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The Napoleon Series > Government > Governments and Politics

States of the Confederation of the Rhine: 1806-1813

By Stephen Millar

"Their Majesties the Kings of Bavaria and of Wurtemberg, the Sovereign Princes of Regensburg, Baden, Berg, Hesse-Darmstadt and Nassau, as well as the other leading princes of the south and west of Germany have resolved to form a confederation between themselves which shall secure them against future emergencies, and have thus ceased to be states of the Empire."

- French diplomat Theobald-Jacques Bacher, Regensburg, 1 August 1806

"There it lies, then, the monstrous fabric cemented by the blood and tears of so many millions and reared by an insane and accursed tyranny. From one end of Germany to the other we may venture to say aloud that Napoleon is a villain and the enemy of the human race."

- Heinrich-Friedrich-Karl, Reichsfreiherr vom und zu Stein (1757-1831), after the Battle of Leipzig in 1813

The final chapter of the Holy Roman Empire began in the wake of Emperor Napoleon I's victorious Austerlitz Campaign in 1805. The authority of the Holy Roman Emperor, Franz II of Austria, became seriously eroded; Napoleon I and his allies took advantage of Austria's defeat to plan a new Germanic union - the Confederation of the Rhine.

On 12 July 1806, 16 states - ranging in size from large territories like the Kingdom of Bavaria to much smaller states like the Principality of Salm-Kyrburg - signed the 'Rheinbundakte', the document announcing their departure from the Holy Roman Empire. Thirteen days later, the Confederation of the Rhine was founded - with Napoleon I designated as the union's 'Protector'.

Forced by these events, Emperor Franz II dissolved the Holy Roman Empire on 06 August 1806.

By mid-October 1808, a total of 35 states had joined the Confederation of the Rhine (several sources say 39 states, but the principalities of Nassau-Usingen and Nassau-Weilburg had merged to form the Duchy of Nassau; four branches of the Reuss family had formed the principalities of Reuss-Greiz and Reuss-Schleiz; the principalities of Salm-Salm and Salm-Kyrburg formed the Principality of Salm).

What destroyed the Confederation of the Rhine was Napoleon I's decisive defeat at the three-day Battle of Leipzig [16-19.10.1813]. Although the Kingdom of Bavaria had quit the union less than two weeks before, the Battle of Leipzig made it clear to the other member states that Napoleon had lost control of Germany and was now clearly on the defensive. On 26.10.1813, Dalberg resigned as the Confederation's Prince-Primate.

To oversee the administration of liberated German territory, the Allies appointed Heinrich-Friedrich-Karl, Reichsfreiherr vom und zu Stein (1757-1831) as President of the Central Administration Council (21.10.1813-20.06.1815).

As an interesting historical footnote, Theobald-Jacques, baron Bacher (17.06.1748-15.10.1813), the French diplomat who notified the Imperial Diet of the formation of the Confederation of the Rhine, died the day before the Battle of Leipzig.

A. Fourteen founding states of the Confederation: 25.07.1806

1. Duchy of Arenberg

Louis-Engelbert-Marie-Joseph-Augustin, Duke of Arenberg (03.08.1750-07.03.1820) inheirited his title from his father, Charles-Marie-Raymond, Duke of Arenburg in 1778. In 1808, Louis - blinded in a hunting accident in 1775 - renounced his rights in favour of Prosper-Louis, Duke of Arenberg (28.04.1785-27.02.1861). Prosper-Louis led a regiment of dragoons in several of Napoleon I's campaigns and was captured by British troops on 28.10.1811.

2. Grand-Duchy of Baden

Two rulers governed Baden during the Napoleonic period: Karl-Friedrich, Margrave of Baden-Durlach [1803 Elector of Baden and 1805 Grand-Duke] (22.11.1728-10.06.1811) and his grandson, Karl, Grand-Duke of Baden (08.06.1786-08.12.1818). Karl married Stephanie-Louise-Adrienne de Beauharnais (28.08.1789-29.01.1860), a second cousin of Empress Josephine's children, on 08.04.1806.

3. Kingdom of Bavaria

Maximilian IV, Elector of Bavaria and Count Palatine of the Rhine (27.05.1756-13.10.1825) inheirited his title from the childless Karl-Theodore, Elector of Bavaria and Count Palatine of the Rhine, on 16.02.1799. Napoleon created him King Maximilian I of Bavaria on 25.12.1805 (with his reign beginning on 01.01.1806).

4. Landgravate of Hessen-Darmstadt (later Grand-Duchy of Hessen und bei Rhein)

Ludwig X, Landgrave of Hessen-Darmstadt (14.06.1753-06.04.1830) inheirited his title from his father, Ludwig IX, Landgrave of Hessen-Darmstadt, on 06.04.1790. On 13.08.1806, he became Ludwig I, Grand-Duke of Hessen und bei Rhein.

5. Principality of Hohenzollern-Hechingen

This principality was ruled by the senior Catholic branch of the Hohenzollern line (and was related to the Hohenzollerns who ruled the Kingdom of Prussia). Two princes ruled Hohenzollern-Hechingen during the Napoleonic period: Hermann-Maria-Friedrich-Otto, Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen (30.07.1751-02.11.1810) and his son, Friedrich-Hermann-Otto, Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen (22.07.1776-13.09.1838).

6. Principality of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen

Anton-Aloys, Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (20.06.1762-1831) inheirited his title from his father, Karl-Friedrich, Count [later Prince] of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, on 20.12.1785. His family was another branch of the Hohenzollern line [see 5. above].

7. Principality of Isenburg

Karl, Prince of Isenburg-Birstein inheirited his title from Wolfgang-Ernst II, Prince of Isenburg-Birnstein, on 03.02.1803. When Prince Karl joined the Confederation, Napoleon I granted him additional territories - the counties of Isenburg-Budigen, Isenburg-Meerholz, Isenburg-Philippseich and Isenburg-Wachtersbach - and renamed the principality to 'Isenburg'.

8. Principality of Leyen und Hohengeroldseck (formerly County of Adendorf)

Philipp-Franz-Wilhelm, Count of Adendorf [later Prince of Leyen und Hohengeroldseck] (1766-1829) inheirited his title in 1775. Philipp-Franz-Wilhelm was a relative of Karl-Theodore-Anton-Maria, Reichsfreiherr von Dalberg [see 10. below]. When his state entered the Confederation of the Rhine, his county was renamed in 1806 and raised to a principality.

9. Principality of Liechtenstein

Johann I, Prince of Liechtenstein (26.06.1760-20.04.1836) inheirited his title from his childless brother, Alois I, Prince of Leichtenstein in 1805. He joined the Austrian army in 1782, fought at the Battle of Austerlitz [02.12.1805] and was promoted to the rank of Feldmarschall in 1809 [1].

10. Archbishopric of Regensburg-Ashafenburg (formerly Archbishopric-Electorate of Mainz; later Grand-Duchy of Frankfurt)

Karl-Theodore-Anton-Maria, Reichsfreiherr von Dalberg and former Archbishop-Elector of Mainz (1744-10.02.1817) was appointed by Napoleon as Prince-Primate of the Confederation of the Rhine on 12.07.1806. In 1810, Dalberg was created Grand-Duke of Frankfurt. He resigned the majority of his offices on 26.10.1813, in favour of Eugene de Beauharnais, Viceroy of Italy (03.1781-21.02.1824).

11. Duchy of Nassau

The principalities of Nassau-Weilburg and Nassau-Usingen were combined on 30.08.1806 to form the Duchy of Nassau:

A. Principality of Nassau-Usingen

Two rulers governed this state during the Napoleonic period: Karl-Wilhelm, Prince [later Duke] of Nassau-Usingen (09.11.1735-17.05.1803), who died with no male heir, and his brother, Friedrich-August, Prince of Nassau-Usingen [later Duke of Nassau] (23.04.1738-24.03.1816).

B. Principality of Nassau-Weilburg

Friedrich-Wilhelm, Prince of Nassau-Weilburg (25.10.1768-09.01.1816) inheirited his title from his father, Karl-Christian, Prince of Nassau-Weilburg, on 28.11.1788 (two older brothers died in infancy in 1762).

12. Principality of Salm

Two states were merged to form the Principality of Salm which entered the Confederation of the Rhine:

A. Principality of Salm-Salm

Konstantin-Alexander-Joseph, Prince of Salm-Salm (22.11.1762-25.02.1828) inheirited his title from his father, Maximilian-Friedrich-Ernst, Prince of Salm-Salm, on 14.09.1773. His older brother, Nikolaus-Leopold-Ludwig, died on 12.03.1768.

B. Principality of Salm-Kyrburg

Friedrich IV, Prince of Salm-Kyrburg (14.12.1789-14.08.1859) inheirited his title from his father, Friedrich III, Prince of Salm-Kyrburg, on 25.07.1794.

13. Kingdom of Wurttemburg

The brother-in-law of Great Britian's Prince Regent [later King George IV] Friedrich, Elector of Wurttemberg (06.11.1754-30.10.1816) was granted royal status by Napoleon on 26.12.1805. He was crowned King of Wurttemberg at Stuttgart on 01.01.1806. The Congress of Vienna confirmed his rank after Napoleon's first abdication in 1814.

14. Duchy (later Grand-Duchy) of Berg and Cleves

Prince Joachim Murat, Marshal of the Empire (25.03.1767-13.10.1815) reigned as Grand-Duke of Berg and Cleves from 15.03.1806 to 01.08.1808. After Murat succeeded Joseph Bonaparte as King of Naples, the grand-duchy was given to Napoleon-Louis Bonaparte, Prince-Royal of Holland (18.12.1804-14.04.1831). Napoleon-Louis reigned from 03.03.1809 to 01.12.1813.

B. Twenty-one additions to the Confederation: 25.09.1806-14.10.1808


1. Grand-Duchy of Wurzburg

Archduke Ferdinand, Grand-Duke of Wurzburg (06.05.1769-18.06.1824) was one of the sons of Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor. He had previously been created Grand-Duke of Tuscany.


2. Kingdom of Saxony 

Friedrich-August I, King of Saxony (23.12.1750-05.05.1827) succeeded his father, Friederich-Christian-Leopold, as Elector of Saxony on 17.12.1763. During Napoleon I's reign, Friedrich-August received the titles of King of Saxony (1806) and Grand-Duke of Warsaw (1807).


3. Duchy of Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld

This duchy was ruled by two members of the Wettin line during the Napoleonic period: Franz I Friedrich-Anton, Duke of Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld (15.07.1750-10.12.1806) and Ernst I Anton-Karl-Ludwig, Duke of Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld (02.01.1784-29.01.1844).

4. Duchy of Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg

This duchy was another German state ruled by two members of the Wettin line: Ernst II Ludwig, Duke of Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg (30.01.1745-20.04.1804) and Emil-Leopold-August, Duke of Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg (23.11.1772-27.05.1822).

5. Duchy of Sachsen-Hildburghausen

Friedrich, Duke of Sachsen-Hildburghausen (29.04.1763-29.09.1834) inheirited his title from his father, Ernst-Friedrich III, Duke of Sachsen-Hildburghausen, on 23.09.1780. Therese, Princess of Sachsen-Hildburghausen, married Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (25.08.1786-29.02.1868) in 1810.

6. Duchy of Sachsen-Meiningen [regency from 24.12.1803]

During the Napoleonic period, this Wettin duchy was ruled first by Georg I Friedrich-Karl, Duke of Sachsen-Meiningen (04.02.1761-24.12.1803); his wife, Luise-Eleonore, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (11.08.1763-30.04.1837) then ruled until 1821 as regent for her infant son, Bernhard II Erich, Duke of Sachsen-Meiningen (17.12.1800-03.12.1882).

7. Duchy of Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach

Karl-August, Duke of Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (03.09.1757-14.06.1828) succeeded his father, Ernst-August II Konstantin, Duke of Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach, on 28.05.1758. His mother, Anne-Amalie, Duchess of Braunschweig-Wolfenbuttel (24.10.1739-10.04.1807), was regent of the duchy until 1775.


8. Duchy of Anhalt-Bernberg

Alexis-Friedrich-Christian, Duke of Anhalt-Bernberg (14.09.1767-24.03.1834) inheirited his title from his father, Friedrich-Albrecht, Prince of Anhalt-Bernberg, on 09.04.1796.

9. Principality (later Duchy) of Anhalt-Dessau

Leopold III, Prince [later Duke] of Anhalt-Dessau (10.08.1740-09.10.1817) inheirited his title from this father, Leopold II Maximilian, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau on 16.12.1751.

10. Principality (later Duchy) of Anhalt-Kothen

August II, Prince [later Duke] of Anhalt-Kothen (1769-1812) inheirited his title from his father, Karl, Prince of Anhalt-Kothen, on 17.10.1789.

11. Principality of Reuss zu Greiz and 12. Principality of Reuss zu Schleiz

Four branches of the House of Reuss were combined to form two states entering the Confederation of the Rhine: Heinrich XIII, Prince of Reuss zu Greiz (16.02.1747-29.01.1817); Heinrich LIV, Count [1806 Prince] of Reuss zu Lobenstein (08.10.1767-07.05.1824); Heinrich XLII, Count [1806 Prince] of Reuss zu Schleiz (27.02.1752-17.04.1818) and Heinrich LI, Count [1806 Prince] of Reuss zu Ebersdorf (16.05.1761-10.07.1822).

13. Principality of Waldeck und Pyrmont

Three princes ruled this state during the Napoleonic era. Friedrich-Karl-August, Prince of Waldeck und Pyrmont (1743-24.09.1812) ruled from 29.08.1763 to 24.09.1812. From 1806 to 1812, Pyrmont was a separate principality ruled by his brother, Georg I, Prince of Waldeck und Pyrmont (06.05.1747-09.09.1813) who later succeeded him; he reigned from 24.09.1812 to 09.09.1813. Georg I's son, Georg-Heinrich, Prince of Waldeck und Pyrmont (20.09.1789-15.05.1845) ruled from 09.09.1813 to 15.05.1845.

14. Principality of Lippe-Detmold [regency from 04.04.1802]

Leopold II, Prince of Lippe-Detmold (1800-1851) inheirited his title from his father, Leopold I, Prince of Lippe-Detmold, on 04.04.1802. As the new prince was a minor, the principality was governed by a regent - Pauline, Princess of Anhalt-Bernberg - until her death on 03.07.1820. Leopold II reigned until 01.01.1851.

15. County (later Principality) of Schaumburg-Lippe [regency from 13.02.1787]

Georg I Wilhelm, Count [later Prince] of Schaumburg-Lippe (20.12.1784-21.11.1860) inheirited his title from his father, Philipp II Ernst, Count of Schaumburg-Lippe, on 13.02.1787. His mother, Juliane-Wilhelmine-Luise, Princess of Hessen-Philippsthal (08.06.1761-09.11.1799) was regent until her death.

16. Principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt [regency from 1807]

Friedrich-Gunther I was another ruler who inheirited his title as a minor (in 1807). After the death of his father, Ludwig-Friedrich II, Prince of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, the principality was governed by a regent (Luise-Caroline, Princess of Hessen-Homburg) until 1814. Friedrich-Gunther I reigned until 1867.

17. Principality of Schwarzburg-Sonderhausen

Gunther-Friedrich-Karl I, Prince of Schwarzburg-Sonderhausen (1760-1837) inheirited his title from his father, Christian-Gunther, Prince of Schwarzburg-Sonderhausen in 1794. Gunther-Friedrich-Karl I reigned until 1835.


18. Kingdom of Westphalia

Jerome Bonaparte, King of Westphalia (15.11.1784-24.06.1860) was Napoleon I's youngest brother. His wife, Fredericke-Katharine-Sophie-Dorothea, was the daughter of King Friedrich of Wurttemberg.


19. Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Adolf-Friedrich, Prince of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (05.05.1738-02.06.1794) inheirited his title from his father, Karl I, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, on 05.06.1752. His brother, Karl II, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (14.10.1741-06.11.1816) succeeded him in 1794.


20. Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (senior line)

Friedrich-Franz I, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (10.12.1756-01.02.1837) inheirited his title from his father, Ludwig, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, on 12.09.1778.


21. Duchy of Oldenburg

Peter-Friedrich-Ludwig, Duke of Oldenburg (17.01.1755-21.05.1829) was made regent of the duchy in 1785 because his uncle's only son and heir, Peter-Friedrich-Wilhelm (03.01.1754-02.07.1823) was insane [2].

C. The Dissolution of the Confederation: 1810-1813

1. States removed from the Confederation and annexed to France: 13.12.1810

1. Partial territories of the Grand-Duchy of Berg and Cleves

2. Duchy of Oldenburg

3. Principality of Salm

4. Partial territories of the Kingdom of Westphalia [granted territory from Hanover as compensation]

2. State removed from the Confederation and annexed to France: 11.02.1811

5. Duchy of Arenberg

3. States which left the Confederation after the Treaty of Kalisch: 25.03.1813


6. Kingdom of Bavaria


4. Kingdom of Westphalia [see above; abolished by the Allies]


7. Kingdom of Saxony [An Allied Powers provisional government was established in Saxony when King Friedrich-Wilhelm was captured on 19.10.1813 after the Battle of Leipzig].


8. Kingdom of Wurttemberg

20-24.11. 1813:

9. Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

10. Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

11. Grand-Duchy of Baden

12. Grand-Duchy of Hessen-Darmstadt

13. Duchy of Nassau

14. Duchy of Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfield

15. Duchy of Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg

16. Duchy of Sachsen-Hildburghausen

17. Duchy of Sachsen-Meiningen

18. Principality of Schwarburg-Rudolstadt

19. Princiality of Schwarzburg-Sonderhausen

20. Principality of Hohenzollern-Hechingen

21. Principality of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen


1. Remaining territories of the Grand-Duchy of Berg and Cleves [see above]

4. Remaining states which left the Confederation in 1813

22. Duchy of Anhalt-Bernberg

23. Duchy of Anhalt-Dessau

24. Duchy of Anhalt-Kothen

25. Grand-Duchy of Frankfurt

26. Principality of Liechtenstein

27. Principality of Lippe-Detmold

28. Principality of Reuss zu Greiz

29. Principality of Reuss zu Schleiz

30. Duchy of Sachsen-Weimar

31. Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe

32. Principality of Waldeck und Pyrmont

33. Grand-Duchy of Wurzburg

34. Principality of Leyen und Hohengeroldseck

35. Principality of Isenburg

[1] Several sources say there was a regency in the principality for one of his sons, Karl I Joseph-Nepomuk-Anton, Prince of Leichtenstein (1803-1871), from 1806 to 1814. Johann I is then listed as ruler from 1815 until his death in 1836.

[2] This duchy had family connections to Czar Alexander I of Russia (1777-1825).



Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2006


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