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The Many Lives of Franz von der Trenck

  • Rita Krueger


Baron Franz von der Trenck might not now be a household name, but in the eighteenth century, he was notorious for the blood-curdling excesses of the soldiers under his command and an approach to war on behalf of Queen Empress Maria Theresa that appeared to defy the tenets of the age. As one biography described, “The thirty-eight year lifespan of the pandur general Franz Baron von der Trenck was a symphony of violence and death.” On the other side of the Prussian-Austrian conflict, Friedrich von der Trenck was iconic in different ways, with a career that careened from the military under Frederick II, to prison, and lastly to the guillotine in Paris. In service to their monarchs and in pursuit of personal advancement, security, and adventure, the Trenck cousins collided with each other at various points, demonstrating what it meant for nobles to be both architects and victims of fame, reputation, and slander. After Franz's death in prison, Friedrich, for his own reasons, had a hand in shaping the reputation of his cousin as a larger-than-life military man with an affinity for particular types of violence. However, Friedrich was not the only curator of Franz's legacy and others took part during and after Franz's life in the adulteration and appropriation of his life narrative. As a military man, Franz von der Trenck weaponized his own reputation, but its plasticity continued far after his death because he served as a stand-in for a variety of cultural inquiries, anxieties, and hopes beyond military practices and the laws of war. The subtexts of those narratives reveal particular cultural fault lines salient not just in the eighteenth century but also long after, including the constructed, imaginary boundary between the civilized and uncivilized in time and geography. Legends about Trenck drew on tropes about an uncivilized past through the ostensible space between a cultured European center and a wild Slavic or Turkic periphery. The boundary of civilization was not the only theme threaded through stories about Trenck. The nature of his violence was condemned by many and featured in his downfall, but there was also a subterranean admiration for a man who appeared to glorify war as an essential, formative masculine adventure and who romanticized the transgression of rape in war. Beginning with Friedrich and resonating still in twentieth-century nationalist iterations of Trenck is the idolization of a figure who seemed to transcend the petty morality or narrow-mindedness of those who judged him.


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1 Groh, Otto Emmerich, Baron Trenck der Pandur (Vienna, 1935), 90.

2 The author would like to thank the anonymous readers for their comments as well as the suggestions of audiences and panelists at the conferences of the Consortium on the Revolutionary Era and the German Studies Association and the members of the Center for the Humanities at Temple Fellows Seminar, all of whom improved this article.

3 Sonntag, Kurt, Trenck, der Pandur und die Brandschätzung Bayerns (Munich, 1976), 25.

4 In military histories, Trenck's legacy is clear—he rejuvenated guerilla warfare as an alternative to the stylized fighting of the eighteenth century on behalf of the Austrian Habsburgs and, in doing so, was one of the architects of late eighteenth-century light warfare tactics. Before his last court-martial, Trenck provided a link in military praxis among partisan fighters, mercenaries, and professional soldiers.

5 The challenges in peeling back the layers that obscure Franz von der Trenck are complicated by the difficulty in establishing authenticity of various sources. Beginning with the 1745 biography/autobigraphy that was supposedly based on Trenck's diary and writings, forgeries and, as Philipp Batelka discusses, adulterations have not stopped these sources from shaping the discourse about Trenck. See Batelka, Philipp, “Kroaten und dergleichen Gesindel. Grenzkrieger als Gewalttäter im Österreichischen Erbfolgekrieg,” Zwischen Tätern und Opfern: Gewaltbeziehungen und Gewaltgemeinschaften, eds. Batelka, Philipp, Weise, Michale, and Zehnle, Stephanie (Göttingen, 2017), 107–26. That problem is complicated by the relationship between Franz and Friedrich. Different editions of the Friedrich's writings included accounts of his cousin's life as well. See Die “Blutbibel” des Friedrich Freiherr von der Trenck (1727–1794) ed. Werner Vogel (Cologne, 2014). The drama of Friedrich von der Trenck's life made him a popular subject for translations, several being issued in London the 1780s: The Life of Baron Frederick Trenck; containing his Adventures; his Cruel and Excessive Sufferings, during Ten Years Imprisonment at the Fortress of Magdeburg. For many decades, those writing about Franz von der Trenck relied on a purported “memoir” entitled Merkwürdiges Leben und Thaten des Freiherren F. V. Trenck, published in Leipzig in 1748, after earlier versions had also appeared. Portions alleged to have been written by Franz von der Trenck while in prison were burned by the hangman in Vienna in 1748. As Batelka notes, Alfred Kosean-Mokrau determined that source to be inauthentic in the 1970s, but it has continued to be translated and marketed as quasi-authentic. The circular nature of untrustworthy sources shows up in the secondary works, including in the relatively recent reissue of Zdeněk Vyhlídal, Pandur Trenk (Votobia, 2001). See also Saint-Yves, D., Le Baron de Trenck (Paris, 1865); Trenk, František, vudce rakouskych panduru (Brno, 1865). Pietro Chiari published the Memorie del Barone di Trenck: Camandante de Panduri, Scritte da lui medesimo e date in luce d'all abate Pietro Chiari. The work, published initially in 1764 and in subsequent editions, occupies a liminal space between fiction and nonfiction, variously listed in collections as a novel, a biography, and even an opera.

6 Stollberg-Rilinger, Barbara, Maria Theresia: Die Kaiserin in ihrer Zeit (Munich, 2017), 131.

7 The court chamberlain and diarist, Johann Joseph Khevenhüller, lists Trenck's year of birth as 1710. Popular biographies list it as 1 Jan. 1711. Trenck's memoir, which most accounts rely on, lists it as 1 Jan. 1711. Bertling gives it as 1714. Russian sources tend list it as 1 Jan. 1711.

8 Schröpfer, Karlheinz, Obrist Trenck, Chef der Panduren: Die Schicksalschweren Jahre 1741/1742 (Regensburg, 1983), 17. Schröpfer has assembled a private archive of Trenck memorabilia and images, which includes the significant array of cultural products to which Trenck's name and legend became attached. See Privatarchiv Karheinz Schröpfer, accessed 26 Dec. 2018,

9 Trenck, Life, 344.

10 Teichman, Oskar, Pandour Trenck (London, 1927), 6.

11 Memoirs of the Life of the Illustrious Francis Baron Trenck, Sometime Lord of the Bed-Chamber to Her Majesty the Queen of Hungary and Bohemia (London, 1747), 5–6.

12 Karlheinz Schröpfer, Obrist Trenck, 17. Schröpfer describes that it was rumored that Trenck was taken with the native sounds of the Croatian borderlands and that he composed the Trenck-Panduren-Marsch. See Schröpfer, Trenck, 25.

13 Preradovich, Nikolaus, Das Seltsam Wilde Leben des Pandurenoberst Franz von der Trenck (Graz, 1980), 29.

14 Some accounts shift the time of his marriage to after his Russian tour of duty. Trenck, Life, 342.

15 Preradovich, Seltsam Wilde Leben, 29. Other sources claim he had three children, not four. Friedrich von der Trenck asserts that his cousin married after his Russian adventure and that there were no children, the one pregnancy of his wife resulting in a stillbirth. Not surprisingly, he accuses Trenck of causing this. Trenck, Life, 351.

16 The language within the text regarding Trenck's countless attempts to woo women he claims to fall violently in love with replicates the tone of embracing transgression that characterized Casanova's Story of My Life. Like the writings of Casanova and Marquis de Sade later, beyond sexual libertinism, the memoir delights in exposing the hypocrisies of churchmen, bureaucrats, and other authority figures. See the following text.

17 Bertling, M., Die Kroaten und Panduren in der Mitte des XVIII Jahrhunderts und ihre Verwendung in den Friderizianischen Kriegen (Berlin, 1912), 13. Although in romantic terms, this shift to the Russian forces was presented as evidence of Trenck's quenchless thirst for adventure. М. И. Марков, История конницы. Книга III. От Фридриха Великого до Александра Суворова [History of the Calvary. Book II. From Frederick the Great to Alexander Suvorov] (Moscow, 2013), 340.

18 Arneth, Alfred von, Geschichte Maria Theresias, 10 vols. (Vienna, 1864), 2:15.

19 Schröpfer, Trenck, 19.

20 Trenck, Life, 349.

21 Ibid., 350.

22 Accounts differ as to the reason for Münnich's second intervention. Some put it down to Prussian affinities, some to romantic machinations involving women. Regardless, Münnich's Russian career was also shortly to be over after the machinations of the 1741 coup. Münnich ended up in Siberia until the 1760s.

23 Schröpfer, Trenck, 20. Those who sought to romanticize Trenck often described the women he took in war as desperately in love with him. Trenck's slaves were reportedly devastated at the prospect of losing him and supposedly begged to be allowed to stay with him.

24 For a long time, there was little agreement on where the name “pandurs” came from, some arguing that it originally designated residents from a particular area of Hungary or the village of Pandur, others that is derived from Italian or Hungarian linguistic usage. In his nineteenth-century history of the Austrian military, Hermann Meynert defined pandurs as the military descendants of what were originally armed servants in Croatia and Slavonia. He conjured a picture of men armed with two pistols and a long, curved Turkish dagger. See Schröpfer, Trenck, 16.

25 Arneth, Geschichte Maria Theresias, 2:15. For travelers and residents, the Balkan border with Turkey was long associated with brigandage and the adventures of gangs of robbers or haiduks were celebrated in local lore and folksongs. As Walter Laqueur argues, “According to Haiduck sagas, many of them were shepherds, underpaid and bored, who knew the terrain extremely well and were lured by the romanticism and the material rewards of brigandage. There was also a fair proportion of escaped criminals among them.” Laqueur, Walter, Guerilla Warfare: A Historical and Critical Study (New Brunswick, 1998), 17. The emerging portrait of Trenck as a glorious adventurer is part of that cultural patrimony.

26 “We attacked them, and made nine of them prisoners, and brought the heads of the rest home with us. The nine whom we had taken prisoners, were tried afterwards, and some of them were hanged, and others broke upon the wheel.” Trenck, Memoir, 48.

27 Ibid., 50.

28 Teichman, Trenck, 26.

29 Stollberg-Rilinger, Maria Theresia, 130–31.

30 In the memoir, his road to Vienna is smoothed with false papers obtained from a corrupt Jesuit, “a man of art and intrigue,” on the border, who used an intimate connection with the Burgermeister's wife to get papers for Trenck. Trenck, Memoir, 52.

31 Maria Theresa was saved in 1741 by promises of Hungarian military and financial support. That support was central to her ability to fight and it also shaped the nature and structure of the Austrian forces in the field. The Hungarians had long resisted being integrated into the financial and military mechanisms undergirding the Austrian armed forces that had replaced promises of soldiers with payments and had instead kept in place a traditional system of muster organized by landed elites. As a result, when the Hungarians promised military support, it took shape as a force with a disproportionately large number of light or irregular troops, an outcome even more pronounced by the high number of soldier deaths in the early months of the war. This contributed to the oscillating attributions that attended forces from the southern and eastern regions of the Austrian patrimony, who were listed variously and sometimes interchangeably by contemporaries as insurrectionary soldiers, “national” regiments, Hussars, Hungarian Hussars, Slavonic, Croatian free corps, Grenzer, and pandurs. See Jähns, Max, Geschichte der Kriegswissenschaften vornehmlich in Deutschland, vol. 3 (Leipzig, 1891), 2710.

32 Bassett, Richard, For God and Kaiser: The Imperial Austrian Army (New Haven, 2015), 94. See also Teichman, Trenck, 37, and Stollberg-Rilinger, Maria Theresia, 130.

33 Teichman, Trenck, 44. Bertling argues that it was the haphazard nature of this recruitment, the significant differences among the men that were only partly obscured by their “uniform,” that contributed to the lack of discipline in the corps. The only thing these servants, criminals, and adventurers shared was a devotion to gaining the spoils of war. Berling, Kroaten, 18. See also Preradovich, Nikolaus, Des Kaisers Grenze. 300 Jahre Türkenabwehr (Vienna, 1970). But, using physical violence was not an unusual recruitment tactic and contributed to the high level of desertion. Stollberg-Rilinger, Maria Theresia, 130.

34 Schröpfer, Trenck, 21. This was a pretty standard “recruitment” method in the eighteenth century. All states put into uniform “men considered socially dangerous and undesirable, whether they were convicted (or about-to-be-convicted criminals), habitual mendicants or malingerers, or just serfs deemed expendable by their lords and masters.” See Geoffrey Best, War and Society in Revolutionary Europe 1770–1870 (Montréal, 1998), 30.

35 Trenck, Life, 357.

36 Teuber, Oscar, Ehrentage Oesterreichs: Blätter aud dem Ruhmeskranze des österreichisch-ungarischen Herres (Vienna, 1892), 156–61. See also Bertling, Kroaten, 13.

37 J. R. Hale, War and Society in Renaissance Europe 1450–1620 (Baltimore, 1985), 146–47.

38 “This period saw the spread of barracks to house soldiers, drillmasters to train them, professional officers to lead them, logistical services to supply them, factories to clothe and equip them, and hospitals and retirement homes to take care of them in times of distress.” Boot, Max, Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present (New York, 2013), 60.

39 Christopher Duffy, The Army of Maria Theresia (North Pomfret, 1977), 68.

40 Hale, Renaissance, 147. As Hale argues, much of this image was created not by the actions of mercenaries, but by the “fear and snobbery” of those who did not know how to account for their appearance in the field.

41 Stollberg-Rilinger, Maria Theresia, 136.

42 Haus-, Hof-, und Staatsarchiv, Kriegsakten, carton 324, folio 1.

43 Wienerisches Diarium, no. 44, 3 June 1741 (467/5).

44 Bertling, Kroaten, 15.

45 The Wienerisches Diarium described the parades and processions of columns of recruits in the spring of 1741, as well as the popular adulation and court representation with which they were greeted. See Wienerisches Diarium, nos. 35, 36, 44 (3 May, 6 May, and 3 June 1741). Additional accounts in Bassett, For God and Kaiser, 94, and Stollberg-Rilinger, Maria Theresia, 131.

46 Stollberg-Rilinger, Maria Theresia, 131.

47 As Max Boot describes, fighters out of uniform were “subject to prosecution as bandits rather than treated as soldiers entitled to the protections of the emerging laws of war.” Boot, Max, “The Evolution of Irregular War: Insurgents and Guerillas from Akkadia to Afghanistan,” Foreign Affairs 92, no. 3 (Mar./Apr. 2013): 103.

48 Duffy, Army, 68. According to one of his Croatian biographers, it was Trenck's intent to engender that fear and that Trenck had the men shave their heads to make them look more Turkish. See Ferdo Šišic, Franjo barun Trenk i njegovi panduri [Franz Baron Trenk and his pandurs] (Zagreb, 1900), 88.

49 Arneth, Geschichte Maria Theresias, 2:16.

50 Ibid. Arneth and others who sought to protect Maria Theresa's legacy insisted that, however dire her circumstances, she at no point condoned the destruction of the lands nor the plunder of its goods and citizens. It was important to create moral distance between Maria Theresa and the southern soldiers.

51 Bertling, Kroaten, 18.

52 Šišic, Franjo barun Trenk, 92.

53 Quoted in Schröpfer, Trenck, 25. See also Bertling, Kroaten, 16, fn. 1.

54 Rolt, Richard, An Impartial Representation of the Conduct of Several Powers of Europe, 4 vols. (London, 1749–50), 3:159. Available from Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale, Temple University Libraries, accessed 27 Jan. 2017,

55 de Vattel, Emer, The Law of Nation, quoted in Michael Glover, The Velvet Glove: The Decline and Fall of Moderation in War (London, 1982), 48.

56 Carl, Horst, “Restricted Violence? Miltary Occupation during the Eighteenth Century,” in Civilians and War in Europe 1618–1815, eds. Charters, Erica, Rosenhaft, Eve, and Smith, Hannah (Liverpool, 2014), 125–26.

57 See Michael Glover, The Velvet Glove, and Max Boot, Invisible Armies.

58 Jähns, Geschichte der Kriegswissenschaften, vol. 3, book 8, 2710.

59 Arneth, Geschichte Maria Theresias, vol. 2. The memoir uses Trenck's earliest encounters with Maria Theresa's forces in Silesia to set the stage of his conflict with Menzel, who the author describes as “a fellow that had run away from Poland, and having a tongue well oiled and a good deal of assurance.” Menzel became one of Trenck's most loathed rivals. Trenck, Memoir, 54.

60 Bertling, Kroaten, 16.

61 Ibid., 17.

62 See also Duffy, Army, 68. Menzel would go on to craft his own legacy of pandur-related violence, despite his relationship with Trenck. The other officer caught up in Trenck's recruitment and strategy was Ernst Gideon Laudon. The two had intersected in Russian service and Laudon's early experiences in the Austrian forces after 1742 were in the irregulars. He was, moreover, a central figure in Trenck's downfall.

63 Arneth, Geschichte Maria Theresias, 2:17.

64 Schröpfer, Trenck.

65 For the impact of this kind of strategy, see Kunisch, Johannes, Der Kleine Krieg. Studien aus Heerwesen des Absolutismus (Wiesbaden, 1973), 67.

66 Schröpfer, Trenck, 33.

67 Bassett, For God and Kaiser, 95.

68 “Up Brothers! Up! To burn! To burn! To burn! To burn! To burn! To burn! For the black torch is blazing, In every Pandur's hand, And with this fire we're razing, This town in hostile land! Gladly we die for plunder, Torch in each pandur's hand; Amidst black smoke and thunder, Goes our victorious band. We know no regulation. We're in Bavaria's land, And subjects of that nation, We massacre out of hand.” The Bavarians had no hesitation to believe the latter of the ditty. Hübner, in his biography of Trenck, was the first to include it and claimed to have met people who had been alive during the war and heard it. Teichman, Trenck, 77.

69 Schröpfer, Trenck, 35.

70 Arneth, Geschichte Maria Theresias, 2:17. See fn. 38 in Arneth.

71 Ibid.

72 See for example, the account provided in Wienerisches Diarium, no. 75, 19 Sept. 1742, pp. 981–82.

73 Arneth, Geschichte Maria Theresias, 2:17. More critically, victory over Bavarian soldiers brought not peace, but “excesses” on the part of soldiers, “in particular the Hungarian Insurrectionary soldiers” and Trenck's free corps (Freischaaren) that Khevenhüller in command struggled to control and that was against Maria Theresa's clearly expressed will.

74 Ibid., 23.

75 Believing Khevenhüller to be inspired by the same human concerns, Arneth described the general's attempts to prevent infringements and mishandling of the population on the part of the soldiers, who had been relieving the citizens of their monies and goods. In his attempts to control what Maria Theresa had determined to be immoral and deleterious behavior that was concentrated in Trenck's men, his implication was that for the southern soldier, steeped in a particular culture of violent appropriation, disorderly looting was the point. In other words, their months of control and encounter with the Austrian military had done little or nothing to mitigate their intent.

76 Maria Theresa set up her administration of Bavaria precisely for this reason. In 1743, she had begun the process by establishing bureaucratic control over the occupied lands in Bavaria and Oberpfalz. Her administrators were under explicit orders to “maintain the Austrian army on the land.” Expropriations for the maintenance of the Austrian armed forces continued until the peace of 22 Apr. 1745. Khevenhüller-Metsch, Johann Josef, Aus der Zeit Maria Theresas. Tagebuch des Fürsten J.J. Khevenhüller-Metsch, vol. 1 (Vienna, 1907), 309, fn. 148.

77 The authenticity of these aspects of the narrative are particularly elusive. These details are absent in the accounts rendered in the Wienerisches Diarium in Sept. 1742. These stories also fail to reconcile how the famously tall, large-figured, shaven-headed, “uncivilized” pandurs passed believably as townswomen.

78 Arneth, Geschichte Maria Theresias, 2:127. See fn. 67.

79 Rolt, Conduct, 2:44.

80 Ibid., 45.

81 Ibid., 44–45. The soldiers of the garrison were the same as those who had earlier capitulated at Linz and been allowed to live as free men provided they did not take up arms against Maria Theresa. That promise they had abandoned.

82 Stollberg-Rilinger, Maria Theresia, 135.

83 Carlyle, Thomas, History of Friedrich II of Prussia, Called Frederick the Great, 21 vols. (New York, 1858), 14:ii.

84 Larry Wolff presents this desire to “unscramble” as one of the facets of the enlightened visitors attempt to deal with Eastern Europe. See Wolff, Larry, Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment (Stanford, 1994), 288.

85 Carlyle based this account on Johann Christoph Adelung, Geschichte der Menschlichen Narrheit, oder Lebensbeschreibungen berühmter Schwarzkünstler, Goldmacher, Teufelsbanner, Zeichen- und Liniendeuter, Schwärmer, Wahrsager, und anderer philosophischer Unholden, vol. 3 (Leipzig, 1787), A 258. Anonymous, Histoire de la Dernière Guerre de Boheme, 4 vols. (Frankfurt, 1745–47). Frederick the Great, vol. 14, Sept. 7.

86 William Coxe, The History of the House of Austria, vol. 3 (London, 1847), ch. ci.

87 Bertling, Kroaten, 15. It is difficult to know the religious affiliations of the pandurs. The corps included two chaplains, but some biographers of Trenck suggest that at least half of the corps were likely Muslim.

88 Trenck, Life, 351.

89 Contemporaries sometimes distinguished the southern European soldiers by regional or local affiliation (Warasdiners), sometimes bracket them all together as Croats or as “Trenck's pandurs.” From the perspective of a population that either celebrated or feared their exploits, the differences were perhaps irrelevant. To the men and to the role they occupied within the Austrian military establishment, the differences were tangible. See Bertling, Kroaten, 12.

90 Trenck, Life, 344.

91 Batelka, “Kroaten,” 107, 111.

92 Teichman, Trenck, 91.

93 Trenck, Life, 344.

94 Memoirs reprinted in Sonntag, Trenck, 102.

95 Batelka, “Kroaten,” 111.

96 Schröpfer, Trenck, 43. Other authors recount the same ruses, but in other towns. The stories are independent, in some cases, of geographical specificity.

97 Quoted in Boot, Invisible Armies, 61. This is problematically true of Boot too, who presents Trenck's men as “tribal marauders,” chopping off heads, killing peasants, and burning villages as a method of vanguard action in the Austrian offensive.

98 Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe, 115. The memoir also uses “swarm” to describe the unjustified military actions of others—in particular the “huntsmen” who defied honor to defend Dießenstein and who “inhumanly massacred their prisoners.” Trenck, Memoir, 79.

99 What is striking is the relative matter of fact tone of British accounts of Trenck's command as part of their Austrian ally's war effort. An example, which referred to the prudence and courage of Trenck's attack on the Rhine, was published in An account of the passage of the Rhine, by his most Serene Highness Prince Charles of Lorraine and Baar, on the 1st, 2d, and 3d of July, N.S. As also some other important advices from Muscovy and Italy. Published by authority (London, 1744), 5. Available from Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale, Temple University Libraries, accessed 17 Dec. 2018, version=1.0&docLevel=FASCIMILE.

100 Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe, 116.

101 Ibid., 285. See also ch. 7.

102 Ibid., 115.

103 Ibid., 366.

104 Trenck, Life, 353.

105 Teichman, Trenck, 89.

106 Batelka, “Kroaten,” 113.

107 Trenck, Life, 362.

108 Biggs, William, The Military History of Europe, &c. Since the Commencement of the War with Spain (Limerick, 1749), 199. Available from Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale, Temple University Libraries, accessed 17 Dec. 2018, Level=FASCIMILE. More than one version of this story ended up in the British press. Mentzel was determined to be a “common Partizan,” and “known only by his Depredations and Brutality,” whose appearance at Munich alone was enough to force Bavarian capitulation. Trenck, a “bold Partizan,” stormed the island of Rheinmark, killing the whole garrison, as well as its commander Count Creveccur by “Baron Trenck's own Hands.” Anon., A System of Camp-Discipline, Military Honours Garrison-Duty Adjutants Duty, and other Regulations for the Land Forces (London, 1760), 105.

109 Batelka, “Kroaten,” 119.

110 Teichman, Trenck, fn. 37.

111 Wilson, Peter, “War in Early Modern Germany History,” German History 19, no. 3 (Oct. 2001): 436.

112 Arneth, Geschichte Maria Theresias, 3:80.

113 Bassett, For God and Kaiser, 95.

114 Stollberg-Rilinger, Maria Theresia, 137.

115 Khevenhüller-Metsch, Tagebücher, 2:258 and 518.

116 As Khevenhüller-Metsch describes, Trenck was sentenced to beheading by martial law. See ibid., 2:158. While Maria Theresa possessed a deep loyalty to those she believed had remained true to her cause, her memory was long when it came to those she felt had betrayed her. The experience of Josef Anton Graf von Seeau serves as illustration for her sense of retribution and forgiveness. After the Bavarians (with French help) attacked her lands and occupied Linz in 1741, Count Seeau had thrown his lot in with the Bavarian Elector and handed over control of the Salzkammergut to Maria Theresa's enemies. When the tide turned the following year and the region was once again under Austrian control, she relentlessly pursued local nobles who had not just failed to defend her but actively abandoned her to pursue their own interests. From Maria Theresa's perspective, Count Seeau “acted not only against oath and duty, but also did not hesitate to malign my own person and belittle and make me odious to the public.” After attempting to flee, Seeau was apprehended, his estates confiscated, his title stripped, and he was sent into “permanent” exile in Temesvar. His family pleaded with Maria Theresa for leniency, but Seeau remained in Temesvar until the settlement between the Austrians and the Bavarians in 1745. Even then, he was not allowed back to Austrian territory and remained in Munich in exile from his lands for the rest of his life. Trenck was a different matter altogether. Maria Theresa to Doblhoff, Arneth, Briefe, 4:220.

117 He converted from an “inveterate atheist to a pious man.” Sonntag, Trenck, 33.

118 Ibid.

119 This combination is perfectly captured in some biographies of Maria Theresa too: “For dare-devil courage and murderous ferocity no swashbucklers of romance could vie with Francis Trenck and his regiment of pandours.” Moffat, Mary Maxwell, Maria Theresa (London, 1911), 93.

120 Šišic, Franjo barun, preface.

121 Trenck, Memoir, 55.

122 Trenck, Life, 356.

123 Trenck, Memoir, 93. His account of the pillaging of churches was reframed not as the defiling of sacred objects, but because of the desire to have their sacredness brought to “our churches” (95). The reports back to Vienna after Cham had accused Trenck of raping twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls who he then forced his officers to marry. Stollberg-Rilinger, Maria Theresia, 136.

124 Karl Vocelka also uses Trenck as a representative of the “adventurous” eighteenth century, on a par with the great adventurer Casanova. See Vocelka, Karl, Österreichische Geschichte 1699–1815: Glanz und Untergang der Höfischen Welt (Vienna, 2001), 63.

125 Trenck, Life, 343.

126 Ibid., 342–43.

127 Mühlbach, Luise, Maria Theresia und der Pandurenobrist Trenck: Historische Roman (Brno, 1861), 96.

128 The Theater Magazine Advertiser, vols. 15–16, Jan. 1912, xiii. In the United States, the operetta was staged at the Casino Theater in New York in 1912, with Albini's music, with a book by Henry Blosssom and lyrics by Frederick Shrader. Bizarrely, the American staging set the action in 1759, which would have been ten years after Trenck's death.

129 Groh, Baron Trenck der Pandur.

130 Jaroslav Ostrčilík, “Divoká dobrodružství barona Trencka: plenil, pil a honil sukně” [Baron Trenck's wild adventures: he sacked, drank and chased skirts],, 19 Aug. 2017, accessed 17 Oct. 2018,

131 “Analyse der Mumie des Freiherrn Trenck räumt mit einem Mythos auf,” Der Standard, 28 Feb. 2017, accessed 17 Oct. 2018,

132 Sonntag, Trenck, 25. Sonntag's volume reproduces many of these images to capture the ways that Franz was imagined to look by later generations.

133 “Unter nächtlichem Himmel wird das Jahr 1742 lebendig” (, the staging implies war as entertainment through a form of time travel, including the recreation of the siege of Waldmünchen by Baron Trenck and his “wild Pandurs.”

The Many Lives of Franz von der Trenck

  • Rita Krueger


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