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Maximilian II Emanuel (July 11, 1662 – February 26, 1726), also known as Max Emanuel or Maximilian Emanuel, was a Wittelsbach ruler of Bavaria and a Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire. He was also the last governor of the Spanish Netherlands and Duke of Luxembourg. An able soldier, his ambition led to conflicts that limited his ultimate dynastic achievements. By virtue of his electoral title, the Elector of Bavaria was a member of the Council of Electors in the Imperial Diet as well as Archsteward of the Holy Roman Empire.

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Maximilian II Emanuel, Prince-Imperial Elector of Bavaria

He was born in Munich to Ferdinand-Maria, Elector of Bavaria and Princess Henriette-Adelaide of Savoy (d.1676). His maternal grandparents were Victor-Amadeus I of Savoy and Christine Marie of France, daughter of King Henri IV.

Maximilian II Emanuel inherited the elector’s mantle while still a minor in 1679 and remained under his uncle Maximilian-Philipp’s regency until 1680. By 1683 he was already embarked on a military career, fighting in the defence of Vienna against the attempt of the Ottoman Empire to extend their possessions further into Europe.

He returned to court for long enough to marry Archduchess Maria-Antonia of Austria, (Maria Antonia Josepha Benedicta Rosalia Petronella; January 18, 1669 – December 24, 1692) daughter of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor and Infanta Margaret-Theresa of Spain. She was the heir to the Spanish throne after her maternal uncle Carlos II of Spain from 1673 until her death.

The birth of Archduchess Maria-Antonia of Austria was the result of the inbreeding chronic in the Habsburg family during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Her father Leopold was her mother’s maternal uncle and paternal first cousin once removed. Also, her maternal grandparents, King Felipe IV of Spain and Queen Mariana, were uncle and niece.

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Archduchess Maria-Antonia of Austria

The marriage between Elector Maximilian II Emanuel and Archduchess Maria-Antonia of Austria occurred on July 15, 1685 in Vienna, Austria. This marriage was very unhappy since the couple disliked each other, but it was successful in producing the desired heir for both Bavaria and the Spanish monarchy. Maximilian II Emanuel’s fame was assured when, in 1688, he led the capture of Belgrade from the Turks, with the full support of Serbian insurgents under the command of Jovan Monasterlija.

In the War of the Grand Alliance he again fought on the Habsburgs’ side, protecting the Rhine frontier, and, being the Emperor’s son-in-law and the husband of the King of Spain’s niece, was appointed governor of the Spanish Netherlands in late 1691.

Maximilian II Emanuel, by virtue of his marriage to Archduchess Maria-Antonia, the sole child of Emperor Leopold I’d Spanish marriage, was one of the more serious claimants to the Spanish inheritance of Carlos II of Spain, and the birth of his son Joseph-Ferdinand in October 1692 immediately created a new pretender to the Spanish throne.

In October 1698, William III of England and Louis XIV of France concluded the First Partition Treaty, which gave the Spanish crown with the Indies to Joseph-Ferdinand, Milan to Emperor Joseph’s younger son Archduke Charles, and the rest of Spanish Italy to France.

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Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor

The unexpected death of Joseph-Ferdinand four months later voided this plan and in the Second Partition Treaty, the Bavarian portion of the inheritance was allotted to Archduke Charles. By the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1701, Maximilian II Emanuel, who had long-term imperial aspirations, had hoped that his governorship of the Spanish Netherlands might yet reap the reward of a share of the Spanish inheritance from either Leopold or, failing him, Louis XIV. Allying himself with the French against Austria, his campaign against Tyrol in 1703 did not have success and his plans were then frustrated by the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.

Elector Maximilian II Emanuel was again forced to flee the Netherlands after the Battle of Ramillies on May 23, 1706 and found refuge at the French court in Versailles where his late sister Archduchess Maria-Anna (1660–1690) had been the wife of Prince Louis, the Grand Dauphin.

Back in Bavaria, Maximilian II Emanuel focused on architecture projects to balance the failure of his political ambitions. It was bitter for him to witness the royal elevation of the German princes Augustus II the Strong of Saxony became King of Poland (1697), Elector Friedrich III of Brandenburg became King Friedrich I in Prussia (1701) and Elector Georg-Ludwig of Hanover became King George I of Great Britain and Ireland 1714) as well as of his cousin Victor-Amadeus II of Savoy became the King of Sardinia (1713) while his own political dreams could not be realized.

Maximilian II Emanuel supported the new wars of the Habsburg against the Turks with Bavarian auxiliary forces (1717). In 1724 he created a union of all lines of the Wittelsbach dynasty to increase the influence of his house. The Wittelsbach Prince-Elector Maximilian II Emanuel, his son Clemens-August of Cologne, Charles III Philipp, Elector Palatine of the Rhine and Franz-Ludwig of Trier had at that time four votes at their disposal for the next imperial election.

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Theresa Kunegunda Sobieska of Poland

Maximilian II Emanuel second marriage was to Theresa Kunegunda (Polish: Teresa Kunegunda Sobieska, German: Kurfürstin Therese Kunigunde) (March 4, 1676 – March 10, 1730) was a Polish princess, She also served as Regent of the Palatinate in 1704–05.

She was a daughter of John III Sobieski King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania and Marie Casimire Louise de La Grange d’Arquien. Theresa was baptized in Jaworow on July 19, 1676, having for godfather Charles II, king of England and for godmother Marie-Thérèse of Austria, wife of Louis XIV.

The crown of the Holy Roman Empire was sought for either Maximilian II Emanuel or his son Charles-Albert. Already in 1722 Charles-Albert had been married to the Habsburg princess Archduchess Maria-Amalia of Austria. Charles-Albert was elected Holy Roman Emperor as Charles VII (1697-1745) in 1742. A member of the House of Wittelsbach, as the son of Maximilian II Emanuel, Charles VII’s reign marked the end of three centuries of uninterrupted Habsburg imperial rule.

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Charles VII Albert, Holy Roman Emperor

Charles VII was, however, related to the Habsburgs both by blood and by marriage. After the death of emperor Charles VI in 1740 he claimed the Archduchy of Austria due to his marriage to Archduchess Maria-Amalia of Austria, the niece of Charles VI, and was from 1741 to 1743 as Charles III briefly King of Bohemia.

In 1726, Maximilian II Emanuel died of a stroke. He is buried in the crypt of the Theatinerkirche in Munich.