Supreme command in Europe

Johann Peter Krafft, Archduke Charles during the battle of Aspern, 1809, oil on canvas, circa 1809, Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna
Portrait of Admiral Miklós Horthy circa 1930, taken from a Collection of Portraits, no author, photograph from collections of the BnF. Source: Gallica
1952 NATO organization chart, taken from US Navy All Hands Magazine, September 1952, p. 31. Source: Wikimedia Commons


In early modern and modern Europe, being a commander-in-chief for a long time entailed leading hundreds of thousands or millions of men into battle. While essentially military, the function nevertheless had a strong political component, which can be seen in both its beginnings and its development over time. While the position of commander-in-chief no longer has the institutional importance and aura it had before 1945, it remains an essential tool for understanding modern Europe.