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Maximilian Joseph, King Of Bavaria

MAXIMILIAN JOSEPH, KING OF BAVARIA, (MAXIMILIAN I) (1756-1825), was the son of the count palatine Frederick of Zweibriicken-Birkenfeld, and was born on the 27th of May 1756. He was carefully educated under the supervision of his uncle, Duke Christian IV. of Zweibriicken, took service in 1777 as a colonel in the French army, and rose rapidly to the rank of major-general. From 1782 to 1789 he was stationed at Strassburg, but at the outbreak of the revolution he exchanged the French for the Austrian service, taking part in the opening campaigns of the revolutionary wars. On the 1st of April 1795 he succeeded his brother, Charles II., as duke of Zweibriicken, and on the 16th of February 1799 became elector of Bavaria on the extinction of the Sulzbach line with the death of the elector Charles Theodore.

The sympathy with France and with French ideas of enlightenment which characterized his reign was at once manifested. In the newly organized ministry Count Max Josef von Montgelas (?..), who, after falling into disfavour with Charles Theodore, had acted for a time as Maximilian Joseph's private secretary, was the most potent influence, an influence wholly " enlightened " and French. Agriculture and commerce were fostered, the laws were ameliorated, a new criminal code drawn up, taxes and imposts equalized without regard to traditional privileges, while a number of religious houses were suppressed and their revenues used for educational and other useful purposes. In foreign politics Maximilian Joseph's attitude was from the German point of view less commendable. With the growing sentiment of German nationality he had from first to last no sympathy, and his attitude throughout was dictated by wholly dynastic, or at least Bavarian, considerations. Until 1813 he was the most faithful of Napoleon's German allies, the relation being cemented by the marriage of his daughter to Eugene Beauharnais. His reward came with the treaty of Pressburg (Dec. 26, 1805), by the terms of which he was to receive the royal title and important territorial acquisitions in Swabia and Franconia to round off his kingdom. The style of king he actually assumed on the 1st of January 1806.

The new king of Bavaria was the most important of the princes belonging to the Confederation of the Rhine, and remained Napoleon's ally until the eve of the battle of Leipzig, when by the convention of Ried (Oct. 8, 1813) he made the guarantee of the integrity of his kingdom the price of his joining the Allies. By the first treaty of Paris (June 3, 1814), however, he ceded Tirol to Austria in exchange for the former duchy of Wiirzburg. At the congress of Vienna, too, which he attended in person, Maximilian had to make further concessions to Austria, ceding the quarters of the Inn and Hausruck in return for a part of the old Palatinate. The king fought hard to maintain the contiguity of the Bavarian territories as guaranteed at Ried; but the most he could obtain was an assurance from Metternich in the matter of the Baden succession, in which he was also doomed to be disappointed (see BADEN: History, iii. 506).

At Vienna and afterwards Maximilian sturdily opposed any reconstitution of Germany which should endanger the indepen- dence of Bavaria, and it was his insistence on the principle of full sovereignty being left to the German reigning princes that largely contributed to the loose and weak organization of the new German Confederation. The Federal Act of the Vienna congress was proclaimed in Bavaria, not as a law but as an international treaty. It was partly to secure popular support in his resistance to any interference of the federal diet in the internal affairs of Bavaria, partly to give unity to his somewhat heterogeneous territories, that Maximilian on the 26th of May 1818 granted a liberal constitution to his people. Montgelas, who had opposed this concession, had fallen in the previous year, and Maximilian had also reversed his ecclesiastical policy, signing on the 24th of October 1817 a concordat with Rome by which the powers of the clergy, largely curtailed under Montgelas's administration, were restored. The new parliament proved so intractable that in 1819 Maximilian was driven to appeal to the powers against his own creation; but his Bavarian " particularism " and his genuine popular sympathies prevented him from allowing the Carlsbad decrees to be strictly enforced within his dominions. The suspects arrested by order of the Mainz Commission he was accustomed to examine himself, with the result that in many cases the whole proceedings were quashed, and in not a few the accused dismissed with a present of money. Maximilian died on the 13th of October 1825 and was succeeded by his son Louis I.

In private life Maximilian was kindly and simple. He loved to play the part of Landesvaler, walking about the streets of his capital en bourgeois and entering into conversation with all ranks of his subjects, by whom he was regarded with great affection. He was twice married: (i) in 1785 to Princess Wilhelmine Auguste of Hesse-Darmstadt, (2) in 1797 to Princess Caroline Friederikeof Baden.

See G. Freiherr von Lerchenfeld, Gesch. Bayerns unter Konig Maximilian Joseph I. (Berlin, 1854); J- M. Soltl, Max Joseph, Konig von Bayern (Stuttgart, 1837) ; L. von Kpbell, Unter den vier ersten Konigen Bayerns. Nach Briefen und eigenen Erinnerungen (Munich, 1894).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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