1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wittelsbach

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WITTELSBACH, the name of an important German family, taken from the castle of Wittelsbach, which formerly stood near Aichach on the Paar in Bavaria. In 1124, Otto V., count of Scheyern (d. 1155), removed the residence of his family to Wittelsbach, and called himself by this name. Otto was descended from Luitpold, duke of Bavaria and margrave of Carinthia, who was killed in 907 fighting the Hungarians. His son, Arnulf I., called the Bad, drove back the Hungarians, and was elected duke of Bavaria in 913. Arnulf, who was a candidate for the German crown in 919, claimed to be independent, and openly defied the German king, Conrad I. In 921, however, he recognized the authority of Henry I. the Fowler, in return for the right to dispense justice, to coin money and to appoint the bishops in Bavaria. He died at Regensburg in 937, and his elder son, Eberhard, fought in vain to retain the duchy. In 938 it was given by the German king, Otto I., the Great, to Arnulf's brother, Bertold I., with greatly reduced privileges. Arnulf's younger son, Arnulf II., continued the struggle against Otto I., and sometime before his death in 954 was made count palatine in Bavaria. This office did not become hereditary, however, and his descendants bore simply the title of counts of Scheyern until about 1116, when the emperor Henry V. recognized Count Otto V. as count palatine in Bavaria. His son, Count Otto VI., who succeeded his father in 1155, accompanied the German king, Frederick I., to Italy in 1154, where he distinguished himself by his courage, and later rendered valuable assistance to Frederick in Germany. When Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony and Bavaria, was placed under the imperial ban in 1180, Otto's services were rewarded by the investiture of the dukedom of Bavaria at Altenburg. Since the time of Otto I. Bavaria has been ruled by the Wittelsbachs.

Otto died at Pfullendorf in 1183, and was succeeded in the duchy by his son, Louis I. (1174–1231), but the dignity of count palatine in Bavaria passed to his brother Otto, whose son Otto, succeeding in 1189, murdered the German king Philip at Bamberg on the 21st of June 1208. He was placed under the ban by the emperor, Otto IV., and was killed at Oberndorf, near Regensburg, by Henry of Kalden, marshal of the empire, in March 1209. His lands passed to his son Louis, then only nine years old, who began his rule in 1192. In 1208 he destroyed the ancestral castle of Wittelsbach, the site of which is now marked by a church and an obelisk.

At first Louis supported Otto IV. in his struggle with Frederick of Hohenstaufen (the emperor Frederick II.), but deserted his cause when Frederick invested his son, Otto, with the Palatinate of the Rhine in 1214. Louis appears to have been previously promised this succession, and to strengthen his claim married his son, Otto, to Agnes, the sister of Henry, the count palatine, who died without heirs in 1214. Louis accompanied the Crusaders to Damietta in 1221, and governed Germany as regent from 1225 until 1228, when he deserted Frederick II. at the instigation of Pope Gregory IX. He was murdered at the bridge of Kelheim on the 15th of September 1231, and the emperor was generally suspected of complicity in the deed. Louis’ son, Otto the Illustrious (1206–1253), undertook the government of the Palatinate in 1228, and became duke of Bavaria in 1231. He was attached to the Hohenstaufen by the marriage of his daughter, Elizabeth, with Conrad, son of Frederick II. in 1246. He supported Frederick in his struggle with the anti-kings, Henry Raspe, landgrave of Thuringia, and William II., count of Holland, and was put under the papal ban by Pope Innocent IV., Bavaria being laid under an interdict. When King Conrad IV. went to Italy in 1251, Otto remained as his representative in Germany, until his death on the 29th of November 1253. He left two sons, Louis and Henry, who reigned jointly until 1255, when a division of the lands was made, by which Louis II. (1228–1294) received upper Bavaria and the Palatinate of the Rhine, and Henry I. (d. 1290) lower Bavaria. Louis, who soon became the most powerful prince in southern Germany, was called “the Stern,” because in a fit of jealousy he caused his first wife, Maria of Brabant, to be executed in 1256. He was the uncle and guardian of Conradin of Hohenstaufen, whom he assisted to make his journey to Italy in 1267, and accompanied as far as Verona. When Conradin was executed in 1268 Louis inherited his lands in Germany, sharing them with his brother Henry. In 1273 he was a candidate for the German crown, but was induced to support Rudolph, count of Habsburg, whose eldest daughter, Matilda, he married in this year. He was a great source of strength to the Habsburgs until his death in 1294. Lower Bavaria was ruled by the descendants of Henry I. until the death of his great-grandson, John I., in 1340, when it was again united with upper Bavaria. The sons of Louis, Rudolph I. (d. 1319) and Louis, who became German king as Louis IV. in 1314, ruled their lands in common, but after some trouble between them Rudolph abdicated in 1317.

In 1329 the most important division of the Wittelsbach lands took place. By the treaty of Pavia in this year, Louie granted the Palatinate of the Rhine and the upper Palatinate of Bavaria to his brother’s sons, Rudolph II. (d. 1353) and Rupert I. Rupert, who from 1353 to 1390 was sole ruler, gained the electoral dignity for the Palatinate of the Rhine in 1356 by a grant of some lands in upper Bavaria to the emperor Charles IV. It had been exercised from the division of 1329 by both branches in turn. The descendants of Louis IV. retained the rest of Bavaria, but made several divisions of their territory, the most important of which was in 1392, when the branches of Ingolstadt, Munich and Landshut were founded. These were reunited under Albert IV., duke of Bavaria-Munich (1447–1508) and the upper Palatinate was added to them in 1628. Albert’s descendants ruled over a united Bavaria, until the death of Duke Maximilian III. in 1777, when it passed to the Elector Palatine, Charles Theodore. The Palatinate of the Rhine, after the death of Rupert I. in 1390, passed to his nephew, Rupert II., and in 1398 to his son, Rupert III., who was German king from 1400 to 1410. On his death it was divided into four branches. Three of these had died out by 1559, and their possessions were inherited by the fourth or Simmern line, among whom the Palatinate was again divided (see Palatinate).

In 1742, after the extinction of the two senior lines of this family, the Sulzbach branch became the senior line, and its head, the elector Charles Theodore, inherited Bavaria in 1777. He died in 1799, and Maximilian Joseph, the head of the Zweibrücken branch, inherited Bavaria and the Palatinate. He took the title of king as Maximilian I.

In 1623, when the elector Frederick V. (the “Winter King”) was driven from his dominions, the electoral privilege was transferred to Bavaria, and in 1648, by the Peace of Westphalia, an eighth electorate was created for the Wittelsbachs of the Palatinate, and was exercised by the senior branch of the family.

The Wittelsbachs gave three kings to Germany, Louis IV., Rupert and Charles VII. Members of the family were also margraves of Brandenburg from 1323 to 1373, and kings of Sweden from 1654 to 1718.

See J. Döllinger, Das Haus Wittelsbach und seine Bedeutung in der deutschen Geschichte (Munich, 1880); J. F. Böhmer, Wittelsbachische Regesten bis 1340 (Stuttgart, 1854); F. M. Wittmann, Monumenta Wittelsbacensia (Urkundenbuch, Munich, 1857–1861); K. T. Heigel, Die Wittelsbacher (Munich, 1880); F. Leitschuh, Die Wittelsbacher in Bayern (Bamberg, 1894).