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Palatinate (pəlătˈĭnātˌ), Ger. Pfalz, two regions of Germany. They are related historically, but not geographically. The Rhenish or Lower Palatinate (Ger. Rheinpfalz or Niederpfalz), often called simply the Palatinate, is a district (c.2,100 sq mi/5,440 sq km) of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate (Ger. Rheinland-Pfalz). The Rhenish Palatinate extends from the left bank of the Rhine and borders in the S on France and in the W on the Saarland and Luxembourg. Neustadt an der Weinstrasse is the capital; Ludwigshafen, Kaiserslautern, Pirmasens, and Speyer are the chief cities. It is a rich agricultural region, famed for its wines. The Upper Palatinate (Ger. Oberpfalz) is a district (c.3,725 sq mi/9,650 sq km) of NE Bavaria, separated in the east from the Czech Republic by the Bohemian Forest. Regensburg is the capital. Agriculture and cattle raising are the chief occupations.
The name of the two regions came from the office known as count palatine, a title used in the Holy Roman Empire to denote the secular prince who ruled a region in the absence of the Holy Roman Emperor; the title was used in other European countries during the medieval and early modern periods. Rights of office varied, but in general the palatine had superior judicial functions and enjoyed privileges superior to those of other nobles.
Emperor Frederick I bestowed (1156) the title count palatine on his half-brother Conrad, who was in possession of territories on both sides of the Rhine. More extensive than the present Rhenish Palatinate, these territories also included the northern part of modern Baden (but not the bishopric of Speyer and other enclaves in the palatine lands W of the Rhine). When Conrad's line died out, the Palatinate passed (1214) to the Bavarian Wittelsbach dynasty. The Wittelsbachs enlarged their holdings along the Bohemian border, which were constituted as the Upper Palatinate. In 1356 the German princes were granted the Golden Bull, which gave them the right to vote in the election of the Holy Roman Emperor. Their territories were henceforth called the Electoral Palatinate (Ger. Kurpfalz).
The Rhenish Palatinate flourished in the 15th and 16th cent., and its capital, Heidelberg, was a center of the German Renaissance and Reformation. The election (1619) of Elector Frederick V (see Frederick the Winter King) as king of Bohemia precipitated the Thirty Years War, in which the Palatinate was ravaged both by the imperial forces under Tilly and by the Protestant army under Mansfeld. The Upper Palatinate and the electoral vote were taken from Frederick and transferred to Bavaria, but at the Peace of Westphalia (1648) a new vote was created for Frederick's successor, Charles Louis, and the Rhenish lands, devastated in the war, were returned to his control. The Upper Palatinate remained a part of Bavaria. The region became involved in the War of the Grand Alliance with Louis XIV, who ordered the destruction (1688–89) of the Rhenish Palatinate. In 1720 the capital was transferred to Mannheim.
The palatine lands west of the Rhine were conquered by France in the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1803, Maximilian ceded the palatine lands E of the Rhine to Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt, and Nassau, but in 1806 he became king of a much-enlarged Bavaria, and at the Congress of Vienna (1815) he recovered part of the Rhenish Palatinate W of the Rhine, including Speyer and other enclaves. Several districts, however, were awarded to Prussia, Hesse, and Oldenburg. The Upper Palatinate was increased by the addition of Regensburg, which replaced Amberg as capital. Both the Rhenish and the Upper Palatinate became integral parts of Bavaria. After World War II the Rhenish Palatinate became (1946) a district of the newly created state of Rhineland-Palatinate.
(Pfalz), a medieval principality in southwestern Germany.
The Palatinate became well known in the 12th century, when its rulers acquired the title and rights of counts palatine and came to be called counts of the Rhenish Palatinate (after the place where the principality’s territory was located). In 1214 the Palatinate passed to the family of the Bavarian Wittelsbachs. In 1329 it separated itself from Bavaria under the rule of an individual branch of the Wittelsbachs; it also gained northern Bavaria, which acquired the name of the Upper Palatinate, in contrast to the Rhenish, or Lower, Palatinate. In 1356 the counts of the Rhenish Palatinate were granted the rights of electors. In 1386 the first university in Germany was founded at their residence in Heidelberg.
During the Reformation, from the second half of the 16th century, the Palatinate was a bulwark of Calvinism. The Palatinate elector Frederick V, who headed the Protestant Union of German Princes, was elected king of Bohemia in 1619. But during the Thirty Years’ War of 1618^18, after the defeat of the Bohemian troops at White Mountain in 1620, he lost Bohemia and in 1623 the Palatinate as well. It was transferred to Bavarian jurisdiction. In accordance with the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, the Palatinate electorate, with the exception of the Upper Palatinate, was restored. In 1793–94 part of the Rhenish Palatinate was occupied by French troops and in 1801 was annexed by France; another part was divided among the German principalities. In 1814–15 most of the Palatinate was ceded to Bavaria. The remainder was partitioned among Prussia, Baden, and Hesse-Darmstadt.