by Emily McMahon and Scott Mehl
King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria
King Maximilian I Joseph was the first King of Bavaria, reigning from 1806 until his death in 1825. He was born on May 27, 1756 in Schwetzingen, Germany, the son of Friedrich Michael, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld and Maria Franziska, Countess Palatine of Sulzbach.
He had four older siblings:
- Karl II August, Duke of Zweibrücken (1746) – married Princess Maria Amalia of Saxony, had issue
- Klemens August (1749) – died in infancy
- Maria Amalie (1752) – married King Friedrich August I of Saxony, had issue
- Maria Anna (1753) – married Duke Wilhelm in Bavaria, had issue
Maximilian was educated under the watchful eye of his uncle, Christian IV, Duke of Zweibrücken, and several years after his father’s death in 1767, he was set up with his own household at the Hôtel des Deux-Ponts in Strasbourg, which was purchased by his uncle in 1770. Maximilian would remain at the Hôtel des Deux-Ponts until 1790.
He also joined the French army stationed in Strasbourg, and quickly rose through the ranks, attaining the rank of Major General. Following the French Revolution and the occupation of Zweibrücken during the Napoleonic Wars, Maximilian joined the Austrian army. He succeeded his brother Charles as Duke of Zweibrücken in 1795 and became Elector of Bavaria, Duke of Berg, and Count Palatine of the Rhine on February 16, 1799.
Despite his switch in service to the Austrian army, Maximilian allied his electorate to Napoleon and adopted many of the French beliefs of enlightenment. It was this loyal service to Napoleon through which Maximilian’s electorate was created a kingdom with Maximilian at its head. He officially became the first King of Bavaria on January 1, 1806. In March of that year, he ceded the Duchy of Berg to Joachim Murat, Napoleon’s brother-in-law.
Shortly before the decisive Battle of Leipzig, Maximilian parted with his ally Napoleon to fight with Prussian, Russian, Swedish, and Austrian forces. Maximilian did this on the condition that should Napoleon’s forces be defeated, Bavaria would remain a kingdom. Following Napoleon’s downfall, Maximilian did end up in a territorial squabble with Austria that lasted several years. As one of the most powerful rulers in Germany, Maximilian strongly supported the sovereignty of the individual duchies, principalities, kingdoms, and city-states within a larger German Confederation.
As one of the more liberal rulers during the first half of the 19th century, Maximilian granted Bavaria with a constitution in 1816. Maximilian also made Munich a center for the arts in Bavaria, founding the Academy of Fine Arts and the commissioning the construction of the National Theatre.
Maximilian married for the first time on September 30, 1785, in Darmstadt. His bride, Princess Auguste of Hesse-Darmstadt, was the daughter of Prince Georg Wilhelm of Hesse-Darmstadt and Countess Maria Luise Albertine of Leiningen-Falkenburg-Dagsburg. They had five children:
- King Ludwig I (1786) – married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, had issue
- Princess Augusta (1788) – married Eugène de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg, had issue
- Princess Amalie (1790) – died in infancy
- Princess Caroline Augusta (1792) – married (1) the future King Wilhelm I of Württemberg, no issue; (2) Emperor Franz I of Austria, no issue
- Prince Karl Theodor (1795) married (1) Maria de Pétin, had issue; (2) Henriette Schöller, no issue
Auguste died in March 1796, and the following year, on July 9, 1797 in Karlsruhe, Maximilian married for a second time, to Princess Caroline of Baden, daughter of Carl Ludwig, Hereditary Prince of Baden and Landgravine Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt. Maximilian and Amalie had seven children:
- Prince Maximilian (1800) – died in infancy
- Princess Elisabeth Ludovika (1801) – married King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, no issue
- Princess Amalie Auguste (1801) – married King Johann of Saxony, had issue
- Princess Sophie Friederike (1805) – married Archduke Franz Karl of Austria, had issue
- Princess Maria Anna Leopoldine (1805) – married King Friedrich August II of Saxony, had issue
- Princess Ludovika Wilhelmine (1808) – married Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria, had issue
- Princess Maximiliana (1810) – died in childhood