Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria

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Maximilian I
Joachim von Sandrart - Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria.jpg
Portrait by Joachim von Sandrart (1643)
Duke of Bavaria
Reign15 October 1597 25 February 1623
Predecessor William V
Elector Palatine
Reign23 February 1623 24 October 1648
Predecessor Frederick V
Successor Charles I Louis
Elector of Bavaria
Reign25 February 1623 27 September 1651
Successor Ferdinand Maria
Born17 April 1573
Died27 September 1651(1651-09-27) (aged 78)
Elisabeth of Lorraine
(m. 1595;died 1635)

Issue Ferdinand Maria, Elector of Bavaria
Duke Maximilian Philipp Hieronymus
House Wittelsbach
Father William V, Duke of Bavaria
Mother Renata of Lorraine
Religion Roman Catholicism

Maximilian I (17 April 1573 27 September 1651), occasionally called "the Great", a member of the House of Wittelsbach, ruled as Duke of Bavaria from 1597. His reign was marked by the Thirty Years' War during which he obtained the title of a Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire at the 1623 Diet of Regensburg.

House of Wittelsbach German noble family

The House of Wittelsbach is a European royal family and a German dynasty from Bavaria.

Thirty Years War War between 1618 and 1648; with over 8 million fatalities

The Thirty Years' War was a war fought primarily in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. One of the most destructive conflicts in human history, it resulted in eight million fatalities not only from military engagements but also from violence, famine, and plague. Casualties were overwhelmingly and disproportionately inhabitants of the Holy Roman Empire, most of the rest being battle deaths from various foreign armies. In terms of proportional German casualties and destruction, it was surpassed only by the period January to May 1945; one of its enduring results was 19th-century Pan-Germanism, when it served as an example of the dangers of a divided Germany and became a key justification for the 1871 creation of the German Empire.

Prince-elector members of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire

The Prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire, or Electors for short, were the members of the electoral college that elected the Holy Roman Emperor.


Maximilian was a capable monarch who, by overcoming the feudal rights of the local estates ( Landstände ), laid the foundations for absolutist rule in Bavaria. A devout Catholic, he was one of the leading proponents of the Counter-Reformation and founder of the Catholic League of Imperial Princes. In the Thirty Years' War, he was able to conquer the Upper Palatinate region, as well as the Electoral Palatinate affiliated with the electoral dignity of his Wittelsbach cousin, the "Winter King" Frederick V. Both the possession of the Upper Palatinate and the hereditary electoral title were affirmed in the 1648 Peace of Westphalia.

The Landstände or Landtage were the various territorial estates or diets in the Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages and the early modern period, as opposed to their respective territorial lords.

Absolute monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the monarch holds supreme authority and where that authority is not restricted by any written laws, legislature, or customs. These are often hereditary monarchies. In contrast, in constitutional monarchies, the head of state's authority derives from and is legally bounded or restricted by a constitution or legislature.

Electorate of Bavaria

The Electorate of Bavaria was an independent hereditary electorate of the Holy Roman Empire from 1623 to 1806, when it was succeeded by the Kingdom of Bavaria.


Maximilian I was born in Munich, the eldest son of William V, Duke of Bavaria and Renata of Lorraine to survive infancy. He was educated by the Jesuits, and upon his father's abdication, began to take part in the government in 1591. In 1595 he married his cousin, Elisabeth Renata (also known as Elizabeth of Lorraine), daughter of Charles III, Duke of Lorraine, and became Duke of Bavaria upon his father's abdication in 1597. [1]

Munich Capital and most populous city of Bavaria in Germany , Germany

Munich is the capital and most populous city of Bavaria, the second most populous German federal state. With a population of around 1.5 million, it is the third-largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg, as well as the 12th-largest city in the European Union. The city's metropolitan region is home to 6 million people. Straddling the banks of the River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps, it is the seat of the Bavarian administrative region of Upper Bavaria, while being the most densely populated municipality in Germany. Munich is the second-largest city in the Bavarian dialect area, after the Austrian capital of Vienna.

William V, Duke of Bavaria

William V, called the Pious, was Duke of Bavaria from 1579 to 1597.

Renata of Lorraine Duchess consort of Bavaria

Renata of Lorraine, was by birth a member of the House of Lorraine and by marriage Duchess of Bavaria.

His first marriage to Elisabeth Renata was childless. A few months after the death of Elisabeth Renata, Maximilian married, on 15 July 1635 in Vienna, his 25-year-old niece Maria Anna of Austria (1610-1665), the daughter of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor and Maximillian's sister, Maria Anna of Bavaria (1574-1616). The main motivation for this swift remarriage was not so much political grounds as the hope of producing a prince to inherit. In contrast to the Elector's first wife, Maria Anna was very interested in politics and well instructed about developments. She was not bound to the Habsburgs, but rather completely advocated the Bavarian standpoint. Additionally, she conducted lively exchanges of opinion with high officials of the Munich court and took part in meetings of the cabinet. By her he left two sons, Ferdinand Maria, who succeeded him, and Maximilian Philip. [1]

Vienna Capital city and state in Austria

Vienna is the federal capital, largest city and one of nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor Archduke of Austria, 1619 to 1637 Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary and Bohemia

Ferdinand II, a member of the House of Habsburg, was Holy Roman Emperor (1619–1637), King of Bohemia, and King of Hungary (1618–1637). He was the son of Archduke Charles II of Inner Austria, and Maria of Bavaria. In 1590, his parents, who were devout Catholics, sent him to study at the Jesuits' college in Ingolstadt, because they wanted to isolate him from the Lutheran nobles. In the same year, he inherited Inner Austria—Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and smaller provinces—from his father. Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, who was the head of the Habsburg family, appointed regents to administer Inner Austria on behalf of the minor Ferdinand.

As the ablest prince of his age he sought to prevent Germany from becoming the battleground of Europe, and although a rigid adherent of the Catholic faith, was not always subservient to the church. Weak in health and feeble in frame, Maximilian had high ambitions both for himself and his duchy, and was tenacious and resourceful in prosecuting his designs. [1]

German politics and the Thirty Years' War

Maximilian I, Duke of Bavaria and his wife Elisabeth of Lorraine Elector Maximilian I of Bavaria and Elisabeth Renee of Lorraine by an unknown artist.png
Maximilian I, Duke of Bavaria and his wife Elisabeth of Lorraine

Maximilian refrained from any interference in German politics until 1607, when he was entrusted with the duty of executing the imperial ban against the free city of Donauwörth, a Protestant stronghold. In December 1607 his troops occupied the city, and vigorous steps were taken to restore the supremacy of Catholicism. Some Protestant princes, alarmed at this action, formed the Protestant Union to defend their interests, which was answered in 1609 by the establishment of the Catholic League, in the formation of which Maximilian took an important part. Under his leadership an army was set on foot, but his policy was strictly defensive and he refused to allow the League to become a tool in the hands of the House of Habsburg. Dissensions among his colleagues led the duke to resign his office in 1616, but the approach of trouble brought about his return to the League about two years later. [1]

Donauwörth Place in Bavaria, Germany

DonauwörthGerman: [ˌdoːnaʊˈvøːɐ̯t]) is a town and the capital of the Donau-Ries district in Swabia, Bavaria, Germany. It is said to have been founded by two fishermen where the rivers Danube (Donau) and Wörnitz meet. The city is part of the scenic route called "Romantische Straße"

Protestantism Division within Christianity, originating from the Reformation in the 16th century against the Roman Catholic Church, that rejects the Roman Catholic doctrines of papal supremacy and sacraments

Protestantism is the second largest form of Christianity with collectively between 800 million and more than 900 million adherents worldwide or nearly 40% of all Christians. It originated with the 16th century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy and sacraments, but disagree among themselves regarding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They emphasize the priesthood of all believers, justification by faith alone rather than by good works, and the highest authority of the Bible alone in faith and morals. The "five solae" summarise basic theological differences in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.

Protestant Union coalition of Protestant German states formed on May 14, 1608 by Frederick IV, Elector Palatine and dissolved in 1621.

The Protestant Union, also known as the Evangelical Union, Union of Auhausen, German Union or the Protestant Action Party, was a coalition of Protestant German states. It was formed on May 14, 1608 by Frederick IV, Elector Palatine in order to defend the rights, land and safety of each member. It included both Calvinist and Lutheran states, and dissolved in 1621.

The Arms of Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria, Arch-Steward and Prince-Elector Charles VII Arms-personal.svg
The Arms of Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria, Arch-Steward and Prince-Elector

Having refused to become a candidate for the imperial throne in 1619, Maximilian was faced with the complications arising from the outbreak of war in Bohemia. After some delay he made a treaty with Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor in October 1619, and in return for large concessions placed the forces of the League at the emperor's service. Anxious to curtail the area of the struggle, he made a treaty of neutrality with the Protestant Union, and occupied Upper Austria as security for the expenses of the campaign. On 8 November 1620 his troops under Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly defeated the forces of Frederick, King of Bohemia and Count Palatine of the Rhine, at the Battle of White Mountain near Prague. [1] Subsequently Ferdinand II released Upper Austria as a pawn for Maximilian until 1628.[ citation needed ]

Engraving of Maximilian I Dankaerts-Historis-9274.tif
Engraving of Maximilian I

In spite of the arrangement with the Union, Tilly then devastated the Rhenish Palatinate, and in February 1623 Maximilian was formally invested with the electoral dignity and the attendant office of imperial steward, which had been enjoyed since 1356 by the Counts Palatine of the Rhine. After receiving the Upper Palatinate and restoring Upper Austria to Ferdinand, Maximilian became leader of the party which sought to bring about Albrecht von Wallenstein's dismissal from the imperial service. At the Diet of Regensburg (1630) Ferdinand was compelled to assent to this demand, but the sequel was disastrous both for Bavaria and its ruler. [1] Attempting to remain neutral during the war, Maximilian signed the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau (1631) with the Kingdom of France, but this proved worthless.[ citation needed ]

Early in 1632 the Swedish Empire marched into the duchy and occupied Munich, and Maximilian could only obtain the assistance of the imperialists by placing himself under the orders of Wallenstein, now restored to the command of the emperor's forces. The ravages of the Swedes and their French allies induced the elector to enter into negotiations for peace with King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden and Cardinal Richelieu of France. He also proposed to disarm the Protestants by modifying the Edict of Restitution of 1629, but these efforts were abortive. [1]

In September 1638 Baron Franz von Mercy was made master-general of ordnance in the army of Bavaria, then the second largest army in the Holy Roman Empire. Mercy and Johann von Werth as lieutenant field-marshal fought with varying success France and Sweden.[ citation needed ]

In March 1647 Maximilian concluded the Truce of Ulm (1647) with France and Sweden, but the entreaties of Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor led him to disregard his undertaking. Bavaria was again ravaged, and the elector's forces were defeated in May 1648 at the Battle of Zusmarshausen. The Peace of Westphalia soon put an end to the struggle. By this treaty it was agreed that Maximilian should retain the electoral dignity, which was made hereditary in his family; and the Upper Palatinate was incorporated with Bavaria. [1] Maximilain had to give up the Lower Palatine, which was restored to Charles Louis, Frederick V's son and heir.

Administrative and cultural activities

Kaiserhof, part of Maximilian's Residenz in Munich Residencia de Munich, Munich, Alemania, 2013-05-12, DD 01.jpg
Kaiserhof, part of Maximilian's Residenz in Munich

Maximilian rehabilitated the Bavarian state finances, reorganised the Bavarian administration and army, and introduced mercantilist measures as well as a new corpus juris, the Codex Maximilianeus. In 1610 Maximilian ordered to enlarge the Munich Residenz and to upgrade the Hofgarten. The original buildings of Schleissheim Palace were extended between 1617 and 1623 by Heinrich Schön and Hans Krumpper to the so-called Old Palace. Maximilian acquired numerous paintings of Albrecht Dürer, Peter Paul Rubens and additional artists for the Wittelsbach collection. In 1616 for example Maximilian I commissioned four hunt paintings from Peter Paul Rubens. [2] He even obtained Dürer's The Four Apostles in the year 1627 due to pressure on the Nuremberg city fathers. Among his court artists were Peter Candid, Friedrich Sustris, Hubert Gerhard, Hans Krumpper, Adrian de Vries and Georg Petel.

The Duke died at Ingolstadt on 27 September 1651. He is buried in St. Michael's Church, Munich. In 1839 a statue was erected to his memory at Munich by King Ludwig I of Bavaria. [1]

Family and children

Maximilian I, Elector and Duke of Bavaria and his second wife, Maria Anna of Austria Maria Anna von Bayern (1610-1665) black white.jpg
Maximilian I, Elector and Duke of Bavaria and his second wife, Maria Anna of Austria

On 6 February 1595, Maximilian married princess Elisabeth (1574–1635), daughter of Charles III, Duke of Lorraine and Claudia of France, daughter of Henry II of France, in Nancy. They had no issue.

On 15 July 1635, Maximilian married his niece Maria Anna of Austria (1610-1665), daughter of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor and Maria Anna of Bavaria (1574-1616), in Vienna. They had two sons:



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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Maximilian I."  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 920–921.
  2. "Natural History and History Painting in Rubens' Animals". Max Planck Institute.
Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria
Born: 17 April 1573 Died: 27 September 1651
Regnal titles
Preceded by
William V
Duke later Elector of Bavaria
Succeeded by
Ferdinand Maria
Preceded by
Frederick V
Elector Palatine
Succeeded by
Charles I Louis