Foundation and expansion under Maximilian I
On 30 December 1777, the Bavarian line of the Wittelsbachs became extinct, and the succession on the Electorate of Bavaria passed to Charles Theodore, the Elector Palatine. After a separation of four and a half centuries, the Palatinate, to which the duchies of Jülich and Berg had been added, was thus reunited with Bavaria. In 1792, French revolutionary armies overran the Palatinate; in 1795, the French, under Moreau, invaded Bavaria itself, advanced to Munich—where they were received with joy by the long-suppressed Liberals—and laid siege to Ingolstadt. Charles Theodore, who had done nothing to prevent wars or to resist the invasion, fled to Saxony, leaving a regency, the members of which signed a convention with Moreau, by which he granted an armistice in return for a heavy contribution (7 September 1796). Between the French and the Austrians, Bavaria was now in a bad situation. Before the death of Charles Theodore (16 February 1799), the Austrians had again occupied the country, in preparation for renewing the war with France.
Maximilian IV Joseph (of Zweibrücken), the new elector, succeeded to a difficult inheritance. Though his own sympathies, and those of his all-powerful minister, Maximilian von Montgelas, were, if anything, French rather than Austrian, the state of the Bavarian finances, and the fact that the Bavarian troops were scattered and disorganized, placed him helpless in the hands of Austria; on 2 December 1800, the Bavarian arms were involved in the Austrian defeat at Hohenlinden, and Moreau once more occupied Munich. By the Treaty of Lunéville (9 February 1801), Bavaria lost the Palatinate and the duchies of Zweibrücken and Jülich. In view of the scarcely disguised ambitions and intrigues of the Austrian court, Montgelas now believed that the interests of Bavaria lay in a frank alliance with the French Republic; he succeeded in overcoming the reluctance of Maximilian Joseph; and, on 24 August, a separate treaty of peace and alliance with France was signed at Paris.
The 1805 Peace of Pressburg allowed Maximilian to raise Bavaria to the status of a kingdom. Accordingly, Maximilian proclaimed himself king on 1 January 1806. The King still served as an Elector until Bavaria seceded from the Holy Roman Empire on 1 August 1806. The Duchy of Berg was ceded to Napoleon only in 1806. The new kingdom faced challenges from the outset of its creation, relying on the support of Napoleonic France. The kingdom faced war with Austria in 1808 and from 1810 to 1814, lost territory to Württemberg, Italy, and then Austria. In 1808, all relics of serfdom were abolished, which had left the old empire. In the same year, Maximilian promulgated Bavaria's first written constitution. Over the next five years, it was amended numerous times in accordance with Paris' wishes.
During the French invasion of Russia in 1812 about 30,000 Bavarian soldiers were killed in action. With the Treaty of Ried of 8 October 1813 Bavaria left the Confederation of the Rhine and agreed to join the Sixth Coalition against Napoleon in exchange for a guarantee of her continued sovereign and independent status. On 14 October, Bavaria made a formal declaration of war against Napoleonic France. The treaty was passionately backed by the Crown Prince Ludwig and by Marshal von Wrede. With the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813 ended the German Campaign with the Coalition nations as the victors, in a complete failure for the French, although they achieved a minor victory when an army of Kingdom of Bavaria attempted to block the retreat of the French Grande Armée at Hanau.
With the defeat of Napoleon's France in 1814, Bavaria was compensated for some of its losses, and received new territories such as the Grand Duchy of Würzburg, the Archbishopric of Mainz (Aschaffenburg) and parts of the Grand Duchy of Hesse. Finally in 1816, the Rhenish Palatinate was taken from France in exchange for most of Salzburg which was then ceded to Austria (Treaty of Munich (1816)). It was the second largest and second most powerful state south of the Main, behind only Austria. In Germany as a whole, it ranked third behind Prussia and Austria.
Between 1799 and 1817, the leading minister Count Montgelas followed a strict policy of modernisation and laid the foundations of administrative structures that survived even the monarchy and are (in their core) valid until today. On 1 February 1817, Montgelas had been dismissed and Bavaria had entered on a new era of constitutional reform.
On 26 May 1818, Bavaria's second constitution was proclaimed. The constitution established a bicameral Parliament (Landtag). The upper house (
Kammer der Reichsräte) comprising the aristocracy and noblemen, including the royal princes, government officials, archbishops, high-class hereditary landowners and nominees of the crown. The lower house (
Kammer der Abgeordneten), would include representatives of landowners, the three universities, clergy (Catholic and Protestant), the towns and the peasants. Without the consent of both houses no law could be passed and no tax could be levied. The rights of Protestants were safeguarded in the constitution with articles supporting the equality of all religions, despite opposition by supporters of the Roman Catholic Church. The initial constitution almost proved disastrous for the monarchy, with controversies such as the army having to swear allegiance to the new constitution. The monarchy appealed to the Kingdom of Prussia and the Austrian Empire for advice, the two refused to take action on Bavaria's behalf, but the debacles lessened and the state stabilized with the accession of Ludwig I to the throne following the death of Maximilian in 1825.
Within the Kingdom of Bavaria, the Palatinate enjoyed a special legal and administrative position, as the Bavarian government maintained substantial achievements of the French period. The German historian Heiner Haan described the special status of the Palatinate within Bavaria as a relation of "Hauptstaat" (main state, i.e. Bavaria) and "Nebenstaat" (alongside state, i.e. the Palatinate).
Ludwig I, Maximilian II and the Revolutions
In 1825, Ludwig I ascended the throne of Bavaria. Under Ludwig, the arts flourished in Bavaria, and Ludwig personally ordered and financially assisted the creation of many neoclassical buildings and architecture across Bavaria. Ludwig also increased Bavaria's pace towards industrialization under his reign. In foreign affairs under Ludwig's rule, Bavaria supported the Greeks during the Greek War of Independence with his second son, Otto being elected King of Greece in 1832. As for politics, initial reforms advocated by Ludwig were both liberal and reform-oriented. However, after the Revolutions of 1830, Ludwig turned to conservative reaction. The Hambacher Fest in 1832 showed the discontent of the population with high taxes and censorship. Bavaria joined the Zollverein in 1834. In 1835, the first German railway was constructed in Bavaria, between the cities of Fürth and Nuremberg.
In 1837, the Roman Catholic-supported clerical movement, the Ultramontanes, came to power in the Bavarian parliament and began a campaign of reform to the constitution, which removed civil rights that had earlier been granted to Protestants, as well as enforcing censorship and forbidding the free discussion of internal politics. This regime was short-lived due to the demand by the Ultramontanes of the naturalization of Ludwig I's Irish mistress, which was resented by Ludwig, and the Ultramontanes were pushed out.
Following the Revolutions of 1848 and Ludwig's low popularity, Ludwig I abdicated the throne to avoid a potential coup, and allowed his son, Maximilian II, to become the King of Bavaria. Maximilian II responded to the demands of the people for a united German state by attending the Frankfurt Assembly, which intended to create such a state. However, when Maximilian II rejected the Frankfurt Constitution in 1849, an uprising in the Bavarian Palatinate under Joseph Martin Reichard was put down with the support of Prussian forces. However Maximilian II stood alongside Bavaria's ally, the Austrian Empire, in opposition to Austria's enemy, the Kingdom of Prussia, which was to receive the imperial crown of a united Germany. This opposition was resented by many Bavarian citizens, who wanted a united Germany, but in the end Prussia declined accepting the crown and the constitution of a German state they perceived to be too liberal and not in Prussia's interests.
In the aftermath of the failure of the Frankfurt Assembly, Prussia and Austria continued to debate over which monarchy had the inherent right to rule Germany. A dispute between Austria and the Electoral Prince of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel) was used by Austria and its allies (including Bavaria) to promote the isolation of Prussia in German political affairs. This diplomatic insult almost led to war when Austria, Bavaria and other allies moved troops through Bavaria towards Hesse-Kassel in 1850. However, the Prussian army backed down to Austria and caved in to the acceptance of dual leadership. This event was known as the Punctation of Olmütz but also known as the "Humiliation of Olmütz" by Prussia. This event solidified the Bavarian kingdom's alliance with Austria against Prussia. When the project to unite the German middle-sized powers under Bavarian leadership against Prussia and Austria (the so-called Trias) failed Minister-President Von der Pfordten resigned in 1859. Attempts by Prussia to reorganize the loose and un-led German Confederation were opposed by Bavaria and Austria, with Bavaria taking part in its own discussions with Austria and other allies in 1863, in Frankfurt, without Prussia and its allies attending.
In 1864, Maximilian II died early, and his eighteen-year-old son, Ludwig II, became King of Bavaria as escalating tensions between Austria and Prussia grew steadily. Prussia's Minister-President Otto von Bismarck, recognizing the immediate likelihood of war, attempted to sway Bavaria towards neutrality in the conflict. Ludwig II refused Bismarck's offers and continued Bavaria's alliance with Austria. In 1866, violence erupted between Austria and Prussia and the Austro-Prussian War began. Bavaria and most of the south German states, with the exception of Austria and Saxony, contributed far less to the war effort against Prussia.
The Battle of Langensalza was fought on 27 June 1866 near Bad Langensalza, between the Kingdom of Hanover (Hanoverians) and the Prussians. The Hanoverians won the battle but were then surrounded by a larger and reinforced Prussian army, and, unable to link up with their Bavarian allies to the south, they surrendered. Austria then quickly faltered after its defeat at the Battle of Königgrätz (3 July 1866) and was totally defeated by Prussia shortly afterward. The states of the German Confederation could not agree on a uniform warfare with a common battle plan during the entire course of the war. Their armies were therefore beaten successively by Prussia, so also the Bavarians in Lower Franconia at Bad Kissingen (10 July 1866). The Bavarian army under Prince Karl Theodor of Bavaria was finally beaten shortly afterwards at Uettingen (26 July 1866). Finally, Bavaria lost Gersfeld and Bad Orb to Prussia. They were become part of Hesse-Nassau province, which was created after the war.
Austria was humiliated by defeat and was forced to concede control, and its sphere of influence, over the south German states. Bavaria was spared harsh terms in the peace settlement. However, from this point on it and the other south German states steadily progressed into Prussia's sphere of influence.
Ludwig II and the German Empire
With Austria's defeat in the Austro-Prussian War, the northern German states quickly unified into the North German Confederation, with Prussia's King leading the state. Bavaria's previous inhibitions towards Prussia changed, along with those of many of the south German states, after French emperor Napoleon III began speaking of France's need for "compensation" from its loss in 1814 and included Bavarian-held Palatinate as part of its territorial claims. Ludwig II joined an alliance with Prussia in 1870 against France, which was seen by Germans as the greatest enemy to a united Germany. At the same time, Bavaria increased its political, legal, and trade ties with the North German Confederation. In 1870, war erupted between France and Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War. The Bavarian Army was sent under the command of the Prussian crown prince against the French army.
With France's defeat and humiliation against the combined German forces, it was Ludwig II who proposed that Prussian King Wilhelm I be proclaimed German Emperor or "Kaiser" of the German Empire ("Deutsches Reich"), which occurred in 1871 in German occupied Versailles, France. The territories of the German Empire were declared, which included the states of the North German Confederation and all of the south German states, with the major exception of Austria. The Empire also annexed the formerly French territory of Alsace-Lorraine, due in large part to Ludwig's desire to move the French frontier away from the Palatinate.
An 1890s photochrom
print of Castle Neuschwanstein
. This castle was designed and constructed during the reign of Ludwig II and remains, today, a major tourist attraction in Bavaria.
Bavaria's entry into the German Empire changed from jubilation over France's defeat to dismay shortly afterward because of the direction Germany took under the new German Chancellor and Prussian Prime Minister, Otto von Bismarck. The Bavarian delegation under Count Otto von Bray-Steinburg had secured a privileged status for the Kingdom of Bavaria within the German Empire (Reservatrechte). The Kingdom of Bavaria was even able to retain its own diplomatic body and its own army, which would fall under Prussian command only in times of war.
After Bavaria's entry into the Empire, Ludwig II became increasingly detached from Bavaria's political affairs and spent vast amounts of money on personal projects, such as the construction of a number of fairytale castles and palaces, the most famous being the Wagnerian-style Castle Neuschwanstein. Ludwig used his personal wealth to finance these projects, and not state funds, and the construction projects landed him deeply in debt. These debts caused much concern among Bavaria's political elite, who sought to persuade Ludwig to cease his building; he refused, and relations between the government's ministers and the crown deteriorated.
At last, in 1886, the crisis came to a head: the Bavarian ministers deposed the king, organizing a medical commission to declare him insane, and therefore incapable of executing his governmental powers. A day after Ludwig's deposition, the king died mysteriously after asking the commission's chief psychiatrist to go on a walk with him along Lake Starnberg (then called Lake Würm). Ludwig and the psychiatrist were found dead, floating in the lake. An autopsy listed cause of death as suicide by drowning, but some sources claim that no water was found in Ludwig's lungs. While these facts could be explained by dry drowning, they have also led to some conspiracy theories of political assassination.
Regency and institutional reform
The crown passed to Ludwig's brother Otto I. However, Otto had a long history of mental illness and had been placed under medical supervision a few months earlier. The duties of the throne actually rested in the hands of the brothers' uncle, Prince Luitpold, who had begun serving as regent for Ludwig II a few days earlier and continued to serve as regent for Otto.
During the regency of Prince-Regent Luitpold, from 1886 to 1912, relations between Bavaria and Prussia remained cold, with Bavarians remembering the anti-Catholic agenda of Bismarck's Kulturkampf, as well as Prussia's strategic dominance over the empire. Bavaria protested Prussian dominance over Germany and snubbed the Prussian-born German Emperor, Wilhelm II, in 1900, by forbidding the flying of any other flag other than the Bavarian flag on public buildings for the Emperor's birthday, but this was swiftly modified afterwards, allowing the German imperial flag to be hung beside the Bavarian flag.
The Catholic, conservative Patriotic Party founded in 1868 became the leading party in the Bavarian Landtag (Parliament). In 1887, its name was changed to Bavarian Centre. In 1893, the Social Democrats were elected to the parliament. From 1903, the University Education was also possible for female students. In 1906 a liberalization of the suffrage was carried out. With the Centre politician Georg von Hertling the Prince-Regent appointed to the head of government for the first time a representative of the Landtag's majority.
Luitpold's years as regent were marked by tremendous artistic and cultural activity in Bavaria where they are known as the Prinzregentenjahre ("The Prince Regent Years"). In 1912, Luitpold died, and his son, Prince-Regent Ludwig, took over as regent. By then, it had long been apparent that Otto would never be able to reign, and sentiment grew for Ludwig to become king in his own right. On 6 November, a year after the Landtag passed a law allowing him to do so, Ludwig ended the regency, deposed Otto and declared himself King of Bavaria as Ludwig III.
The Prinzregentenzeit ("prince's regent's time"), as the regency of Luitpold is often called, was due to the political passiveness of Luitpold an era of the gradual transfer of Bavarian interests behind those of the German empire. In connection with the unhappy end of the preceding rule of King Ludwig II this break in the Bavarian monarchy looked even stronger. Finally, the constitutional amendment of 1913 brought the determining break in the continuity of the king's rule in the opinion of historians, particularly as this change had been granted by the Landtag as a House of Representatives and meant therefore indirectly the first step from constitutional to the parliamentary monarchy. Today the connection of these two developments is regarded as a main cause for the unspectacular end of the Bavarian kingdom without opposition in the course of the November revolution of 1918. However the course of his 26-year regency Luitpold knew to overcome, by modesty, ability and popularity, the initial uneasiness of his subjects. These prince regent's years were transfigured, finally—above all in the retrospect – to a golden age of Bavaria, even if one mourned the "fairy tale king" Ludwig II furthermore what happens in a folkloric-nostalgic manner till this day.
With the establishment of the German Empire, a series of conventions brought the bulk of the various state military forces directly under the administration of the Prussian War Ministry. Bavaria however maintained a degree of autonomy in peacetime, with its own two (later three) army corps remaining outside the Prussian order of battle. The Bavarian infantry and cavalry regiments retained their historic light blue and green uniforms, distinctive from the Prussian model adopted throughout most of the army. The individual Bavarian soldier swore an oath of loyalty to King Ludwig, though in wartime this pledge of obedience was extended to Kaiser Wilhelm as supreme commander. In July 1914, the Bavarian Army numbered 92,400 or 11 percent of the total Imperial Army.
World War I and the end of the Kingdom
In 1914, a clash of alliances occurred over Austria-Hungary's invasion of Serbia following the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Bosnian Serb militant. Germany went to the side of its former rival-turned-ally, Austria-Hungary, and declared war on France and Russia. Following the German invasion of neutral Belgium the United Kingdom declared war on Germany. Initially, in Bavaria and all across Germany, recruits flocked enthusiastically to the German Army. At the outbreak of World War I King Ludwig III sent an official dispatch to Berlin to express Bavaria's solidarity. Later Ludwig even claimed annexations for Bavaria (Alsace and the city of Antwerp in Belgium, to receive an access to the sea). His hidden agenda was to maintain the balance of power between Prussia and Bavaria within the German Empire after a victory. Over time, with a stalemated and bloody war on the western front, Bavarians, like many Germans, grew weary of a continuing war.
King Ludwig III in Lwów
(Lemberg) 1915 during World War I
In 1917, when Germany's situation had gradually worsened due to World War I, the Bavarian Prime Minister Georg von Hertling became German Chancellor and Prime Minister of Prussia and Otto Ritter von Dandl was made new Prime Minister of Bavaria. Accused of showing blind loyalty to Prussia, Ludwig III became increasingly unpopular during the war. In 1918, the kingdom attempted to negotiate a separate peace with the allies but failed. By 1918, civil unrest was spreading across Bavaria and Germany; Bavarian defiance to Prussian hegemony and Bavarian separatism being key motivators.
On 7 November 1918, Ludwig fled from the Residenz Palace in Munich with his family. He was the first of the monarchs in the German Empire to be deposed. A few days later William II abdicated the throne of Germany. Ludwig took up residence in Austria for what was intended to be a temporary stay. On 12 November, he issued the Anif declaration, which released his soldiers and officials from their oath to him. Although he never formally abdicated, the socialist-led government of Kurt Eisner took Ludwig's declaration as such and declared the Wittelsbachs deposed. With this the 700-year rule of the Wittelsbach dynasty came to an end, and the former Kingdom of Bavaria became the People's State of Bavaria.
The funeral of Ludwig III in 1921 was feared or hoped to spark a restoration of the monarchy. Despite the abolition of the monarchy, the former King was laid to rest in front of the royal family, the Bavarian government, military personnel, and an estimated 100,000 spectators, in the style of royal funerals. Prince Rupprecht did not wish to use the occasion of the passing of his father to attempt to reestablish the monarchy by force, preferring to do so by legal means. Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, Archbishop of Munich, in his funeral speech, made a clear commitment to the monarchy while Rupprecht only declared that he had stepped into his birthright.