1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Charles VII. (Roman Emperor)

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20538031911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 5 — Charles VII. (Roman Emperor)

CHARLES VII. (1697–1745), Roman emperor, known also as Charles Albert, elector of Bavaria, was the son of the elector Maximilian Emanuel and his second wife, Theresa Cunigunda, daughter of John Sobieski, king of Poland. He was born on the 6th of August 1697. His father having taken the side of Louis XIV. of France in the War of the Spanish Succession (q.v.), Bavaria was occupied by the allies. Charles and his brother Clement, afterwards archbishop of Cologne, were carried prisoners to Vienna, and were educated by the Jesuits under the name of the counts of Wittelsbach. When his father was restored to his electorate, Charles was released, and in 1717 he led the Bavarian contingent of the imperial army which served under Prince Eugene against the Turks, and is said to have distinguished himself at Belgrade. On the 25th of September 1722 he was betrothed to Maria Amelia, the younger of the two orphan daughters of the emperor Joseph I. Her uncle Charles VI. insisted that the Bavarian house should recognize the Pragmatic Sanction which established his daughter Maria Theresa as heiress of the Habsburg dominions. They did so, but with secret protests and mental reservations of their rights, which were designed to render the recognition valueless. The electors of Bavaria had claims on the possessions of the Habsburgs under the will of the emperor Ferdinand I., who died in 1564.

Charles succeeded his father on the 26th of February 1726. As a ruler of Bavaria, he showed a vague disposition to improve the condition of his subjects, but his profuse habits and his efforts to rival the splendour of the French court crippled his finances. His policy was one of much duplicity, for he was constantly endeavouring to keep on good terms with the emperor while slipping out of his obligation to accept the Pragmatic Sanction and intriguing to secure French support for his claims whenever Charles VI. should die. On hearing of the emperor’s last illness, he ordered his agent at Vienna to renew his claim to the Austrian inheritance. The claim was advanced immediately after the death of Charles VI. on the 20th of October 1740. Charles Albert now entered into the league against Maria Theresa, to the great misfortune of himself and his subjects. By the help of her enemies he was elected emperor in opposition to her husband Francis, grand duke of Tuscany, on the 24th of January 1742, under the title of Charles VII., and was crowned at Frankfort-on-Main on the 12th of February. But as his army had been neglected, he was utterly unable to resist the Austrian troops. While he was being crowned his hereditary dominions in Bavaria were being overrun. He described himself as attacked by stone and gout, ill, without money or land, and in distress comparable to the sorrows of Job. During the War of the Austrian Succession (q.v.) he was a mere puppet in the hands of the anti-Austrian coalition, and was often in want of mere necessaries. In the changes of the war he was able to re-enter his capital, Munich, in 1743, but had immediately afterwards to take flight again. He was restored by Frederick the Great in October 1744, but died worn out at Munich on the 20th of January 1745.

See A. von Arneth, Geschichte Maria Theresias (Vienna, 1863–1879); and P. T. Heigel. Der österreichische Erbfolgestreit und die Kaiserwahl Karls VII. (Munich, 1877).