Josef Venceslao Radetzsky, count of Radetz, was born in the family castle of Trebnice, today Sedlcany, in Bohemia, on 2 November 1766. Young student, he immediately showed a particular predilection for history. In 1784 he realized the great desire to embrace military life, entering the corps of the Austrian army.
In 1800 he was Colonel Melas's aide-de-camp aide in Marengo. Chief of Staff of the Schwarzenberg in the Napoleonic Wars of the years 1813-1815, he is the architect of the plan for the battle of Leipzig, which marks the collapse of Napoleon and his renunciation of the throne in 1814.
In 1831, already commander of the army stationed in Lombardy, he obtained the command of the Austrian imperial troops in the whole of Lombardy-Veneto and five years later received the promotion to the rank of Field Marshal.
Radetzky exercises the power received ironically, not creating scruples in persecuting the population and, above all, the higher classes among which the intolerance and rage towards Austria was more evident. He understands that the possibility of new revolts is increasingly concrete and in this prediction is concerned with strengthening the building defenses and strengthening its troops.
The general insurrection exploded on 18 March 1848, kicking off the Five Days: all the Milanese were mobilized and squadrons of volunteers arrived from the neighboring cities. Despite his precautions, Radetzky finds himself caught by surprise by the revolt; he attempts the path of diplomacy, but clashes with the determination of the patriots, led by Carlo Cattaneo.
With its 20,000 men, after five days of guerrilla, leave the city heading towards the fortresses of the Quadrilateral. It is at this point that Carlo Alberto enters the scene, but his intervention, instead of being decisive, seems to have been designed to facilitate the Austrians and to give the story of the King of Sardinia to history as an inept and incapable ruler.
The king, in fact, rather than attacking the Austrian forces at the moment of greatest difficulty and weakness, that is during the retreat, lets them go allowing their reorganization, which is repeated on May 30th, when, after the successes of Goito and Peschiera, rather than pressuring them, grants way and time to the Austrian commander to reorganize and occupy Vicenza; an act which will prove to be preparatory to the final victory of Custoza on July 25th. The field marshal imposes the armistice of Salasco to Carlo Alberto.
The following year the king defeated the armistice and reopened the hostilities, but Radetzsky is ready: he brings a new victory to Mortara on March 21 and immediately after that which will mark the end of the reign for the king of Sardinia, in Novara. After the war he received the Governorate of Lombardy, which once again exerted military force.
Josef Radetzky died following a fall at the age of 91 in his residence of Villa Reale, in Milan - which had already hosted Napoleon, Gioacchino Murat and Eugenio di Beauharnais - on January 5, 1858.
The "Radetzky March" is still very popular today, a piece composed in its honor by the great Viennese musician Johann Baptist Strauss, after the victory of Custoza; the song traditionally closes the New Year concert held every year in Vienna.