Supplementary Appendix 304.1

The military background to the situation of Hannover in the early spring of 1801 [*]

After the expiration of the second armistice between the French and Austrians in December [1800], [1] the campaign in Italy was renewed with great vigour by the French, who pushed the Austrians beyond the Adige, took Verona, Trent, and various other places, and were only withheld from farther advance by a new armistice signed at Treviso on January 16th. [2]

This was followed by the definitive treaty of peace between the two powers concluded at Luneville on the 9th of February. By its articles, the whole left bank of the Rhine, from the place where it leaves the Helvetic territory, to that where it enters the Batavian territory, was confirmed to France. The Emperor was left in possession of all the former Venetian territory ceded to him by the treaty of Campo Formio, the Adige [River] being made its boundary. The independence of the Batavian, Helvetic, Cisalpine, and Ligurian republics was mutually guaranteed by the two powers, the Emperor ceding all the rights which he possessed before the war upon the two latter. The Duke of Tuscany renounced, for himself and his successors, the grand duchy of Tuscany and the part of the Isle of Elba dependent upon it, to the Duke of Parma, for which he was to receive a full indemnity in Germany. [3]

Peace being thus restored on the European continent, the most important point in its political state remaining to be settled, related to that maritime confederacy of the northern powers, the direct object of which was to annul the marine code maintained by England, and by which she arrogated a kind of naval dominion. This confederacy, openly declared at the close of the last year, occupied the serious attention of the British ministry; and on January 14th an embargo was laid on all the ships in British ports belonging to any of the confederate powers, Prussia excepted, [4] and letters of marque were issued for the capture of their vessels at sea.

A note was at the same time delivered to the Danish and Swedish ambassadors, explaining the reason of this procedure, and endeavouring to bring back their courts to their former amicable relations; but in the answers returned, a resolution was expressed of persisting in their attempts to liberate neutral commerce, and they retaliated by an embargo on English shipping in their ports.

With Prussia, a negotiation was for some time carried on by the British ministry with the hope of prevailing upon her to abandon a coalition, her adherence to which, it was foreseen, would endanger the King’s German dominions; [5] but it proved unsuccessful. On March 30th, the King of Prussia notified to the electoral college of Hanover his intention not only to shut the mouths of the Elbe, Weser, and Ems, but to take possession of the states belonging to the King of England in Germany, and demanded the disarming of the Hanoverian troops; [6] with which requisition the regency of Hanover found it expedient to comply. [7]

The Prussian troops then entered the Hanoverian territory, and an embargo was laid upon the English shipping, but those which were laden with corn were suffered to depart. About the same time a body of Danish troops took possession of Hamburg, for the alleged purpose of stopping the British trade to that port.

The matter in dispute being now brought to the decision of arms, an English fleet of 18 ships of the line, 4 frigates, and a number of bomb-vessels and gunboats, and having on board some regiments of marines and riflemen, was sent to the Baltic under the command of Admiral Parker and Vice-Admiral Nelson. Great preparations on the other hand were made to guard the passage of the Sound on both the Danish and Swedish side, and to protect all the approaches to Copenhagen.

On March 30th, the British fleet passed that Strait with no considerable resistance, and anchored near the Isle of Huen. The whole fleet of Denmark was thence seen stationed in the road of Copenhagen, and flanked by very powerful batteries, both on land and floating. An attack on this formidable force, committed, at his request, to Lord Nelson, took place, on April 2d, with 12 ships of the line, and all the frigates and smaller vessels of the fleet.

The action, which was supported with the greatest courage on both sides, was very sanguinary. It was yet raging, when Nelson, perceiving his success certain, and regretting the loss of so many brave men, sent a proposal for a truce to the Prince Royal of Denmark, and landed, himself, to adjust the terms of conciliation.

At this period the whole of the Danish line to the southward of the Crown Islands, consisting of 17 sail, were sunk, burnt, or taken. Three of the English ships of the line, which had grounded, were exposed to the fire of the Crown batteries, which circumstance, doubtless, quickened Nelson’s efforts to put an end to the carnage. From his own account, the battle of Copenhagen was the most dreadful that he had ever witnessed. [8]

The succeeding armistice was the termination of hostilities in the Baltic, for an event had already taken place which altered the whole state of affairs in the north. The Emperor Paul, whose actions had long denoted insanity, and who was become intolerable to his subjects, and dangerous to those about him, was hurled from his throne by the only mode of deposition practicable under a despotic monarchy; and on March 22d, it was announced that he was found dead in his bed.

His son and successor Alexander immediately declared for the laws and political system of his august grandmother; and one of his first acts was to liberate, and bring back from their places of confinement, all the British mariners belonging to the sequestrated ships. Negotiations were entered upon with the court of London, and on June 17th, a convention was signed at Petersburgh, by Lord St. Helens and the Russian ministers, in which all disputes were adjusted.

he two other northern powers acceded to the same terms of agreement, by which were obtained a limitation and explicit definition of the right of search and the principle of blockade, and a reduction of articles considered as contraband of war, to those of real military or naval ammunition. The Danish troops evacuated Hamburg, the navigation of the German rivers was restored, and the court of Berlin engaged to evacuate Bremen and Hanover after certain arrangements had been made.


[*] John Aiken, Annals of the Reign of King George the Third: From Its Commencement in the Year 1760 to the Death of His Majesty in the Year 1820, 2 vols. (London 1820), 2:102–5.

In her letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 4–5 April 1801 from Harburg (letter 304), across the Elbe River from Hamburg, Caroline remarks:

I am also nervously anxious about wandering about so utterly adrift here on the desolate banks of the Elbe, hearing about English flotillas and Danish military and advancing Prussians and Russians on the march. . . . This afternoon we heard cannon fire over in that direction [Hamburg]; people are anxious about every sound here, as you might well imagine. — This very moment, Philipp brought me the decisive news of the occupation of the Hannoverian territory, which George, it seems, did indeed sacrifice quite faithlessly after all. . . . Prince Adolphus will immediately embark for England; I assume he will be taking Tatter along with him. Back.

[1] After the Battle of Hohenlinden on 3 December 1800, at which Moreau defeated the Austrians, the French advanced to Linz and into Tyrol. See also Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm on 15 December 1800 (letter 276d), note 3. Back.

[2] In January 1801 the French crossed the Adige River and attacked Austria from the south, which prompted the Franz II to make peace. Back.

[3] See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 1–2 March 1801 (letter 293), note 20. Back.

[4] Prussia joined the confederacy in late March; see below. Back.

[5] The king’s son, Adolphus, was sent to Berlin to seek an amicable resolution with the Prussians, whence Caroline’s remark above to the effect that, after the failure of those negotiations, Adolphus would likely return to England. Back.

[6] See the location of these three rivers with respect to Harburg and Hamburg, where Caroline was currently staying (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


Hannover, situated on the Leine River, which eventually flows into the Weser River, would have been effectively cut off from English shipping. Indeed, the entire interconnected river and canal system in that part of Germany would be affected (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[7] That is, the regent for George III, a decision Caroline laments in her letter to Wilhelm on 4–5 March 1801 (letter 304), referring to George’s decision to “sacrifice [Hannover] quite faithlessly after all.” Back.

[8] Concerning the Battle of Copenhagen on 2 April 1801, Nelson’s naval superiority, the bravery of the Danes, and the death of Paul I, see supplementary appendix 306.1. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott