Imperial Generals

The quality of the imperial Generals

The Imperial military was very experienced but after the peace of Westphalia it would get an aura of being defeated most of the time. In the description of its battles one can note that the numerical, technical or organizational1 advantage was almost always with the enemy2. Therefore the tasks of an imperial general were always quite challenging. In turn this meant that incompetence was always punished by defeat and most of the time disgrace followed suit.

The fact that the empire had at least three generals of remarkable quality during the War of the Spanish Succession might therefore have something to do with the poor quality of its army. Of course incompetent or mediocre commanders were also promoted to superior command. The fact that incompetence of an imperial general was sure to lead to disaster however did tend to make these disappear swiftly3.

Imperial and Habsburg Generals

There was a fine distinction between being an Imperial general or a Habsburg general, but these functions were often combined. Eugen and Starhemberg were primarily Habsburg generals, Louis of Baden and Brandenburg-Bayreuth can be styled as imperial generals.


1) I.e. the absence of a unified command
2) A bold claim that is rather hard to prove positively. On the other hand it's probably impossible to point to one instance where the imperial army took the field with a clear advantage over its enemies.
3) E.g. Christian Ernst von Brandenburg-Bayreuth resigned in 1707 after having served only 1 season. George of Hanover took command of the imperial armies in 1707, but resigned in 1709.; Nassau Weilburg's career ended in 1706 while he was still in his early fourties.