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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica


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(Ger. Pfalz), a name given generally to any district ruled by a count palatine, but particularly to a district of Germany, a province of the kingdom of Bavaria, lying west of the Rhine. It is bounded on the N. by the Prussian Rhine province and the Hessian province of Rhein-Hessen; on the E.

by Baden, from which it is separated by the Rhine; on the S. by the imperial province of Alsace-Lorraine, from which it is divided by the Lauter; and on the W. by the administrative districts of Trier and Coblenz, belonging to the Prussian Rhine province. It has an area of 2288 sq. m., and a population (1905) of 885,280, showing a density of 386.9 to the square mile. As regards religion, the inhabitants are fairly equally distributed into Roman Catholics and Protestants.

The rivers in this fertile tract of country are the Rhine, Lauter, Queich, Speirbach, Glan and Blies. The Vosges, and their continuation the Hardt, run through the land from south to north and divide it into the fertile and mild plain of the Rhine, together with the slope of the Hardt range, on the east, and the rather inclement district on the west, which, running between the Saarbriick carboniferous mountains and the northern spurs of the Hardt range, ends in a porphyrous cluster of hills, the highest point of which is the Donnersberg (2254 ft.). The country on the east side and on the slopes of the Hardt yield a number of the most varied products, such as wine, fruit, corn, vegetables, flax and tobacco. Cattle are reared in great quantity and are of excellent quality. The mines yield iron, coal, quicksilver and salt. The industries are very active, especially in iron, machinery, paper, chemicals, shoes, woollen goods, beer, leather and tobacco. The province is well served by railway communication and, for purposes of administration, is divided into the following 16 districts: Bergzabern, Diirkheim, Frankenthal, Germersheim, Homburg, Kaiserslautern, Kirchheimbolanden, Kusel, Landau, Ludwigshafen, Neustadt, Pirmasens, Rockenhausen, St Ingbert, Spires and Zweibriicken. Spires (Speyer) is the seat of government, and the chief industrial centres are Ludwigshafen on the Rhine, which is the principal river port, Landau, and Neustadt, the seat of the wine trade.

See A. Becker, Die Pfalz and die Pfiilzer (Leipzig, 1857); Mehlis, Fahrten durch die Pfalz (Augsburg, 1877); Kranz, Handbuch der Pfalz (Spires, 1902); Hensen, Pfalzfiihrer (Neustadt, 1905); and Nailer, Die Burgen der rheinischen Pfalz (Strassburg, 1887).


The count palatine of the Rhine was a royal official who is first mentioned in the 10th century. The first count was Hermann I., who ruled from 945 to 996, and although the office was not hereditary it appears to have been held mainly by his descendants until the death of Count Hermann III. in 1155These counts had gradually extended their powers, had obtained the right of advocacy over the archbishop of Trier and the bishopric of Juliers, and ruled various isolated districts along the Rhine. In 1155 the German king, Frederick I., appointed his step-brother Conrad as count palatine. Conrad took up his residence at the castle of Juttenbuhel, near Heidelberg, which became the capital of the Palatinate. In 1195 Conrad was succeeded by his son-in-law Henry, son of Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony, who was a loyal supporter of the emperor Henry VI. After the latter's death in 1197 he assisted his own brother Otto, afterwards the emperor Otto IV., in his attempts to gain the German throne. Otto refused to reward Henry for this support, so in 1204 he assisted his rival, the German king Philip., but returned to Otto's side after Philip's murder in 1208. In 1211 Henry abdicated in favour of his son Henry, who died in 1214, when the Palatinate was given by the German king Frederick II. to Otto, the infant son of Louis I., duke of Bavariaa, a member of the Wittelsbach family, who was betrothed to Agnes, sister of the late count, Henry. The break-up of the duchy of Franconia had increased the influence of the count palatine of the Rhine, and the importance of his position among the princes of the empire is shown by Roger of Hoveden, who, writing of the election to the German throne in 1198, singles out four princes as chief electors, among whom is the count palatine of the Rhine. In the Sachsenspiegel, a collection of German laws which was written before 1235, the count is given as the butler (dapifer) of the emperor, the first place among the lay electors.

The Palatinate was ruled by Louis of Bavaria on behalf of his son until 1228, when it passed to Otto who ruled until his death in 12J3. Otto's possessions were soon afterwards divided, and his elder son Louis II. received the Palatinate and Upper Bavaria. Louis died in 1294 when these districts passed to his son Rudolph I. (d. 1319), and subsequently to his grandson Louis, afterwards the emperor Louis IV. By the Treaty of Pavia in 1329, Louis granted the Palatinate to his nephews Rudolph II. and Rupert I., who received from him at the same time a portion of the duchy of Upper Bavaria, which was called the upper Palatinate to distinguish it from the Rhenish, or lower Palatinate. Rudolph died in 1353, after which Rupert ruled alone until his death in 1390. In 1355 he had sold a portion of the upper Palatinate to the emperor Charles IV., but by various purchases he increased the area of the Rhenish Palatinate. His successor was his nephew Rupert II., who bought from the German king Wenceslaus a portion of the territory that his uncle had sold to Charles IV. He died in 1398 and was succeeded by his son Rupert III. In 1400 Rupert was elected German king, and when he died in 1410 his possessions were divided among his four sons: the eldest, Louis III., received the Rhenish Palatinate proper; the second son, John, obtained the upper Palatinate; while the outlying districts of Zweibriicken and Simmern passed to Stephen, and that of Mosbach to Otto.

When the possessions of the house of Wittelsbach were divided in 1255 and the branches of Bavaria and the Palatinate were founded, a dispute arose over the exercise of the electoral vote, and the question was not settled until in 1356 the Golden Bull bestowed the privilege upon the count palatine of the Rhine, who exercised it until 1623. The part played by Count Frederick V., titular king of Bohemia, during the Thirty Years' War induced the emperor Ferdinand II. to deprive him of his vote and to transfer it to the duke of Bavaria, Maximilian I. By the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 an eighth electorate was created for the count palatine, to which was added the office of treasurer. In 1777, however, the count resumed the ancient position of his family in the electoral college, and regained the office of steward which he retained until the formal dissolution of the empire in 1806.

To return to the history of the Palatinate as divided into four parts among the sons of the German king Rupert in 1410. John, the second of these brothers, died in 1443, and his son Christopher, having become king of Denmark in 1440, did not inherit the upper Palatinate, which was again united with the Rhenish Palatinate. Otto, the son of Otto (d. 1461), Rupert's fourth son, who had obtained Mosbach, died without sons in 1 499, and this line became extinct, leaving only the two remaining lines with interests in the Rhenish Palatinate. After Rupert's death this was governed by his eldest son, the N elector Louis III. (d. 1436), and then by the latter's sons, Louis IV. (d. 1449) and Frederick I. The elector Frederick, called the Victorious, was one of the foremost princes of his time. His nephew and successor, the elector Philip, carried on a war for the possession of the duchy of Bavaria-Landshut, which had been bequeathed to his son Rupert (d. 1504), but, when in 1507 an end was put to this struggle, Rupert's son, Otto Henry, only received Neuburg and Sulzbach. Louis V. and then Frederick II. succeeded Philip, but both died without sons and Otto Henry became elector. He too died without sons in 1559, when the senior branch became extinct, leaving only the branch descended from Rupert's third son, Stephen.

Already on Stephen's death in 1459 this family had been divided into two branches, those of Simmern and of Zweibriicken, and in 1514 the latter branch had been divided into the lines of Zweibriicken proper and of Veldentz. It was Frederick, count palatine of Simmern, who succeeded to the Palatinate on Otto Henry's death, becoming the elector Frederick III. The new elector, a keen but not a very bigoted Calvinist, was one of the most active of the Protestant princes. His son and successor, Louis VI. (d. 1583), was a Lutheran, but another son, John Casimir, who ruled the electorate on behalf of his young nephew, Frederick IV., from 1583 to 1592, gave every encouragement to the Calvinists. A similar line of action was followed by Frederick IV. himself after 1592.

He was the founder and head of the Evangelical Union established to combat the aggressive tendencies of the Roman Catholics. His son, the elector Frederick V., accepted the throne of Bohemia and thus brought on the Thirty Years War. He was quickly driven from that country, and his own electorate was devastated by the Bavarians and Spaniards. At the peace of Westphalia in 1648 the Palatinate was restored to Frederick's son, Charles Louis, but it was shorn of the upper Palatinate, which Bavaria retained as the prize of war.

Scarcely had the Palatinate begun to recover when it was attacked by Louis XIV. For six years (1673-79) the electorate was devastated by the French troops, and even after the Treaty of Nijmwegen it suffered from the aggressive policy of Louis. In August 1680 the elector Charles Louis died, and when his son and successor, Charles, followed him to the grave five years later the ruling family became extinct in the senior line. Mention has already been made of a division of this family into two lines after 1459, and of a further division of the Zweibriicken line in 1514, when again two lines were founded. The junior of these, that of Veldentz, became extinct in 1694, but the senior, that of Zweibriicken proper, was still very flourishing. Under Count Wolfgang (d. 1569) it had purchased Sulzbach and Neuburg in 1557, and in the person of his grandson, Wolfgang William (d. 1653) it had secured the coveted duchies of Juliers and Berg. It was Philip William of Neuburg, the son of Wolfgang William, who became elector palatine in succession to Charles in 1685.

The French king's brother, Philip, duke of Orleans, had married Charlotte Elizabeth, a sister of the late elector Charles, and consequently the French king claimed a part of Charles's lands in 1680. His troops took Heidelberg and devastated the Palatinate, while Philip William took refuge in Vienna, where he died in 1690. Then in 1697, by the Treaty of Ryswick, Louis abandoned his claim in return for a sum of money. Just before this date the Palatinate began to be disturbed by troubles about religion. The great majority of the inhabitants were Protestants, but the family which succeeded in 1685 belonged to the Roman Catholic Church. Philip William, however, gave equal rights to all his subjects, but under his son and successor, the elector John William, the Protestants were deprived of various civil rights until the intervention of Prussia and of Brunswick in 1705 gave them some redress. The next elector, a brother of the last one, was Charles Philip, who removed his capital from Heidelberg to Mannheim in 1720. He died without male issue in December 1742. His successor was his kinsman, Charles Theodore, count palatine of Sulzbach, a cadet of the Zweibriicken-Neuburg line, and now with the exception of one or two small pieces the whole of the Palatinate was united under one ruler. Charles Theodore was a prince of refined and educated tastes and during his long reign his country enjoyed prosperity. In 1777 on the extinction of the other branch of the house of Wittelsbach, he became elector of Bavaria, and the Palatinate was henceforward united with Bavaria, the elector's capital being Munich. Charles Theodore died without legitimate sons in 1799, and his successor was Maximilian Joseph, a member of the Birkenfeld branch of the Zweibriicken family, who later became king of Bavaria as Maximilian I.

In 1802 the elector was obliged to cede the portion of the Palatinate lying on the left bank of the Rhine to France, and other portions to Baden and to Hesse-Darmstadt. Much of this, however, was regained in 1815, and since that date the Palatinate has formed part of the kingdom of Bavaria.

See Widder, Versuch einer vollstandigen geographisch-historischen Beschreibung der Kurfiirstlichen Pfalz (Frankfort, 1786-1788); L. Hausser, Geschichte der Rheinischen Pfalz (Heidelberg, 18 45); Nebenius, Geschichte der Pfalz (Heidelberg, 1874); Giimbel, Geschichte der protestantischen Kirche der Pfalz (Kaiserslautern, 1885); the Regesten cer Pfalzgrafen am Rhein,' 1214-1508, edited by Koch and Wille (Innsbruck, 1894); and Wild, Bilderatlas zur badischpfalzischen Geschichte (Heidelberg, 1904).

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Palatinate'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.