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(vĭ`təlsbäkh), German dynasty that ruled Bavaria from 1180 until 1918.

The family takes its name from the ancestral castle of Wittelsbach in Upper Bavaria. In 1180 Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I invested Count Otto of Wittelsbach with the much-reduced duchy of BavariaBavaria
, Ger. Bayern, state (1994 pop. 11,600,000), 27,239 sq mi (70,549 sq km), S Germany. Munich is the capital. The largest state of Germany, Bavaria is bordered by the Czech Republic on the east, by Austria on the southeast and south, by Baden-Württemberg on the
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, of which he had deprived the Guelphic duke, Henry the Lion. In 1214 Otto's son, Otto II, also received the Rhenish Palatinate. After Otto's death (1253) the Wittelsbach possessions were divided between an elder branch, which received the Rhenish Palatinate and W Bavaria, and a younger branch, which received the rest.

The Wittelsbachs reached their zenith under Duke Louis III, of the elder branch, who became Holy Roman Emperor Louis IVLouis IV
or Louis the Bavarian,
1287?–1347, Holy Roman emperor (1328–47) and German king (1314–47), duke of Upper Bavaria. After the death of Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII the Luxemburg party among the electors set aside Henry's son, John of Luxemburg,
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 (reigned 1314–47). Louis IV temporarily (1324–73) attached BrandenburgBrandenburg
, state (1994 est. pop. 2,540,000), c.10,400 sq mi (26,940 sq km), E Germany. Potsdam is the capital; other leading cities include Cottbus, Frankfurt-an-der-Oder, and Brandenburg.
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 to his dynasty and through his second marriage added Hainaut, Holland, Zeeland, and Friesland. In 1329, Louis IV subdivided the Wittelsbach lands; the elder branch, descended from Louis's brother Rudolf, received the Rhenish and the Upper Palatinate, while the younger branch, descended from Louis's first marriage, received Bavaria proper.

The electoral dignity at first was to alternate between the two branches but was settled permanently on the Palatinate branch by the Golden Bull of 1356. Both branches underwent several subdivisions, but in the early 16th cent. Bavaria was reunited by Duke Albert IV, who introduced succession by primogeniture. (For the subdivisions of the Palatinate branch, which is not treated here in detail, see PalatinatePalatinate
, Ger. Pfalz, two regions of Germany. They are related historically, but not geographically. The Rhenish or Lower Palatinate (Ger.
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In 1443 Philip the Good of Burgundy seized Hainaut, Holland, Zeeland, and Friesland from Countess Jacqueline, his first cousin. In the 16th and 17th cent. the Bavarian Wittelsbachs championed the Roman Catholic cause while the Palatinate branch were the leading Protestant princes. After the defeat of the elector palatine, known as Frederick the Winter KingFrederick the Winter King,
1596–1632, king of Bohemia (1619–20), elector palatine (1610–20) as Frederick V. The Protestant diet of Bohemia deposed the Roman Catholic King Ferdinand (Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II) and chose Frederick as king.
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 of Bohemia, his electoral voice was transferred (1623) to Duke Maximilian IMaximilian I,
1573–1651, elector (1623–51) and duke (1597–1651) of Bavaria, one of the outstanding figures of the Thirty Years War and an ardent supporter of the Counter Reformation.
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 of Bavaria, who also received the Upper Palatinate. A new electorate was created in 1648 for Frederick's son, to whom the Rhenish Palatinate was restored.

Elector Charles Albert of Bavaria was chosen (1742) Holy Roman emperor as Charles VIICharles VII,
1697–1745, Holy Roman emperor (1742–45) and, as Charles Albert, elector of Bavaria (1726–45). Having married a daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph I, he refused to recognize the pragmatic sanction of 1713 by which Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI
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; with the death (1777) of his son, Maximilian III, the Bavarian branch of the Wittelsbachs died out, and the Palatinate-Sulzbach line acceded in Bavaria in the person of Elector Charles Theodore, who died in 1799 without issue. He was succeeded by the duke palatine of Zweibrücken, senior member of the Palatinate branch, who thus united all Wittelsbach lands under his sole rule and who in 1806 became king of Bavaria as Maximilian IMaximilian I,
1756–1825, king (1806–25) and elector (1799–1806) of Bavaria as Maximilian IV Joseph. His alliance with French Emperor Napoleon I earned him the royal title and vast territorial increases at the Treaty of Pressburg (1805) and made him one of the
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. His successors as kings of Bavaria were Louis ILouis I,
1786–1868, king of Bavaria (1825–48), son and successor of King Maximilian I. He was chiefly responsible for transforming Munich into one of the handsomest capitals of Europe and for making it a center of the arts.
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, Maximilian IIMaximilian II,
1811–64, king of Bavaria (1848–64), son and successor of Louis I. He had liberal tendencies and was a patron of art and learning. He hoped to create a union of small German states under Bavarian leadership as a counterweight to Austrian and Prussian
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, Louis IILouis II,
1845–86, king of Bavaria (1864–86), son and successor of King Maximilian II. Much was hoped from the handsome, talented, and liberal young prince at his accession, but his prodigality and eccentricity soon alienated his subjects.
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, Otto IOtto I,
1848–1916, king of Bavaria (1886–1913). Although incurably insane after 1872, he succeeded his brother King Louis II under the regency of his uncle Luitpold (1886–1912) and Luitpold's son Louis (1912–13).
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, and Louis IIILouis III,
1845–1921, last king of Bavaria (1913–18). He succeeded (1912) his father, Luitpold, as regent for the insane Otto I but proclaimed himself king in 1913. He was overthrown in the Bavarian revolution of Nov., 1918.
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, who was deposed in 1918.

Empress Elizabeth of Austria, wife of Francis JosephFrancis Joseph
or Franz Joseph,
1830–1916, emperor of Austria (1848–1916), king of Hungary (1867–1916), nephew of Ferdinand, who abdicated in his favor.
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, and Queen Elizabeth of the Belgians, consort of Albert IAlbert I,
1875–1934, king of the Belgians (1909–34), nephew and successor of Leopold II. He married (1900) Elizabeth, a Bavarian princess. In World War I his heroic resistance (1914) to the German invasion of Belgium greatly helped the Allied cause.
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, issued from a collateral line of the dynasty, and the Wittelsbachs have intermarried for centuries with all the royal families of Europe. A line of the Palatinate branch (see ZweibrückenZweibrücken
, Fr. Deux-Ponts, city (1994 pop. 35,704), Rhineland-Palatinate, W Germany, near the Saarland border. Zweibrücken is a transportation center and has ironworks, steelworks, and factories that produce leather goods, wood products, machines, and
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) ruled Sweden from 1654 to 1741. Crown Prince Rupert (d. 1955), son of King Louis III and claimant to the Bavarian throne (the family never renounced their claim), also inherited, through a complicated succession, the claim of the StuartStuart
or Stewart,
royal family that ruled Scotland and England. The Stuart lineage began in a family of hereditary stewards of Scotland, the earliest of whom was Walter (d. 1177), grandson of a Norman adventurer.
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 dynasty to the British throne.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a southern German dynasty that ruled from 1180 to 1918 in Bavaria. The family received the duchy of Bavaria in 1180; after the death of Henry the Lion in 1214, they consolidated their power in the Palatinate of the Rhine. In 1329 the dynasty was divided into two branches—the older branch, which ruled in the Rhenish Palatinate (electors from 1356), and the younger branch in Bavaria, to whom the title elector was given in 1623. The Bavarian Wittelsbach dynasty ended in 1777; the Palatinate branch united Bavaria and the Palatinate in 1779, after the war for the Bavarian inheritance. The Wittelsbachs were kings of Bavaria from 1806 to 1918. Members of the dynasty who ruled as German kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire are Ludwig IV of Bavaria (ruled 1314-47), Rupert of the Palatinate (1400-10), and Karl VII (1742-45).

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
It was in 1918 that the people of Bavaria declared themselves free of the dynastic rule of the House of Wittelsbach and the Free State of Bavaria was born.
The complete Leipzig edition of Bach's works was given to Father Hartmann in 1905 by Emperor Wilhelm II, and the pocketbook scores of all the Wagner operas were presented to him by the Royal House of Wittelsbach in 1902.
All this time the demand for white beer was on the rise, making the house of Wittelsbach, from which the duke hailed, so much money that it was the only reason the family could afford to raise an army during the Thirty Year War.
The Alte Pinakothek of Munich owes its existence to the collecting over several centuries of the House of Wittelsbach, but it differs from many other museums in that it is composed of the collections of several different branches of an extended family--the Dukes of Bavaria and the Counts Palatine, both Electors of the Holy Roman Empire, and their cousins in junior branches.
Less than a century later (in 1240) the city passed into the control of the House of Wittelsbach whose kings ruled Bavaria until 1918, when Ludwig III was forced to abdicate following German's defeat in the First World War.
His position as head of the House of Wittelsbach will pass to his brother Prince Max.