsarina, wife of Nicholas II, during the Great War.

Pre-revolutionary Rebel Leaders

Mazeppa1644–1709 Polish exile who became the leader of the Cossacks, under Peter the Great.
Yemelyan Pugachev1740–1775 Leader of a wide spread Cossack rebellion against Catherine the Great.
Thaddeus Kosciusko1746–1817 Polish national who fought in the American Revolution, and later led a Polish uprising against Russia.
Schamyl1797–1871 Leader of the Muslim tribes of the Caucuses. Led a series of Rebellions against the early 19th century Tsars.
Sophia Perovskya1853–1881 Leading member of a Nihilist conspiracy which succeeded in assassinating Alexander II.

Revolutionary Leaders

Vladimer Lenin2870–1924 Communist revolutionary and leader of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Organized October Revolution and established Soviet Union.
Leon Trotsky1879–1940 Prominent Bolshevik organizer, author, leader of the Red army and politburo member. Eventually split with Stalin and was assassinated.
Nikolai Bukharin1888–1938 Bolshevik author and organizer. Powerful member of politburo and editor of "Pravda" communist party newsletter. Prominent victim of Stalin's purges in the 1930s.
Alexander Kerensky1881–1970 Prominent leader of the February Revolution of 1917 that overthrew the Czar and established a moderate socialist government. Overthrown by Bolsheviks in October Revolution.
Joseph Stalin1878–1953 Leader of the Soviet Union from the death of Lenin to the 1950s. Ruthless dictator who established slave-labor camps and purged all oppositon.

Great War—1914 to 1918

Assassination of Archduke to Armistice


CharacterDate Short Biography
Ferdinand Foch1851–1929 Military theorist and teacher who became Field Marshall of the Allies during the Great War.
Joseph Joffre1852–1931 Commander and chief of the French army during the early years of the Great War.
Kaiser William II1859–1941 Second Kaiser built up a strong navy, , and bumbled into disastrous World War.
General Hindenburg1847–1934 Field Marshal during WWI, and German Statesman. President of Germany after the War.
Horatio Kitchener1850–1916 Military hero of the late 19th century, first in Sudan, and later in the Boer Wars
Lawrence of Arabia1888–1935 Middle east archeologist and historian who served with the British and Arab irregulars during WWI.