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Coat of arms of Bavaria since 1949

The Free State of Bavaria (German: Freistaat Bayern), with an area of 70,553 km² (27,241 square miles) and almost 13.154.738 million inhabitants (as of June 2021), forms the southernmost and geographically largest state of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its capital is Munich. For 900 years Bavaria was a monarchy.


Coat of arms of the Kingdom of Bavaria
Flag of the Royal Bavarian Army (de)
  • Duchy of Bavaria (Herzogtum Bayern), c. 555–1623
    • It was settled by Bavarian tribes and ruled by dukes (duces) under Frankish overlordship. A new duchy was created from this area during the decline of the Carolingian Empire in the late ninth century. It became one of the stem duchies of the East Frankish realm which evolved as the Kingdom of Germany and the Holy Roman Empire.
  • Electorate of Bavaria (Kurfürstentum Bayern), 1623–1806
    • an independent hereditary electorate of the Holy Roman Empire
  • Kingdom of Bavaria (Königreich Bayern), 1805–1918
    • With the unification of Germany into the German Empire in 1871, the kingdom (since 26 December 1805 with the Peace of Pressburg, de facto 1 January 1806) became a federated state of the new empire and was second in size, power, and wealth only to the leading state, the Kingdom of Prussia.
  • People's State of Bavaria (Volksstaat Bayern), 1918–1919
    • short-lived socialist state from 8 November 1918 until 6 April 1919
  • Bavarian Soviet Republic (1919)
    • It was established in April 1919 after the demise of Kurt Eisner's People's State of Bavaria and sought to establish a socialist soviet republic in Bavaria. It was overthrown less than a month later by elements of the Vorläufige Reichswehr and the paramilitary Freikorps.
  • Free State of Bavaria (1919-1945)
    • The Bamberg Constitution (Bamberger Verfassung) was enacted on 12 or 14 August 1919 and came into force on 15 September 1919 creating the Free State of Bavaria within the Weimar Republic.
  • Free State of Bavaria


The Bavarians, a Germanic tribe, emerged in a region north of the Alps, originally inhabited by the Celts, which had been part of the Roman provinces of Rhaetia and Noricum. During the 5th century, the Romans in Noricum and Raetia, south of the Danube, came under increasing pressure from people north of the Danube. This area had become inhabited by Suebian groups from further north and was considered by Romans to be part of Germania. The Bavarians spoke Old High German but, unlike other Germanic groups, did not migrate from elsewhere. Rather, they seem to have coalesced out of other groups left behind by Roman withdrawal late in the 5th century AD. These peoples may have included Marcomanni, Thuringians, Goths, Rugians, Heruli, and some remaining Romans. The name "Bavarian" ("Baiuvari") means "Men of Baia" which may indicate Bohemia, the homeland of the Marcomanni. They first appear in written sources circa 520. Saint Boniface completed the people's conversion to Christianity in the early 8th century. Bavaria was, for the most part, unaffected by the Protestant Reformation, and even today, most of it is strongly Roman Catholic.

From about 550 to 788, the house of Agilolfing ruled the Duchy of Bavaria, ending with Tassilo III who was deposed by Charlemagne.

Three early dukes are named in Frankish sources: Garibald I may have been appointed to the office by the Merovingian kings and married the Lombard princess Walderada when the church forbade her to King Chlothar I in 555. Their daughter, Theodelinde, became Queen of the Lombards in northern Italy and Garibald was forced to flee to her when he fell out with his Frankish overlords. Garibald's successor, Tassilo I, tried unsuccessfully to hold the eastern frontier against the expansion of Slavs and Avars around 600. Tassilo's son Garibald II seems to have achieved a balance of power between 610 and 616.

After Garibald II little is known of the Bavarians until Duke Theodo I, whose reign may have begun as early as 680. From 696 onwards he invited churchmen from the west to organize churches and strengthen Christianity in his duchy (it is unclear what Bavarian religious life consisted of before this time). His son, Theudebert, led a decisive Bavarian campaign to intervene in a succession dispute in the Lombard Kingdom in 714, and married his sister Guntrud to the Lombard King Liutprand. At Theodo's death the duchy was divided among his sons, but reunited under his grandson Hucbert.

At Hucbert's death (735) the duchy passed to a distant relative named Odilo, from neighboring Alemannia (modern Southwest Germany and northern Switzerland). Odilo issued a law code for Bavaria, completed the process of church organization in partnership with St. Boniface (739), and tried to intervene in Frankish succession disputes by fighting for the claims of the Carolingian Grifo. He was defeated near Augsburg in 743 but continued to rule until his death in 748.

Tassilo III (b. 741 - d. after 794) succeeded his father at the age of eight after an unsuccessful attempt by Grifo to rule Bavaria. He initially ruled under Frankish oversight but began to function independently from 763 onwards. He was particularly noted for founding new monasteries and for expanding eastwards, fighting Slavs in the eastern Alps and along the Danube and colonizing these lands. After 781, however, his cousin Charlemagne began to pressure Tassilo to submit and finally deposed him in 788. The deposition was not entirely legitimate; Dissenters attempted a coup against Charlemagne at Tassilo's old capital of Regensburg in 792, led by his own son Pippin the Hunchback, and the king had to drag Tassilo out of imprisonment to formally renounce his rights and titles at the Assembly of Frankfurt in 794. This is the last appearance of Tassilo in the sources and he probably died a monk. As all of his family were also forced into monasteries, this was the end of the Agilolfing dynasty.

For the next 400 years numerous families held the duchy, rarely for more than three generations. With the revolt of duke Henry the Quarrelsome in 976, Bavaria lost large territories in the south and south east. The last, and one of the most important, of these dukes was Henry the Lion of the house of Welf, founder of Munich. When Henry the Lion was deposed as duke of Saxony and Bavaria by his cousin, Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1180, Bavaria was awarded as fief to the Wittelsbach family, which ruled from 1180 to 1918. Also the Electoral Palatinate was acquired by the Wittelsbach in 1214.

The first of several divisions of the duchy of Bavaria occurred in 1255. With the extinction of the Hohenstaufen in 1268 also Swabian territories were acquired by the Wittelsbach dukes. Emperor Louis the Bavarian acquired Brandenburg, Tyrol, Holland and Hainaut for his House but released the Upper Palatinate for the Palatinate branch of the Wittelsbach in 1329. In 1506 with the Landshut War of Succession the other parts of Bavaria were reunited and Munich became the sole capital.

In 1623 the Bavarian duke replaced his relative, the Count Palatine of the Rhine in the early days of the Thirty Years' War and acquired the powerful prince-electoral dignity in the Holy Roman Empire, determining its Emperor thence forward, as well as special legal status under the empire's laws. Also the Upper Palatinate was reunited with Bavaria. The ambitions of the Bavarian prince electors led to several wars with Austria during the early 18th century. From 1777 onwards Bavaria and the Electoral Palatinate were governed in personal union again.

Kingdom of Bavaria

In the “Treaty of Brünn” (10 December 1805), the French Emperor guaranteed Bavaria “hereditary royal dignity”. This was finalized with Peace of Pressburg on 26 December 1805. On 1 January 1806, Elector Maximilian IV accepted the title of king as Maximilian I Joseph.[1]

When Napoleon prepared to abolish the Holy Roman Empire (finalized on 6 August 1806), Bavaria became a kingdom (Königreich Bayern), and its area reduplicated. Tyrol and Salzburg were temporarily reunited with Bavaria but finally ceded to Austria. In return the Rhenish Palatinate and Franconia were annexed to Bavaria in 1815. Between 1799 and 1817 the leading minister count Montgelas followed a strict policy of modernisation and laid the foundations of administrative structures that survived even the monarchy and are (in their core) valid until today. In 1818 a modern constitution (by the standards of the time) was passed, that established a bicameral Parliament with a House of Lords ("Kammer der Reichsräte") and a House of Commons ("Kammer der Abgeordneten"). The constitution was valid until the collapse of the monarchy at the end of the First World War.

After the rise of Prussia to prominence Bavaria managed to preserve its independence by playing off the rivalries of Prussia and Austria within the German Confederation, but defeat in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War led to its incorporation into the German Empire in 1871. In the early 20th century Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Henrik Ibsen, and other notable artists were drawn to Bavaria, notably to the Schwabing district of Munich, later devastated by World War II.

Kings of Bavaria

King of Bavaria (König von Bayern) was a title held by the hereditary Wittelsbach rulers of Bavaria in the state known as the Kingdom of Bavaria from 1805 until 1918, when the kingdom fell into abeyance with the exile of King Ludwig III. It was the second time Bavaria was a kingdom, almost a thousand years after the short-lived Carolingian kingdom of Bavaria.

  • Maximilian (I) Maria Michael Johann Baptist Franz de Paula Joseph Kaspar Ignatius Nepomuk von Pfalz-Birkenfeld-Zweibrücken 1806–1825
  • Ludwig (I) Karl August von Pfalz-Birkenfeld-Zweibrücken 1825–1848 (d. 1868), known as 'the builder'. The impressive rotunda of the Hall of Liberation, situated on the Michelsberg in Kelheim, southwest of Regensberg, dominates the surrounding countryside. King Ludwig I commissioned the construction of this monument to commemorate both the victorious battles against Napoleon during the Wars of Liberation 1813–1815 and the unification of all the German races. He is also responsible for the specacular Walhalla, near Regensberg, a neo-Greek temple of fame that honours laudable and distinguished people in German history.
  • Maximilian (II) Joseph von Wittelsbach 1848–1864
  • Ludwig (II) Otto Friedrich Wilhelm von Wittelsbach 1864–1886
  • Otto Wilhelm Luitpold Adalbert Waldemar von Wittelsbach 1886–1913 (d. 1916); Otto was cheerful, outgoing and extroverted until the Franco-Prussian War in which he served with distinction. He became, in stages, mentally ill thereafter and he never actively ruled. His uncle, Luitpold, and his cousin, Ludwig, served as Regents. Ludwig III deposed Otto in 1913, a day after the legislature passed a law allowing him to do so, and became king in his own right.
    • Luitpold Karl Joseph Wilhelm Ludwig, Prince-Regent of Bavaria 1886–1912 (de facto ruler)
    • Ludwig Luitpold Josef Maria Aloys Alfried, Prince-Regent of Bavaria 1912–1913 (de facto ruler), Luitpold's son
  • Ludwig (III) Luitpold Josef Maria Aloys Alfried von Wittelsbach 1913–1918. Ludwig of Bavaria was a true soldier. He was wounded in a leg while serving in the Royal Bavarian Army during 1866 war against the Prussians (Bavaria was allied with the Austrian Empire as part of the German Confederation). Once again, he showed his bravery during the Franco-German War of 1870-1. He received both classes of the Iron cross in 1914 and the Pour le Mérite in 1916 during World War I. He also received wartime awards from a few other German and allied states. He was one of those in the funeral cortége for the Emperor-King of Austria-Hungary, Franz Josef, in 1916. Ludwig III's eldest son and heir was Crown Prince Rupprecht (1869-1955) who served in The Great War.

The current heir to the throne of Bavaria is Prince Franz Bonaventura Adalbert Maria, Duke of Bavaria (b.14 July 1933), the head of the House of Wittelsbach. He is unmarried. The heir presumptive, therefore, is his brother Prince Max, Duke in Bavaria. Both brothers are great-grandsons of King Ludwig III. However, because Max only has five daughters but no sons, he is followed in the line of succession by his and Franz's first cousin (second cousin in the male line) Prince Luitpold and, in the next generation, by the latter's son Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (born 1982).



In November 1918 demonstrations were organised in Munich by the Marxist Social Democratic Party of Germany and by the communist Jew, Kurt Eisner, which resulted in forcing King Ludwig III into exile to a castle outside Salzburg. The King, however, refused to abdicate. Eisner was assassinated in February 1919 leading to a communist revolt, which was violently suppressed. This led to a rise in patriotic awareness and action, notably the founding in 1920, in Munich, of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, and the failed 1923 Munich Putsch. Munich and Nuremberg became National Socialist strongholds before and during the Third Reich.

There are many ancient and beautiful cities and towns in Bavaria. Not far from Munich is Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a German ski resort in the Bavarian Alps. The town lies near the Zugspitze, Germany's highest peak, with a 2,962m summit accessed by cogwheel train and cable car. Garmisch is considered the more fashionable section, while Partenkirchen's cobblestone streets retain a traditional Bavarian feel. The two towns united in 1935. The following year it hosted the famous Winter Olympic Games. It is today a prominent destination for skiing and ice skating as well as hiking. The famous composer Richard Strauss's home, where he composed many works, and died, is on the outskirts of town and is today a museum.


Munich was unscathed for the first three years of the war; it suffered 30 major raids from September 1942. In Munich 89% of bombs on the city fell in 1944 & 1945 and 45% of the city was destroyed.[2] Altogether, however, the city was hit by 71 air raids over a period of six years. Examples are the 24 April 1944 when the city and the surrounding area were heavily attacked during the day by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF).[3] Over seven hundred bomber aircraft took part and were escorted by P-51B, P-38J, and P-47D aircraft, with around eight hundred fighter aircraft. The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 bomber aircraft came from the 8th and 9th Air Forces. The attack, it was said, was intended to limit production of the German Dornier Do 335 aircraft at Dornier Flugzeugwerke, at Oberpfaffenhofen, and turbine blades for the Junkers Jumo 004 axial-flow turbojet. Oberpfaffenhofen is now the home of the mission control center for the German Space Operations Center (Deutsches Raumfahrt-Kontrollzentrum)) of the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (German Aerospace Centre).

Renowned Bavarian CSU politician Franz Joseph Strauss.

During the night of the same day 234 British RAF Avro Lancaster bombers and 16 Mosquito aircraft attacked Munich. It was a devastating and concentrated attack, and around 80% of the buildings in the target area were destroyed.[4] The attack was noted for a new method of target marking at low levels from 700 feet. Karlsruhe, further to the north-west, was also heavily bombed by the RAF that night. Nine Lancaster aircraft were lost in the raid. Of cultural and religious buildings, 92 were totally destroyed, 182 damaged, including the cathedral, the old town hall, the council room, the State Library (losses of half a million books), the Royal Residenz (palace), the nearby National Theatre, the Maxburg - which was built in the Renaissance style, by decree of the Bavarian Duke Wilhelm V the Pious in 1593-1597, and so on. Tens of thousands of civilians were murdered in these air-raids with similar numbers wounded and maimed for life. The population of Munich declined by 41% between 1939 and 1945. The exact figure of deaths from bombings up to the end of the war has never been established with certainty, partly because of the influx of refugees, and in the final months of the war accurate record-keeping was no longer possible.[5]

Munich fell to the invading United States army forces on 30th April 1945 following a token defence by scattered defenders.


Since World War II, Bavaria has been rehabilitated into a prosperous industrial hub. A massive reconstruction effort restored much of Munich's historic core, and the city played host to the 1972 Summer Olympics. Possibly its most famous politician was the leader of the Christian Social Union party, Franz Josef Strauss (1915-1988). State Minister-president Edmund Stoiber was the CDU/CSU candidate for Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) in the 2002 federal election, and Bavarian Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

External links


  • Jouda, Jirí & MacLagan, Michael, Lines of Succession, Orbis Publishing, London, 1981, pps:188-194. ISBN: 0-85613-276-4.


  1. Friede von Pressburg vom 26. Dezember 1805
  2. Overy, Richard, The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945, Allen Lane pub., London, 2013, pps: 468, 472-3, ISBN:978-0-713-99561-9
  3. Battle over Munich
  4. April 1944 attack
  5. Overy, 2013, p.473-5.