Home and freed, the Austrian Emperor wanted Metternich as his new foreign minister. His key task, and first great success, would be to negotiate a détente with France by securing Bonaparte's marriage to the Austrian princess Marie Louise, as opposed to her Russian rival. Yet after Napoleon crossed into Russia three years later, the Austrian Empire saw their chance to join the ultimately successful Sixth Coalition and defeat the husband of the Austrian princess for (almost) the last time.
Although they hadn't met since he was first imprisoned on Elba, Napoleon was still married to Marie Louise when he died in exile on 5th May 1821. Three weeks later, Metternich was Chancellor of Austria, a position he would retain for almost thirty years until the world was turned on its head through the revolutions of 1848.
Discontent that year had first bubbled over in what soon would be Italy; in Milan, boycotts of Austrian produce started on 1st January, while at the other end of the peninsula, the Sicilians overthrew their Bourbon king on the 12th. In February, the French deposed a Bourbon for the second time in 70 years and declared the Second Republic.
By March, revolts had spread to the heart of the Austrian Empire; the Parliament in Vienna forced the resignation of Metternich on the 13th. Shortly afterwards, a speech by Hungarian journalist and politician Lajos Kossuth was read to the masses, and the Viennese were hailing him a hero. Two days later, his own country was up in arms.
The morning of 15th March 1848, crowds gathered at Pest's Vörösmarty Square chanting Sándor Petofi's National Song (Nemzeti Dal). "By the God of the Hungarians, we vow. We vow, that we will be slaves no longer!" And as they left singing, to take up arms against their occupiers, they wore ribbon cockades of green white and red, the Kokárda.
Left: a Hungarian Kokárda. Right: a Royal British Legion poppy
By Autumn the next year, Petofi was dead, Kossuth in exile and the rebellion supressed. For much of the next 150 years foreign powers would dominate Hungary. Over that time, the Kokárda would become the symbol of Hungarian unity and defiance against their occupiers, be they Austrian, German or Russian.
Hungarians find commemorating their defeats gives a certain nobility to their melancholy. Of their three national days, two recall rebellions that turned out to be failures. One is 15th March, the other that great dashed hope at the hands of the Soviets in 1956. The third national day belongs to St Stephen, although in Hungary that day falls on the 20th of August when the snow is neither deep nor crisp and certainly not even.
The day before St Stephen's day 1989, hundreds of East Germans gathered on the Austrian-Hungarian border for the 'Pan-European Picnic', a mass attempt to cross the Iron Curtain. Hungarian border guards did not follow through with their threat to shoot, and effectively opened the border between east and west. Two months later, Berliners tore down the wall that had split their city, weakening the Soviet Union to such an extent that it too soon collapsed.
Suddenly independent, the 1990s brought most Hungarians their first possibilities to travel. Many made their first trip abroad to the shopping malls in Austria; their hunger for western consumer goods meant the new democratic government had to put out adverts telling people how to drive a Trabant with a fridge strapped to the top (carefully). For a people whose national identity had been defined in opposition and supressed for so long, maybe it was only natural that that decade gave the first inkling of a rise in nationalist feelings.