The Electorate of the Palatinate was a much larger territory than what later became known as the Rhenish Palatinate (Rheinpfalz), on the left bank of the Rhine, and is now the modern region of the Palatinate in the German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate and parts of the French region of Alsace (bailiwick of Seltz from 1418 to 1766). The Electorate of the Palatinate also included territory that lay on the east bank of the Rhine, containing the cities of Heidelberg and Mannheim.
County Palatine of LotharingiaEdit
The Palatinate emerged from the County Palatine of Lotharingia, which came into existence in the 10th century. During the 11th century, the Palatinate was dominated by the Ezzonian dynasty, who governed several counties on both banks of the Rhine. These territories were centered around Cologne-Bonn, but extended south to the Mosel and Nahe Rivers. The southernmost point was near Alzey.
From about 1085/1086, after the death of the last Ezzonian palatine count, Herman II of Lotharingia, the Palatinate lost its military importance in Lotharingia. The territorial authority of the count palatine was reduced to his counties along the Rhine, from then-on called County Palatine of the Rhine.
The first hereditary Count Palatine of the Rhine was Conrad of Hohenstaufen who was the younger brother of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. The territories attached to this hereditary office started from those held by the Hohenstaufens in Franconia and Rhineland (other branches of the Hohenstaufens received Swabian lands, Franche-Comté, and so forth). Much of this was from their imperial ancestors, the Franconian emperors, and a part from Conrad's maternal ancestry, the Saarbrücken. These backgrounds explain the composition of Upper and Rhenish Palatinate in the inheritance centuries onwards.
In 1195, the Palatinate passed to the House of Welf through the marriage of Agnes, heir to the Staufen count. In the early 13th century, with the marriage of the Welf heiress Agnes, the territory fell to the Wittelsbach Dukes of Bavaria, who were also dukes and counts palatine of Bavaria.
During a later division of territory among the heirs of Duke Louis II of Upper Bavaria in 1294, the elder branch of the Wittelsbachs came into possession of both the Rhenish Palatinate and the territories in the Bavarian "Nordgau" (Bavaria north of the Danube river) with the centre around the town of Amberg. As this region was politically connected to the Rhenish Palatinate, the name Upper Palatinate (Oberpfalz) became common from the early 16th century in contrast to the Lower Palatinate along the Rhine.
In the Golden Bull of 1356, the Palatinate was recognized as one of the secular electorates, and given the hereditary offices of archsteward (German: Erztruchseß, Latin: Archidapifer) of the Empire and imperial vicar (Reichsverweser) of Franconia, Swabia, the Rhine, and southern Germany. From that time forth, the Count Palatine of the Rhine was usually known as the Elector Palatine (German: Kurfürst von der Pfalz, Latin: Palatinus elector).
Due to the practice of dividing territories among different branches of the family, by the early 16th century junior lines of the Palatine Wittelsbachs came to rule in Simmern, Kaiserslautern, and Zweibrücken in the Lower Palatinate, and in Neuburg and Sulzbach in the Upper Palatinate. The Elector Palatine, now based in Heidelberg, adopted Lutheranism in the 1530s and Calvinism in the 1550s.
When the senior branch of the family died out in 1559, the Electorate passed to Frederick III of Simmern, a staunch Calvinist, and the Palatinate became one of the major centers of Calvinism in Europe, supporting Calvinist rebellions in both the Netherlands and France.
Thirty Years' WarEdit
Main article: Thirty Years' WarMain article: Palatinate campaignIn 1619, Frederick V accepted the throne of Bohemia from the Bohemian estates. He was soon defeated by the forces of Emperor Ferdinand II at the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, and Spanish and Bavarian troops soon occupied the Palatinate itself. Called "the Winter King", because his reign in Bohemia only lasted one winter. In 1623, Frederick was put under the ban of the Empire. Frederick V's territories and his position as Elector were transferred to the Duke of Bavaria, Maximilian I, of a distantly related branch of the House of Wittelsbach. Although technically Elector Palatine, he was known as the Elector of Bavaria. From 1648 he ruled in Bavaria and the Upper Palatinate alone, but retained all his Electoral dignities and the seniority of the Palatinate Electorate.
By the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Frederick V's son, Charles Louis was restored to the Lower Palatinate, and given a new electoral title, also called "Elector Palatine", but lower in precedence than the other electorates.
The capital of the Palatinate moved from Heidelberg to Mannheim in 1720.
In 1742, the Palatinate was inherited by Duke Charles Theodore of Sulzbach. Charles Theodore also inherited the Electorate of Bavaria when its ruling line became extinct in 1777. The title and authority of Elector Palatine were subsumed into the Electorate of Bavaria, Charles Theodore and his heirs retaining only the single vote and precedence of the Bavarian elector. They continued to use the title "Count Palatine of the Rhine" (German: Pfalzgraf bei Rhein, Latin: Comes Palatinus Rheni).
Charles Theodore's heir, Maximilian Joseph, Duke of Zweibrücken (on the French border), brought all the Wittelsbach territories under a single rule in 1799. The Palatinate was dissolved in the Wars of the French Revolution. First, its left bank territories were occupied, and then annexed, by France starting in 1795; then, in 1803, its right bank territories were taken by the Margrave of Baden. The Rhenish Palatinate, as a distinct territory, disappeared. In 1806, the Holy Roman Empire was abolished, and all the rights and responsibilities of the electors with it.
After the EmpireEdit
In 1806, Baden was raised to a grand duchy and parts of the former Palatinate including Mannheim became part of the new grand duchy. At the Congress of Vienna in 1814 and 1815, the left-bank Palatinate—enlarged by other regions such as the former Bishopric of Speyer—was returned to the Wittelsbachs and became a formal part of the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1816 and after this time, it was this region that was principally known as the Palatinate. The area remained a part of Bavaria until after the Second World War, when it was separated and became a part of the new state of Rhineland-Palatinate, along with former left bank territories of Prussia and Hesse-Darmstadt.