Armistice, Frederick Augustus III of Saxony, German Emperor, German Empire, German Revolution, Hesse and By Rhine, King of Prussia, Ludwig III of Bavaria, Oldenburg, Prince Max of Baden, Wilhelm II, Wilhelm II of Württemberg, World War I
The Armistice ending World War I was agreed upon at 5:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918, to come into effect at 11:00 a.m. Paris time (noon German time), for which reason the occasion is sometimes referred to as “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”.
The German Empire consisted of 26 states, each with their own nobility, four constituent kingdoms, six grand duchies, five duchies (six before 1876), seven principalities, three free Hanseatic cities, and one imperial territory. While Prussia was one of four kingdoms in the realm, it contained about two-thirds of Empire’s population and territory, and Prussian dominance had also been constitutionally established, since the King of Prussia was also the German Emperor (German: Kaiser)
In this post I will give a brief summary of the abdications of the German monarchs at the end of the war. Today I will mention the four kingdoms and 6 grand duchess that made up the German Empire. On November 28th, the anniversary of the abolition of the monarchy, I will summarize the abdication of the 5 Duchies and 7 Principalities that constituted the empire.
German Emperor and King of Prussia
As the war was nearing its end Wilhelm II’s hope of retaining at least one of his crowns,, that of the Kingdom of Prussia, was revealed as unrealistic when, in the hope of preserving the monarchy in the face of growing revolutionary unrest, Chancellor Prince Max of Baden announced Wilhelm’s abdication of both titles on November 9, 1918.
Wilhelm consented to the abdication only after Ludendorff’s replacement, General Wilhelm Groener, had informed him that the officers and men of the army would march back in good order under Hindenburg’s command, but would certainly not fight for Wilhelm’s throne. The monarchy’s last and strongest support had been broken, and finally even Hindenburg, himself a lifelong monarchist, was obliged, after polling his generals, to advise the Emperor to give up the crown. On November 10, Wilhelm crossed the border by train and went into exile in the Netherlands.
Kingdom of Bavaria
On November 2, 1918, an extensive constitutional reform was established by an agreement between the royal government and all parliamentary groups, which, among other things, envisaged the introduction of proportional representation. Ludwig III, approved on the same day the transformation of the constitutional into a parliamentary monarchy. On November 7, 1918, Ludwig III fled from the Residenz Palace in Munich with his family and took up residence in Schloss Anif, near Salzburg, for what he hoped would be a temporary stay. He was the first of the monarchs in the German Empire to be deposed. The next day, the People’s State of Bavaria was proclaimed. This effectively dethroned the Wittelsbachs and ended the family’s 738-year rule over Bavaria.
Kingdom of Württemberg
King Wilhelm II of Württemberg finally abdicated on November 30, 1918, ending over 800 years of Württemberg rule. He died in 1921 at Bebenhausen. King Wilhelm II was also the last German ruler to abdicate in the wake of the November Revolution of 1918.
Kingdom of Saxony
Friedrich August III was a member of the House of Wettin, and the last King of Saxony (1904–1918). Though well-loved by his subjects, he voluntarily abdicated as king on November 13, 1918, after the defeat of the German Empire in World War I. He died in Sibyllenort (now Szczodre) in Lower Silesia and was buried in Dresden.
When the German Republic was proclaimed in 1918, he was asked by telephone whether he would abdicate willingly. He said: “Oh, well, I suppose I’d better.”
Upon abdicating, he is supposed to have said “Nu da machd doch eiern Drägg alleene!” (Saxon for “Well then take care of this crap yourselves!”), but there is no documentation of this.
When cheered by a crowd in a railroad station several years after his abdication, he stuck his head out of the train’s window and shouted “Ihr seid mer ja scheene Demogradn!” (Saxon for “You’re a fine lot of republicans, I’ll say!”).
Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine
During World War I, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine served as an officer at German Emperor Wilhelm II’s headquarters. In February, 1917, the February Revolution in Russia forced his brother-in-law, Emperor Nicholas II, to abdicate. Sixteen months later, in July 1918, his two sisters in Russia, Elizabeth, the widow of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, and Alexandra, the wife of Nicholas II, were murdered by the Bolsheviks, Alexandra dying alongside her husband and children. At the end of the war, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig lost his throne during the revolution of 1918, after refusing to abdicate.
Grand Duchies of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Following the 1918 suicide of Grand Duke Adolph Friedrich VI of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Grand Duke Friedrich Franz IV of Mecklenburg-Schwerin took up the regency of Strelitz. This happened because the heir presumptive Duke Charles Michael was serving in the Russian Army at the time and had indicated that he wished to renounce his succession rights. Friedrich Franz IV abdicated the grand ducal throne on November 14, 1918 following the German Empire’s defeat in World War I; the Strelitz regency ended at the same time.
Grand Duchy of Baden
Grand Duke Friedrich II of Baden was the last sovereign Grand Duke of Baden, reigning from 1907 until the abolition of the German monarchies in 1918. He abdicated on November 22, 1918, amidst the tumults of the German Revolution of 1918–19 which resulted in the abolition of the Grand Duchy.
Following the death of his uncle Grand Duke Friedrich I of Baden in 1907, Margrave Maximilian (Max of Baden) became heir to the grand-ducal throne of his cousin Friedrich II, whose marriage remained childless.
in October and November 1918 Maximilian briefly served as the last Chancellor of the German Empire and Minister-President of Prussia. He sued for peace on Germany’s behalf at the end of World War I based on U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, which included immediately transforming the government into a parliamentary system, by handing over the office of chancellor to SPD Chairman Friedrich Ebert and unilaterally proclaiming the abdication of Emperor Wilhelm II. Both events took place on November 9, 1918, the beginning of the Weimar Republic.
Grand Duchy of Saxe-Wiemar-Eisenach
In 1901 Charles Alexander was succeeded by his grandson Wilhelm Ernst. In 1903, the Grand Duchy officially changed its name to Grand Duchy of Saxony. However, many people continued to call it Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, to avoid confusion with the neighbouring Kingdom of Saxony.
Wilhelm Ernst abdicated the throne on November 9, 1918, thereby ending the monarchy in the state. It continued as the Free State of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, until 1920, when it merged with most of its neighbours to form Thuringia, with Weimar as the state capital.
Grand Duchy of Oldenburg
Friedrich August III began his reign on June 13, 1900, when his father, Grand Duke Peter II, died. His reign came to an end on November 11, 1918, shortly before the German monarchy was formally abolished on November 28, 1918.
Friedrich August and his family took up residence at Rastede Castle, where he took up farming and local industrial interests. A year after his abdication, he asked the Oldenburg Diet for a yearly allowance of 150,000 marks, stating that his financial condition was “extremely precarious.”