The Kingdom of Bavaria came into being in 1806 and remained in existence until the end of the First World War in 1918. Maximilian I Joseph, who had previously been Elector, was Bavaria’s first king. He was a member of the House of Wittelsbach which had ruled Bavaria since the 12th century. The Wittlesbach’s were to be the royal house of the kingdom until its demise over a century later.
During King Maximilian 1 Joseph’s reign Bavaria’s borders were settled at the Treaty of Paris in1814. Aschaffenburg and parts of Hesse-Darmstadt became the Bavarian territory, while Tyrol and Vorarlberg were ceded to the Austrian empire.
In 1818, 12 years after becoming a monarchy, Bavaria adopted a constitution. Two houses of parliament were formed. While the constitution guaranteed the rights of Protestants in a region which was predominately Roman Catholic it did provide problems for King Maximilian 1 Joseph. The issue was the swearing of oaths, and the matter was not resolved until the accession of Ludwig I to the throne in 1825.
Ludwig’s rule saw Bavaria embark on industrialisation and the construction of neoclassical buildings. But his reign was blighted by a series of revolutions. Ludwig was to survive the revolutions of 1830 by relying on conservative support. However, following the revolutionary period of 1848, which was to sweep Europe, Ludwig was forced to abdicate, and his son Maximilian II took the throne.
Maximilian II died in 1864 and was succeeded by his son Ludwig II. Despite taking the throne at the age of 18, Ludwig was to prove to be a formidable monarch. He was to continue Bavaria’s alliance with Austria during the Austro-Prussian war despite pleas from the Prussian leader Bismarck. However, following Austria’s defeat, Ludwig was to play a key part in the formation of the German empire, proposing that Wilhelm I of Prussia be declared Kaiser. With German unity now secured Ludwig was able to concentrate on artistic projects, such as the building of Neuschwanstein at Schwangau.
Ludwig’s reign came to an end in 1886, in controversial circumstances. His ministers had him declared insane and unfit to rule. Within 24 hours he was dead. Whether the cause was suicide or assassination is still open to conjecture.
Prince Luitpold ruled as regent between 1886 and 1912. Following Luitpold’s death in 1912 he was succeeded by his son Ludwig as regent. In 1913 Ludwig took the throne as Ludwig III.
Ludwig was to be the last King of Bavaria, though whether he abdicated or the victim of a bloodless coup is debatable. In November 1918, just days before the armistice and German defeat, Ludwig made the Anif declaration at the Anif Palace in Austria. He claimed that he was merely releasing his officers and forces from their oaths to him. The Bavarian politicians saw it as an abdication. The Kingdom of Bavaria was no more.