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House of Wittelsbach
Armoiries du royaume de Bavière (1835).svg
Country Bavaria, Electoral Palatinate
Titles Duke of Bavaria, Elector Palatine
Founder Otto I Wittelsbach, Duke of Bavaria
Final ruler Ludwig III of Bavaria
Current head Franz, Duke of Bavaria
Founding year 1180
Dissolution 1918
Ethnicity German
Cadet branches House of Palatinate-Simmern (extinct)

House of Palatinate-Sulzbach (extinct)
House of Palatinate-Neumarkt (extinct)
House of Palatinate-Zweibrücken (extinct)
House of Palatinate-Birkenfeld

The Wittelsbach family is a European royal family and a German dynasty from Bavaria.

Their major principal roles were as Dukes, Electors and Kings of Bavaria (1180–1918), Counts Palatine of the Rhine (1214–1803), Margraves of Brandenburg (1323–1373), Counts of Holland, Hainaut and Zeeland (1345–1432), Elector-Archbishops of Cologne (1583–1761), Dukes of Jülich and Berg (1614–1794/1806), Kings of Sweden (1441-1448 and 1654–1720) and a King of Greece (1832–1862).

The family also provided two Holy Roman Emperors (1328/1742), one King of the Romans (1400), two Anti-Kings of Bohemia (1619/1742), one King of Hungary (1305) and one King of Denmark and Norway (1440).



Berthold, Margrave in Bavaria (died 980), was the ancestor of Otto I, Count of Scheyern (died 1072), whose 3rd son Otto II, Count of Dachau acquired the castle of Wittelsbach (near Aichach). The Counts of Scheyern left Burg Scheyern ("Scheyern Castle", constructed in about 940) in 1119 for Burg Wittelsbach ("Wittelsbach Castle").

Count Otto II was the ancestor of the Count palatine of Bavaria Otto IV (died 1156), whose son Otto was invested with the Duchy of Bavaria in 1180 after the fall of Henry the Lion. Duke Otto's son Louis I, Duke of Bavaria acquired also the Palatinate in 1214.

The Wittelsbach Castle itself was destroyed in 1209 after Count Otto of Wittelsbach, a nephew of Duke Otto, had murdered king Philip of Swabia. It has never been reconstructed.

Reign in the Holy Roman Empire

Wittelsbach Coat of Arms: With the Palatinate the Wittelsbach acquired also the lion as heraldic symbol, with the county of Bogen the white and blue coloured lozenge flag was acquired in 1240

The Wittelsbach family was the ruling dynasty of the German territories of Bavaria from 1180 to 1918 and of the Electoral Palatinate from 1214 until 1805; in 1815 the latter territory was partly incorporated as Rhine Palatinate into Bavaria, which was elevated to a kingdom by Napoleon in 1806.

On Duke Otto II's death in 1253, the Wittelsbach possessions were divided between his sons: Henry became Duke of Lower Bavaria, and Louis II Duke of Upper Bavaria and Count Palatine of the Rhine. When Henry's branch died out in 1340 the duchy was reunited under Emperor Louis IV, a son of Duke Louis II.

The family provided two Holy Roman Emperors: Louis IV (1314–1347) and Charles VII (1742–1745), both members of the Bavarian branch of the family, and one German King with Rupert of the Palatinate (1400–1410), a member of the Palatinate branch.

The House of Wittelsbach split into these two branches in 1329: Under the Treaty of Pavia, Emperor Louis IV granted the Palatinate including the Bavarian Upper Palatinate to his brother Duke Rudolf's descendants, Rudolf II, Rupert I and Rupert II. Rudolf I this way became the ancestor of the older (Palatinate) line of the Wittelsbach dynasty, which returned to power also in Bavaria in 1777 after the extinction of the younger (Bavarian) line, the descendants of Louis IV.


Bavarian branch

The Bavarian branch kept the duchy of Bavaria until its extinction in 1777. In 1623 the dukes were invested with the electoral dignity.

For half a century, from 1323 until 1373, the younger branch of the dynasty also ruled Brandenburg in the north-east of Germany. In the south Tyrol was kept between 1342 and 1363. Between 1345 and 1432, they governed also in Holland, Zeeland and Hainaut in the north-west of the former German Empire.

From 1349 onwards Bavaria was split among the descendants of Emperor Louis IV, who created the branches Bavaria-Landshut, Bavaria-Straubing, Bavaria-Ingolstadt and Bavaria-Munich. With the Landshut War of Succession Bavaria was reunited in 1505 against the claim of the Palatinate branch under the Bavarian branch Bavaria-Munich.

From 1583 to 1761, the Bavarian branch of the dynasty provided the Prince-electors and Archbishops of Cologne and many other Bishops of the Holy Roman Empire. Wittelsbach princes served for example as Bishops of Regensburg, Freising, Liege, Münster, Hildesheim, Paderborn and Osnabrück, and as Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order.

Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria served also as Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands (1692–1706) and as Duke of Luxemburg (1712–1714). His son Emperor Charles VII was also king of Bohemia (1741–1743).

With the death of Charles' son Maximilian III Joseph, Elector of Bavaria the Bavarian branch died out in 1777.

Palatinate branch

The Palatinate branch kept the Palatinate until 1918 and succeeded also in Bavaria in 1777. With the Golden Bull of 1356 the Counts Palatine were invested with the electoral dignity.

After the death of king Rupert of Germany in 1410 began the split of Palatinate lands under numerous branches such as Neumarkt, Simmern, Bossmann Zweibrücken, Birkenfeld, Neuburg and Sulzbach.

In 1619, the Protestant Frederick V, Elector Palatine was King of Bohemia but was defeated by the Catholic Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria, a member of the Bavarian branch. As a result the Upper Palatinate had to be ceded to the Bavarian branch in 1623. When the Thirty Years' War concluded with the Treaty of Münster (also called the Peace of Westphalia) in 1648, a new additional electorate was created for the Count Palatine of the Rhine.

The one of cadet branches of the Palatinate branch kept also the Duchy of Jülich and Berg from 1614 onwards. Princes of the Palatinate branch served as Bishops of the Empire, also as Elector-Archbishops of Mainz and Elector-Archbishops of Trier.

After the extinction of the Bavarian branch, a succession dispute and the brief War of the Bavarian Succession, the Palatinate branch succeeded in Bavaria in 1777.

With the death of Elector Charles Theodore in 1799 all Wittelsbach land in Bavaria and the Palatinate was reunited under Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria, a member of the branch Palatinate-Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld. At the time there were two surviving branches of the Wittelsbach family: Zweibrücken (headed by Maximilian I Joseph) and Birkenfeld (headed by Count Palatine William). Maximilian Joseph inherited Charles Thedore's title of Elector of Bavaria, while William was compensated with the title of Duke in Bavaria. The form Duke in Bavaria was selected because in 1506 primogeniture had been established in the House of Wittelsbach resulting in there being only one Reigning Duke of Bavaria at any given time. The style of king Maximilian Joseph assumed on January 1, 1806.

The Anif declaration (German: Anifer Erklärung), issued by the Bavarian king Ludwig III on 12 November 1918 at Anif Palace, Austria,[1] ended the 738-year rule of the House of Wittelsbach in Bavaria.[2]

Reign outside the Holy Roman Empire

With Duke Otto III, who was elected anti-king of Hungary as Bela 1305–1308 the Wittelsbach dynasty came to power outside the Holy Roman Empire for the first time.

Palatinate branch

Christopher III of the Palatinate branch was king of Denmark, Sweden and Norway 1440/1442–1448, but he left no descendants. The House of Palatinate-Zweibrücken contributed to the monarchy of Sweden again 1654–1720 under Charles X, Charles XI, Charles XII and Ulrika Eleonora.

The Wittelsbach princess Sophia of Hanover (1630–1714) was the mother of George I of Great Britain; she died as Heiress Presumptive of Great Britain a few weeks before the case of succession. The line of Jacobite succession is currently within the House of Wittelsbach. Franz, Hereditary Prince of Bavaria is recognised by the Jacobites as "Francis II".

Finally the Wittelsbach prince Otto of Bavaria was elected king of newly independent Greece in 1832 and was forced to abdicate in 1862.

Bavarian branch

Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria, Prince of Asturias was the favored choice of England and the Netherlands to succeed as the ruler of Spain, young Charles II of Spain chose him as his heir. Due to the unexpected death of Joseph Ferdinand in 1699 the Wittelsbach did not come to power in Spain.

Major members of the family

Patrilineal descent

Franz's patriline is the line from which he is descended father to son. Patrilineal descent is the principle behind membership in royal houses, as it can be traced back through the generations - which means that Franz’s royal house, the House of Wittelsbach, ultimately originates from the Luitpolding dynasty.

  1. Luitpold, Margrave of Bavaria, d. 907
  2. Arnulf, Duke of Bavaria, d. 937
  3. Berthold of Bavaria, 915–980
  4. Henry I of Schweinfurt, 960–1017
  5. Henry II of Schweinfurt, 1017–1043
  6. Otto I, Count of Scheyern, 1044–1072
  7. Otto II, Count of Scheyern, d. 1108
  8. Otto IV, Count of Wittelsbach, 1083–1156
  9. Otto I Wittelsbach, Duke of Bavaria, 1117–1183
  10. Louis I, Duke of Bavaria, 1173–1231
  11. Otto II Wittelsbach, Duke of Bavaria, 1206–1253
  12. Louis II, Duke of Bavaria, 1229–1294
  13. Rudolf I, Duke of Bavaria, 1274–1319
  14. Adolf, Count Palatine of the Rhine, 1300–1327
  15. Rupert II, Elector Palatine, 1325–1398
  16. Rupert of Germany, 1352–1410
  17. Stefan, Count Palatine of Simmern-Zweibrücken, 1385–1459
  18. Louis I, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken, 1424–1489
  19. Alexander, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken, 1462–1514
  20. Louis II, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken, 1502–1532
  21. Wolfgang, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken, 1526–1569
  22. Karl I, Count Palatine of Birkenfeld, 1560–1600
  23. Christian I, Count Palatine of Birkenfeld, 1598–1654
  24. Christian II, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken, 1637–1717
  25. Christian III, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken, 1674–1735
  26. Count Palatine Frederick Michael of Zweibrücken, 1724–1767
  27. Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria, 1756–1825
  28. Ludwig I of Bavaria, 1786–1868
  29. Luitpold, Prince Regent of Bavaria, 1821–1912
  30. Ludwig III of Bavaria, 1845–1921
  31. Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria, 1869–1955
  32. Albrecht, Duke of Bavaria, 1905–1996
  33. Franz, Duke of Bavaria, b. 1933

Bavarian branch

Palatinate branch

Several other women in the family are known as Elisabeth von Wittelsbach.

Family tree

Wittelsbach Dynasty Family Tree.JPG

See also

External links


  1. ^ Germany: Bavaria: Heads of State: 1806-1918, accessed: 14 June 2008
  2. ^ Rupprecht, Maria Luitpold Ferdinand, Kronprinz von Bayern (in German) Kirchenlexikon, accessed: 14 June 2008

Simple English

The Wittelsbach family is a European royal family and a German dynasty from Bavaria.

Members of the family were rulers of Bavaria, either as Dukes, Electors or Kings, from 1180 until the revolution in 1918, after the defeat of Germany in World War I.

Other land, controlled by other branches of the family include

Counts Palatine of the Rhine 12141803 Break during the Napoleonic Wars
Margraves of Brandenburg13231373
Counts of Holland13451432
Counts of Hainaut
Counts of Zeeland
Elector-Archbishops of Cologne15831761
Dukes of Jülich16141794Until occupied by the French
Dukes of Berg1806
Kings of Sweden14411448Christopher of Bavaria as Kristofer av Bayern
16541720Charles X Gustav, Charles XI, Charles XII, Ulrika Eleonora
Dukes of Bremen-Verden16541719

Wittelsbachs also ruled as

TitleReign startedReign endedNote
Holy Roman Emperor13281347Louis IV
17421745Charles VII
King of the Romans14001410Rupert
Anti-Kings of Bohemia16191620Frederick V, the Winter King
17411743Karel Albrecht Bavorský
King of Hungary13051308Béla V
King of Denmark14401448Christopher of Bavaria as Christoffer af Bayern
King of Norway 1442Christopher of Bavaria as Christoffer av Bayern
King of Greece18321862Otto I of Greece


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