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One of the largest Baroque palaces in Germany

Ludwigsburg Residential Palace

The royal coat of arms. Image: Staatsanzeiger für Baden-Württemberg, Eva Kobelt
Winning country and prestige

Württemberg becomes a kingdom

Duke Friedrich II von Württemberg was unable to prevail against Napoleon Bonaparte in the War of the Second Coalition. After his defeat, he aligned himself with the French emperor and joined the Confederation of the Rhine. Friedrich was not only able to expand his territory, but also acquired royal dignity.

Golden eagle in Ludwigsburg. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Achim Mende

Friedrich II was a member of the Order of the German Eagle.

A failed coalition

After the French Revolution broke out, other European monarchies formed coalitions against the republican developments in France. In 1799, Württemberg formed a coalition with Austria against Napoleon Bonaparte; however, by 1800, Bonaparte had already defeated them. The French occupied Württemberg and Duke Friedrich II was forced to surrender to Napoleon. He first aligned himself with France in the Treaty of Lunéville.

Napoleon Bonaparte in Ludwigsburg, painting by Louis Etienne Watelet, 1811. Image: Wikipedia, public

Napoleon Bonaparte is received at Ludwigsburg on October 2, 1805.

Considerable territorial gains

Friedrich II demanded compensation from Napoleon for lost territory. The Treaty of Paris ensured Württemberg's holdings and expanded its dominion. Württemberg was also elevated to an electorate. The new prince-elector of Württemberg combined the numerous small holdings into a special "New Württemberg" state in 1803 and ruled it absolutistically, without representation or a constitution. This left Friedrich II with more assets than losses. 388 km² of lost territory on the left side of the Rhine were offset by 1,609 km² of territory on the right side of the Rhine.

Two opposing partners

Initially, Friedrich II was reluctant to form a further alliance with Napoleon. Only after a personal visit from the French Emperor to Ludwigsburg Residential Palace, did he agree to join the Confederation of the Rhine. The Confederation was a coalition of German states, formed on Napoleon's initiative. At its core, the Confederation of the Rhine was a military alliance between the German states and France. What's more, according to an anecdote, at the Ludwigsburg meeting Napoleon supposedly looked up at the 2.11 meter, approx. 200 kg Friedrich and said: "I was unaware that the skin could stretch so much!" To which Friedrich is said to have replied: "And I am astounded that such a small head can hold such poison!"

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Napoleon with members of the Confederation of the Rhine; King Friedrich is fourth from the left and his family is to his right.

King's audience chamber. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Steffen Hauswirth

The king's audience chamber and throne.

Crowned king

Upon signing the Treaty of the Confederation of the Rhine, Württemberg left the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and joined the Confederation of the Rhine. Prince-Elector Friedrich II was immediately named King by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. On January 1, 1806, Friedrich celebrated his crowning with a grand ceremony. From then on, he called himself King Friedrich I and rounded out the three reclining antler racks, a part of the Württemberg coat of arms, with three lions, referencing the House of Staufen as an important ruling dynasty to the southwest.