Bavaria, 1849-1871

Under King Max II., Ludwig von der Pfordten served as prime minister from 1849 to 1859 and again 1864-1866; the prime minister still represented the king and his policies. The new electoral law abolished the previous discrimination between voters according to the amount of taxes paid, but continued to disqualify those who paid less than a certain amount of tax an were at least 30 years of age. Feudal rights were terminated, serfdom abolished. In Bavaria proper this reform did not make much of a difference, as serfdom in the late 18th century had lost much of its severity; in Franconia and Swabia the reform was welcomed. Press censorship again was abolished.
In 1861 a new penal law code was published, in 1857 secondary education reformed, a school ordinnance for vocational schools issued in 1864. The Technische Hochschule München (Technical College) was opened in 1868.
In 1850 Bavarian diplomacy aimed at establishing the 4 Kings' Alliance, which was to include Bavaria, Württemberg, Hannover and Saxony. It might have been capable to match the dominant powers of Prussia and Austria. The plan failed, and in 1850 Austria and Prussia began to compete for the domination of Germany. During the Crimean War, Austria and Prussia concluded a defensive alliance. Bavaria's foreign policy regarded Russia a potemtial threat for Greece, which was ruled by a king from the Bavarian house of Wittelsbach. In 1863 Greek King Otto von Wittelsbach was deposed.
In 1864, when Prussia and Austria declared war on Denmark over the Schleswig Holstein issue, Bavaria declared not to be directly interested, and stayed out of the war. In 1864, Bavarian King Max II. died; he was succeeded by Ludwig II. In 1866 Prussia provoked Austria into declaring war; the German Federation sided with Austria; Hannover, Saxony, Hessen-Kassel, Nassau and Bavaria fought (and lost) alongside Austria in the Austro-Prussian War. Bavaria was defeated, had to cede mibor border areas (Gersfeld, Orb) and pay reparations amounting to 30 million guilders; further, Bavaria had to enter into an alliance with Prussia.
During the peace negotiations of 1866, mediator Napoleon III., Emperor of France, had insisted that Prussia would limit her attempt to unify Germany to the territory north of the Main river, for France wanted to preserve the independence of her 'ancient allies' in southern Germany (Baden, Bavaria, Württemberg). So the Northern German Federation was established without Bavaria.
While Prussian militarism was impopular, many Germans longed for national unification. In Bavaria enthusiasm for the dream of a unified national state was less virulent in the Catholic areas of the south, stronger in the protestant areas of central Franconia and Swabia, as well as in the cities of München and Würzburg. On the Landtag's first session following the defeat of 1866, a majority of 122 over 12 requested the king to closely lean on Prussia in order to strive toward the common goal (of national unification).
When France (Napoleon III.) declared war on Prussia in 1870, Bavaria, Baden and Württemberg (the so-called ancient French allies) immediately declared war on France, turning the event into the Franco-German War 1870-1871. Bavarian troops forced the French army into the fortress of Sedan, where Napoleon III. himself and his Sedan forces surrendered, the decisive action in the war. On January 2nd 1871, in Versailles' Hall of Mirrors, King Ludwig of Bavaria was the most prominent of Germany's princes who elected Prussia's King Wilhelm German Kaiser (Emperor).
The unified German Kaiserreich (Empire) was a federation. The member states preserved political autonomy, Bavaria more than others, for instance cultural policy (education) was a state affair. Bavaria, until 1920, maintained her own postage stamps, as an indicator of strong regional identity.

King Ludwig II. ruled in an erratic way; he appointed ministers according to criteria not transparent to his contemporaries, but interfered little once they were in office. In 1864 he called Richard Wagner to Bavaria; he invested huge sums in Wagner's operas, in the opera house in Bayreuth and in his lavish fantasy castle of Neuschwanstein. These excessive projects eroded Bavaria's state finances.

Bavarian History, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914 edition
Das Königreich Bayern (1806-1918) (The Kingdom of Bavaria), from Politische Geschichte Bayerns (Political History of Bavaria) posted by HDBG, in German, illustrated
Article Ludwig von der Pfordten, from Landeshauptarchiv Rheinland-Pfalz, in German
King Ludwig II. and Richard Wagner, from König Ludwig.org
DOCUMENTS Historical flags of Bavaria, from FOTW
List of Dukes, Kings of Bavaria, from World Statesmen by Ben Cahoon; scroll down for Bavaria
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
Article : Bavaria, in : The American Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events 1864 p.165 [G]

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First posted on November 9th 2003, last revised on September 1st 2007

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