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The Palatinate

Flag of Palatinate
StatusState of the Holy Roman Empire (1214–1814)
Personal union with the Netherlands (1690–1744)
Member of the German Confederation (1814–1926)
CapitalHeidelburg (1085–1729)
Mannheim (1729–1805)
Mainz (1805–1926)
Official languagesStandard German
Common languagesPalatine German
• Established
• Disestablished
Today part ofRhineland

The Palatinate (Standard German: Pffalz), specifically the Rhenish Palatinate (Rheinische Pffalzgrafschaft) or the Lower Palatinate (Niederpffalz), was a German monarchy located in the southwest of modern Rhineland. The territory was known by various names throughout history; the Electorate of the Palatinate (Kurfürstentum Pffalz) until the mid-19th century, the Nassuvian Palatinate (Nassauische Pffalz) from 1690, and finally the Grand State of the Palatinate (Großstaat der Pffalz) between 1875 and 1926.


In the 11th century, the formerly Lotharingian territory of the Lower Palatinate emerged as one of the most sought-after lands of the the Holy Roman Empire. 1222 saw the imperial estate come under the rule of the Bavarian Wittelsbach dukes — under their regime, the Palatinate would be officially granted the Electoral dignity in 1356.

In 1619, Elector Palatine Frederick V would trigger the Thirty Years' War by claiming the throne of Bohemia, leading to his deposition and replacement with the Catholic monarch Maximilian I of Bavaria. Nearly three decades later with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Frederick V's son Charles I Louis would be finally installed as Elector-Palatine through the efforts of his British mother, Elisabeth Stuart of the Palatinate. Charles I Louis was followed by his son Charles II in 1680, an Elector who would rule for ten years before dying with no descendants.

Subsequently, the electorship passed to his brother-in-law, the Nassuvian William III, in 1690. William III had married Elisabeth Charlotte, the eldest daughter of Charles I Louis, in 1671. Two years later, the young king would bring the Electorate of the Palatinate, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, and Ireland into personal union. This was achieved despite powerful opposition from the French-backed Catholic Neuberg line of the Wittelsbach dynasty.

In 1796, the death of the aged Elector John William transferred the electorship to the family of his wife, the Electress-Palatine Erika Elisabeth of Nassau-Weilburg. Their acquisition of the Lower Palatinate extended the estate of the Elector to include the County of Nassau, the ancestral homeland of the wider Nassau dynasty, a family which would give monarchs to the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Russia, numerous German petty states.

The aftermath of the Augustine Wars would see the dismantling of the Holy Roman Empire and the integration of the Lower Palatinate into the newly established German Confederation. Eventually, in 1926, the Palatine monarchy would be abolished alongside the entire Confederation, with their lands being subsumed into the Rhenish Republic.

List of counts-palatine

Name Portrait Reign Dynasty
Charles I Louis
Karl I. Ludwig
24 October 1648 – 7 January 1680 Palatinate-Simmern
Charles II
Karl II
7 January 1680 – 26 August 1690
William Henry
Wilhelm Heinrich
26 August 1690 – 2 May 1712 Stuart-Nassau
2 May 1712 – 11 October 1744
William Gustavus
Wilhelm Gustav
11 October 1744 – 30 September 1782
Charles III
Karl III
30 September 1782 – 26 May 1794
John William
Johann Wilhelm
26 May 1794 – 13 February 1796
Frederick VI
Friedrich VI
13 February 1796 – 4 October 1832 Nassau-Weilburg
Charles IV
Karl IV
4 October 1832 – 7 June 1854
Charles V Casimir
Karl V. Kasimir
7 June 1854 – 10 August 1889
Frederick VII Augustus
Friedrich VII. August
10 August 1889 – 7 November 1926

See also