Bavaria, 1506-1552

In 1506, Bavaria was established as a unified state; the country was to be indivisible; the oldest son would succeed to the throne (primogeniture). The country would have one diet, consisting of three estates - clergy, nobility, third estate. The estates were to have the right to approve or disapprove ducal requests for (one-time) taxation.
Duke Albrecht IV. of Bavaria died in 1508, leaving behind three sons. The oldest son Wilhelm, at that time 15, claimed sole succession according to the law of primogeniture; this soon was contested by his younger brother Ludwig, who demanded either partition or being granted the status of coregent. The Bavarian estates sided with Ludwig; Emperor Maximilian I. (a Habsburg) even suggested the partitioning of Bavaria; in 1514, Ludwig was appointed coregent and the position of the Estates considerably improved, as they now gained the right to appoint ducal officials. The Estates also gained the right to participate in legislation.
On the eve of the Reformation, Bavaria, by comparison to Swabia, central Franconia and Bohemia, was less urbanized. Bavarian law foresaw that farmsteads were inherited by one son, not partitioned among the sons, as in neighbouring Swabia and Franconia. Bavaria provided less of the urban environment in which the early Reformation thrived, and social conditions in Bavaria's countryside were less favourable to the spread of the German Peasants' Revolt in 1524-1525.
In 1519 the Swabian League declared Duke Ulrich of Württemberg banned; a Bavarian force ousted him, and the territory of Württemberg was pawned to the House of Habsburg, which paid for the expenses of the expedition. The Dukes of Bavaria were opposed to the Lutheran reformation; unlike in many other territories of the Holy Roman Empire, the Bavarian nobility (i.e. the Estates) had gained considerable political influence and felt no desire to cover political ambition in the decision for protestantism. In the Duchy of Bavaria, the authorities in 1522 forbade the spread of Lutheran publications and persecuted individuals who agitated Lutheranism. Few traces of Lutheranism can be traced in Bavaria in the early 1520es; in 1525 there was Anabaptist agitation; this movement was broken in 1526. In Bavaria, edicts were published which rejected numerous Lutheran positions (the first of 1522, the second in 1548). Yet a Catholic church reform was not undertaken. Bavaria even forced the free Imperial city of Regensburg, tending toward Lutheranism, to annul her secularization and confiscation of the property of monasteries and churches within her territory (1526).
Bavaria regarded the Habsburg Dynasty a political rival growing in strength; still it did not join the German princely opposition (which formed with Lutheranism as their common bond, and which organized herself in the Schmalkaldic League of 1531). In 1532, Bavaria signed a separate treaty of Alliance with France, Ernestine Saxony and Hessen. In 1534, the Swabian League dissolved; Landgrave Philip of Hessen restored Duke Ulrich to Württemberg, which now became Lutheran. Habsburg diplomacy now succeeded in breaking Bavaria out of the alliance of opponents.
In 1546 Bavaria and the House of Habsburg signed a treaty; Bavaria was to financially support the Emperor in the Schmalkaldic War and grant Imperial troops the right of passage. At the Augsburg Diet of 1548, the Bavarian position in religious issues was uncompromising, in contrast to the Emperor's position who was willing to make a number of concessions (the Augsburg Interim of 1548). Bavaria thus was in line with the Council of Trent.
In 1550, Duke Wilhelm IV. died, he was succeeded by Albrecht V.

Bavarian History, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914 edition
Michael Henker, Bayern im Zeitalter von Reformation und Gegenreformation (16./17. Jahrhundert) (Bavaria in the Era of Reformation and Counterreformation), in : Politische Geschichte Bayerns (Political History of Bavaria), posted by HDBG, in German
DOCUMENTS Map : Bavarian Duchies, Oberpfalz around 1500, posted by Prof. Schmid, Univ. Regensburg, comment in German
REFERENCE Territorien-Ploetz : Geschichte der Deutschen Länder (History of the German Territories), Vol.1, Würzburg 1964, in German
Andreas Kraus, Geschichte Bayerns von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart (History of Bavaria, from the origins to the present day), München : Beck (1983) 2nd edition 1988, in German

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First posted on November 6th 2003, last revised on November 11th 2004

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