Sunday 13 October 2013

Diplomatic Flip Flops: Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria

Maximilian I (Maximilian Joseph; Schwetzingen, Germany, 27th May 1756 – Munich, Germany, 13th October 1825)

King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria by Joseph Stieler, 1822
Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria by Joseph Stieler, 1822

After yesterday's flights of fancy we are firmly back on solid ground today with no trace of or need for a parachute! I've had the girl get the best china out again in honour of another royal guest, a member of the very grand-sounding house of Palatinate-Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld... try saying that after a few clarets!

The boy who would become Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria was born to Count Palatine Frederick Michael of Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld and Maria Francisca of Sulzbach; as has been the case with so many of our noble guests, the young man's education was focussed on preparing him for a military life in the service of his country. His schooling was supervised by his uncle, Duke Christian IV of Zweibrücken, and the boy proved himself an able and dedicated student. 

A follower of enlightenment and sympathetic to many French policies, Maximilian entered French army at the rank of colonel and rose swiftly up the career ladder. However, when Revolution came to France and some serious sabre rattling could be heard coming from the direction of Austria, the young man found himself under pressure to change allegiance. Eventually he resigned his commission and joined the Austrian army instead, though his he would eventually become allied with Napoleon himself.

Auguste Wilhelmine Marie of Hesse-Darmstadt and her Youngest Children
Auguste Wilhelmine Marie of Hesse-Darmstadt and her Youngest Children

In 1785 Maximilian married Auguste Wilhelmine Marie of Hesse-Darmstadt, with whom he had five children; she died in 1796 aged just 31 and the following year he married again, this time to Karoline Friederike Wilhelmine of Baden, later to have eight children with her husband. The couple enjoyed many happy years together and Karoline was notable among Bavarian consorts as she was the only one to remain a Protestant throughout her marriage.

With the death of his brother, Charles II, on 1st April 1795, Maximilian became Duke of Zweibrücken. Four years later he acquired a very impressive collection of new titles if not the land to go with them when the death of Elector of Bavaria Charles Theodore saw Maximilian become Elector of Bavaria and Count Palatine of the Rhine, the Arch-Steward of the Empire, and Duke of Berg. Almost immediately Maximilian enacted a sweeping programme of reform across an enormous range of policies and procedures including criminal justice, religion, taxation and education. A born organiser, Maximilian and his minister, Maximilian, Graf von Montgelas, gathered together the disparate territories of Bavaria and began to create a coherent, united Bavarian state.

Karoline Friederike Wilhelmine of Baden
Karoline Friederike Wilhelmine of Baden

Maximilian founded both the Academy of Fine Arts and the National Theatre in Munich and prided himself on his easy relationship with his subjects. He would often walk through the city and chat to the people he encountered, winning their loyalty and respect due to his down to earth manner and abiding interest in their stories, regardless of their social status. He even personally intervened in efforts to rescue a boy trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building, changing that young man's life in the process.

As his reign went on and Austria made repeated efforts to move into Bavarian territory, Maximilian allied himself with Napoleon and agreed to a marriage between his own daughter and Eugène de Beauharnais. Napoleon rewarded his loyalty in 1806 when Maximilian was given the title of King and a generous parcel of land to seal the deal. He remained an ally of Napoleon until the Treaty of Ried in 1813 when France's defeat in Russia saw Maximilian switch sides in return for an Austrian guarantee that his kingdom would be safe. However, the Treaty was set aside at the Congress of Vienna when Maximilian found himself forced to hand over large amounts of territory once more.

Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria

Despite his territorial disputes and disappointments, Maximilian remained hugely popular with the Bavarian people. He died in 1825 in his beloved Nymphenburg Palace and was laid to rest at the Theatinerkirche in Munich amid much mourning.  and was succeeded on the throne by his son, Ludwig, whose own reign would end in abdication.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

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Unknown said...

Very educative and interesting post!!!!!

Jean-Paul Cerny said...

very interessing, good day my friend ♥

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you, Princess!

Catherine Curzon said...

A pleasure!

Unknown said...

Once again I'm amazed at the way military genius and a love of the arts go hand in hand. To found the Academy in such turbulent times was no mean feat at all. And how powerful was Napoleon's charisma to have such sway to lure him back into allegiance, though I suspect there were more political motives behind it than any real sense of loyalty...

Catherine Curzon said...

I think you're right about that; faced with Austria and France, I suspect he went with what he saw as the lesser of two evils!

Rachel said...

Thirteen kids?! Wow, he sure was a fertile little bugger wasn't he? :)

Unknown said...

They knew how to entertain themselves...

Catherine Curzon said...

He certainly kept himself (and his wives) busy!

Catherine Curzon said...

They *certainly* did!