Charles VII, Holy Roman Emperor

Charles VII, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles VII
Holy Roman Emperor;
King of the Romans (King of Germany)
Reign 24 January 1742 – 20 January 1745 (&100000000000000020000002 years, &10000000000000362000000362 days)
Coronation 12 February 1742, Frankfurt
Predecessor Charles VI
Successor Francis I
King of Bohemia
Reign 1741–1743
Coronation 9 December 1741, Prague
Predecessor Charles VI
Successor Maria Theresa
Duke of Bavaria, Prince Elector
Reign 26 February 1726 – 20 January 1745 (&1000000000000001800000018 years, &10000000000000329000000329 days)
Predecessor Maximilian II Emanuel
Successor Maximilian III Joseph
Spouse Maria Amalia of Austria
Maria Antonia, Electress of Saxony
Maximilian III, Elector of Bavaria
Maria Anna Josepha, Margravine of Baden-Baden
Maria Josepha, Holy Roman Empress
House House of Wittelsbach
Father Maximilian II Emanuel
Mother Theresa Kunegunda Sobieska
Born 6 August 1697(1697-08-06)
Died 20 January 1745(1745-01-20) (aged 47)
Burial Munich
Religion Roman Catholicism

Charles VII Albert (6 August 1697 – 20 January 1745) a member of the Wittelsbach family, was Prince-elector of Bavaria from 1726 and Holy Roman Emperor from 24 January 1742 until his death in 1745. Charles was notably the only person not of the House of Habsburg to become emperor since the 15th century.


Early life and career

He was born in Brussels as the son of Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria, and Theresa Kunegunda Sobieska, and the grandson of Polish King John III Sobieski.

Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII

His family was split during the War of the Spanish Succession and was for many years under house arrest in Austria. Only in 1715 did the family become re-united. From 3 December 1715 until 24 August 1716 Charles visited Italy and in 1717 he joined the war of the Habsburgs against the Turks with Bavarian auxiliaries.

On 5 October 1722, Charles married Marie Amalie, Archduchess of Austria. Marie Amalie was a daughter of Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor and his wife Princess Wilhelmina Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Her maternal grandfather was John Frederick, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. In 1725 Charles Albert visited Versailles for the wedding of Louis XV and established a firm contact to France.

In 1726 when his father died Charles Albert became Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire and Duke of Bavaria. He managed to maintain good relations with his Habsburg relatives but also with France.

Holy Roman Emperor

Allegorical depiction of Charles's coronation as Holy Roman Emperor (1742)
Thaler coin of Charles VII, dated 1743
Emperor Charles's residence Palais Barckhaus in Frankfurt, which he used in exile

In continuance of the policy of his father Charles Albert aspired to an even higher rank. As son-in-law of Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor, Charles Albert rejected the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 and claimed the German territories of the Habsburg dynasty after the death of Charles VI in 1740. With the treaty of Nymphenburg concluded in July 1741, Charles Albert allied with France and Spain against Austria.

During the War of the Austrian Succession Charles Albert invaded Upper Austria in 1741 and planned to conquer Vienna but his allied French troops were redirected to Bohemia instead. So Charles Albert was crowned King of Bohemia in Prague (9 December 1741) when the Habsburgs were still not defeated. He was elected 'King of the Romans' on 24 January 1742, and took the title 'Holy Roman Emperor' upon his coronation on 12 February 1742. His brother Klemens August of Bavaria, archbishop and elector (Kurfürst) of Cologne, who mostly sided with the Austria Habsburg-Lorraine side during the Habsburg successions, cast his vote for him and personally crowned him emperor at Frankfurt. Charles VII was the second Wittelsbach Emperor after Louis IV and the first Wittelsbach King of the Romans since the rule of Rupert of Germany.

Shortly after the coronation most of Charles Albert's territories were overrun by the Austrians and Bavaria was occupied by the troops of Maria Theresa. Therefore the emperor fled Munich and resided for almost three years in the Palais Barckhaus in Frankfurt. He was made mockery of, since he was an emperor that neither controlled his own realm, nor was in effective control of the empire itself, though the institution of the Holy Roman Emperor has largely become symbolic in nature and powerless by this time. A popular saying about him in Latin was et Caesar et nihil, meaning "as well Emperor, as nothing", playing words on aut Caesar aut nihil, "either Emperor or nothing". Charles Albert's general Ignaz Felix Count of Törring-Jettenbach was compared with a drum, as people heard about him only when he was beaten.

But Charles VII tried to accentuate his government in Frankfurt with numerous legal acts such as the imperial privileg for the University of Erlangen in 1743 and the elevation of several members of the gentry to peers of the Empire. Charles Eugene, Duke of Württemberg was declared 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 and Taxis were appointed hereditary Postmaster General of the Imperial Reichspost.

The new commander of the Bavarian army, Friedrich Heinrich von Seckendorff fought Austria by a series of battles in 1743 and 1744. The new alliance with 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 reobtained Munich. Very gouty, he returned, only to die three months later. His brother Klemens August then again leaned toward Austria and also 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.

Cultural legacy

Charles Albert's reign was the peak of the era of Bavarian rococo. François de Cuvilliés was appointed chief architect of the court and constructed also the Amalienburg. The Nymphenburg Palace was completed during his rule, the grand circle (the Schlossrondell) with baroque mansions, was constructed as initial point for a new city (Carlstadt) which was finally not realized. For the Munich Residence Charles Albert ordered to erect the Ancestral Gallery and the Ornate Rooms. He also ordered Cuvilliés to construct the Palais Holnstein for one of his mistress, the Countess Holnstein.

Among the most gifted Bavarian artists of his time, were Johann Michael Fischer, Cosmas Damian Asam and Egid Quirin Asam, Johann Michael Feuchtmayer, Matthäus Günther, Johann Baptist Straub and Johann Baptist Zimmermann.


He and his wife Marie Amalie, Archduchess of Austria were parents of seven children:

  • Maximiliane, Princess of Bavaria (1723). Believed to have died young.
  • Maria Antonia, Princess of Bavaria (18 July 1724 – 23 April 1780). Married Frederick Christian, Elector of Saxony.
  • Therese Benedikta, Princess of Bavaria (6 December 1725 – 29 March 1743).
  • Maximilian III, Elector of Bavaria (28 March 1727 – 30 December 1777).
  • Joseph Ludvig Leo, Prince of Bavaria (25 August 1728 – 2 December 1733).
  • Maria Anna Josepha, Princess of Bavaria (7 August 1734 – 7 May 1776). Married Ludwig Georg Simpert, Margrave of Baden-Baden.
  • Maria Josepha, Princess of Bavaria ( 30 March 1739 – 28 May 1767). Married Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor.

Illegitimate children

Charles Albert and his mistress Sophie Caroline von Ingelheim had a son:

  • Franz Ludwig Count of Holnstein (1723–1780) ∞ Anna Marie zu Löwenfeld (1735–1783), daughter of Clemens August of Bavaria


Coat of arms of Emperor Charles VII

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.


See also

External links

Media related to Charles VII, Holy Roman Emperor at Wikimedia Commons

Charles VII, Holy Roman Emperor
Born: 6 August 1697 Died: 20 January 1745
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Maximilian II Emanuel
Elector of Bavaria
Succeeded by
Maximilian III Joseph
Preceded by
Maria Theresa
King of Bohemia
Succeeded by
Maria Theresa
Preceded by
Charles VI
Holy Roman Emperor
German King
(formally King of the Romans)

Succeeded by
Francis I

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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