War of the Bavarian Succession

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King Friedrich II of Prussia in the campaign of 1778

The War of the Bavarian Succession ( 1778 / 1779 ) was amended by claim of Austria in Lower Bavaria and the Upper Palatinate triggered after the Bavarian line of the Wittelsbach dynasty died out in 1777 and the Electorate of Bavaria should drop to the Palatinate line. It is considered the last of the cabinet wars of the early modern period .


The situation in the empire

Due to the feudal character of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, with its strong territorial fragmentation, there were frequent succession disputes in the 18th century. With the large number of de facto independent sub-states , a princely family often died out. The War of the Bavarian Succession represented one of numerous disputes of this kind, whereby it was above all an expression of the growing Prussian-Austrian antagonism .

The Wittelsbachers

The Duchy of Bavaria was one of the numerous states of the Holy Roman Empire . After the trial of Henry the Lion , Bavaria went to the Wittelsbach family in 1180 . These expanded the duchy into one of the largest German territorial states . In 1329 the Palatinate line of the Wittelsbach family came into being, which ruled over the Electoral Palatinate and Upper Palatinate and later divided into several branch lines. After Elector Frederick V of the Palatinate in the uprising of the Protestant Bohemian Estates against the Habsburgs to the King of Bohemia had been crowned (1619/20), which defeated him Catholic League in the Battle of White Mountain . The Palatine Wittelsbachers had to cede the Upper Palatinate to Bavaria. When on December 30, 1777, the Bavarian Elector Maximilian III. Joseph died, the Bavarian line of the Wittelsbach family died out. Due to the succession treaties, the Electorate of Bavaria should now fall to Elector Karl Theodor from the Pfalz-Sulzbach line, but Austria intervened.

The position of the Habsburgs

After the experiences in the three Silesian Wars against Prussia , the Austrian Habsburgs were concerned about the emergence of another great power on German soil. In addition, the loss of Silesia to Prussia had weakened the Habsburgs, so that the extinction of the Bavarian Wittelsbachers offered a welcome occasion for the Habsburg Emperor Joseph II to expand his lands and thereby strengthen his position of power in the empire (and also revenge for the War of the Austrian Succession the Wittelsbacher against his mother Maria Theresa ). Therefore, shortly after the death of Maximilian III. Claims on Lower Bavaria and the Upper Palatinate. Joseph II was able to persuade Elector Karl Theodor to forego these parts of Bavaria in exchange for substantial financial consideration and to renounce Upper Austria ( Freiburg to Constance ). After this exchange had been sealed by both in the Vienna Convention of January 3, 1778, Austrian troops moved into the Upper Palatinate and Lower Bavaria.


Austria's actions met with the rejection of most of the German imperial princes , above all Karl Theodor's heirs, Duke Karl II. August and King Friedrich II. Of Prussia, who, because of the looming extinction of the Franconian Hohenzollerns, was intent on succession in Ansbach and Bayreuth .

On July 3, Prussia declared war on Austria after previous diplomatic negotiations. The Prussian king mobilized his troops and marched them into Bohemia on July 5, 1778, which started the War of the Bavarian Succession. Great logistical problems quickly arose on both sides , so that noteworthy military conflicts were avoided.

Due to the poor supply situation and the bad weather, the soldiers had to live mainly on potatoes , which is why this conflict was derisively referred to by the Prussians as the "potato war". In Austria, the war was called the " plum rumble " because it consisted mainly of the confiscation of food. It is noteworthy that the war was not waged with the full force of the opposing powers because Maria Theresa - in the middle of the meager military actions - turned to the King of Prussia and asked him to refrain from a battle, which he also wrote in writing agreed. In this respect, this war can be described as a "struggle without military action", which was a novelty in the history of the European powers.

On May 13, 1779, the war was ended by the Peace of Teschen .


A second war for the possession of Bavaria loomed in 1785. This time it was not only about parts, but about the entire electorate, which Karl Theodor wanted to exchange with Austria for the Austrian Netherlands (excluding Luxembourg and Namur), which was with its neighboring, but from Bavaria, distant Palatinate ancestral lands and its Lower Rhine duchies Jülich and Berg would have merged well. Vienna had also assured him the title of " King of Burgundy ". Prussia again protested, mobilized Karl Theodors potential heirs to protest against the exchange and founded the Princes' League against Austria with other medium- sized German states . An armed conflict was thus averted, and from then on Vienna could no longer assert itself against Berlin within the Reich.

The Prussian-Austrian antagonism persisted despite the very quick settlement of the conflict and the results of the Peace of Teschen and was only to be finally eliminated in favor of Prussia almost eighty years later in the German War .

During the French Revolutionary Wars , after 1793, Prussia gave its approval to the Austro-Bavarian exchange plans in order to obtain Austria's approval for the Second Partition of Poland agreed between Russia and Prussia . However, the plan was no longer feasible: Austria had briefly recaptured the Netherlands after the Brabant Revolution and an initial French occupation, but lost it to the French revolutionary armies in 1794.

See also


  • Johann Jacob Moser : State history of the war between Austria and Prussia in the years 1778 and 1779, except for the Russian and French mediation of peace. Johann Gottlieb Garve, Frankfurt am Main 1779 ( digitized in the Google book search).
  • Gustav Berthold Volz: Frederick the Great and the War of the Bavarian Succession. In: Research on Brandenburg and Prussian history. Vol. 44, 1932, pp. 264-301.
  • Volker Press : Bavaria at a crossroads. The imperial policy of Emperor Joseph II and the War of the Bavarian Succession 1777–1779. In: Pankraz Fried , Walter Ziegler (Ed.): Festschrift for Andreas Kraus on his 60th birthday. Kallmünz 1982, pp. 277-307.
  • Michael Kotulla : War of the Bavarian Succession. (1778/79). In: Introduction to the German constitutional history. From the Old Reich to Weimar (1495–1934). Springer, Berlin / Heidelberg 2008, ISBN 978-3-540-48705-0 , pp. 207 f. ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  • Ferdinand Kramer , Ernst Schütz: Bavaria in transition . The correspondence of the Salzburg representatives in Munich with Prince Archbishop Hieronyus von Colloredo and Court Chancellor Franz Anton von Kürsinger at the beginning of the Bavarian succession crisis (December 1777 - April 1778) (=  Sources on the Modern History of Bavaria VI: Sources on the question of Bavarian succession . Volume 1 ). Commission for Bavarian State History, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-7696-6616-8 ( limited preview in Google book search).

Web links

Commons : War of the Bavarian Succession  - Collection of images, videos and audio files