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Maximilian I Joseph
Portrait by Joseph Stieler, 1822
King of Bavaria
Succeeded by Ludwig I
Preceded by Charles I
Personal details
Born (1756-05-27)May 27, 1756
Schwetzingen, Baden
Died October 13, 1825(1825-10-13) (aged 69)
Munich, Bavaria
Spouse(s) Augusta Wilhelmine of Hesse-Darmstadt
Caroline of Baden

Maximilian I (also known as Maximilian Joseph) (27 May 1756 – 13 October 1825) was duke of Zweibrücken from 1795 to 1799, prince-elector of Bavaria (as Maximilian IV Joseph) from 1799 to 1805, king of Bavaria (as Maximilian I) from 1806 to 1825. He was a member of the House of Palatinate-Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld, a branch of the House of Wittelsbach.


Early life

Maximilian, the son of the count palatine Frederick Michael of Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld and Maria Francisca of Sulzbach, was born at Schwetzingen – between Heidelberg and Mannheim.

He was carefully educated under the supervision of his uncle, Duke Christian IV of Zweibrücken, became Count of Rappoltstein in 1776 and took service in 1777 as a colonel in the French army and rose rapidly to the rank of major-general. From 1782 to 1789 he was stationed at Strasbourg. During his time at the University Klemens von Metternich, the future Austrian chancellor was for some time accommodated by Prince Maximilian.[1] By the outbreak of the French Revolution Maximilian exchanged the French for the Austrian service, taking part in the opening campaigns of the revolutionary wars.

Duke of Zweibrücken and Elector of Bavaria and the Palatinate

Maximilian Joseph

On 1 April 1795 he succeeded his brother, Charles II, as duke of Zweibrücken, however, his duchy was entirely occupied by the French. On 16 February 1799 Maximilian Joseph became Elector of Bavaria and Count Palatine of the Rhine, the Arch-Steward of the Empire, and Duke of Berg on the extinction of the Palatinate-Sulzbach line with the death of the elector Charles Theodore.

The sympathy with France and with French ideas of enlightenment which characterized his reign was at once manifested. In the newly organized ministry Count Max Josef von Montgelas, who, after falling into disfavour with Charles Theodore, had acted for a time as Maximilian Joseph's private secretary, was the most potent influence, an influence wholly "enlightened" and French. Agriculture and commerce were fostered, the laws were ameliorated, a new criminal code drawn up, taxes and imposts equalized without regard to traditional privileges, while a number of religious houses were suppressed and their revenues used for educational and other useful purposes. He closed the University of Ingolstadt in May 1800 and moved it to Landshut.

In foreign politics Maximilian Joseph's attitude was from the German point of view less commendable. With the growing sentiment of German nationality he had from first to last no sympathy, and his attitude throughout was dictated by wholly dynastic, or at least Bavarian, considerations. Until 1813 he was the most faithful of Napoleon's German allies, the relation being cemented by the marriage of his eldest daughter to Eugène de Beauharnais. His reward came with the Treaty of Pressburg (26 December 1805), by the terms of which he was to receive the royal title and important territorial acquisitions in Swabia and Franconia to round off his kingdom. He assumed the title of king on 1 January 1806. On 15 March he ceded the Duchy of Berg to Napoleon's brother-in-law Joachim Murat.

King of Bavaria

Max I Joseph, Bust by Ernst von Bandel (1826)

The new king of Bavaria was the most important of the princes belonging to the Confederation of the Rhine, and remained Napoleon's ally until the eve of the Battle of Leipzig, when by the Treaty of Ried (8 October 1813) he made the guarantee of the integrity of his kingdom the price of his joining the Allies. On 14 October, Bavaria made a formal declaration of war against Napoleonic France. The treaty was passionately backed by Crown Prince Ludwig and by Marshal von Wrede.

By the first Treaty of Paris (3 June 1814), however, he ceded Tyrol to Austria in exchange for the former Grand Duchy of Würzburg. At the Congress of Vienna, which he attended in person, Maximilian had to make further concessions to Austria, ceding Salzburg and the quarters of the Inn and Hausruckviertel in return for the western part of the old Palatinate. The king fought hard to maintain the contiguity of the Bavarian territories as guaranteed at Ried but the most he could obtain was an assurance from Metternich in the matter of the Baden succession, in which he was also doomed to be disappointed.

At Vienna and afterwards Maximilian sturdily opposed any reconstitution of Germany which should endanger the independence of Bavaria, and it was his insistence on the principle of full sovereignty being left to the German reigning princes that largely contributed to the loose and weak organization of the new German Confederation. The Federal Act of the Vienna Congress was proclaimed in Bavaria, not as a law but as an international treaty. It was partly to secure popular support in his resistance to any interference of the federal diet in the internal affairs of Bavaria, partly to give unity to his somewhat heterogeneous territories, that Maximilian on 26 May 1818 granted a liberal constitution to his people. Montgelas, who had opposed this concession, had fallen in the previous year, and Maximilian had also reversed his ecclesiastical policy, signing on 24 October 1817 a concordat with Rome by which the powers of the clergy, largely curtailed under Montgelas's administration, were restored. The new parliament proved to be more independent than he had anticipated and in 1819 Maximilian resorted to appealing to the powers against his own creation; but his Bavarian "particularism" and his genuine popular sympathies prevented him from allowing the Carlsbad Decrees to be strictly enforced within his dominions. The suspects arrested by order of the Mainz Commission he was accustomed to examine himself, with the result that in many cases the whole proceedings were quashed, and in not a few the accused dismissed with a present of money.

Maximilian died at Nymphenburg Palace, near Munich, on 13 October 1825 and was succeeded by his son Ludwig I. Maximilian is buried in the crypt of the Theatinerkirche in Munich.

Cultural legacy

Monument of Max I Joseph before the National Theatre, Munich

Under the reign of Maximilian Joseph the Bavarian Secularization (1802–1803) led to the nationalisation of cultural assets of the Church. The Protestants were emancipated. In 1808 he founded the Academy of Fine Arts Munich.

The city of Munich was extended by the first systematic expansion with the new Brienner Strasse as core. In 1810 Max Joseph ordered construction of the National Theatre Munich in French neo-classic style. The monument Max-Joseph Denkmal before the National Theatre was created in the middle of the square Max-Joseph-Platz as a memorial for King Maximilian Joseph by Christian Daniel Rauch and carried out by Johann Baptist Stiglmaier. It was only revealed in 1835 since the king had rejected to be eternalized in sitting position.

In 1801 he led the rescue operation when a glassmaker's workshop collapsed, saving the life of Joseph von Fraunhofer, a 14 year-old orphan apprentice. Max Joseph donated books and directed the glassmaker to give Fraunhofer time to study. Fraunhofer went on to become one of the most famous optical scientists and artisans in history, inventing the spectroscope and spectroscopy, making Bavaria noted for fine optics, and joining the nobility before his death at age 39.

He was elected a Royal Fellow of the Royal Society in 1802.[2]

Private life and family

In private life, Maximilian was kindly and simple. He loved to play the part of Landesvater, walking about the streets of his capital en bourgeois and entering into conversation with all ranks of his subjects, by whom he was regarded with great affection.

Maximilian married twice and had a total of thirteen children.

His first wife was Auguste Wilhelmine Marie of Hesse-Darmstadt, daughter of Prince Georg Wilhelm of Hesse-Darmstadt — (14 April 1765 – 30 March 1796). They were married on 30 September 1785 in Darmstadt. There were five children of this marriage.

  • Ludwig I of Bavaria (1786–1868), married Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.
  • Augusta Amalia Ludovika Georgia, Princess of Bavaria and Duchess of Leuchtenberg (21 June 1788 – 13 May 1851), married Eugène de Beauharnais.
  • Amalie Marie Auguste, Countess Palatine of the Rhine and of Zweibrücken (October 1790 –24 January 1794).
  • Caroline Auguste, Princess of Bavaria and Empress of Austria (8 February 1792 – 9 February 1873), married William I of Württemberg, and then Francis I of Austria.
  • Karl Theodor Maximilian August, Prince of Bavaria (7 July 1795 – 16 August 1875).

Maximilian's second wife was Karoline Friederike Wilhelmine of Baden, daughter of Margrave Karl Ludwig of Baden — (13 July 1776 – 13 November 1841). They were married on 9 March 1797 in Karlsruhe. There were eight children of this marriage.

The king's youngest daughters (Marie, Sophie and Maximiliane) by Stieler

  • Stillborn son (5 September 1799).
  • Karl Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Maximilian Joseph, Prince of Bavaria (28 October 1800 – 12 February 1803).
  • Elisabeth Ludovika, Princess of Bavaria and Queen of Prussia ("Elise") (13 November 1801 – 14 December 1873), married Frederick William IV of Prussia.
  • Amalie Auguste, Princess of Bavaria and Queen of Saxony (13 November 1801 – 8 November 1877), married John I of Saxony.
  • Sophie, Princess of Bavaria and Archduchess of Austria (1805–1872), mother of Franz Joseph I of Austria and Maximilian I of Mexico.
  • Marie Anne Leopoldine Elisabeth Wilhelmine, Princess of Bavaria (27 January 1805 – 13 September 1877), married Frederick Augustus II of Saxony.
  • Marie Ludovika Wilhelmine Princess of Bavaria (1808–1892), married Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria.
  • Maximiliana Josepha Caroline, Princess of Bavaria (21 July 1810 – 4 February 1821).


  • 27 May 1756 - 1 April 1795: His Serene Highness Prince Maximillian Joseph of Bavaria
  • 1 April 1795 - 16 February 1799: His Highness The Duke of Zweibrücken
  • 16 February 1799 - 1 January 1806: His Highness The Duke of Zweibrücken, Elector of Bavaria, Duke of Berg, Elector Palatine
  • 1 January 1806 - 13 October 1825: His Majesty The King of Bavaria


King Maximilian I Joseph's relation to Elector Maximilian I of Bavaria

Francis I, Duke of LorraineChristina of Denmark
        1517–1545              |        1522–1590
            |                                      |
Charles III, Duke of Lorraine               Renata of LorraineWilliam V of Bavaria
        1543–1608                              1544–1602        |      1548–1626
            |                               +-------------------+----------+----------------------------+
            |                               |                              |                            |
            |                               |                      Maria Anna of Bavaria    Magdalene of Bavaria
            |                               |                          1574–1616                    1587–1628
            |                               |                              |                            |
  Elizabeth of LorraineMaximilian I, Elector of BavariaMaria Anna of Austria                   |
        1574–1635         (1)           1573–1651              (2)     1610–1655                        |
                          Philipp Wilhelm, Elector Palatine
                          Karl III Philip, Elector Palatine
                   Elizabeth Augusta Sophie, Pfalzgräfin von Neuburg
                                Maria Francisca Sulzbach
                                Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria

See also

  • List of rulers of Bavaria
  • History of Bavaria


  • Palmer, Alan (1972). Metternich: Councillor of Europe (1997 reprint ed.). London: Orion. ISBN 978-1-85799-868-9. 


  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911) Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.) Cambridge University Press 
Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria
House of Wittelsbach
Born: 27 May 1756 Died: 13 October 1825
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Karl II
Duke of Zweibrücken
Annexed by France in 1801, returned after the Congress of Vienna in 1815, merged into the Rhenish Palatinate
Preceded by
Charles Theodore
Elector of Bavaria
As Maximillian IV

Abolition of Holy Roman Empire
Preceded by
Charles Theodore
Elector Palatine
Abolition of Holy Roman Empire
Preceded by
Charles Theodore
Duke of Berg
Succeeded by
Joachim Murat
New creation Wappen Deutsches Reich - Königreich Bayern (Grosses).jpg
King of Bavaria

Succeeded by
Ludwig I
Preceded by
Napoleon I
Duke of Salzburg
Succeeded by

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