History of Baden-Württemberg

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Baden-Württemberg is one of the 16 states of Germany corresponding to an area that used to be covered by the historical state of Baden, the former Prussian Hohenzollern, and Württemberg, part of the region of Swabia.[1]

Baden-Württemberg, a relatively young federal state, has only existed since 1952.

History of Baden[edit]

The Grand Duchy of Baden (Großherzogtum Baden) within Germany at the time of the German Empire

The history of Baden as a state began in the 12th century, as a fief of the Holy Roman Empire. A fairly inconsequential margraviate that was divided between various branches of its ruling family for much of its history, it gained both status and territory during the Napoleonic era, when it was also raised to a grand duchy. In 1871, it became one of the founder states of the German Empire. The monarchy came to an end with the end of the First World War, but Baden itself continued in existence as a state of Germany until the end of the Second World War.

Its territory now forms part of the German state of Baden-Württemberg.

12th–14th centuries[edit]

Main article: Margrave of Baden

During the Middle Ages, various counts ruled the country that now forms Baden, among whom the counts and duchy of Zähringen figure prominently. In 1112, Hermann, son of Hermann, Margrave of Verona (died 1074) and grandson of Berthold, duke of Carinthia and count of Zähringen, having inherited some of the German estates of his family, called himself Margrave of Baden. The separate history of Baden dates from this time. Hermann appears to have called himself "margrave" rather than "count," because of the family connection to the margrave of Verona.

His son and grandson, both called Hermann, added to their territories, which were then divided, and the lines of Baden-Baden and Baden-Hochberg were founded, the latter of which divided about a century later into Baden-Hochberg and Baden-Sausenberg. The family of Baden-Baden was very successful in increasing the area of its holdings, which after several divisions were united by the margrave Bernard I in 1391. Bernard, a soldier of some renown, continued the work of his predecessors, and obtained other districts, including Baden-Hochberg, the ruling family of which died out in 1418.

15th–17th centuries[edit]

Christophe I of Baden, by Hans Baldung Grien, 1515

During the 15th century, a war with the count palatine of the Rhine deprived the Margrave Charles I (died 1475) of a part of his territories, but these losses were more than recovered by his son and successor, Christophe I of Baden (illustration, right). In 1503, the family Baden-Sausenberg became extinct, and the whole of Baden was united by Christophe who, before his death in 1527, divided it among his three sons. One of these sons died childless in 1533. In 1535, his remaining sons Bernard and Ernest, having shared their brother's territories, made a fresh division and founded the lines of Baden-Baden and Baden-Pforzheim, called Baden-Durlach after 1565. Further divisions followed, and the weakness caused by these partitions was accentuated by a rivalry between the two main branches of the family, culminating in open warfare. From 1584 to 1622, Baden-Baden was in the possession of one of the princes of Baden-Durlach.

Religious differences increased the family's rivalry. During the period of the Reformation some of the rulers of Baden remained Catholic and some became Protestants, and the house was similarly divided during the Thirty Years' War. Baden suffered severely during this struggle, and both branches of the family were exiled in turn. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 restored the status quo, and the family rivalry gradually died out.

18th century[edit]

During the wars of the reign of Louis XIV of France the margravate was ravaged by French troops, and the towns of Pforzheim, Durlach, and Baden were destroyed. The margrave of Baden-Baden, Louis William (died 1707), figured prominently among the soldiers who resisted the aggressions of France.

It was the life's work of Charles Frederick of Baden-Durlach to give territorial unity to his country. Beginning his reign in 1738, and coming of age in 1746, this prince is the most notable of the rulers of Baden. He was interested in the development of agriculture and commerce, sought to improve education and the administration of justice, and proved in general to be a wise and liberal ruler of the in the Age of Enlightenment.

In 1771, Augustus George of Baden-Baden died without sons, and his territories passed to Charles Frederick, who thus finally became ruler of the whole of Baden. Although Baden was united under a single ruler, the territory was not united in its customs and tolls, tax structure, laws or government. Baden did not form a compact territory. Rather, a number of separated districts lay on both banks of the upper Rhine.[2] His opportunity for territorial aggrandisement came during the Napoleonic wars.

The French Revolution and Napoleon[edit]

Main article: Grand Duchy of Baden

When the French Revolution threatened to be exported throughout Europe in 1792, Baden joined forces against France, and its countryside was devastated once more. In 1796, the margrave was compelled to pay an indemnity and to cede his territories on the left bank of the Rhine to France. Fortune, however, soon returned to his side. In 1803, largely owing to the good offices of Alexander I, emperor of Russia, he received the bishopric of Konstanz, part of the Rhenish Palatinate, and other smaller districts, together with the dignity of a prince-elector. Changing sides in 1805, he fought for Napoleon, with the result that, by the peace of Pressburg in that year, he obtained the Breisgau and other territories at the expense of the Habsburgs (see Further Austria). In 1806, he joined the Confederation of the Rhine, declared himself a sovereign prince, became a grand duke, and received additional territory.

The Baden contingent continued to assist France, and by the Peace of Vienna in 1809, the grand duke was rewarded with accessions of territory at the expense of the Kingdom of Württemberg. Having quadrupled the area of Baden, Charles Frederick died in June 1811, and was succeeded by his grandson, Charles, Grand Duke of Baden, who was married to Stéphanie de Beauharnais (1789–1860), a cousin of Empress Josephine's first husband who had been adopted by Napoleon I.

Charles fought for his father-in-law until after the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, when he joined the Allies.

Baden in the German Confederation[edit]

Monument to the Constitution of Baden (and the Grand Duke for granting it), in Rondellplatz, Karlsruhe, Germany

In 1815, Baden became a member of the German Confederation established by the Act of the 8th of June, annexed to the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna of June 9. In the haste of the winding-up of the Congress, however, the question of the succession to the grand duchy had not been settled. This question was soon to become acute.

The treaty of April 16, 1816, by which the territorial disputes between Austria and Bavaria were settled, guaranteed the succession to the Baden Palatinate to king Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria, in the expected event of the extinction of the line of Zähringen. As a counterblast to this, in 1817, the grand duke Charles issued a pragmatic sanction (Hausgesetz) declaring the counts of Höchberg, the issue of a morganatic marriage between the grand-duke Charles Frederick and Luise Geyer von Geyersberg (created countess Höchberg), capable of succeeding to the crown. A controversy between Bavaria and Baden resulted, which was only decided in favour of the Höchberg claims by the treaty signed by the four great powers and Baden at Frankfurt on July 10, 1819.

Meanwhile, the dispute produced important effects in Baden. In order to secure popular support for the Hochberg heir, in 1818, Grand Duke Charles granted to the grand duchy, under Article XIII of the Act of Confederation, a liberal constitution, under which two chambers were constituted and their assent declared necessary for legislation and taxation. The outcome was of importance far beyond the narrow limits of the duchy, for all of Germany watched the constitutional experiments of the southern states.

In Baden, the conditions were not favourable to success. During the revolutionary period, the people had fallen completely under the influence of French ideas, and this was sufficiently illustrated by the temper of the new chambers, which tended to model their activity on the proceedings of the National Convention (1792-1795) in the earlier days of the French Revolution. On the other hand, the new Grand Duke Louis I (ruled 1818-1830), who had succeeded in 1818, was unpopular, and the administration was in the hands of hide-bound and inefficient bureaucrats.

The result was a deadlock. Even before the promulgation of the Carlsbad Decrees in October 1819, the Grand Duke had prorogued the chambers after three months of sterile debate. The reaction that followed was as severe in Baden as elsewhere in Germany, and culminated in 1823 when, on the refusal of the chambers to vote the military budget, the Grand Duke dissolved them and levied the taxes on his own authority. In January 1825, owing to official pressure, only three Liberals were returned to the chamber. A law was passed making the budget presentable only every three years, and the constitution ceased to have any active existence.

In 1830, Grand Duke Louis was succeeded by his half-brother Grand Duke Leopold (ruled 1830-1852), the first of the Höchberg line. The July Revolution (1830) in France led to no disturbances in Baden, but the new Grand Duke showed liberal tendencies from the beginning. The elections of 1830 proceeded without interference, and resulted in the return of a Liberal majority. The next few years saw the introduction, under successive ministries, of Liberal reforms in the constitution, in criminal and civil law, and in education. In 1832, the adhesion of Baden to the Prussian Zollverein did much for the material prosperity of the country.

1849 Baden Revolution[edit]

By 1847, radicalism once more began to raise its head in Baden. On September 12, 1847, a popular demonstration held at Offenburg passed resolutions demanding the conversion of the regular army into a national militia, which should take an oath to the constitution, a progressive income tax, and a fair adjustment of the interests of capital and labour.

The news of the revolution of February 1848 in Paris brought the agitation to a head. Numerous public meetings were held and adopted the Offenburg programme. On March 4, 1848, under the influence of the popular excitement, the lower chamber accepted this programme almost unanimously. As in other German states, the government bowed to the storm, proclaimed an amnesty and promised reforms. The ministry remodelled itself in a more Liberal direction, and sent a new delegate to the federal diet at Frankfurt, empowered to vote for the establishment of a parliament for a united Germany.

The disorders, fomented by republican agitators, nonetheless continued. The efforts of the government to suppress them with the aid of federal troops led to an armed insurrection, which mastered without much difficulty. The uprising, led by Friedrich Hecker and Franz Joseph Trefzger, lost at Kandern on April 20, 1848.Freiburg, which they held, fell on April 24 and, on April 27, a Franco-German legion, which had invaded Baden from Strasbourg, was routed at Dossenbach.

In the beginning of 1849, however, the issue of a new constitution, in accordance with the resolutions of the Frankfurt parliament, led to more serious trouble. It did little to satisfy the radicals, angered by the refusal of the second chamber to agree to their proposal for the summoning of a constituent assembly on February 10, 1849.

The new insurrection that broke out proved a more formidable affair than the first. A military mutiny at Rastatt on May 11 showed that the army sympathised with the revolution, which was proclaimed two days later at Offenburg amid tumultuous scenes. Also on May 13, a mutiny at Karlsruhe forced Grand Duke Leopold to flee and, the next day, his ministers followed, while a committee of the diet under Lorenz Brentano (1813-1891), who represented the more moderate radicals against the republicans, established itself in the capital to attempt to direct affairs pending the establishment of a provisional government.

This was accomplished on June 1 and, on June 10, the constituent diet, consisting entirely of the most "advanced" politicians, assembled. It had little chance of doing more than make speeches. The country remained in the hands of an armed mob of civilians and mutinous soldiers. Meanwhile, the Grand Duke of Baden had joined with Bavaria in requesting the armed intervention of Prussia, which Berlin granted on the condition that Baden would join the League of the Three Kings.

From this moment, the revolution in Baden was doomed, and with it the revolution in all Germany. The Prussians, under Prince William (afterwards William I, German Emperor), invaded Baden in the middle of June 1849. Afraid of a military escalation, Brentano reacted hesitantly—too hesitantly for the more radical Gustav Struve and his followers, who overthrew him and established a Pole, Ludwig Mieroslawski (1814-1878), in his place.

Mieroslawski reduced the insurgents to some semblance of order. On June 20, 1849, he met the Prussians at Waghausel, and suffered complete defeat. On June 25, Prince William entered Karlsruhe and, at the end of the month, the members of the provisional government, who had taken refuge at Freiburg, dispersed. The insurgent leaders that were caught, notably the ex-officers, suffered military execution. The army was dispersed among Prussian garrison towns, and Prussian troops occupied Baden for a time. Franz Trefzger managed to escape to Switzerland.

Grand Duke Leopold returned on August 10, and at once dissolved the diet. The following elections resulted in a majority favourable to the new ministry, which passed a series of laws of a reactionary tendency with a view to strengthening the government.


Grand Duke Leopold died on April 24, 1852, and was succeeded by his second son, Frederick, as regent, the eldest, Louis II, Grand Duke of Baden (died January 22, 1858), being incapable of ruling. The internal affairs of Baden during the period that followed have comparatively little general interest. In the greater politics of Germany, Baden between 1850 and 1866 was a consistent supporter of Austria. In the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Austria's contingents, under Prince William, had two sharp engagements with the Prussian army of the Main. However, on July 24, 1866, two days before the Battle of Werbach, the second chamber petitioned the Grand Duke to end the war and enter into an offensive and defensive alliance with Prussia.

Towards the German Empire[edit]

Grand Duke Frederick I (ruled 1856-1907) opposed the war with Prussia from the first, but yielded to popular resentment at the policy of Prussia on the Schleswig-Holstein question. The ministry, now as one, resigned. Baden announced her withdrawal from the German Confederation and, on August 17, 1866, signed a treaty of peace and alliance with Prussia. Bismarck himself resisted the adhesion of Baden to the North German Confederation. He had no wish to give Napoleon III of France a good excuse for intervention, but the opposition of Baden to the formation of a South German confederation made the ultimate union inevitable. The troops of Baden took a conspicuous share in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and it was Grand Duke Frederick of Baden, who, in the historic assembly of the German princes at Versailles, was the first to hail the king of Prussia as German emperor.


The internal politics of Baden, both before and after 1870, centred in the main around the question of religion. The signing on June 28, 1859, of a concordat with the Holy See, which placed education under the oversight of the clergy and facilitated the establishment of religious institutes, led to a constitutional struggle. This struggle ended in 1863 with the victory of secular principles, making the communes responsible for education, though admitting the priests to a share in the management. The quarrel between secularism and Catholicism, however, did not end. In 1867, on the accession to the premiership of Julius von Jolly (1823-1891), several constitutional changes in a secular direction occurred: responsibility of ministers, freedom of the press, and compulsory education. On September 6, 1867, a law compelled all candidates for the priesthood to pass government examinations. The archbishop of Freiburg resisted, and, on his death in April 1868, the see remained vacant.

In 1869, the introduction of civil marriage did not allay the strife, which reached its climax after the proclamation of the dogma of papal infallibility in 1870. The Kulturkampf raged in Baden, as in the rest of Germany and, here as elsewhere, the government encouraged the formation of Old Catholic communities. Not until 1880, after the fall of the ministry of Jolly, did Baden reconcile with Rome. In 1882, the archbishopric of Freiburg was again filled.

Baden in the German Empire[edit]

The political tendency of Baden, meanwhile, mirrored that of all Germany. In 1892, the National Liberals had but a majority of one in the diet. From 1893, they could maintain themselves only with the aid of the Conservatives and, in 1897, a coalition of Ultramontanes, Socialists, Social Democrats and Radicals (Freisinnige) won a majority for the opposition in the chamber.

Amid all these contests, the wise and statesmanlike moderation of the Grand Duke Frederick won him universal esteem. By the treaty under which Baden had become an integral part of the German Empire in 1871, he had reserved only the exclusive right to tax beer and spirits. The army, the post-office, railways and the conduct of foreign relations passed under the effective control of Prussia.

In his relations with the German empire, too, Frederick proved himself more of a great German noble than a sovereign prince actuated by particularist ambitions. His position as husband of the emperor William I's only daughter, Louise (whom he had married in 1856), gave him a peculiar influence in the councils of Berlin. When, on September 20, 1906, the Grand Duke celebrated at once the jubilee of his reign and his golden wedding anniversary, all Europe honoured him. King Edward VII sent him, by the hands of the Duke of Connaught, the order of the Garter. But more significant, perhaps, was the tribute paid by Le Temps, the leading Parisian paper:

Nothing more clearly demonstrates the sterile paradox of the Napoleonic work than the history of the Grand Duchy. It was Napoleon, and he alone, who created this whole state in 1803 to reward in the person of the little margrave of Baden a relative of the emperor of Russia. It was he who after Austerlitz aggrandized the margravate at the expense of Austria; transformed it into a sovereign principality and raised it to a Grand Duchy. It was he too who, by the secularization on the one hand and by the dismemberment of Württemberg on the other, gave the Grand Duke 500,000 new subjects. He believed that the recognition of the prince and the artificial ethnical formation of the principality would be pledges of security for France. But in 1813 Baden joined the coalition, and since then that nation created of odds and ends ("de bric et de broc") and always handsomely treated by us, had not ceased to take a leading part in the struggles against our country. The Grand Duke Frederick, Grand Duke by the will of Napoleon, has done France all the harm he could. But French opinion itself renders justice to the probity of his character and to the ardour of his patriotism, and nobody will feel surprise at the homage with which Germany feels bound to surround his old age.

Grand Duke Frederick I died at Mainau on September 28, 1907. He was succeeded by his son, the Grand Duke Frederick II (ruled 1907-1918, died 1928).


Main article: Republic of Baden

In the confusion at the end of World War I, Frederick abdicated on 22 November 1918. A republic had already been declared on 14 November.

History of Württemberg[edit]

Württemberg developed as a political entity in southwest Germany, with the core established around Stuttgart by Count Conrad (died 1110). His descendants managed to expand Württemberg while surviving Germany's religious wars, changes in imperial policy, and invasions from France. The state had a basic parliamentary system that changed to absolutism in the 18th century. The state was recognised as a kingdom in 1806–1918 and is now a part of the state of Baden-Württemberg. Württemberg was often spelt "Wirtemberg" or "Wurtemberg" in English.


The former Württemberg Castle in an 18th-century print

The origin of the name "Württemberg" remains obscure. Scholars have universally rejected the once-popular derivation from "Wirth am Berg". Some authorities derive it from a proper name: "Wiruto" or "Wirtino," others from a Celtic place-name, "Virolunum" or "Verdunum". In any event, from serving as the name of a castle near the Stuttgart city district of Rotenberg, it extended over the surrounding country and, as the lords of this district increased their possessions, so the name covered an ever-widening area, until it reached its present denotation. Early forms of it include Wirtenberg, Wirtembenc and Wirtenberc. Wirtemberg was long accepted, and in the latter part of the 16th century Würtemberg and Wurttemberg appeared. In 1806, Württemberg became the official spelling, though Wurtemberg also appears frequently and occurs sometimes in official documents, and even on coins issued after that date.

Württemberg's first known inhabitants, the Celts, preceded the arrival of the Suebi. In the first century AD, the Romans conquered the land and defended their position there by constructing a rampart (limes). Early in the third century, the Alemanni drove the Romans beyond the Rhine and the Danube, but in their turn they succumbed to the Franks under Clovis, the decisive battle taking place in 496.

For about 400 years, the district formed part of the Frankish empire, administered by counts but, in the ninth century, the German Duchy of Swabia subsumed it.

Counts of Württemberg to 1495[edit]

Arms of the counts of Württemberg
Eberhard III in Council

The Hohenstaufen family controlled the duchy of Swabia until the death of Conradin in 1268, when a considerable part of its lands fell to the representative of a family first mentioned in about 1080, the count of Württemberg, Conrad von Beutelsbach, who took the name from his ancestral castle of Württemberg.

The earliest historical details of a Count of Württemberg relate to one Ulrich I, Count of Württemberg, who ruled from 1241 to 1265. He served as marshal of Swabia and advocate of the town of Ulm, had large possessions in the valleys of the Neckar and the Rems, and acquired Urach in 1260. Under his sons, Ulrich II and Eberhard I, and their successors, the power of the family grew steadily. Eberhard I (died 1325) opposed, sometimes successfully, three German kings. He doubled the area of his county and transferred his residence from Württemberg Castle to the "Old Castle" in today's city centre of Stuttgart.

His successors were not as prominent, but all added something to the land area of Württemberg. In 1381, the Duchy of Teck was bought, and marriage to an heiress added Montbéliard in 1397. The family divided its lands amongst collateral branches several times but, in 1482, the Treaty of Münsingen reunited the territory, declared it indivisible, and united it under Count Eberhard V, called im Bart (The Bearded). This arrangement received the sanction of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, and of the Imperial Diet, in 1495.

Unusually for Germany, from 1457 Württemberg had a bicameral parliament, the Landtag, known otherwise as the "diet" or "Estates" of Württemberg, that had to approve new taxation.

In 1477, Count Eberhard founded the University of Tübingen and expelled the Jews.

The Duchy of Württemberg (1495–1803)[edit]

Main article: Duchy of Württemberg

The dukedom survived mainly because it was larger than its immediate neighbours. However, it was often under pressure during the Reformation from the Catholic Holy Roman Empire, and from repeated French invasions in the 17th and 18th centuries. Württemberg happened to be in the path of French and Austrian armies engaged in the long rivalry between the Bourbon and Habsburg dynasties.

Medieval dukedom and Austrian rule[edit]

Eberhard V proved one of the most energetic rulers that Württemberg ever had and, in 1495, his county became a duchy. He was now Duke Eberhard I, Duke of Württemberg.[3] At his death in 1496, his cousin, Duke Eberhard II, succeeded for a short reign of two years, terminated by a deposition.

The long reign (1498–1550) of Duke Ulrich, who succeeded to the duchy while still a child, proved a most eventful period for the country, and many traditions cluster round the name of this gifted, unscrupulous and ambitious man. The extortions by which he sought to raise money for his extravagant pleasures excited a rising known as the arme Konrad (Poor Conrad), not unlike the rebellion in England led by Wat Tyler. The authorities soon restored order, and, in 1514, by the Treaty of Tübingen, the people undertook to pay the duke's debts in return for various political privileges, which in effect laid the foundation of the constitutional liberties of the country. A few years later, Ulrich quarrelled with the Swabian League, and its forces (helped by William IV, Duke of Bavaria, angered by the treatment meted out by Ulrich to his wife Sabina, a Bavarian princess), invaded Württemberg, expelled the duke and sold his duchy to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, for 220,000 gulden.

Charles handed over Württemberg to his brother, the German king Ferdinand I, who served as nominal ruler for a few years. Soon, however, the discontent caused by the oppressive Austrian rule, the disturbances in Germany leading to the German Peasants' War and the commotions aroused by the Reformation gave Ulrich an opportunity to recover his duchy. Aided by Philip, landgrave of Hesse, and other Protestant princes, he fought a victorious battle against Ferdinand's troops at Lauffen in May 1534. Then, by the treaty of Cadan, he again became duke, but perforce duke of the duchy as an Austrian fief. He subsequently introduced the reformed religious doctrines, endowed Protestant churches and schools throughout his land, and founded the Tübinger Stift seminary in 1536. Ulrich's connection with the Schmalkaldic League led to another expulsion but, in 1547, Charles V reinstated him, albeit on somewhat onerous terms.

Reformation period[edit]

The total population during the 16th century was between 300,000 and 400,000. Ulrich's son and successor, Christopher (1515–1568), completed the work of converting his subjects to the reformed faith. He introduced a system of church government, the Grosse Kirchenordnung, which endured in part into the 20th century. In this reign, a standing commission started to superintend the finances, and the members of this body, all of whom belonged to the upper classes, gained considerable power in the state, mainly at the expense of the towns.

Christopher's son Louis, the founder of the Collegium illustre in Tübingen, died childless in 1593. A kinsman, Frederick I (1557–1608) succeeded to the duchy. This energetic prince disregarded the limits placed to his authority by the rudimentary constitution. By paying a large sum of money, he induced the emperor Rudolph II in 1599 to free the duchy from the suzerainty of Austria. Austria still controlled large areas around the duchy, known as "Further Austria". Thus, once again, Württemberg became a direct fief of the empire, securing its independence.

Thirty Years' War[edit]

Unlike his predecessor, the next duke, Johann Frederick (1582–1628), failed to become an absolute ruler, and perforce recognised the checks on his power. During his reign, which ended in July 1628, Württemberg suffered severely from the Thirty Years' War, although the duke himself took no part in it. His son and successor Eberhard III (1628–1674), however, plunged into it as an ally of France and Sweden as soon as he came of age in 1633. However, after the battle of Nordlingen in 1634, Imperial troops occupied the duchy and the duke himself went into exile for some years. The Peace of Westphalia restored him, but to a depopulated and impoverished country, and he spent his remaining years in efforts to repair the disasters of the lengthy war. Württemberg was a central battlefield of the war. Its population fell by 57% between 1634 and 1655, primarily because of death and disease, declining birthrates, and the mass migration of terrified peasants.[4]

Attempts at absolutism[edit]

Ludwigsburg Palace and Baroque Gardens, near Stuttgart
The New Castle, Stuttgart

During the reign of Eberhard Louis (1676–1733), who succeeded as a one-year-old when his father Duke William Louis died in 1677, Württemberg made the acquaintance of another destructive enemy, Louis XIV of France. In 1688, 1703 and 1707, the French entered the duchy and inflicted brutalities and sufferings upon the inhabitants. The sparsely-populated country afforded a welcome to fugitive Waldenses, who did something to restore it to prosperity, but the extravagance of the duke, anxious to provide for the expensive tastes of his mistress, Christiana Wilhelmina von Grävenitz partly neutralised this benefit.

In 1704, Eberhard Ludwig started to build Ludwigsburg Palace to the north of Stuttgart, in imitation of Versailles.

Charles Alexander, who became duke in 1733, had become a Roman Catholic while an officer in the Austrian service. His favourite adviser was the Jew Joseph Süß Oppenheimer, and suspicions arose that master and servant were aiming at the suppression of the diet (the local parliament) and the introduction of Roman Catholicism. However, the sudden death of Charles Alexander in March 1737 put an abrupt end to any such plans, and the regent, Carl Rudolf, Duke of Württemberg-Neuenstadt, had Oppenheimer hanged.

Charles Eugene (1728–1793), who came of age in 1744, appeared gifted, but vicious and extravagant, and he soon fell into the hands of unworthy favourites. He spent a great deal of money in building the "New Castle" in Stuttgart and elsewhere, and sided against Prussia during the Seven Years' War of 1756–1763, which was unpopular with his Protestant subjects.

His whole reign featured dissension between ruler and ruled, the duke's irregular and arbitrary methods of raising money arousing great discontent. The intervention of the emperor and even of foreign powers ensued and, in 1770, a formal arrangement removed some of the grievances of the people. But Charles Eugene did not keep his promises, although in his old age he made a few further concessions.

Electorate of Württemberg (1803–1806)[edit]

Duke Frederick II Eugene

Charles Eugene left no legitimate heirs, and was succeeded by his brother, Louis Eugene (died 1795), who was childless, and then by another brother, Frederick Eugene (died 1797). This latter prince, who had served in the army of Frederick the Great, to whom he was related by marriage, and then managed his family's estates around Montbéliard, educated his children in the Protestant faith as francophones. All of the subsequent Württemberg royal family were descended from him. Thus, when his son Frederick II became duke in 1797, Protestantism returned to the ducal household, and the royal house adhered to this faith thereafter.

During Frederick Eugene's short reign, the French Republic invaded Württemberg, and compelled the duke to withdraw his troops from the imperial army and to pay reparations. Though he ruled for only two years, Frederick II Eugene effectively saved the independence of the dukedom. Through his children's marriages, he made remarkable connections across Europe, including the Russian, Austrian and British royal families.

Frederick II (1754–1816), a prince who modelled himself on Frederick the Great, took part in the war against France in defiance of the wishes of his people and, when the French again invaded and devastated the country, he retired to Erlangen, where he remained until after the conclusion of the peace of Lunéville on 9 February 1801.

By a private treaty with France, signed in March 1802, he ceded his possessions on the left bank of the Rhine, receiving in return nine imperial towns, among them Reutlingen and Heilbronn, and some other territories, amounting altogether to about 850 square miles (2,200 km²) and containing about 124,000 inhabitants. He also accepted from Napoleon in 1803 the title of elector. Subsequently, the duchy was elevated to an electorate, the Electorate of Württemberg (1803–1805). The new districts were not incorporated with the duchy, but remained separate. They were known as "New Württemberg" and were ruled without a diet. Other areas were acquired in 1803–1806 as part of the German Mediatisation process.

In 1805, Württemberg took up arms on the side of France and, by the Treaty of Pressburg in December 1805, the elector received as reward various Austrian possessions in Swabia and other lands in the area (Vorderösterreich).

The Kingdom of Württemberg (1806–1918)[edit]

Kingdom of Württemberg as it existed from the end of the Napoleonic Wars to the end of World War I. From 1815 to 1866 it was a member state of the German Confederation and from 1871 to 1918 it was a federal state in the German Empire
The royal crown of Württemberg
Flag of Württemberg

Confederation of the Rhine (1806–1813)[edit]

On January 1, 1806, Duke Frederick II assumed the title of King Frederick I, abrogated the constitution, and united old and new Württemberg. Subsequently, he placed church lands under the control of the state and received some formerly self-governing areas under the "mediatisation" process. In 1806, he joined the Confederation of the Rhine and received further additions of territory containing 160,000 inhabitants. A little later, by the peace of Vienna in October 1809, about 110,000 more persons came under his rule.

In return for these favours, Frederick joined Napoleon Bonaparte in his campaigns against Prussia, Austria and Russia, and of 16,000 of his subjects who marched to Moscow only a few hundred returned. Then, after the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, King Frederick deserted the waning fortunes of the French emperor and, by a treaty made with Metternich at Fulda in November 1813, he secured the confirmation of his royal title and of his recent acquisitions of territory, while his troops marched with those of the allies into France.

German Confederation (1815–1871)[edit]

In 1815, the king joined the German Confederation, but the Congress of Vienna made no change in the extent of his lands. In the same year, he laid before the representatives of his people the outline of a new constitution, but they rejected it and, in the midst of the commotion. Frederick died on October 30, 1816.

The new king, William I (reigned 1816–1864), at once took up the constitutional question and, after much discussion, granted a new constitution in September 1819. This constitution, with subsequent modifications, remained in force until 1918 (see Württemberg). A period of quiet now set in, and the condition of the kingdom, its education, agriculture trade and manufactures, began to receive earnest attention, while by frugality, both in public and in private matters, King William I helped to repair the shattered finances of the country. But the desire for greater political freedom did not entirely fade away under the constitution of 1819 and, after 1830, a certain amount of unrest occurred. This, however, soon died, while the inclusion of Württemberg in the German Zollverein and the construction of railways fostered trade.

The revolutionary movement of 1848 did not leave Württemberg untouched, although no actual violence took place within the kingdom. King William had to dismiss Johannes Schlayer (1792–1860) and his other ministers, calling to power men with more liberal ideas and the exponents of the idea of a united Germany. King William did proclaim a democratic constitution but, as soon as the movement had spent its force, he dismissed the liberal ministers. In October 1849, Schlayer and his associates returned to power.

By interfering with popular electoral rights, the king and his ministers succeeded in assembling a servile diet in 1851, surrendering all the privileges gained since 1848. In this way, the authorities restored the constitution of 1819, and power passed into the hands of a bureaucracy. A concordat with the Papacy proved almost the last act of William's long reign, but the diet repudiated the agreement, preferring to regulate relations between church and state in its own way.

In July 1864, Charles (1823–1891, reigned 1864–1891) succeeded his father William I as king. Almost at once, he was faced with considerable difficulties. In the duel between Austria and Prussia for supremacy in Germany, William I had consistently taken the Austrian side, and this policy was equally acceptable to the new king and his advisers.

In 1866, Württemberg took up arms on behalf of Austria in the Austro-Prussian War, but three weeks after the Battle of Königgratz on July 3, 1866, her troops suffered a comprehensive defeat at Tauberbischofsheim, and the country lay at the mercy of Prussia. The Prussians occupied the northern part of Württemberg and negotiated a peace in August 1866. By this, Württemberg paid an indemnity of 8,000,000 gulden, but she at once concluded a secret offensive and defensive treaty with her conqueror. Württemberg was a party to the Saint Petersburg Declaration of 1868.

German Empire (1871–1918)[edit]

The end of the struggle against Prussia allowed a renewal of democratic agitation in Württemberg, but this achieved no tangible results when the great war between France and Prussia broke out in 1870. Although the policy of Württemberg had continued to be antagonistic to Prussia, the kingdom shared in the national enthusiasm which swept over Germany, and its troops took a creditable part in the Battle of Worth and in other operations of the war.

In 1871, Württemberg became a member of the new German Empire, but retained control of her own post office, telegraphs and railways. She had also certain special privileges with regard to taxation and the army and, for the next 10 years, Württemberg's policy enthusiastically supported the new order. Many important reforms, especially in the area of finance, ensued, but a proposal for a union of the railway system with that of the rest of Germany failed. After reductions in taxation in 1889, the reform of the constitution became the question of the hour. King Charles and his ministers wished to strengthen the conservative element in the chambers, but the laws of 1874, 1876 and 1879 only effected slight reforms pending a more thorough settlement. On 6 October 1891, King Charles died suddenly. His cousin William II (1848–1921, reigned 1891–1918) succeeded and continued the policy of his predecessor.

Discussions on the reform of the constitution continued, and the election of 1895 memorably returned a powerful party of democrats. King William had no sons, nor had his only Protestant kinsman, Duke Nicholas (1833–1903). Consequently, the succession would ultimately pass to a Roman Catholic branch of the family, and this prospect raised certain difficulties about the relations between church and state. The heir to the throne in 1910 was the Roman Catholic Duke Albert (b. 1865).

Between 1900 and 1910, the political history of Württemberg centred round the settlement of the constitutional and the educational questions. The constitution underwent revision in 1906, and a settlement of the education difficulty occurred in 1909. In 1904, the railway system integrated with that of the rest of Germany.

The population in 1905 was 2,302,179, of whom 69% were Protestant, 30% Catholic and 0.5% Jewish. Protestants largely preponderated in the Neckar district, and Roman Catholics in that of the Danube. In 1910, an estimated 506,061 people worked in the agricultural sector, 432,114 in industrial occupations and 100,109 in trade and commerce. (see Demographics of Württemberg)

Post-Royal Württemberg[edit]

In the course of the revolutionary activities at the close of World War I in November 1918, King William II abdicated on November 30, and a republican government ensued.

Württemberg became a state (Land) in the new Weimar Republic. After the excitements of the 1918–1919 revolution, its five election results between 1919 and 1932 show a decreasing vote for left-wing parties. From 1934, the Gau of Württemberg-Hohenzollern added the Province of Hohenzollern. After World War II in 1945, Württemberg was split between Württemberg-Baden in Bizonia, and Württemberg-Hohenzollern in the French zone. Both of these finally became part of the land of Baden-Württemberg in 1952.

After World War II, Allied forces established three federal states: Württemberg-Hohenzollern, Baden (both occupied by France), and Württemberg-Baden (U.S.-occupied). In 1949, these three states became founding members of the Federal Republic of Germany. Article 118 of the new German constitution, however, had already prepared a procedure for those states to merge. After a referendum held on December 16, 1951, Württemberg-Baden, Württemberg-Hohenzollern and Baden voted in favor of a merger.[5] Baden-Württemberg officially became a state on April 25, 1952.[5]

History of Baden-Württemberg[edit]

Politics between 1918 and 1919 towards a merger of Württemberg and Baden remained largely unsuccessful. In 1945–1947, the occupying powers created the lands Württemberg-Baden (U.S. zone), and Württemberg-Hohenzollern and South Baden (both in the French zone).

The Basic Law (Grundgesetz) of 1949 established the new Federal Republic of Germany, which would have had jurisdiction over the question and the power to decide the fate of the lands. To avoid this and keep their fate in their own hands, the three lands agreed to a trial vote, held on September 24, 1950. The result saw a strong majority in favor of a combined "South-West State," but in the regions of the former Baden, a small majority was favor of the pre-war borders.

Thus, on December 6, 1951, under federal law, a plebiscite was held in four voting districts (North Baden, South Baden, North Württemberg and South Württemberg-Hohenzollern) resulting in 69.7% in favor of the South-West-State (but in South Baden, 62.2% were in favour of the old setup). Thereupon, the federal state of Baden-Württemberg was founded on April 25, 1952, with its capital in Stuttgart.

In May 1954, the Baden-Württemberg landtag (legislature) decided on adoption of the following coat of arms: three black lions on a golden shield, framed by a deer and a griffin. This coat of arms once belonged to the Staufen family, emperors of the Holy Roman Empire and Dukes of Swabia. The golden deer stands for Württemberg, the griffin for Baden.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Andrea Schulte-Peevers; Anthony Haywood, Sarah Johnstone, Jeremy Gray, Daniel (2007). Germany. Lonely Planet. ISBN 978-1-74059-988-7. Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  2. ^ Baden's territories in 1789; online map
  3. ^ This type of sovereign royal duke was known in Germany as a Herzog.
  4. ^ Peter Wilson, The Thirty Years War: Europe's tragedy (2009) p 789
  5. ^ a b "Our State". Baden-Württemberg. Retrieved 30 March 2011.