The Confederation of the Rhine (German: Rheinbund; French: officially États confédérés du Rhin ("Confederated States of the Rhine"), but in practice Confédération du Rhin) was a confederation of client states of the First French Empire. It was formed initially from 16 German states by Napoleon after he defeated Austria and Russia at the Battle of Austerlitz. The Treaty of Pressburg, in effect, led to the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine, which lasted from 1806 to 1813.
The members of the confederation were German princes (Fürsten) formerly within the Holy Roman Empire. They were later joined by 19 others, altogether ruling a total of over 15 million subjects providing a significant strategic advantage to the French Empire on its eastern front by providing a separation between France and the two largest German states, Prussia and Austria, to the east, which were not members of the Confederation of the Rhine.
Napoleon sought to consolidate the modernizing achievements of the revolution, but he wanted the soldiers and supplies these subject states could provide for his wars. Napoleon required it to supply 63,000 troops to his army. The success of the Confederation depended on Napoleon's success in battle; it collapsed when he lost the Battle of Leipzig in 1813.
Confederated States of the Rhine
Confederation of the Rhine
The Confederation of the Rhine in 1812
|Status||Confederation of client states|
of the French Empire
|Common languages||German, French|
|Karl von Dalberg|
|Eugène de Beauharnais|
|Legislature||Diet of the Confederation|
|Historical era||Napoleonic Wars|
• Treaty of the Confederation of the Rhine
|12 July 1806|
• Holy Roman Empire dissolved
|6 August 1806|
• Dissolved after Battle of Leipzig
|4 November 1813|
|Today part of|
On 12 July 1806, on signing the Treaty of the Confederation of the Rhine (German: Rheinbundakte) in Paris, 16 German states joined together in a confederation (the treaty called it the états confédérés du Rhinelande, with a precursor in the League of the Rhine). Napoleon was its "protector". On 1 August, the members of the confederation formally seceded from the Holy Roman Empire, and on 6 August, following an ultimatum by Napoleon, Francis II declared the Holy Roman Empire dissolved. Francis and his Habsburg dynasty continued as emperors of Austria.
According to the treaty, the confederation was to be run by common constitutional bodies, but the individual states (in particular the larger ones) wanted unlimited sovereignty. Instead of a monarchical head of state, as the Holy Roman Emperor had had, its highest office was held by Karl Theodor von Dalberg, the former Arch Chancellor, who now bore the title of a Prince-Primate of the confederation. As such, he was President of the College of Kings and presided over the Diet of the Confederation, designed to be a parliament-like body although it never actually assembled. The President of the Council of the Princes was the Prince of Nassau-Usingen.
In return for their support of Napoleon, some rulers were given higher statuses: Baden, Hesse, Cleves, and Berg were made into grand duchies, and Württemberg and Bavaria became kingdoms. States were also made larger by incorporating the many smaller "Kleinstaaten", or small former imperial member states. They had to pay a very high price for their new status, however. The Confederation was above all a military alliance: the members had to maintain substantial armies for mutual defense and supply France with large numbers of military personnel. As events played out the members of the confederation found themselves more subordinated to Napoleon than they had been to the Habsburgs when they were within the Holy Roman Empire.
After Prussia lost to France in 1806, Napoleon cajoled most of the secondary states of Germany into the Confederation of the Rhine. Eventually, an additional 23 German states joined the Confederation. It was at its largest in 1808, when it included 36 states—four kingdoms, five grand duchies, 13 duchies, seventeen principalities, and the Free Hansa towns of Hamburg, Lübeck, and Bremen. In the German lands, only Austria, Prussia, Danish Holstein, and Swedish Pomerania (plus previously independent Switzerland) were not included in the Confederation, not counting the west bank of the Rhine and the Principality of Erfurt, which were annexed outright by the French empire.
The Confederation of the Rhine collapsed in 1813, in the aftermath of Napoleon's failed campaign against the Russian Empire. Many of its members changed sides after the Battle of Leipzig, when it became apparent Napoleon would lose the War of the Sixth Coalition.
Both French influence and internal autonomy varied greatly throughout the confederations existence. There was also a great variation between the power and influence of the individual states. There are three basic types:
The following table shows the members of the confederation, with their date of joining, as well as the number of troops provided, listed in parentheses.
|Flag||Member monarchy||Year joined||Notes|
|Grand Duchy of Baden||12 Jul 1806||Co-founder; former margraviate (8,000)|
|Kingdom of Bavaria||12 Jul 1806||Co-founder; former duchy (30,000)|
|Grand Duchy of Berg||12 Jul 1806||Co-founder; absorbed Cleves, both formerly Duchies (5,000)|
|Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt||12 Jul 1806||Co-founder; former landgraviate (4,000)|
|Principality of Regensburg||12 Jul 1806||Co-founder; formerly Prince-Archbishopric and Electorate; after 1810 the Grand Duchy of Frankfurt (968 of 4,000)|
|Kingdom of Saxony||11 Dec 1806||Former electorate (20,000)|
|Kingdom of Westphalia||15 Nov 1807||Napoleonic creation (25,000)|
|Kingdom of Württemberg||12 Jul 1806||Co-founder; former duchy (12,000)|
|Grand Duchy of Würzburg||23 Sep 1806||Napoleonic creation (2,000)|
|Flag||Member monarchy||Year joined||Notes|
|Duchy of Anhalt-Bernburg||11 Apr 1807||(700)|
|Duchy of Anhalt-Dessau||11 Apr 1807||(700)|
|Duchy of Anhalt-Köthen||11 Apr 1807||(700)|
|Duchy of Arenberg||12 Jul 1806||Co-founder; mediatized 13 December 1810 (379 of 4,000)|
|Principality of Hohenzollern-Hechingen||12 Jul 1806||Co-founder (97 of 4,000)|
|Principality of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen||12 Jul 1806||Co-founder (193 of 4,000)|
|Principality of Isenburg||12 Jul 1806||Co-founder (291 of 4,000)|
|Principality of Leyen||12 Jul 1806||Co-founder; former countship or graviate (29 of 4,000)|
|Principality of Liechtenstein||12 Jul 1806||Co-founder (40 of 4,000)|
|Principality of Lippe-Detmold||11 Apr 1807||(650)|
|Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin||22 Mar 1808||(1,900)|
|Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz||18 Feb 1808||(400)|
|Duchy of Nassau (Usingen and Weilburg)||12 Jul 1806*||Union of Nassau-Usingen and Nassau-Weilburg, both co-founders (1,680 of 4,000)|
|Duchy of Oldenburg||14 Oct 1808||annexed by France 13 December 1810 (800)|
|Principality of Reuss-Ebersdorf||11 Apr 1807||(400)|
|Principality of Reuss-Greiz||11 Apr 1807||(400)|
|Principality of Reuss-Lobenstein||11 Apr 1807||(400)|
|Principality of Reuss-Schleiz||11 Apr 1807||(400)|
|Principality of Salm (Salm-Salm and Salm-Kyrburg)||25 Jul 1806||Co-founder; annexed by France 13 December 1810 (323 of 4,000)|
|Duchy of Saxe-Coburg||15 Dec 1806||(Saxon duchies total 2,000)|
|Duchy of Saxe-Gotha||15 Dec 1806|
|Duchy of Saxe-Hildburghausen||15 Dec 1806|
|Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen||15 Dec 1806|
|Duchy of Saxe-Weimar||15 Dec 1806|
|Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe||11 Apr 1807||(650)|
|Principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt||11 Apr 1807||(650)|
|Principality of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen||11 Apr 1807||(650)|
|Principality of Waldeck-Pyrmont||11 Apr 1807||(400)|
The allies opposing Napoleon dissolved the Confederation of the Rhine on 4 November 1813. After its demise, the only attempt at political coordination in Germany until the creation on 8 June 1815 of the German Confederation was a body called the Central Administration Council (German: Zentralverwaltungsrat); its President was Heinrich Friedrich Karl Reichsfreiherr vom und zum Stein (1757–1831). It was dissolved on 20 June 1815.
On 30 May 1814 the Treaty of Paris declared the German states independent.
In 1814–1815, the Congress of Vienna redrew the continent's political map. Napoleonic creations such as the huge Kingdom of Westphalia, the Grand Duchy of Berg and the Duchy of Würzburg were abolished; suppressed states, including Hanover, the Brunswick duchies, Hesse-Kassel and Oldenburg, were reinstated. On the other hand, most members of the Confederation of the Rhine located in central and southern Germany survived with minor border changes. They, along with the reinstated states, Prussia and Austria formed the German Confederation.
Arenberg, also spelled as Aremberg or Ahremberg, is a former county, principality and finally duchy that was located in what is now Germany. The Dukes of Arenberg remain a prominent Belgian noble family.Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
The Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin was a duchy in northern Germany created in 1701, when Frederick William and Adolphus Frederick II divided the Duchy of Mecklenburg between Schwerin and Strelitz. Ruled by the successors of the Nikloting House of Mecklenburg, Mecklenburg-Schwerin remained a state of the Holy Roman Empire along the Baltic Sea littoral between Holstein-Glückstadt and Duchy of Pomerania.Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
The Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was a duchy in northern Germany, consisting of the eastern fifth of the historic Mecklenburg region, roughly corresponding with the present-day Mecklenburg-Strelitz district (the former Lordship of Stargard), and the western exclave of the former bishopric of Ratzeburg in modern Schleswig-Holstein. At the time of its establishment, the duchy bordered on the territory of Swedish Pomerania in the north and of Brandenburg in the south.Duchy of Nassau
The Duchy of Nassau (German: Herzogtum Nassau) was an independent state between 1806 and 1866, located in what is now the German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse. It was a member of the Confederation of the Rhine and later of the German Confederation. Its ruling dynasty, now extinct, was the House of Nassau. The duchy was named for its historical core city, Nassau, although Wiesbaden rather than Nassau was its capital. In 1865, the Duchy of Nassau had 465,636 inhabitants. After being occupied and annexed into the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866 following the Austro-Prussian War, it was incorporated into the Province of Hesse-Nassau. The area today is a geographical and historical region, Nassau, and Nassau is also the name of the Nassau Nature Park within the borders of the former duchy.
Today, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg still uses "Duke of Nassau" as his secondary title (of pretense), and "Prince" or "Princess of Nassau" is used as a title of pretense by other members of the grand ducal family. Nassau is also part of the name of the Dutch royal family, which styles itself Orange-Nassau.Grand Duchy of Berg
The Grand Duchy of Berg (German: Großherzogtum Berg) was a territorial grand duchy established by Napoleon Bonaparte after his victory at the 1805 Battle of Austerlitz on territories between the French Empire at the Rhine river and the German Kingdom of Westphalia.Grand Duchy of Frankfurt
The Grand Duchy of Frankfurt was a German satellite state of Napoleonic creation. It came into existence in 1810 through the combination of the former territories of the Archbishopric of Mainz along with the Free City of Frankfurt itself.Grand Duchy of Hesse
The Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine (German: Großherzogtum Hessen und bei Rhein) was a grand duchy in western Germany that existed from 1806 (the period of German mediatization) to the end of the German Empire in 1918. The grand duchy originally formed on the basis of the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt in 1806 as the Grand Duchy of Hesse (German: Großherzogtum Hessen). After the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, it changed its name in 1816 to distinguish itself from the Electorate of Hesse, which had formed from neighboring Hesse-Kassel. Colloquially, the grand duchy continued to be known by its former name of Hesse-Darmstadt. It joined the German Empire in 1871 and became a republic after German defeat in World War I in 1918.Grand Duchy of Würzburg
The Grand Duchy of Würzburg (German: Großherzogtum Würzburg) was a German grand duchy centered on Würzburg existing in the early 19th century.
As a consequence of the 1801 Treaty of Lunéville, the Bishopric of Würzburg was secularized in 1803 and granted to the Electorate of Bavaria. In the same year Ferdinand III, former Grand Duke of Tuscany, was compensated with the Electorate of Salzburg. In the Peace of Pressburg of 26 December 1805, Ferdinand lost Salzburg to the Austrian Empire, but was compensated with the Würzburg territory, Bavaria having relinquished it in return for Tyrol.
Ferdinand's state was briefly known as the Electorate of Würzburg (Kurfürstentum Würzburg), but it was elevated to the status of a Grand Duchy after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire on 6 August 1806. It joined the Confederation of the Rhine on 30 September 1806. In 1810 it acquired Schweinfurt.
After Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Leipzig, Ferdinand dissolved his alliance with the First French Empire on 26 October 1813. Through an Austrian-Bavarian treaty of 3 June 1814, Ferdinand lost his possessions to the Kingdom of Bavaria and the Grand Duchy was dissolved. Ferdinand was restored to a reconstituted Grand Duchy of Tuscany by the Congress of Vienna. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Würzburg was reestablished in 1821 without temporal power.Hohenzollern-Hechingen
Hohenzollern-Hechingen was a small principality in southwestern Germany. Its rulers belonged to the Swabian branch of the Hohenzollern dynasty.Kingdom of Westphalia
The Kingdom of Westphalia was a kingdom in Germany, with a population of 2.6 million, that existed from 1807 to 1813. It included territory in Hesse and other parts of present-day Germany. While formally independent, it was a vassal state of the First French Empire and was ruled by Napoleon's brother Jérôme Bonaparte. It was named after Westphalia, but this was a misnomer since the kingdom had little territory in common with that area; rather the kingdom mostly covered territory formerly known as Eastphalia.
Napoleon imposed the first written modern constitution in Germany, a French-style central administration, and agricultural reform. The Kingdom liberated the serfs and gave everyone equal rights and the right to a jury trial. In 1808 the Kingdom passed Germany's first laws granting Jews equal rights, thereby providing a model for reform in the other German states. Westphalia seemed to be progressive in immediately enacting and enforcing the new reforms.
The country was relatively poor but Napoleon demanded heavy taxes and payments, and conscripted soldiers. Few of the men who marched into Russia with Napoleon in 1812 ever returned. The Kingdom was bankrupt by 1812. When Napoleon was retreating in the face of Allied advances in 1813, the Kingdom was overrun by the Allies and (in 1815) most of its territories became Prussian ruled. Most of the reforms, however, remained in place.Principality of Aschaffenburg
The Principality of Aschaffenburg (German: Fürstentum Aschaffenburg) was a principality of the Holy Roman Empire created in 1803 and, following the dissolution of the Empire in 1806, of the Confederation of the Rhine, which existed from 1806 to 1810. Its capital was Aschaffenburg.
With the secularization of the Archbishopric of Mainz in 1803, Karl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg was compensated by receiving the newly created principalities of Aschaffenburg and Regensburg and the County of Wetzlar. Along with the city of Aschaffenburg, the Principality of Aschaffenburg also consisted of Klingenberg, Lohr, Aufenau, Stadtprozelten, Orb, and Aura.
The principality became part of the Confederation of the Rhine in 1806 after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1810 Napoleon granted Dalberg's Principality of Regensburg to the Kingdom of Bavaria and compensated him with Hanau and Fulda. Dalberg merged his remaining territories of Aschaffenburg, Frankfurt, Wetzlar, Hanau, and Fulda into the new Grand Duchy of Frankfurt, with the Principality of Aschaffenburg becoming a department of the new grand duchy. The city of Aschaffenburg remained the residence of Dalberg, however. The region was annexed by Bavaria in 1814.Principality of Regensburg
The Principality of Regensburg (German: Fürstentum Regensburg) was a principality of the Holy Roman Empire created in 1803 and, following the dissolution of the Empire in 1806, the Confederation of the Rhine until 1810. Its capital was Regensburg.Principality of Salm
The Principality of Salm was a short-lived client state of Napoleonic France located in Westphalia.Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe
Schaumburg-Lippe was created as a county in 1647, became a principality in 1807, a free state in 1918, and was until 1946 a small state in Germany, located in the present day state of Lower Saxony, with its capital at Bückeburg.Principality of Waldeck and Pyrmont
The County of Waldeck (later the Principality of Waldeck and Principality of Waldeck and Pyrmont) was a state of the Holy Roman Empire and its successors from the late 12th century until 1929. In 1349 the county gained Imperial immediacy and in 1712 was raised to the rank of Principality. After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 it was a constituent state of its successors: the Confederation of the Rhine, the German Confederation, the North German Confederation, the German Empire and, until 1929, the Weimar Republic. It comprised territories in present-day Hesse and Lower Saxony, (Germany).Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (German: Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg) was a duchy ruled by the Ernestine branch of the House of Wettin in today's Thuringia, Germany. The extinction of the line in 1825 led to a major re-organisation of the Thuringian states.Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt
Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt was a small historic state in present-day Thuringia, Germany, with its capital at Rudolstadt.Schwarzburg-Sondershausen
Schwarzburg-Sondershausen was a small principality in Germany, in the present day state of Thuringia, with its capital at Sondershausen.