Portrait by Georg Desmarées
|Holy Roman Emperor|
|Reign||24 January 1742 - |
20 January 1745
|Coronation||12 February 1742, Frankfurt|
|King of Bohemia|
|Reign||19 December 1741 - |
12 May 1743
|Coronation||19 December 1741, Prague|
|Elector of Bavaria|
|Reign||26 February 1726 - |
20 January 1745
|Predecessor||Maximilian II Emanuel|
|Successor||Maximilian III Joseph|
|Born||6 August 1697|
|Died||20 January 1745 (aged 47)|
|Issue||Maria Antonia, Electress of Saxony|
Maximilian III Joseph, Elector of Bavaria
Maria Anna Josepha, Margravine of Baden-Baden
Maria Josepha, Holy Roman Empress
|Father||Maximilian II Emanuel|
Charles VII (7 April 1697 - 20 January 1745) was the Prince-elector of Bavaria from 1726 and Holy Roman Emperor from 24 January 1742 until his death in 1745. Charles was a member of the House of Wittelsbach, thus his reign as Holy Roman Emperor marked the end of three centuries of uninterrupted Habsburg imperial rule. He was, however, related to the Habsburgs both by blood and by marriage. After the death of emperor Charles VI in 1740 he claimed the Archduchy of Austria due to his marriage to Maria Amalia of Austria, the niece of Charles VI, and was from 1741 to 1743 as Charles III briefly King of Bohemia. In 1742 he was elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire as Charles VII and ruled until his death three years later.
His family was politically divided during the War of the Spanish Succession and he spent many years under house arrest in Austria. The royal family had left Brussels and returned to Munich in 1701. His father Maximilian Emanuel fled to the Spanish Netherlands after having been defeated at the Battle of Höchstädt in August 1704 while Charles and his siblings stayed with their mother, the acting queen regnant, in Munich. In May 1705, after a stay in Venice the Austrian authorities refused the queen to return to Bavaria and forced her into an exile that was to last for ten years. Maximilian Emanuel went also into exile to Compiègne after on April 29, 1706 an Imperial ban was imposed on him, as he again had been defeated at Ramillies a few days prior. Only in 1715 was the family reconciled. After attaining his majority age in August 1715, Charles undertook an educational tour to Italy from 3 December 1715 until 24 August 1716. During 1717 he served among Bavarian auxiliaries in the Austro-Turkish War.
On 5 October 1722, Charles married Archduchess Maria Amalia of Austria, whom he had met at the imperial court in Vienna. Maria Amalia was the youngest daughter of the late emperor Joseph I and his wife Wilhelmine Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Although Bavaria had renounced all claims to the throne via this marriage, it did, however provide the legal basis to the inheritance of certain Austrian possessions. In 1725 Charles visited Versailles during the wedding celebrations of Louis XV of France, and established a personal contact with the French court.
In 1726, after his father had died, Charles became Duke of Bavaria and thus one of the Prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire and also inherited a debt of 26 Million fl. He maintained good relations with both, his Habsburg relatives and with France, continuing his father's policies. In 1729 he instituted the knightly Order of St George and ordered the beginning of the construction of the Rothenberg Fortress.
In continuance of the policy of his father, Charles aspired to an even higher rank. As son-in-law of Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor, Charles rejected the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 and claimed the German territories of the Habsburg dynasty after the death of emperor Charles VI in 1740. With the treaty of Nymphenburg concluded in July 1741, Charles allied with France and Spain against Austria.
During the War of the Austrian Succession Charles invaded Upper Austria in 1741 and planned to conquer Vienna, but his allied French troops under the Duc de Belle-Isle were redirected to Bohemia instead and Prague was conquered in November 1741. So Charles was crowned King of Bohemia in Prague on 19 December 1741 when the Habsburgs were not yet defeated. He was unanimously elected "King of the Romans" on 24 January 1742 and became Holy Roman Emperor upon his coronation on 12 February 1742. His brother Klemens August of Bavaria, archbishop and elector (Kurfürst) of Cologne, who generally sided with the Austria Habsburg-Lorraine faction in the disputes over the Habsburg succession, cast his vote for him and personally crowned him emperor at Frankfurt; George II of Great Britain, who was also Elector of Hanover, also voted to install Charles as Emperor, even as both Britain and Hanover were allied with Austria in the ongoing war. Charles VII was the second Wittelsbach emperor after Louis IV and the first Wittelsbach king of Germany since the reign of Rupert.
Shortly after the coronation most of Charles' territories were overrun by the Austrians, and Bavaria was occupied by the troops of Maria Theresa. The emperor fled Munich and resided for almost three years in the Palais Barckhaus in Frankfurt. Most of Bohemia was lost in December 1742 when the Austrians allowed the French under the Duc de Belle-Isle and the Duc de Broglie an honourable capitulation. Charles Albert was mocked as an emperor who neither controlled his own realm, nor was in effective control of the empire itself, though the institution of the Holy Roman Emperor had largely become symbolic in nature and powerless by that time. A popular Latin saying about him was et Caesar et nihil, meaning "both Emperor and nothing", a word-play on aut Caesar aut nihil, "either Emperor or nothing". Charles Albert's general Ignaz Felix, Count of Törring-Jettenbach was compared to a drum, as people heard about him only when he was beaten.
Charles VII tried to emphasise his government in Frankfurt with numerous acts of law, such as the grant of imperial privilege to the University of Erlangen in 1743 and the creation of several new imperial nobles. Charles Eugene, Duke of Württemberg was declared to be of full age ahead of time in 1744. Alexander Ferdinand, 3rd Prince of Thurn and Taxis served as Principal Commissioner for Charles VII at the Perpetual Imperial Diet in Frankfurt am Main and in 1744 the Thurn und Taxis dynasty were appointed hereditary Postmasters General of the Imperial Reichspost.
The new commander of the Bavarian army, Friedrich Heinrich von Seckendorff, fought Austria in a series of battles in 1743 and 1744. In 1743 his troops and their allies took Bavaria and Charles VII was able to return to Munich in April for some time. After the allied French had to retreat after defeats to the Rhine, he lost Bavaria again. The new campaign of Frederick II of Prussia during the Second Silesian War finally forced the Austrian army to leave Bavaria and to retreat back into Bohemia. In October 1744 Charles VII regained Munich and returned. Under the mediation of the former Vice-Chancellor Friedrich Karl von Schönborn, the emperor then sought a balance with Vienna, but at the same time negotiated unsuccessfully with France for new military support.
Suffering severely from gout, Charles died at Nymphenburg Palace in January 1745. His brother Klemens August then again leaned towards Austria, and his son and successor Maximilian III Joseph made peace with Austria. With the Treaty of Füssen Austria recognized the legitimacy of Charles VII's election as Holy Roman Emperor.
Charles Albert is buried in the crypt of the Theatinerkirche in Munich. His heart was separately buried in the Shrine of Our Lady of Altötting.Georg Philipp Telemann composed his requiem, entitled: I was hoping for light. King Frederick the Great of Prussia wrote in 1746: This death robbed me of the emperor, who was my friend.
Charles VII's reign represented the height of the Bavarian Rococo era. The Nymphenburg Palace was completed during his reign. The Grand circle (Schlossrondell), which is flanked by a string of elaborate Baroque mansions was initially planned as a basic blueprint for a new city (Carlstadt), but this was not achieved. Charles VII resided in Nymphenburg and the palace became the favorite summer residence of the future lords of Bavaria. Charles effected the building of the Ancestral Gallery and the Ornate Rooms at the Munich Residenz. He purchased the Palais Porcia in 1731 and had the mansion restored in Rococo style in 1736 for one of his mistresses, Countess Topor-Morawitzka. The mansion was named after the Countess' husband, Prince Porcia. He also ordered François de Cuvilliés, chief architect of the court, to build the Palais Holnstein for another one of his mistresses, Sophie Caroline von Ingenheim, Countess Holnstein, between 1733 and 1737. Cuvilliés constructed the Amalienburg as well for Charles and his wife Maria Amalia, an elaborate hunting lodge designed in Rococo style between 1734 and 1739 in the Nymphenburg Palace Park.
Before and during Charles's reign numerous accomplished German, Italian, French and Bavarian architects, sculptors, painters and artisans were employed in royal service, often for many years. Among them were Agostino Barelli, Dominique Girard, François de Cuvilliés, Leo von Klenze, Roman Anton Boos, Friedrich Ludwig Sckell, Joseph Effner, Konrad Eberhard, Joseph Baader, Ignaz Günther, Johann Michael Fischer, Cosmas Damian Asam and Egid Quirin Asam, Johann Michael Feuchtmayer, Matthäus Günther, Johann Baptist Straub and Johann Baptist Zimmermann.
Charles and his wife, Archduchess Maria Amalia of Austria, were parents of seven children:
Princess of Bavaria
|1723||Died in infancy.|
|Maria Antonia Walpurgis
Electress of Saxony
|18 July 1724||23 April 1780||Married in 1747 Frederick Christian of Saxony, had issue.|
Princess of Bavaria
|6 December 1725||29 March 1743||Died young and unmarried.|
|Maximilian III Joseph
Elector of Bavaria
|28 March 1727||30 December 1777||Married in 1747 Maria Anna Sophia of Saxony, no issue.|
|Joseph Ludwig Leo
Prince of Bavaria
|25 August 1728||2 December 1733||Died in childhood.|
|Maria Anna Josepha
Margravine of Baden-Baden
|7 August 1734||7 May 1776||Married in 1755 Louis George, Margrave of Baden-Baden, no issue.|
Holy Roman Empress
|30 March 1739||28 May 1767||Married in 1765 Joseph, King of the Romans, no issue.|
Charles Albert and his mistress Sophie Caroline von Ingelheim had a son:
Charles VII, by the grace of God elected Holy Roman Emperor, forever August, King in Germany and of Bohemia, Duke in the Upper and Lower Bavaria as well as the Upper Palatinate, Count-Palatine of the Rhine, Archduke of Austria, Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire, Landgrave of Leuchtenberg, etc. etc.
|Ancestors of Charles VII, Holy Roman Emperor|
Media related to Charles VII, Holy Roman Emperor at Wikimedia Commons
Charles VII, Holy Roman EmperorBorn: 6 August 1697 Died: 20 January 1745
Maximilian II Emanuel
| Elector of Bavaria
26 February 1726 - 20 January 1745
Maximilian III Joseph
| King of Bohemia
19 December 1741 - 12 May 1743
| Holy Roman Emperor
King in Germany
24 January 1742 - 20 January 1745