Württemberg has a long – very long – history which is not the scope of this small – very small – web page about the place. For purposes of my genealogy website, I’m interested primarily in the time period of the first half of the 1800s, and secondarily, earlier centuries, when our known ancestors lived in the villages round about.

Württemberg, once a Duchy, became a Kingdom after the fall of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, during the reign of Frederick I of Württemberg, and finally a republic called the Free People’s State of Württemberg in 1918. After World War II, Württemberg was divided between the US and French occupation zones and became part of two new states: Württemberg-Baden and Württemberg-Hohenzollern. After the Federal Republic of Germany was formed in 1949, these two states merged with Baden in 1952 to become the modern German state of Baden-Württemberg.

The Kingdom of Württemberg essentially formed an agricultural state, almost half was agricultural land and gardens, about 1% vineyards, about 18% meadows and pastures, and almost 31% forest.

It possessed rich meadowlands, cornfields, orchards, gardens, and hills covered with vines. The chief agricultural products were oats, spelt, rye, wheat, barley, and hops. To these add wine (mostly of excellent quality), peas and beans, maize, fruit, (chiefly cherries and apples), beets and tobacco, and garden and dairy produce. Württembergers reared considerable numbers of cattle, sheep and pigs; and paid great attention to the breeding of horses.

In many areas of Baden-Württemberg, residents speak the distinctive dialects of Swabian (Schwäbisch) and ‘Badisch’/Allemanic, both of which are known for being almost unintelligible to northern Germans, especially in its stronger forms in the countryside. In the northern part of Baden-Württemberg, i.e., the area around Heidelberg and Mannheim, a third dialect known as Kurpfälzisch is spoken.

According to the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss, which reorganized the Empire as a result of the French annexation of the Left Bank of the Rhine, the Duke of Württemberg was raised to the dignity of Imperial Elector. Friedrich assumed the title Prince-Elector (Kurfürst) on 25 February 1803, and was thereafter known as the Elector of Württemberg. The reorganization of the Empire also secured the new Elector control of various ecclesiastical territories and former free cities, thus greatly increasing the size of his domains.

In exchange for providing France with a large auxiliary force (this is where Johannes Saemann served his monarch), Napoleon recognized the Elector as King of Württemberg on 26 December 1805. Friedrich became King Friedrich I when he formally ascended the throne on 1 January 1806 and was crowned as such on the same day at Stuttgart. Soon after, Württemberg seceded from the Holy Roman Empire and joined Napoleon’s Confederation of the Rhine.

He was very tall and obese: behind his back he was known as “The Great Belly-Gerent”. Napoleon I of France remarked that God had created the Prince to demonstrate the utmost extent to which the human skin could be stretched without bursting. In return, Friedrich wondered how so much poison could fit in such a small head. The linked website shows a pictorial demonstration of the height comparison between Friedrich and Napoleon: 211 cm (Friedrich) and (169 cm) Napoleon (169cm).

Frederick I of Württemberg

On 12 July 1806, on signing the Treaty of the Confederation of the Rhine (German: Rheinbundakte), 16 states in present-day Germany formally left the Holy Roman Empire and joined together in a confederation (the treaty called it the états confédérés du Rhin, with a precursor in the League of the Rhine). Napoleon was its “protector.” On 6 August, following an ultimatum by Napoleon, Francis II gave up his title of Emperor and declared the Holy Roman Empire dissolved. In the years that followed, 23 more German states joined the Confederation; Francis’s Habsburg dynasty would rule the remainder of the empire as Austria. Only Austria, Prussia, Danish Holstein [now part of Germany, including Kiel], and Swedish Pomerania stayed outside, not counting the west bank of the Rhine and Principality of Erfurt, which were annexed by the French empire.

According to the treaty, the confederation was to be run by common constitutional bodies. The Confederation was above all a military alliance: the members had to supply France with large numbers of military personnel. In return for their cooperation some state rulers were given higher statuses: Baden, Hesse, Cleves, and Berg were made into grand duchies, and Württemberg and Bavaria became kingdoms. States could also be made larger by incorporating the many smaller “Kleinstaaten,” or small former imperial member states.

After Prussia lost to France in 1806, many medium-sized and small states joined the Rheinbund. It was at its largest in 1808, including four kingdoms, five grand duchies, 13 duchies, seventeen principalities, and the Free Hansa towns of Hamburg, Lübeck, and Bremen. In 1810 large parts of northwest Germany were quickly incorporated into the Napoleonic Empire in order to better monitor the trade embargo with Great Britain, the Continental System.

The Confederation of the Rhine collapsed in 1813, with the aftermath of Napoleon's failed campaign against the Russian Empire.

From the perspective of W...

On January 1, 1806 Duke Frederick II assumed the title of king as King Frederick I, abrogated the constitution and united old and new Württemberg. Subsequently he placed the property of the church under the control of the state. In 1806 he joined the Confederation of the Rhine and received further additions of territory containing 160,000 inhabitants; a little later, by the peace of Vienna in October 1809, about 110,000 more persons came under his rule. In return for these favours Frederick joined Napoleon Bonaparte in his campaigns against Prussia, Austria and Russia, and of 16,000 of his subjects who marched to Moscow only a few hundred returned. Then, after the Battle of Leipzig (October 1813), King Frederick deserted the waning fortunes of the French emperor, and by a treaty made with Metternich at Fulda in November 1813 he secured the confirmation of his royal title and of his recent acquisitions of territory, while his troops marched with those of the allies into France. In 1815 the king joined the German Confederation, but the Congress of Vienna made no change in the extent of his lands. In the same year he laid before the representatives of his people the outline of a new constitution, but they rejected this, and in the midst of the commotion Frederick died (October 30, 1816).

At once the new king, William I (reigned 1816 - 1864) took up the constitutional question and after much discussion granted a new constitution in September 1819. This constitution, with subsequent modifications, remained in force until 1918 (see Württemberg). A period of quietness now set in, and the condition of the kingdom, its education, its agriculture and its trade and manufactures, began to receive earnest attention, while by frugality, both in public and in private matters, King William I helped to repair the shattered finances of the country. But the desire for greater political freedom did not entirely fade away under the constitution of 1819, and after 1830 a certain amount of unrest occurred. This, however, soon passed away, while the inclusion of Württemberg in the German Zollverein and the construction of railways fostered trade. [BTW...and also emigration to America.]

Afternote: Baden-Württemberg received notoriety for denying Muslim women employment in state schools if the women chose to wear headscarves. In one prominent example, one of the women, Doris Graber, had been teaching since 1973 but began wearing a headscarf in 1995. On March 18th, 2008, a German court ruled that she could not wear a headscarf despite her argument that she should be permitted to do so under equal treatment laws since nuns are allowed to teach in state schools while wearing religious habits.

Wikipedia Sites

Confederation of the Rhine

A List of Member Monarchies:
Kingdom of Württemberg

Swabia (the general area in which Württemberg resides).

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