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Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria : biography

11 December 1724 - 16 February 1799

Charles Theodore, Prince-Elector, Count Palatine and Duke of Bavaria ( December 11, 1724 – February 16, 1799) reigned as Prince-Elector and Count palatine from 1742, as Duke of Jülich and Berg from 1742 and also as Prince-Elector and Duke of Bavaria from 1777, until his death. He was a member of the House of Palatinate-Sulzbach, a branch of the House of Wittelsbach.


Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria


Family and ascent to rule

Charles Theodore was of the Wittelsbach house Palatinate-Sulzbach. Brockhaus Geschichte Second Edition His parents were Johann Christian, Count Palatine of Sulzbach and Marie-Anne-Henriette-Leopoldine de La Tour d'Auvergne, margravine of Bergen op Zoom, a grandniece of Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne. Charles Theodore was born in Drogenbos near Brussels and educated in Mannheim.

Charles Theodore was margrave of Bergen op Zoom from 1728 onwards. He then succeeded his father as Count Palatine of Sulzbach in 1733 and inherited the Electoral Palatinate and the duchies of Jülich and Berg in 1742, with the death of Charles III Philip, Elector Palatine. To strengthen the union of all lines of the Wittelsbach dynasty Charles III Philip had organized a wedding on January 17, 1742 when his granddaughter Elizabeth Augusta was married to Charles Theodore and her sister Maria Anna to the Bavarian prince Clement.

As reigning Prince Elector Palatine, Charles Theodore won the hearts of his subjects by founding an academy of science, stocking up the museums' collections and supporting the arts. When Maximilian III Joseph of Bavaria died in 1777, Charles Theodore became also Elector and Duke of Bavaria and moved to Munich. Charles Theodore

Bavarian succession

Charles Theodore did not immediately take up his new title. He had several mistresses and many illegitimate children. However, these bastards could inherit neither the Electorate of Bavaria nor that of the Palatine; Charles Theodore needed territory that he could bequeath to his illegitimate children. Charles Theodore also dreamed of resurrecting the Burgundian Empire of the Middle Ages.

So, on 3 January 1778, shortly after the death of Max Joseph, Charles Theodore signed an agreement with Emperor Joseph II to exchange southern Bavaria for part of the Austrian Netherlands.

This plan was strongly opposed by Maria Anna Sophia of Saxony, the widow of Max Joseph, and Charles Theodore's cousin Charles II August, Duke of Zweibrücken, the head of the House of Palatinate-Birkenfeld and next heir of Bavaria and the Palatinate. They were supported by Frederick II of Prussia, and most of the German minor states.

The ensuing diplomatic crisis led to the War of the Bavarian Succession, which was ended by the Peace of Teschen (1779). Charles Theodore accepted the Bavarian succession, but agreed that his illegitimate descendants could not inherit Bavaria.Thomas, Marvin E. Karl Theodor and the Bavarian Succession. Austria acquired the Innviertel, a part of Bavaria in the basin of the Inn river.Hochedlinger, p. 367.

Charles Theodore had only one son with his wife, Countess Elizabeth Augusta of Sulzbach, who died a day after birth. His wife died in 1794. In 1795, he married Maria Leopoldine of Austria-Este, Joseph's niece, but they had no children. A second proposal to exchange Bavaria for the Austrian Netherlands in 1784 also failed as Frederick II of Prussia initiated the Fürstenbund.

When Charles Theodore died, Bavaria and the Electorate passed to his cousin, Max Joseph, Duke of Zweibrücken, the younger brother of Charles August, who had died in 1795.

In 1989, Marvin E. Thomas in Karl Theodor and the Bavarian Succession, 1777–1778 argued that in fact Charles Theodore wanted to maintain possession of his new territory, and that this is shown in his diplomatic correspondence. Thomas is the only scholar to produce such an analysis.Thomas, Marvin E., Karl Theodor and the Bavarian Succession, 1777–1778. The Edwin Mellen Press: Lewiston/Lampeter/Queenston: 1989. It is more widely understood that Charles Theodore continued the despotic and expensive habits he had developed as Elector Palatine.

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