Grand Duchy of Baden – From a splinter state to a model country

 In States, Uncategorized
Click here for ordering this art print online

The people of Baden and Swabia could go on about their differences forever. While the inhabitants of Baden are often referred to as ‘yellow feet’ by the Swabians; in return, the people of Baden ride around with bumper stickers that boast sayings such as “Swabians create, Badeners think”. What bumper stickers, you ask? Well, during my student days in Constance they were very popular, but I admit that this was a while back.

Yet, the people of Baden actually descend from the Swabians – at least the southern part (sorry South- Badeners!). However, not all of them do: the northern part was Franconian (lucky you, North- Badeners).

Although both states have been united for a long time (since 1952 exactly) in a federal state called “Baden-Wuerttemberg”, the rivalry still exists today (and the full-length discussions as well!). Does this competition potentially have a historical background behind it?

During the imperial era, they were two separate states – the Kingdom of Wuerttemberg (which will be presented later) and the Grand Duchy of Baden, at which we will now take a closer look.

Let’s begin with some geography: Baden belonged, along with Bavaria, Wuerttemberg, Hesse and the former imperial country Alsace-Lorraine, to the southern German states. As far as borders and landscapes are concerned, they are perfectly summarized in the “Regional studies of the Grand Duchy of Baden” of 1911: Baden spreads over the Alpine foothills of the Upper German Plateau, over the Jura, the Upper Rhine Plain, the Black Forest and Forest of the Odes, as well as the Swabian-Franconian hills. Hence, it has very rich and varied surface shape. There is only a natural border in the south and west. Here, apart from a few minor interruptions, Lake Constance and the Rhine, which flows from it, form the southern border between  Baden and Switzerland. In the west, the same river separates Baden from Alsace-Lorraine and from the Bavarian Pfalz. The northern and eastern border to Hesse, Bavaria, Wuerttemberg and the Prussian Hohenzollern runs withoutnatural contingency as it has historically been formed very gradually, stretching from the Rhine up and down through the Forest and hills of the Odes, the Franconian and Swabian hills, the Black Forest, the Jura and the Upper German Plateau back to Lake Constance. In contrast to the other natural limit, this one is artificial.

Baden forms a uniform, closed area within these borders. Only a few very small parts of the country (exclaves) lie within the southern and eastern neighboring states; similarly, the contiguous Baden area is interrupted only by insignificant foreign territorial inclusions (enclaves).With the exception of the city of Constance, Baden is located on the right side of the Rhine, over which the Swiss territory near Basel crosses at Schaffhausen in three places.

The area of ​​Baden covers 15,000 (more precisely 15068) km2, which makes it one 36th of the German Empire. The German states which are bigger than Baden are Prussia, Bavaria, and Wuerttemberg (ouch). Saxony is almost equal in size, and Alsace-Lorraine and Mecklenburg-Schwerin are much smaller than the rest.

There were quite a few exclaves, even if they were tiny ones. Therefore, they had no military significance.

An example of an exclave: Buesingen

One such enclave is Buesingen on the Upper Rhine, which until today (!) is a German enclave in Switzerland. Buesingen was actually Austrian until the 16th century but was governed by Schaffhausen bailiffs. In 1658, the Austrian feudal lord Eberhardt came to power in Thurn and it came to a dispute: he was accused of secret Catholicism, which at the time was a crime, and was kidnapped by his own family to Schaffhausen. There he was put on trial and sentenced to life imprisonment – at first, he was even meant to be sentenced to death! He was only released in 1699 and took office again (although badly battered). He still insisted on converting to Roman Catholicism. Schaffhausen was able to regain the rights of other lost villages in 1728, the so-called Reia places (named after a region in Switzerland), but not that of Buesingen, which the Austrians were allowed, since they were angry about the abduction of the feudal lord of Buesingen. In the following years, the city briefly belonged to Wuerttemberg (from 1805-1810) and then to Baden, in whose possession it stayed for a while. Today, it belongs to Baden-Wuerttemberg and has a few duty-free zones.

There are many more exciting stories to tell about ex- and enclaves, but that would go beyond the scope of this article.

Baden had two large cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, which were Mannheim (193 379) and the capital Karlsruhe (134 161). They were followed by Freiburg (83 328), Pforzheim (69084), Heidelberg (56 010), Constance (27 582), Baden (22 066), (today Baden-Baden), and Offenburg (16 844). The exact population figures are in brackets and all numbers are from 1910. (Source: Landeskunde Dr. Neumann, 1911)

An article following soon is dedicated to the areas and towns of Baden and the activity of their former residents.

Let’s first take a look at the past:

How was Baden actually created? The founding father of the house of Baden

Once again, the Swabians were involved: The first traces of the noble family called “Baden” can be found in the Duchy of Swabia. They had common ancestors with the Zaehringer, a Swabian princely family, who had named themselves after their castle Zaehringen near Freiburg.

The common ancestor of the Zaehringer and Badener was called Berthold with the Beard and lived from 1028-1078. Berthold was powerful and wanted to become even more powerful. While he already had several county rights, he had Emperor Henry III. promise him the Duchy of Swabia from the Frankish family of Salier. However, the emperor died before he could keep his promise, and his widow had other plans with the Swabians: she transferred it to another candidate. Berthold was compensated with the Duchy of Carinthia with the Mark Verona in 1061.

He did not benefit much from the property, which was lost in 1077. However, his sons inherited his titles; Berthold II, who built the previously mentioned castle Zaehringen took the ducal title and Hermann I took the title of Margrave of Verona. The name “Margrave of Baden” is still passed on in the former ruling family to this day.


Hermann I. is considered the founding father of the House of Baden. His son Hermann II enforced his succession claims: in 1098, he was included in a Staufer-Zaehring compensation that his uncle Berthold II had negotiated with the emperor. In addition to a bailiwick, which was later lost again, he gained ownership of the ancient Roman town of Aquae Aureliae, which today is known as Baden-Baden. Hermann II had a castle built which he called “Hohenbaden” above the town. In the future, his lineage would be named after this castle: In a certificate of 1112 he is first called “Margrave of Baden” – that was, so to speak, the birth certificate of the Margraviate of Baden and the Baden family. Indeed, it was not uncommon for aristocratic lineages to name themselves after their main castles, such as the previously mentioned Zaehringer.

It would go beyond the scope of this article to mention all the rulers who played a role in the history of Baden; we will focus on those who either decisively influenced the fate of the country or were remembered for other reasons.

The Margraviate of Baden was divided in 1535 between the two sons of Christoph I. The lines of Baden-Baden and Baden-Durlach were created, which were named after the cities in which the margraves resided. The now divided country developed in very different directions, not only economically, but also in terms of religious denominations: Baden-Baden (or the upper margraviate) remained Catholic after some confessional changes, while Baden-Durlach joined the Reformation.

Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden Baden: The Turkslouis

A glorious general of the Baden-Baden line which must be mentioned is Ludwig Wilhelm (1655-1707), known as the “Turkslouis”. Why this name? He defeated the Grand Vizier Mustafa Köprülü in the war in Hungary against the Turks as the imperial general field marshal. After this victory, there was no longer a danger of an Ottoman invasion of Western Europe. Meanwhile, a war raged in their own country: the French troops of the Sun King raged on the Upper Rhine and left a trail of destruction – cities such as Pforzheim, Durlach, Baden-Baden and Offenburg were destroyed, and the famous Heidelberg Castle, which is a ruin until today, went up in flames.

The Turkslouis brought back a rich booty from its campaign: in addition to tents, cannons and buffalos, there were many boxes with art and cultural objects – these valuable souvenirs can still be admired today in the state museum of Baden (link) (without the buffaloes). Unfortunately, the Turkslouis was not as adept and successful in domestic politics as he had been on his campaigns.

He wanted to obtain a higher title of nobility for his services from the Emperor – which he did not get. Instead, he was liaised with a rich woman, Sybilla Augusta of Saxe-Lauenburg, with whom he was happily married to and who bore him nine children – of which, however, 6 died during their childhood. At the time, this was not uncommon even among wealthy people. Additionally, he wanted to build a new residential palace after the model of Versailles, in Rastatt, which can still be admired today! Unfortunately, he died before it was finished.

His wife Sybilla Augusta had two passions: building and religion. She finished the residential palace in Rastatt, the castle “Favorite” as well as some churches, with which she was able to unite her two passions. At the same time, she was in charge of the affairs of the country for 20 years, until she handed over the sceptre to her son Ludwig Georg in 1707 – he was then of age and thus able to govern.

Karl Wilhelm of Baden-Durlach (1679-1738) – founder of Karlsruhe

The Protestant margraviate Baden-Durlach was ruled by Karl Wilhelm since 1709. This margrave was in favor of change and had a typical Swabian character: he was very economical. Karl Wilhelm firmed the administration and boosted the economy – for instance, he introduced the cultivation and processing of tobacco in Baden-Durlach. On the other hand, he loved an absolutist lifestyle as well as representation. What he was missing was an adequate residence and he therefore decided to found a new residential city in the middle of the forest: Karlsruhe.

The legend regarding the creation of Karlsruhe states that Karl Wilhelm was resting in the Hardt forest, where the Karlsruhe Palace would later be built, during a hunting expedition. Here,  he dreamed of a castle which was  the center of a fan-shaped city.

Whether you believe the legend or not, the castle was built in the midst of 32 radial road axes. Now the only thing missing was the residents for the new city with the fan-shaped floor plan. The officials of Durlach were ordered by the Margrave to move, but the city was still missing craftsmen, merchants, etc. These were lured to Karlsruhe by Charles Wilhelm through promises of freedom and special benefits. He awarded free construction sites, freedom from serfdom, and exemption from duties and taxes for 20 years. However, not everyone was allowed to come – a certain amount of capital had to be brought along and one had to obey the instructions of Karl Wilhelm about how the houses were to be built. People from Wuerttemberg moved there, as well as former inhabitants of Elsass and Switzerland.

When Karl Wilhelm died in 1738, Karlsruhe had 2600 inhabitants. The religions in the new town of Karlsruhe were mixed – Catholics, Reformists and Jews were allowed to move in, whereby the latter had to pay more for their settlement permits than their fellow Christian citizens.

Karl Friedrich von Baden (1728-1811) – a reformer and “best prince of Germany” – and his wife Caroline Louise (1723-1783) – a versatile power woman with many interests

Karl Wilhelm was followed by his grandson Karl Friedrich, under whom Baden was to grow considerably to the size that it also had as a federal state during the imperial era.

Karl Friedrich was a reformer from the very beginning: He unified the judiciary, renewed welfare and education, abolished torture in 1767 and probably his most spectacular achievement: he abolished serfdom in 1783. His subjects were so grateful to him that they created a monument for him.  The obelisk they created was placed on the road to Wuerttemberg. Incidentally, here, serfdom was not lifted until 1817.

Karl Friedrich was also very lucky in the domain of love: In 1751 he married Caroline Louise of Hesse-Darmstadt. Despite the partly tactical and political reasons  for the marriage – they were happy together!

Caroline Louise was a highly intelligent woman with a clear mind.

As a newlywed wife, her husband initially had distant respect for her, which soon turned into love and enthusiasm. How did she manage that? She always made him feel that she  admired him AND that any final decision was his – even if they had discussed things together previously. This was also the case regarding political matters as well.

Caroline spoke five languages ​​and had many interests. She was in touch with many important contemporaries, such as Herder (who incidentally also gave Karl Friedrich the title “Germany’s Best Prince”), Goethe, Voltaire and the composer Gluck. Thus, the Karlsruhe Residence developed into a spiritual and artistic center. Caroline Louise’s passion was art as well as science. In the castle she had her own laboratory for physical and chemical experiments.

She planned a botanical collection and also collected minerals. Her natural history cabinet forms the basis of the State Natural History Museum and her art collection forms the basis of today’s art gallery in Karlsruhe.

In addition to her many activities, she was also a mother – she raised three sons, but also had several miscarriages and stillbirths. A real power woman! However, she did not get very old; she was injured after a fall on the stairs in 1779 and died of a stroke in 1783, when she was traveling with her son Friedrich to Paris.

A second marriage secures the survival of the house of Baden

Karl Friedrich married again four years later – but the marriage was not befitting! At the time these marriages, which took place from time to time in aristocratic circles, were called ” left hand” marriages.

He married the lady-in-waiting Baroness Louise Karoline Geyer of Geyersberg, whose status he brought up to Countess Hochberg. While she was never recognized as an equal spouse, her sons were called “Hochberger”, and became legitimate heirs, but only once the direct lineage was threatened to go extinct. This was the only way to ensure the continued existence of the Baden family from the 19th century until today. We will come back to this family again later.

Unrest, wars and the consequential emergence of the Grand Duchy of Baden

With the Baden-Baden margraviate (of which the Protestant Karl-Friedrich was in charge of starting in 1771, since there were no male heirs in the Catholic line), the state territory of Baden was still fragmented, but larger than it had ever been before. Its foreign policy became increasingly important. Its powerful neighbour Habsburg, which owned estates in parts of Baden, was a latent danger. This encouraged Karl Friedrich to look for allies, which he found by joining the alliance of princes in 1785, which had been founded by Prussia.

The French Revolution of 1789 caused unrest in the country. While there were no revolutionary movements that developed in the Empire, the emperor and imperial princes nevertheless feared being overthrown. In 1792, a war with France started and Karl Friedrich joined the alliance against France. During the clashes, the Upper Rhine was devastated and in 1793, France proclaimed the Rhine as its natural eastern border. During the next year the areas of Baden on the left of the Rhine would be lost.

A wise diplomat ensures that Baden grows to its present size!

Everything could have been worse, but the diplomat Sigismund of Reitzenstein was able to negotiate a truce and then, separately, peace. The conditions were so harsh that Karl Friedrich initially did not want to sign the truce and took a year to do so. However, Baden was already guaranteed compensation claims from the nationalizations of ecclesiastical possessions in this document. In contrast to other participants in the war, Reitzenstein joined the French side – and won! After a second war in 1801, the empire was reorganized and reordered. Clerical possessions fell into the hands of secular princes and there was hardly any resistance from the clergy. Reitzenstein benefitted from its decision to take France’s side in the war: While Baden made small losses on the left side of the Rhine, it gained a large territory: most of the Kurpfalz on the right side of the Rhine, the seven imperial cities of Offenburg, Zell am Harmersbach, Gengenbach, Ueberlingen, Biberach, Pfullendorf and Wimpfen, parts on the right side of the Rhine which belonged to the Hochstifte Constance, Speyer, Basel and Strasbourg as well as numerous monasteries.

But that was not all: Baden, as an ally of France, was rewarded with additional territories after the Treaty of Pressburg in 1805. The bordering Austrian territories  were divided between Baden and Wuerttemberg.

Napoleon as an ally

Napoleon liked to control his allies. To make the bond to Baden stronger, a marriage between the hereditary Prince Karl and Napoleon’s relative Stephanie of Beauharnais was arranged. In order to ensure that Stephanie would have an equal aristocratic status, Napoleon adopted her.

As another reward, Napoleon allowed his allies to increase their status: while Bavaria and Wuerttemberg became kingdoms, Baden only became a Grand Duchy.

Ouch, an advantage for Wuerttemberg! Baden, as well as the other allied states (including Wuerttemberg), had to give military quotas to France in return. Thus, troops from Baden fought for France and a big number of soldiers died in the Russian campaign in 1812.

Grand Duke Karl (1786-1818): politically fickle, but firm in personal matters

The grandson and successor of Karl Friedrich became the Regent of Baden in 1811, at the height of Napoleon’s power. Decision-making was not his strength. After much hesitation, he changed sides in the war of liberation in 1813 and joined the alliance against France, which had previously been an ally. Just in time! During the reorganization of Europe in the Congress of Vienna, Baden lost no territory (to everyone’s surprise), although Austria and Bavaria would have liked to regain their lost territory. Baden was partly so lucky because it had a powerful advocate, the Russian tsar Alexander, who was married to the princess Louise of Baden, who was called Empress Elisabeth as his wife.

Although he was regarded as a weak prince, Karl could be firm in personal matters. Even when France became an enemy, he stood by his wife Stephanie (the adopted daughter of Napoleon) instead of separating from her, which his family and the new allies requested.

Stephanie (1789-1860) bore five children between 1811 and 1817 – three daughters and two sons. However, the sons, which would have been entitled to inherit, died shortly after their birth. There was always speculation as to whether the elder hereditary prince was murdered, since following his death, the sons of the second marriage (the “Hochbergers”) were entitled to inherit, but the rumors were never properly proven.

The mystery around Caspar Hauser – Was he a prince’s son or a imposter?

Several years later, in 1828, the rumors were discussed once more, when a mysterious young man named Caspar Hauser appeared in Nuremberg. His language and writing skills were limited, and he brought with him a letter written by his father, a day laborer. It said that Caspar Hauser had been abandoned as a child at his door in 1812. He raised him but did not let him leave the house. The boy rapidly became a sensation. When questioned about his origin, he said that he grew up in darkness,  lying in a small room, and was taught to walk and write only shortly before his arrival to Nuremberg by an unknown person, who accompanied him to the gates of Nuremberg.

Caspar Hauser was observed at, handed around and various patrons who meant well took care of him. He got a lot of attention and became a star. In October 1829 he was found with a stab wound. According to Caspar, someone tried to assassinate him. However, people questioned if there was an assassin at all, since the attack took place just when Caspar was no longer receiving much attention. The rumor that Caspar might have been the hereditary prince who died in 1812 and was swapped with a dying infant spread as soon as Caspar first appeared in Nuremberg.

For it was only with the extinction of the Zaehringer line (with the two sons who died) that the Hochbergers, the sons of Karl Friedrich’s second marriage with the Countess, could be considered hereditary princes and come to power. People pondered if Karl Friedrich’s second wife, Countess Hochberg, arranged the exchange of the older son. The Kingdom of Bavaria in particular was interested in this version of the story. They were still not over their loss of the Electoral Palatinate to the right side of the Rhine, which Baden had gained. If the mystery around the real heir of the ruling house of Baden remained unsolved, it would be a chance for Bavaria to regain its lost territory. And naturally, the Caspar Hauser story was an exciting story that moved and still moves people!

In any case, Caspar Hauser suffered another dangerous stab wound in December 1834 – once again by an alleged unknown attacker who had wanted to meet him in the court garden. He died a few days later and many people attended his funeral.

However, even in his lifetime, there were many doubts around his story, even from confidants who were in close contact with him. His story had too many inconsistencies, such as his physical condition after years of imprisonment, his knowledge of things and his partly contradictory statements.

Today, historians are almost unanimous that Hauser was an imposter and not a hereditary prince. However, his story still fascinates people today: many books were written, and movies filmed about him. His story was never fully explained, in parcitular the mystery as to where Hauser actually came from. There are many doubts and questions that remain today…

A look into the country

Besides the stories around the rulers (as exciting as they are), it is also interesting to look at how things throughout the country were at the time. The country consisted of very varied regions. The most important regions as well as what was going on there in the 19th century are presented in another article published soon.

The young state – a new constitution and integration

Before Karl died in 1818, he put into effect a very progressive constitution, which his financial advisor Nebenius worked on. It contained a number of civic rights, such as equality before the law, freedom of property and religion, and an indiscriminate tax liability.

In addition, a state parliament (“Landtag” in German) was established. This state assembly consisted of two chambers. The first chamber was made up of representatives of the old ranks: the princes, nobility, princes of the empire, and members of the churches and universities.

The second chamber was elected by the people. More specifically, only by the men (as we know, women were only given the right to vote in 1918 – before that they were not allowed to vote, not even at a regional level). And only men who were of legal age and in had a specific place of residence were eligible to vote, which was about two-thirds of the male population.

What sounds natural to us today was at the time a huge step forward – the constitution of Baden was the most liberal in the German Confederation! Baden thus became a constitutional monarchy – a form of government that the German Empire would later also adopt.

Of course, not all of this was entirely voluntary – for who likes to voluntarily renounce power and privilege?

If the young Grand Duchy was one thing above all else in its early years, it was poor. The wars in particular had taken their toll. It faced the threat of going bankrupt. Additionally, there was a catastrophic crop failure in 1816, which resulted in a famine.

After the upheavals, it was clear that a tax increase was not a solution. The people were dissatisfied, even though the French Revolution was initially repressed. Thus, co-determination by the people and the new constitution were a way to appease and keep the people happy.

This constitution would also be a tool to bring together the various regions and their inhabitants as Badeners.

Integration was a big topic even then, since Baden was not a naturally amalgamated country, but emerged from the above described political developments. The people from Breisgau had little in common with those from the Forest of the Odes – and the Swabians in the Lake Constance region did not have much in common with the people from Altbaden around the heartland of Karlsruhe.

A feeling of unity between the people of Baden would have to be created in the 19th century, which, looking at it now, we can see was successful!

Two princes in the Biedermeier period

The Biedermeier period sounds very romantic and like “the good old days” to us today. We think of beautiful furniture made of cherry wood, dignified furnishings and family idyll. This is not an entirely wrong perception, but it isn’t entirely right either.

The name Biedermeier actually goes back to a fictional character, Gottlieb Biedermeier, a Swabian (!) village teacher, whose narrow horizons and views of life were mocked in poems. Incidentally, he had a real role model, a schoolmaster named Gottlieb Sauter, who came from Baden … In particular, the bourgeoisie retreated into its private sphere due to the conservative and restrictive policies during this historical period. After the revolutionary upheavals, the rulers of the individual countries wanted to restore the old conditions that existed before the French Revolution to secure their power. This development is often associated with the Prince of Metternich, who, as a powerful minister of the Austrian Emperor, implemented the “Carlsbad Resolutions” in 1819, which severely restricted the freedom of the press and the free political activity of the citizens. Along with him, one must also look at the governance of the two following princes.

Ludwig I. – The last of the old Zaehringer as a short-term regent

After the rather weak Grand Duke Karl died at the young age of 32 in 1818, the youngest of the sons from the first marriage of Karl Friedrich, Ludwig I (1763-1830) came to power as Grand Duke.

Ludwig I had several descendants, including three children with his civil wife Katharina Werner, but they were not entitled to inheritance. His policy was more conservative and reactionist, and he would have liked to withdraw the constitution that had just been passed or at least to remove the second chamber from the state parliament. Consequently, he was not very popular with the people. When he died in 1830, there was hardly any mourning over his death. With his death, the Zaehringers would have been extinct, if only the Grand Duke Karl had not laid down the right of succession of the Hochbergers.

Leopold – A hopeful regent, who disappointed

After the death of Ludwig I, in 1830, the oldest Hochberger, Leopold, came to power as the new regent. He was considered liberal and progressive and included progressive ministers in his cabinet. Right at the beginning of his reign, he issued a new press law, which eased censorship. However, he withdrew this law a little later, in 1832, under the pressure of Austria and Prussia. His politics changed and more conservative forces gradually gained the upper hand in the state parliament.

He was married to the Swedish Princess Sophie Wilhelmine since 1819, who was a great-granddaughter of his father. With this marriage, he had ‘upgraded’ himself and his “dubious” origin, which was certainly a decision that the family encouraged for tactical reasons.

At the time, it was common in the ruling circles to ” marry tactically”, in order to retain or even increase influence and power. This was why all rulers in Europe were, in some distant way, related to each other (to put it a little bluntly). His wife Sophie was involved in social welfare and they had eight children over the years, including the to-be regent Friedrich I.

Even though Leopold ‘s policy became more liberal again in the 1940s, he was not very popular. The parties that stood in opposition (in the second chamber) were divided over what course to take next: while the moderate liberals supported Leopold’ s change of course and advocated for less radical policies, the radicals wanted a republic and to abolish the current constitutional monarchy.

These radical demands made them popular with the inhabitants of the country. A large part of the population was dissatisfied, partly because the country was not doing well economically. Even back then, banks went bankrupt – when Salomon von Haber’s bank collapsed, it threatened to shut down the three largest factories in Baden, the Kessler machine factory in Karlsruhe, the spinning and weaving mill in Ettlingen, and the sugar factory in Waghaeusel. Like it does today, the state took action and guaranteed the continued existence of the companies. But the rural population was not doing well either, and in part, people suffered from hunger. Reason for this were crop failures as well as the rules on inheritance, which often left the younger siblings empty handed.

Revolution! A prince must flee!

It was not surprising then that there was unrest in Baden after the outbreak of the French February Revolution in 1848. There were several major public meetings, as well as massive protests in which offices were stormed and manors looted. The situation became critical and suddenly the government was ready to compromise.

However, it was clear that the monarchy would not voluntarily let itself be abolished and so the radicals decided to begin an armed struggle under the leadership of Friedrich Hecker. He left Constance with 50 men and was convinced that tens of thousands more would join their armed struggle. However, he had overestimated the revolutionary energy of the Baden farmers. Only a few hundred peasants and other revolutionary columns came together for a total of perhaps a few thousand men, which were easily overpowered and driven away by the troops of Baden and Hesse. Hecker and his comrade Struve were able to escape, but not everyone was as lucky: the state investigated  several thousand inhabitants of Baden and 850 of the fighters were arrested. However, that was not enough to end the riots.

the Imperial Constitution of 1849 was passed at the National Assembly in Frankfurt’s St. Paul’s Church. Upon its failure there were new uprisings in Baden. This time however, the military sided with the insurgents. Consequently, Leopold had to flee from Karlsruhe with his family and the government officials. However, the provisional government led by the people of Baden lasted only a few weeks, for Leopold asked Prussia for help. With a Prussian army made up of 35,000 men, the revolution was crushed. Leopold returned to Karlsruhe after three months with Prince Wilhelm, the commander of the Prussian troops, who later became Wilhelm I, the first emperor of the German Empire. The Prussian occupiers were brutal with the insurgents; there were 75 death sentences and thousands more were tried. Under pressure from Prussia, almost all the liberal achievements of the recent years were reversed.

Baden – a country of emigration

This defeat, the bad economic situation, the political repression and the lack of a positive vision for the future were reasons many inhabitants of Baden decided to emigrate. There had been waves of emigration before, especially after the crisis years of 1816/17 and 1832/33. After the failed revolution, about 80,000 people emigrated from Baden at the end of the 1840s, including the popular revolutionary leader Friedrich Hecker, who became a farmer in the Midwest and remained politically active throughout his life. The U.S.A. was the emigrants’ main destination, while others emigrated to Alsace and neighboring states.

Friedrich I. – An exemplary Prince and Regent for many years

After his father Leopold died in 1852, it would have been up to Friedrich’s older brother, Prince Ludwig II (1824-1858), to govern the country. However, he was unable to govern due to a serious illness (at the time, it was called “mental illness”, today it would probably be classified as a severe depression). Thus, his younger brother Friedrich I reigned from 1852 as Regent and adopted the title Grand Duke in 1856.

In the same year, he married the Princess Louise of Prussia, the only daughter of the future Emperor Wilhelm I. In the next decades, the two would be an exemplary ruling couple, under whose leadership Baden became a liberal “exemplary country”.


Reforms and cultural clashes – the struggle between the state and the Catholic Church

Friedrich I was a reformer: he introduced a free trade policy, granted the Jews equality in 1862 (it was the first German state do to so) and reformed the judiciary and administration systems in the 1860s.

An important topic of domestic politics, which would pervade in the later German Reich and was not only present in Baden, was the cultural clash (“Kulturkampf” in German), which referred to the “struggle” between the state and the Catholic Church. After all, two thirds of the population of Baden was Catholic.

The Protestant church was a “state church” and therefore had a closer link to the state. the Catholic Church made various demands of the state. It did not want to be “controlled” by the state, for instance by a secular high school council, which was meant to replace the church school supervision. Other disputes that took place were about state examinations for new priests, the introduction of civil marriage in 1870 and “mixed” school classes with students from different religions. This conflict would last until the 1880s and was “neutralized” when Pope Pius IX, who had proclaimed the “infallibility of the Pope” (which created conflict with the secular rulers, such as Emperor Wilhelm II., who also stated they were infallible), died in 1875 and a more moderate pope, Leo XIII, followed. That was that for the conflicts between church and state – which would later reappear and strongly influence the domestic policy in the early years of the newly founded German Reich.

Clever changing of sides / Baden becomes a federal state of the German Reich

By the way, what was Baden’s role in the foundation of the German Reich? Baden was a member of the German Confederation and on Austria’s side in the war for supremacy in 1866 of the German Reich between Austria and Prussia. However, it was common to switch sides. After Austria was defeated by the Prussians in the Battle of Hradec Kralove in 1866, the German Federation broke up and Baden initiated contact with the Prussians. After all, Louise was the daughter of the Prussian king! Just imagine, your own wife is from the family of the opponent in the war. Suddenly, our own small disputes in our families seem very insignificant…

Long story short, when it came to the proclamation of the first German Emperor in the Palace of Versailles after the war against France (in which Baden fought on the side of Prussia and the North German Confederation) his son Friedrich openly praised the newly crowned monarch Wilhelm I.

The dedicated “mother of the people”

Louise, the Prussian princess, meanwhile, became an exemplary “mother of the people”. Friedrich’s mother, Sophie, had been charitable, but Louise took the social commitment of the Baden Princely House to a new level. She founded a women’s association, which soon had many local associations in the cities and towns. She needed to justify the necessity of such clubs and she found a clever reason: they were to be for the care of the wounded soldiers in times of war. Therefore, she first placed special emphasis on nursing, and later included child care. With this association, she supported the education and employment of women. She paid special attention to the unmarried women, who at the time, together with the widows and divorcees (who were certainly the smallest part,) made up at least 60 percent of the women. Until then, they had been rather problematic cases – without training and social security they were a burden on their families. With the association, they were able to get a job and to provide for their own livelihood. For married women, family and children were still the first priority – in this aspect, Louise remained conservative.

Baden as an exemplary liberal country

Under the leadership of Friedrich I., Baden developed into a liberal and progressive exemplary country. An aspect that indicated how progressive a government was at the time was suffrage. It had always been very progressive in Baden (for the respective time) and that would continue until the end of the empire. In 1870, universal and equal suffrage was introduced and in 1904, direct suffrage (only ever for men). New party constellations began in Baden around this time. Looking forward at today’s Baden-Wuerttemberg, where we all know that in 2011, the first Green Prime Minister was elected. But already during the imperial period, starting in 1905, there was a new kind of cooperation between parties that took place, the so-called “big block”. The block consisted of National Liberal Democrats, Social Democrats and Democrats. The Baden Social Democrats had to accept criticism from the SPD leadership in Berlin for their constructive cooperation  (instead of purely rejecting everything as an opposition party). The similarities with today’s existing parties are purely coincidental.

Louise and Friedrich lived and ruled happily until the end of their lives -at least Friedrich…

In 1906, the Golden Wedding and the 80th birthday of Friedrich were celebrated in a magnificent fashion. The following year, the popular monarch died. He was buried in the grand ducal burial chapel in Karlsruhe, which was built in 1896 and where 18 other members of the House of Baden rest today.

pictures of the event taking place in Karlsruhe 1906 on the occassion of the Golden wedding and the 80. Birthday of Friedrich. From all parts of Baden the residents came to join the event. Friedrich opened a farmer exhibition as part of the festivities.

The Golden wedding and the 80. Birthday of Friedrich were celebrated magnificently in 1906.

The following year, the popular monarch died. He was buried in the grand ducal burial chapel in Karlsruhe, which was built in 1896 and where 18 other members of the House of Baden rest today.

A preserver and the last Regent: Friedrich II/ The 1st World War

Of Friedrich and Louise’s three children, the eldest son Friedrich (1857-1928) followed his father’s footsteps and became Friedrich II, the last regent of Baden. He was married to Hilda von Nassau (1864-1952) – the two remained childless.

Friedrich II was more of a maintainer than a doer – he had been in the shadow of his dominant parents throughout his life – and according to eyewitnesses, it remained this way until the death of his mother Louise.

At the beginning of the First World War, as in many other places, the inhabitants of Baden were very enthusiastic about the war and their participation in it. However, as the war progressed and the population felt its consequences, such as shortages in supplies and massive price increases, the euphoria disappeared. Additionally, many male family members fell in the war and were mourned.

When World War I ended in November, the November Revolution quickly spread to Baden, where a People’s Government was established on the 9th of November. Two days later there was a riot in front of the castle. Consequently, the Grand Duke had to flee and declared that he would renounce the throne on November 22th, and so did the potential heir Max von Baden, his cousin.

The end of the Grand Duchy

Max of Baden became known as the last Chancellor of the Empire: he led the government for a month before handing the Chancellery to the Social Democrat Friedrich Ebert.

On November 14th, 1918, the provisional government of Baden proclaimed it was now a “Free People’s Republic”. The transition from a monarchy to a “democratic republic” was laid down in a new constitution, which was adopted on April 13th, 1919, through a referendum.

Louise survived the transition by a few years. Although  she was disappointed and had to accept her lack of status, she supported charitable projects until the end of her life. She died in 1923 in Baden-Baden. The thousands of people who attended her funeral and passed her casket in the castle chapel to say goodbye showed the strong sympathy the population felt for her until her death.

Can history explain the rivalry between Baden and Wuerttemberg? Baden was surely disappointed that Wuerttemberg became a kingdom while they were “only” a Grand Duchy. Apart from this, the rivalries are often based on clichés: the Baden are seen as liberal, the Swabians as diligent, etc.

The referendum for the unification of the two countries took place in 1951 (more specifically, there were three zones which were formed after the war: Baden, Wuerttemberg-Hohenzollern and Wuerttemberg-Baden), with only a little over half the population voting to unify the countries.

Nevertheless, almost 70 years after the unification of the two federal states, I would say: teasing is a sign of affection! Even if it sometimes looks a little different in the football stadium.

In particular, I would like to thank Annette Borchardt-Wenzel for her support; she read and improved this text.

Many thanks to the Baden State Museum and all other institutions that provided images for the article! I also thank Lotte Atkins for doing a great job in translating this text and Laura Deckert for reviewing this version.

And last but not least: Thank you to my husband, my best critic and test reader, who saved you from another eight pages of Baden history. When he read the first version, he looked at me and said, “too long and therefore boring”. I’ve cut the text and hope you were not bored 😉 !

The state that will follow next is the Kingdom of Saxony.

These two articles on German states have already been published: Where does my family come from? and Principality of Reuss elder Line – the smallest Federal State

If you are not sure about your state of Origin and you know the name of the place – check it out with our State Locator !

Recommended Posts
Showing 3 comments
  • John Lieber

    This is the best article I have found on Baden. As someone who’s great grandfather came from Waldshut (To the best of my knowledge) in Baden, it is a difficult area to research, especially after the merger with Wurttemberg. I would be very interested in the unabridged version of the article. Thank you so much for writing this!

    • Grete Otto

      Thank you John, I appreciate your positive feedback very much! You are right, Waldshut was in Baden. There is no larger version of this article but soon the english version of the second article about Baden will appear which is about the people living in the different areas of Baden, also introducing some larger cities. Of course the Black forest area is also covered.

pingbacks / trackbacks

Leave a Comment