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
E. 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]


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 (which also controlled substantial non-German lands to its north, east and south), to the east, which were not members of the Confederation of the Rhine.


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] The "Protector of the Confederation" was a hereditary office of the Emperor of the French, Napoleon. 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.

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.

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 member states 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]

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] The west bank of the Rhine and the Principality of Erfurt had been annexed outright by the French Empire. Thus, as either emperor of the French or protector of the Confederation of the Rhine, Napoleon was now the overlord of all of Germany except Austria, Prussia, Danish Holstein, and Swedish Pomerania, plus previously independent Switzerland, which were not included in the Confederation.

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 Saxe2.svg Duchy of Saxe-Coburg 15 Dec 1806(Saxon duchies total 2,000)
Armoiries Saxe2.svg Duchy of Saxe-Gotha 15 Dec 1806
Armoiries Saxe2.svg Duchy of Saxe-Hildburghausen 15 Dec 1806
Armoiries Saxe2.svg Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen 15 Dec 1806
Armoiries Saxe2.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