Confederation of the Rhine

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Confederated States of the Rhine
Confederation of the Rhine

Rheinbund  (German)
Confédération du Rhin  (French)
Commemorative Medal of the Rhine Confederation.svg
Commemorative Medal
Confederation of the Rhine (1812).svg
The Confederation of the Rhine in 1812
Capital Frankfurt
Common languages German, French
Government Confederated French client states
Napoleon I
Karl von Dalberg
Eugène de Beauharnais
Legislature Diet of the Confederation
Historical era Napoleonic Wars
 Treaty of the Confederation of the Rhine
12 July 1806
  Holy Roman Empire dissolved
6 August 1806
 Dissolved after Battle of Leipzig
4 November 1813
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Holy Roman Empire
German Confederation Wappen Deutscher Bund.svg
Today part of

The Confederation of the Rhine (German : Rheinbund; French: officially États confédérés du Rhin ("Confederated States of the Rhine"), but in practice Confédération du Rhin) was a confederation of client states of the First French Empire. It was formed initially from sixteen German states by Napoleon after he defeated Austria and Russia at the Battle of Austerlitz. The Treaty of Pressburg, in effect, led to the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine, which lasted from 1806 to 1813. [1]

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

A confederation is a union of sovereign states, united for purposes of common action often in relation to other states. Usually created by a treaty, confederations of states tend to be established for dealing with critical issues, such as defense, foreign relations, internal trade or currency, with the general government being required to provide support for all its members. Confederalism represents a main form of inter-governmentalism, this being defined as any form of interaction between states which takes place on the basis of sovereign independence or government.


The members of the confederation were German princes ( Fürsten ) formerly within the Holy Roman Empire. They were later joined by 19 others, altogether ruling a total of over 15 million subjects providing a significant strategic advantage to the French Empire on its eastern frontier by providing a separation between France and the two largest German states, Prussia and Austria, to the east, which were not members of the Confederation of the Rhine.

Fürst is a German word for a ruler and is also a princely title. Fürsten were, since the Middle Ages, members of the highest nobility who ruled over states of the Holy Roman Empire and later its former territories, below the ruling Kaiser (emperor) or König (king).

Holy Roman Empire Complex of territories in Europe from 962 to 1806

The Holy Roman Empire was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. The largest territory of the empire after 962 was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also came to include the neighboring Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Burgundy, the Kingdom of Italy, and numerous other territories.

Kingdom of Prussia Former German state (1701–1918)

The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom that constituted the state of Prussia between 1701 and 1918. It was the driving force behind the unification of Germany in 1871 and was the leading state of the German Empire until its dissolution in 1918. Although it took its name from the region called Prussia, it was based in the Margraviate of Brandenburg, where its capital was Berlin.

Napoleon sought to consolidate the modernizing achievements of the revolution, but he wanted the soldiers and supplies these subject states could provide for his wars. Napoleon required the Confederation to supply 63,000 troops to his army. The success of the Confederation depended on Napoleon's success in battle; it collapsed when he lost the Battle of Leipzig in 1813.

Battle of Leipzig 1813 Napoleonic battle

The Battle of Leipzig or Battle of the Nations was fought from 16 to 19 October 1813, at Leipzig, Saxony. The coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden, led by Tsar Alexander I of Russia and Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, decisively defeated the French army of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French. Napoleon's army also contained Polish and Italian troops, as well as Germans from the Confederation of the Rhine. The battle was the culmination of the German campaign of 1813 and involved 600,000 soldiers, 2,200 artillery pieces, the expenditure of 200,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and 127,000 casualties, making it the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I.


On 12 July 1806, on signing the Treaty of the Confederation of the Rhine (German : Rheinbundakte) in Paris, 16 German states joined together in a confederation (the treaty called it the états confédérés du Rhinelande, with a precursor in the League of the Rhine). [2] Napoleon was its "protector". On 1 August, the members of the confederation formally seceded from the Holy Roman Empire, and on 6 August, following an ultimatum by Napoleon, Francis II declared the Holy Roman Empire dissolved. Francis and his Habsburg dynasty continued as emperors of Austria.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zürich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018.

League of the Rhine

The League of the Rhine was a defensive union of more than 50 German princes and their cities along the River Rhine, formed on 14 August 1658 by Louis XIV of France and negotiated by Cardinal Mazarin, Hugues de Lionne and Johann Philipp von Schönborn.

Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine

Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine was a title and a function in the Confederation treaty of 1806. The term in French was Protecteur de la Confédération, in German Protector des rheinischen Bundes. The title described the specific way in which the French emperor Napoleon was linked to the Confederation of the Rhine (1806-1813).

According to the treaty, the confederation was to be run by common constitutional bodies, but the individual states (in particular the larger ones) wanted unlimited sovereignty. [1] Instead of a monarchical head of state, as the Holy Roman Emperor had had, its highest office was held by Karl Theodor von Dalberg, the former Arch Chancellor, who now bore the title of a Prince-Primate of the confederation. As such, he was President of the College of Kings and presided over the Diet of the Confederation, designed to be a parliament-like body although it never actually assembled. [1] The President of the Council of the Princes was the Prince of Nassau-Usingen.

Sovereignty concept that a state or governing body has the right and power to govern itself without outside interference

Sovereignty is the full right and power of a governing body over itself, without any interference from outside sources or bodies. In political theory, sovereignty is a substantive term designating supreme authority over some polity. In international law, the important concept of sovereignty refers to the exercise of power by a state. De jure sovereignty refers to the legal right to do so; de facto sovereignty the ability in fact to do so

A head of state is the public persona who officially represents the national unity and legitimacy of a sovereign state. Depending on the country's form of government and separation of powers, the head of state may be a ceremonial figurehead or concurrently the head of government. In a parliamentary system, such as India, the head of state usually has mostly ceremonial powers, with a separate head of government. However in some parliamentary systems, like South Africa, there is an executive president that is both head of state and head of government. Likewise, in some parliamentary systems the head of state is not the head of government, but still has significant powers, for example Morocco. In contrast, a semi-presidential system, such as France, has both heads of state and government as the de facto leaders of the nation. Meanwhile, in presidential systems such as the United States, the head of state is also the head of government.

In politics, a diet is a formal deliberative assembly. The term is mainly used historically for the Imperial Diet, the general assembly of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire, and for the legislative bodies of certain countries. Modern usage mainly relates to the National Diet of Japan, or the German Bundestag, the Federal Diet.

In return for their support of Napoleon, some rulers were given higher statuses: Baden, Hesse, Cleves, and Berg were made into grand duchies, and Württemberg and Bavaria became kingdoms. Several member states were also enlarged with the absorption of the territories of Imperial counts and knights who were mediatized at that time. They had to pay a very high price for their new status, however. The Confederation was above all a military alliance: the members had to maintain substantial armies for mutual defense and supply France with large numbers of military personnel. As events played out the members of the confederation found themselves more subordinated to Napoleon than they had been to the Habsburgs when they were within the Holy Roman Empire. [3]

Hesse State in Germany

Hesse or Hessia, officially the State of Hesse, is a federal state (Land) of the Federal Republic of Germany, with just over six million inhabitants. Its state capital is Wiesbaden and the largest city is Frankfurt am Main.

A grand duchy is a country or territory whose official head of state or ruler is a monarch bearing the title of grand duke or grand duchess.

Württemberg Describes Württemburg in different forms from 1092 until 1945 - not to be confused with articles on parts of this period.

Württemberg is a historical German territory roughly corresponding to the cultural and linguistic region of Swabia. Together with Baden and Hohenzollern, two other historical territories, it now forms the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg. Württemberg was formerly also spelled Würtemberg and Wirtemberg.

After Prussia lost to France in 1806, Napoleon cajoled most of the secondary states of Germany into the Confederation of the Rhine. Eventually, an additional 23 German states joined the Confederation. It was at its largest in 1808, when it included 36 states—four kingdoms, five grand duchies, 13 duchies, seventeen principalities, and the Free Hansa towns of Hamburg, Lübeck, and Bremen. [1] In the German lands, only Austria, Prussia, Danish Holstein, and Swedish Pomerania (plus previously independent Switzerland) were not included in the Confederation, not counting the west bank of the Rhine and the Principality of Erfurt, which were annexed outright by the French empire.

In 1810 large parts of what is now northwest Germany were quickly annexed to France in order to better monitor the trade embargo with Great Britain, the Continental System.

The Confederation of the Rhine collapsed in 1813, in the aftermath of Napoleon's failed campaign against the Russian Empire. Many of its members changed sides after the Battle of Leipzig, when it became apparent Napoleon would lose the War of the Sixth Coalition.

Types of states within the Confederation

Both French influence and internal autonomy varied greatly throughout the confederations existence. There was also a great variation between the power and influence of the individual states. There are three basic types:

Member monarchies

The following table shows the members of the confederation, with their date of joining, as well as the number of troops provided, listed in parentheses. [7]

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Member states of the Confederation of the Rhine, 1806 Rheinbund 1806, political map.png
Member states of the Confederation of the Rhine, 1806
Member states of the Confederation of the Rhine, 1808 (greatest extent) Rheinbund 1808, political map.png
Member states of the Confederation of the Rhine, 1808 (greatest extent)
Member states of the Confederation of the Rhine, 1812 Rheinbund 1812, political map.png
Member states of the Confederation of the Rhine, 1812

College of Kings

FlagMember monarchyYear joinedNotes
Coat of arms of Baden.svg Grand Duchy of Baden 12 Jul 1806Co-founder; former margraviate (8,000)
Flag of Bavaria (striped).svg Kingdom of Bavaria 12 Jul 1806Co-founder; former duchy (30,000)
Flag of the Grand Duchy of Berg (1806-1808).svg Grand Duchy of Berg 12 Jul 1806Co-founder; absorbed Cleves, both formerly Duchies (5,000)
Flagge Grossherzogtum Hessen ohne Wappen.svg Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt 12 Jul 1806Co-founder; former landgraviate (4,000)
Flag of the Principality of Regensburg.svg Principality of Regensburg 12 Jul 1806Co-founder; formerly Prince-Archbishopric and Electorate; after 1810 the Wappen Grossherzogtum Frankfurt.svg Grand Duchy of Frankfurt (968 of 4,000)
State flag of Saxony before 1815.svg Kingdom of Saxony 11 Dec 1806Former electorate (20,000)
Flag of the Kingdom of Westphalia.svg Kingdom of Westphalia 15 Nov 1807 Napoleonic creation (25,000)
Flag of Wurttemberg before 1809.svg Kingdom of Württemberg 12 Jul 1806Co-founder; former duchy (12,000)
Flag of the Grandduchy of Wurzburg.svg Grand Duchy of Würzburg 23 Sep 1806 Napoleonic creation (2,000)

College of Princes

FlagMember monarchyYear joinedNotes
Flag of Anhalt Duchies.png Duchy of Anhalt-Bernburg 11 Apr 1807(700)
Flagge Herzogtum Anhalt.svg Duchy of Anhalt-Dessau 11 Apr 1807(700)
Flag of Anhalt Duchies.png Duchy of Anhalt-Köthen 11 Apr 1807(700)
Flag of Arenberg (1803 - 1810).svg Duchy of Arenberg 12 Jul 1806Co-founder; mediatized 13 December 1810 (379 of 4,000)
Flag of Hohenzollern-Hechingen and Sigmaringen.png Principality of Hohenzollern-Hechingen 12 Jul 1806Co-founder (97 of 4,000)
Flag of Hohenzollern-Hechingen and Sigmaringen.png Principality of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen 12 Jul 1806Co-founder (193 of 4,000)
Flag of Isenburg County.svg Principality of Isenburg 12 Jul 1806Co-founder (291 of 4,000)
Flag of the Principality of Leyen (1806-1813).svg Principality of Leyen 12 Jul 1806Co-founder; former countship or graviate (29 of 4,000)
Flag of Liechtenstein (1719-1852).svg Principality of Liechtenstein 12 Jul 1806Co-founder (40 of 4,000)
Flagge Furstentum Lippe.svg Principality of Lippe-Detmold 11 Apr 1807(650)
Wappen Mecklenburg-Schwerin 2.svg Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin 22 Mar 1808(1,900)
Wappen Mecklenburg-Strelitz 2.svg Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz 18 Feb 1808(400)
Flagge Herzogtum Nassau (1806-1866).svg Duchy of Nassau (Usingen and Weilburg)12 Jul 1806*Union of Nassau-Usingen.png Nassau-Usingen and Flag of the House of Nassau-Weilburg.png Nassau-Weilburg, both co-founders (1,680 of 4,000)
Civil flag of Oldenburg.svg Duchy of Oldenburg 14 Oct 1808annexed by France 13 December 1810 (800)
Flagge Furstentum Reuss jungere Linie.svg Principality of Reuss-Ebersdorf 11 Apr 1807(400)
Flagge Furstentum Reuss altere Linie.svg Principality of Reuss-Greiz 11 Apr 1807(400)
Flag of Reuss-Lobenstein.svg Principality of Reuss-Lobenstein 11 Apr 1807(400)
Flagge Furstentum Reuss jungere Linie.svg Principality of Reuss-Schleiz 11 Apr 1807(400)
Flag of Salm principalities (1798-1811).svg Principality of Salm (Salm-Salm and Salm-Kyrburg)25 Jul 1806Co-founder; annexed by France 13 December 1810 (323 of 4,000)
Armoiries Saxe.svg Duchy of Saxe-Coburg 15 Dec 1806(Saxon duchies total 2,000)
Armoiries Saxe.svg Duchy of Saxe-Gotha 15 Dec 1806
Armoiries Saxe.svg Duchy of Saxe-Hildburghausen 15 Dec 1806
Armoiries Saxe.svg Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen 15 Dec 1806
Armoiries Saxe.svg Duchy of Saxe-Weimar 15 Dec 1806
Flagge Furstentum Schaumburg-Lippe.svg Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe 11 Apr 1807(650)
Flagge Furstentumer Schwarzburg.svg Principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt 11 Apr 1807(650)
Flagge Furstentum Schwarzburg-Sondershausen.png Principality of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen 11 Apr 1807(650)
Flag of Waldeck before 1830.svg Principality of Waldeck-Pyrmont 11 Apr 1807(400)


The allies opposing Napoleon dissolved the Confederation of the Rhine on 4 November 1813. After its demise, the only attempt at political coordination in Germany until the creation on 8 June 1815 of the German Confederation was a body called the Central Administration Council (German : Zentralverwaltungsrat); its President was Heinrich Friedrich Karl Reichsfreiherr vom und zum Stein (1757–1831). It was dissolved on 20 June 1815.

On 30 May 1814 the Treaty of Paris declared the German states independent.

In 1814–1815, the Congress of Vienna redrew the continent's political map. Napoleonic creations such as the huge Kingdom of Westphalia, the Grand Duchy of Berg and the Duchy of Würzburg were abolished; suppressed states, including Hanover, the Brunswick duchies, Hesse-Kassel and Oldenburg, were reinstated. On the other hand, most members of the Confederation of the Rhine located in central and southern Germany survived with minor border changes. They, along with the reinstated states, Prussia, and Austria, formed the German Confederation.

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 Hans A. Schmitt. Germany Without Prussia: A Closer Look at the Confederation of the Rhine. German Studies Review 6, No. 4 (1983), pp 9-39.
  2. For the treaty (in French), see here
  3. Germany at Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. Berding, Helmut (1973). Napoleonische Herrschafts- und Gesellschaftspolitik im Königreich Westfalen 1807–1813. Göttingen/Zürich: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
  5. Gall. Liberalismus als regierende Partei. p. 85.
  6. Siemann. om Staatenbund zum Nationalstaat: Deutschland 1806-1871. pp. 23–24.
  7. Creation of the Confederation of the Rhine, 12 July, 1806 Archived 29 May 2011 at

Coordinates: 50°07′N8°41′E / 50.117°N 8.683°E / 50.117; 8.683