Maximilian I Joseph, King of Bavaria

by Emily McMahon and Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

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:

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.

King Maximilian I Joseph, c1806. source: Wikipedia

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.

Princess Auguste of Hesse-Darmstadt. source: Wikipedia

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:

Princess Caroline of Baden. source: Wikipedia

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:

Tombs of King Maximilian I and his second wife, Queen Caroline, at the Theatinerkirche in Munich. Photo: © Susan Flantzer

King Maximilian I died on October 13, 1825 at the Nymphenburg Palace, and is buried in the crypt at the Theatinerkirche in Munich. His heart is interred at the Shrine of Our Lady of Altötting.

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