The Crown of the King of Bavaria is a part of the Bavarian Crown Jewels and was ordered and designed between 1804–1807 for Maximilian I after Napoleon had raised Bavaria to kingdom status.
The Crown of Bavaria
Maximilian I Joseph (May 27, 1756 – October 13, 1825) was Duke of Zweibrücken from 1795 to 1799, Prince-Elector of Bavaria (as Maximilian IV Joseph) from 1799 to 1806, then King of Bavaria (as Maximilian I Joseph) from 1806 to 1825. He was a member of the House of Palatinate-Birkenfeld-Zweibrücken, a branch of the House of Wittelsbach.
On April 1, 1795, Maximilian succeeded his brother Duke Charles II August as Duke of Zweibrücken, however his duchy was entirely occupied by revolutionary France at the time.
Maximilian I Joseph, King of Bavaria, Elector of Bavaria, Count Palatine of the Rhine
On February 16, 1799, he became Elector of Bavaria and Count Palatine of the Rhine, Arch-Steward of the Empire, and Duke of Berg upon the extinction of the Palatinate-Sulzbach line at the death of Elector Charles IV Theodore of Bavaria.
The new elector Maximilian IV Joseph found the Bavarian army in abject condition on his accession to the throne: Hardly any of the units were at full strength, the Rumford uniforms were unpopular and impractical, and the troops were badly-trained. The young Prince-Elector, who had served under the Ancien Régime in France as a colonel in the Royal Deux-Ponts regiment, made the reconstruction of the army a priority.
Maximilian’s sympathy with France and the ideas of enlightenment at once manifested itself when he acceded to the throne of Bavaria. In the newly organized ministry, Count Max Josef von Montgelas, who, after falling into disfavour with Charles IV Theodore, had acted for a time as Maximilian IV Joseph’s private secretary, was the most potent influence, wholly “enlightened” and French.
Elector Charles IV Theodore of Bavaria, Count Palatine of the Rhine
Creation of the Kingdom of Bavaria
On December 30, 1777, the main line of the Bavarian Wittelsbachs became extinct, and the succession to the Electorate of Bavaria passed to Charles IV Theodore, the Elector Palatine of the Rhine. After a separation of four and a half centuries, the Palatinate, to which the duchies of Jülich and Berg had been added, was thus reunited with Bavaria.
Upon the succession of Charles IV Theodore, now both the Electorate of Bavaria and the Palatine of the Rhine, the title and authority of the two Electorates were combined, with Charles IV Theodore and his heirs retaining only the one vote and precedence as the Bavarian elector, although subsequent monarchs continued to use the title ‘Count Palatine of the Rhine.’
In 1792, French revolutionary armies overran the Palatinate; in 1795, the French, under Moreau, invaded Bavaria itself, advanced to Munich—where they were received with joy by the long-suppressed Liberals—and laid siege to Ingolstadt.
Charles IV Theodore, who had done nothing to prevent wars or to resist the invasion, fled to Saxony, leaving a regency, the members of which signed a convention with Moreau, by which he granted an armistice in return for a heavy contribution on September 7, 1796. Between the French and the Austrians, Bavaria was now in a bad situation. Before the death of Charles IV Theodore (16 February 1799), the Austrians had again occupied the country, in preparation for renewing the war with France.
Maximilian IV Joseph, the new elector, succeeded to a difficult inheritance. Though his own sympathies, and those of his all-powerful minister, Maximilian von Montgelas, were, if anything, French rather than Austrian, the state of the Bavarian finances, and the fact that the Bavarian troops were scattered and disorganized, placed him helpless in the hands of Austria.
Maximilian I Joseph, King of Bavaria
On December 2, 1800, the Bavarian armies were involved in the Austrian defeat at Hohenlinden, and Moreau once more occupied Munich. By the Treaty of Lunéville (February 9 1801), Bavaria lost the Palatinate and the duchies of Zweibrücken and Jülich. In view of the scarcely disguised ambitions and intrigues of the Austrian court, Montgelas now believed that the interests of Bavaria lay in a frank alliance with the French Republic; he succeeded in overcoming the reluctance of Maximilian IV Joseph; and, on August 24, a separate treaty of peace and alliance with France was signed at Paris.
In foreign affairs, Maximilian IV Joseph’s attitude was, from the German point of view, less commendable. He never had any sympathy with the growing sentiment of German nationality, and his attitude was dictated by wholly dynastic, or at least Bavarian, considerations. His reward came with the Treaty of Pressburg (26 December 1805), by the terms of which he was to receive the royal title and important territorial acquisitions in Swabia and Franconia to round off his kingdom. He assumed the title of king on 1 January 1806. On March 15, he ceded the Duchy of Berg to Napoleon’s brother-in-law Joachim Murat.
The King still served as an Elector until Bavaria seceded from the Holy Roman Empire on August 1, 1806. The Duchy of Berg was ceded to Napoleon only in 1806. The new kingdom faced challenges from the outset of its creation, relying on the support of Napoleonic France.
Until 1813, he was the most faithful of Napoleon’s German allies, the relationship cemented by the marriage of his eldest daughter, Princess Augusta of Bavaria, to Eugène de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s stepson.
The new King of Bavaria was the most important of the princes belonging to the Confederation of the Rhine, and remained Napoleon’s ally until the eve of the Battle of Leipzig, when by the Treaty of Ried (October 8, 1813) he made the guarantee of the integrity of his kingdom the price of his joining the Allies. On 14 October, Bavaria made a formal declaration of war against Napoleonic France.
Crown of Bavaria
The Crown of Bavaria was commissioned to the French goldsmith Jean-Baptiste de Lasne, who drew inspiration from the crown of Louis XV of France. Maximilian’s alliance with Emperor Napoleon earned him the royal title and vast territorial increases at the Treaty of Pressburg (1805). This made him one of the chief members of the Confederation of the Rhine.
Maximilian I ordered the regalia which can be seen today in the Treasury at the Residenz in Munich. Made by Biennais, the most famous French goldsmith of the day, the Royal Crown of Bavaria is set with rubies, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and pearls. The Wittelsbach Diamond was removed and sold in 1931 by the Wittelsbach family.
Like other royal insignia, the crown was not worn by the sovereign. It was placed on a cushion during official ceremonies.