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Baron Paul Kray

Baron Paul Kray of Krajova and Topolya (German language: Paul Freiherr Kray von Krajova und Topola; Hungarian language: Krajovai és Topolyai báró Kray Pál; February 5, 1735, - January 19, 1804) was a Hungarian soldier who joined the Austrian Army during the French Revolutionary Wars.


Early career

Kray was born in Késmárk, Upper Hungary (today: Kežmarok, Slovakia). He was educated in mathematical and other military sciences in Schemnitz and Vienna.

Entering the Austrian army at the age of nineteen, he arrived somewhat rapidly at the rank of Major, but it was many years before he had any opportunity of distinguishing himself. In 1784 he suppressed a rising in Transylvania, and in the Austro-Turkish War of 1787 to 1791 he saw active service at Porczeny and the Vulcan Pass.

War of the First Coalition

Promoted Major General in 1790, three years later Kray commanded the advance guard of the Allies under Prince Coburg, operating in Flanders and the Austrian Netherlands. He distinguished himself at Famars, Menin, Wissembourg, Charleroi, Fleurus, and, indeed, at almost every encounter with the armies of the French Republic. On 4 March 1796 he received promotion to Lieutenant General (Feldmarschal-Leutnant). In the celebrated campaign of 1796, on the Rhine and Danube, he did conspicuous service as a corps commander. At Wetzlar, he defeated Kléber, and at the battles of Amberg and Würzburg he was largely responsible for the victory of Archduke Charles of Austria. In the following year, he was less successful, being defeated on the Lahn, at Mainz, and in the Battle of Neuwied of 1797..

War of the Second Coalition

Kray commanded in Italy in 1799, and reconquered the plain of Lombardy from the French. He won a sharp action at Legnago on 26 March. For his victory over the French at the Battle of Magnano on 5 April, he was promoted Feldzeugmeister (artillery lieutenant general). This victory caused a deep withdrawal by the French army to the Adda River. Nevertheless, Kray was replaced when Michael von Melas arrived to take command of the Austrian forces. While the field army won two more major battles, Kray conducted the successful sieges of Peschiera del Garda and Mantua. At the Battle of Novi, he commanded the divisions of Peter Ott and Heinrich Bellegarde.[1] On 6 November, he was defeated by the French in a second clash at Novi Ligure.[2]

The following year he commanded on the Rhine against Jean Moreau. As a consequence of his defeats at the battles of Stockach, Messkirch, Biberach, Iller River, and Höchstädt, Kray was driven into Ulm. However, by a skillful march round Moreau's flank he succeeded in escaping to Bohemia. After a 15 July truce became effective he was relieved of his command by Emperor Francis II and dismissed from the service. Kray's successor, Archduke John of Austria was disastrously defeated at the Battle of Hohenlinden in December.

Thoroughly discredited and personally demoralized, the once respected general retired to his estates to live out his life in exile. Austrian society could be cruel to its losers. When the Habsburg officer corps shunned him, he was left almost friendless, the memories of his fine service during the Seven Years War vanished. Later Archduke Charles would write Kray a flattering letter explaining that the boorish behavior directed toward him stemmed from envy over his previous victories.[3]

Kray died in Pest, Hungary on 19 January 1804.


Kray was one of the best representatives of the old Austrian army. Tied to an obsolete system, and unable, from habit, to realise the changed conditions of warfare, he failed, but his enemies held him in the highest respect as a brave, skilful, and chivalrous opponent. It was he who, at Altenkirchen, cared for the dying Marceau (1796), and the white uniforms of Kray and his staff mingled with the blue of the French in the funeral procession of the young general of the Republic.


  1. Smith, p 163
  2. Smith, p 173
  3. Arnold, p 203


  • Arnold, James R. Marengo & Hohenlinden. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword, 2005. ISBN 1-84415-279-0
  • Smith, Digby. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhilldisambiguation needed, 1998. ISBN 1-85367-276-9
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. Encyclopædia Britannica Cambridge University Press 

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