Heinrich Brühl, Count von (1700-1763), German statesman at the court of Saxony, was born on the 13th of August 1700. He was the son of Johann Moritz von Brühl, a noble who held the office of Oberhofmarschall at the small court of Sachsen-Weissenfels. The father was ruined and compelled to part with his family estate, which passed into the hands of the prince. The son was first placed as page with the dowager duchess of Weissenfels, and was then received at her recommendation into the court of the elector of Saxony as Silberpage on the 16th of April 1719. He rapidly acquired the favour of the elector Frederick Augustus, surnamed the Strong, who had been elected to the throne of Poland in 1697. Brühl, who began as page and chamberlain, was largely employed in procuring money for his profuse master. He made himself useful in muzzling the Saxon states and was successively chief receiver of taxes and minister for the interior in 1731. He was at Warsaw when his master died in 1733, and he secured a hold on the confidence of the electoral prince, Frederick Augustus, who was at Dresden, by laying hands on the papers and jewels of the late ruler and bringing them promptly to his successor.
During the whole of the thirty years of the reign of Frederick Augustus II. he was the real inspirer of his master and the practical chief of the Saxon court. He had for a time to put up with the presence of old servants of the electoral house, but after 1738 he was in effect sole minister. The title of prime minister was created for him in 1746, but he was not only a prime minister - he filled all the offices. His titles spread over several lines of print, and he drew the combined pay of the places besides securing huge grants of land. Brühl must therefore be held wholly responsible for the ruinous policy which destroyed the position of Saxony in Germany between 1733 and 1763; for the mistaken ambition which led Frederick Augustus II. to become a candidate for the throne of Poland; for the engagements into which he entered in order to secure the support of the emperor Charles VI.; for the shameless and ill-timed tergiversations of Saxony during the wars of the Austrian Succession; for the intrigues which entangled the electorate in the alliance against Frederick the Great, which led to the Seven Years' War; and for the waste and want of foresight which left the country utterly unprepared to resist the attack of the king of Prussia. He was not only without political or military capacity, but was so garrulous that he could not keep a secret.
His indiscretion was repeatedly responsible for the king of Prussia's discoveries of the plans laid against him. Nothing could shake the confidence of his master, which survived the ignominious flight into Bohemia, into which he was trapped by Brühl at the time of the battle of Kesseldorf, and all the miseries of the Seven Years' War. The favourite abused the confidence of his master shamelessly. Not content with the 67,000 talers a month which he drew as salary for his innumerable offices, he was found when an inquiry was held in the next reign to have abstracted more than five million talers of public money for his private use. He left the work of the government offices to be done by his lackeys, whom he did not even supervise. His profusion was boundless. Twelve tailors, it is said, were continually employed in making clothes for him, and he wore a new suit every day. His library of 70,000 volumes was one of his forms of ostentation, and so was his gallery of pictures. He died on the 28th of October 1763, having survived his master only for a few weeks. The new elector, Frederick Christian, dismissed him from office and caused an inquiry to be held into his administration.
His fortune was found to amount to a million and a half of talers, and was sequestered but afterwards restored to his family. In 1736 he had been made a count of the Empire and had married the countess Franziska von Kolowrat-Kradowska, a favourite of the wife of Frederick Augustus. Four sons and a daughter survived him.
His youngest son, Hans Moritz von Brühl (d. 1811), was before the Revolution of 1789 a colonel in the French service, and afterwards general inspector of roads in Brandenburg and Pomerania. By his wife Margarethe Schleierweber, the daughter of a French corporal, but renowned for her beauty and intellectual gifts, he was the father of Karl Friedrich Moritz Paul von Brühl (1772-1837), the friend of Goethe, who as intendant-general of the Prussian royal theatres was of some importance in the history of the development of the drama in Germany. In 1830 he was appointed intendant-general of the royal museums.
See J. G. H. von Justi, Leben und Charakter des Grafen von Brühl (Göttingen, 1760-1761).