1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Maximilian II., king of Bavaria

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MAXIMILIAN II. (1811–1864), king of Bavaria, son of king Louis I. and of his consort Theresa of Saxe-Hildburghausen, was born on the 28th of November 1811. After studying at Göttingen and Berlin and travelling in Germany, Italy and Greece, he was introduced by his father into the council of state (1836). From the first he showed a studious disposition, declaring on one occasion that had he not been born in a royal cradle his choice would have been to become a professor. As crown prince, in the château of Hohenschwangau near Füssen, which he had rebuilt with excellent taste, he gathered about him an intimate society of artists and men of learning, and devoted his time to scientific and historical study. When the abdication of Louis I. (March 28, 1848) called him suddenly to the throne, his choice of ministers promised a liberal régime. The progress of the revolution, however, gave him pause. He strenuously opposed the unionist plans of the Frankfort parliament, refused to recognize the imperial constitution devised by it, and assisted Austria in restoring the federal diet and in carrying out the federal execution in Hesse and Holstein. Although, however, from 1850 onwards his government tended in the direction of absolutism, he refused to become the tool of the clerical reaction, and even incurred the bitter criticism of the Ultramontanes by inviting a number of celebrated men of learning and science (e.g. Liebig and Sybel) to Munich, regardless of their religious views. Finally, in 1859, he dismissed the reactionary ministry of von der Pfordten, and met the wishes of his people for a moderate constitutional government. In his German policy he was guided by the desire to maintain the union of the princes, and hoped to attain this as against the perilous rivalry of Austria and Prussia by the creation of a league of the “middle” and small states—the so-called Trias. In 1863, however, seeing what he thought to be a better way, he supported the project of reform proposed by Austria at the Fürstentag of Frankfort. The failure of this proposal, and the attitude of Austria towards the Confederation and in the Schleswig-Holstein question, undeceived him; but before he could deal with the new situation created by the outbreak of the war with Denmark he died suddenly at Munich, on the 10th of March 1864.

Maximilian was a man of amiable qualities and of intellectual attainments far above the average, but as a king he was hampered by constant ill-health, which compelled him to be often abroad, and when at home to live much in the country. By his wife, Maria Hedwig, daughter of Prince William of Prussia, whom he married in 1842, he had two sons, Louis II., king of Bavaria, and Otto, king of Bavaria, both of whom lost their reason.

See J. M. Söltl, Max der Zweite, König von Bayern (Munich, 1865); biography by G. K. Heigel in Allgem. Deutsche Biographie, vol. xxi. (Leipzig, 1885). Maximilian’s correspondence with Schlegel was published at Stuttgart in 1890.