|Duke Friedrich I|
In 1733 Karl Alexander succeeded Eberhard Ludwig as Duke of Wurttemberg and he had quite an eventful life. A very successful soldier who fought for the Emperor under the great Prince Eugene of Savoy in the War of Spanish Succession. He converted to Catholicism in 1712 and fought the Ottoman Turks with great success. In 1720 he was appointed by Emperor Charles VI (Kaiser Karl VI) governor of the Kingdom of Serbia. So it was that for a little over a decade a Wurttemberg prince was the regent and more or less absolute ruler of the Kingdom of Serbia. It was also Duke Karl Alexander who married into the prestigious princely House of Thurn und Taxis. He died in 1737. His son and successor, Duke Karl Eugen, learned his trade at the Prussian court of King Frederick the Great and fought for him in Saxony. He was a patron of the famous German writer Friedrich Schiller and behind such notable building projects as the New Palace and the grandly named Castle Solitude. He loved farming, books, the opera as well as a number of women and spent his little state into bankruptcy though he left it a more grand place than he found it.
In 1802 Friedrich II signed a private treaty with Napoleon Bonaparte, giving up his territory on the left bank of the Rhine in exchange for some conquered imperial territory and Napoleon elevated him to the rank of Elector. After forming a military alliance with France in 1805 he was rewarded with more Austrian territory in the Treaty of Pressburg. The following year, on New Year’s Day, he assumed the title of King Friedrich I of Wurttemberg with the backing of the French Emperor. He also joined Napoleon’s Confederation of the Rhine, a grouping of all the German states aligned with France, intended to be a French dominated successor to the Austrian dominated Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Wurttemberg gained more and more territory as French victories increased but also paid a heavy price for French favor in the form of the many soldiers from Wurttemberg attached to Napoleon’s armies. The greatest sacrifice would come with the invasion of Russia in 1812. King Friedrich I contributed 14,000 men to the invasion, serving in the III Corps under Marshal Ney. They acquitted themselves well but were virtually annihilated before the campaign was over.
|King Friedrich I|
At the time there was a great deal of squabbling going on over the constitution. The government rejected his proposal and his son and successor, King Wilhelm I, had to negotiate a new one which was passed in 1819. King Wilhelm I had big ideas about forming a coalition of the minor German states of Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Hanover and Saxony to act as a counterweight to the increasingly antagonistic Austria and Prussia. As most know, such a thing never came about but King Wilhelm I never stopped trying. Because of his constitution, he had a somewhat liberal reputation when the Revolutions of 1848 hit and probably because of that, though there was some turmoil, the Kingdom of Wurttemberg weathered the storm with no outbreaks of violence. He did, however, have the distinction of being the only German monarch to sign on to the Frankfurt Constitution but he spent the rest of his reign as an ardent reactionary, trying to undo all the damage that had been done.
However, it was fortunate for Wurttemberg that he married as Queen Olga was the far more impressive of the two, both in how she carried herself and her tireless charitable work on behalf of her adopted people. Unlike his father, King Karl was not to remain neutral in the rivalry between Prussia and Austria. Whether out of conviction or because he could simply see which way the wind was blowing, he began to distance the Kingdom of Wurttemberg from the Austrian Empire and draw ever closer to the Kingdom of Prussia. He joined his country to the North German Confederation and took the side of the Prussians in the 1870 war with France. Afterwards, his nephew August von Wurttemberg represented him when the King of Prussia was proclaimed German Kaiser Wilhelm I at the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. The Kingdom of Wurttemberg became part of the Second German Empire but retained considerable autonomy. For King Karl, it was all for the better. This, as well as his liberal style of leadership, coincided well with his own lack of interest in the affairs of government which he was pleased to leave with others. He died in 1891 and was succeeded by his nephew, King Wilhelm II.
|King Wilhelm II|
|The Prussian Crown Prince & King Wilhelm II in France|
|Field Marshal Rommel|