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EN:Bavarian Legations (19th and 20th century)

From Historisches Lexikon Bayerns

by Martin Ott

The network of Bavarian legations was successively expanded starting in the 17th century and the legation system was professionalised during the Montgelas period. In the 19th century, the Kingdom of Bavaria had diplomatic agencies in almost all major European and German states. The foundation of the German Reich in 1871 did not interfere with this in any significant way. Although the Eisner government had tried to reopen the legations, which had been closed during the war in 1918, the Bavarian foreign agencies had to be abolished in 1919/20 due to the Weimar Constitution. The German domestic legations and those at the Vatican remained in existence until 1933/34.

Bavarian legations in the early modern period

In the early modern period, the Electorate of Bavaria participated in the general uptake of the legation system in Europe. From the 17th century onwards, the German and Italian central states increasingly joined in establishing permanent and prestigious foreign representations. With final legitimization granted by the provisions of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Bavaria established a dense network of legations at important courts both within and outside the Empire as well as at the Perpetual Diet of Regensburg; accordingly, representatives of foreign states were also accredited in Munich.

The Bavarian legation system 1799-1815

At the beginning of the 19th century, when Bavaria was involved in the changing war alliances of the Napoleonic era, this diplomatic network was of essential importance for foreign policy success, in some cases even for the continued existence of the Bavarian state. This is reflected not least in the intermittently intensive pursuit of professionalisation of the Bavarian diplomatic service during the era of Foreign Minister Baron (later Count) Maximilian Joseph Freiherr von Montgelas (1759-1838, term of office 1799-1817) with a training programme ("Diplomatische Pflanzschule"), state examinations for the next generation of diplomats and an elitist claim within the bureaucratic ranks.

Legations in the time of the German Confederation (1815-1866/71)

Otto von Bray-Steinburg (1807-1899) worked at various legation posts in Athens, Berlin, St. Petersburg and Vienna during his career. In 1848/49 and 1870/71 he was Foreign Minister and Head of the Council of Ministers. (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library), image archives, port-029139)
Count Maximilian Emanuel Graf von Lerchenfeld auf Köfering (1778-1843) worked for the Bavarian government after his education at the diplomatic school in Munich and from 1826 as an envoy of the Bundestag in Frankfurt first and then as an envoy in Vienna. Portrait drawing of Franz Hanfstaengl, 1835. (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Austrian National Library), portrait collection)

The secure position of Bavaria after the Congress of Vienna (1814/15) and the de facto limitation of Bavaria's foreign policy radius, mainly to the territory of the German Confederation, did not result in a significant reduction in the Bavarian legation system. Like other states in the German Confederation, Bavaria used its legations within Germany and throughout Europe for various purposes:

  • Representation of state sovereignty
  • Communication with foreign governments
  • Generation of politically and socially relevant information (envoy reports)
  • Administrative support for Bavarian citizens abroad, increasingly in the course of the 19th century.

King Ludwig I. (1786-1868, ruled 1825-1848) in particular considered the concrete organisation of the dialogue between the legations of other courts to be an element of his self-image as a monarch. Above all, the legation to the German Confederation in Frankfurt was of great political relevance.

However, to reduce the considerable costs of the legation system, Bavaria increasingly began to simultaneously accredit envoys to multiple legations during the 19th century. In addition to their actual post, they then nominally took over the representation of Bavaria with another, usually less important state. The downgrading of representations – instead of an envoy, the Bavarian representation was then headed by a lower-ranking minister resident or even just a chargé d’affaires– was another means of reducing costs.

Legations in the period of the German Empire (1871-1918)

After the foundation of the German Empire in 1871, the German states retained the right of legation. Bavaria was therefore also able to maintain foreign representations both within the new state and abroad. In addition to a few legations, the numerous Bavarian foreign consulates scattered over all continents were abolished. The domestic legations remained in place.

While the other individual German states, with the exception of Saxony, gradually abandoned their representations abroad over the following decades, in 1914 Bavaria still maintained diplomatic legations in France (also accredited in Belgium), Austria-Hungary, Russia, Italy, the Holy See and Switzerland. These posts were not always held by envoys but sometimes by minister residents or chargé d’affaires.

However, the continued existence of the foreign legations in Bavaria was increasingly called into question in view of the Reich's monopoly position in German foreign policy with worldwide diplomatic connections. This made the Bavarian representation in Berlin, the political centre of the Empire, all the more important. The envoy there, Gideon Ritter von Rudhardt (1833-1898) from 1877 to 1880, Hugo Graf von Lerchenfeld auf Köfering und Schönberg (1843-1925) from 1880 to 1918, was, like his colleagues from the other German states, officially accredited in Prussia and not with the German Empire. He did effectively perform the duties of a Bavarian representative to the Empire though and acted as Bavaria's voting plenipotentiary in the Bundesrat.

Legations during the Weimar Republic (1918-1933) and the end of the Bavarian legation system (1933/34)

After the end of the First World War, it was primarily the Eisner government (1918-1919) which revitalised the Bavarian legation and reoccupied foreign embassies – for example the agency in Switzerland; for a short while, a Bavarian envoy was also accredited in the new state of Czechoslovakia. However, the provisions of the Weimar Constitution from 11 August 1919 (Article 6) prevented the continuation of the German states' legations with foreign countries. While still in protracted negotiations with the Reich, which were not concluded until January 1920, the Bavarian Council of Ministers decided to abolish the foreign legations on 24 October 1919. The phasing out of the individual legations dragged on until 1920.

The later Reich Governor of Bavaria Franz von Epp (1868-1947) and Hermann Esser (1900-1981) during a stay at the Bavarian legation in Berlin in March 1933. On the left of the picture, presumably the envoy Franz Sperr (1878-1945). (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, image archives hoff-7715)

The legation to the Holy See, not affected by the provisions of the Weimar Constitution, continued to exist as the last Bavarian representation abroad until 20 June 1934. The Bavarian government's plans to revive the legation in Vienna in 1923 did not come to fruition. Within Germany, only the Bavarian legation in Prussia remained until 1934, also being the agency for the Reich in Berlin from 1920 onwards; the envoy was also accredited in Saxony. 1922-1933 there was a legation in Stuttgart again, which, in addition to Württemberg, looked after Baden and Hessen from 1925 on, as it did during the pre-war period.

In 1933/34 the National Socialists removed the remnants of the German states' legation system. Franz Sperr (1878-1945), who had been in office in Berlin since 1 March 1933, was the last Bavarian envoy, remaining in this role until 31 October 1934. A Bavarian mission continued to exist in Berlin, but was no longer of a legatine nature. The same applies to the Bavarian representation to the Federal Government, which has been in existence since 1949, and to the Liaison Office in Brussels, which was established in 1987 and is the current deputyship of the Free State of Bavaria to the European Union.

Die bayerischen Gesandtschaften nach 1806
Sitz Staat/Institution Zeitraum Bemerkungen
Bern Switzerland 1802-1919/20
Brussels Belgium/Netherlands 1824-1826; 1847-1914 1871-1914 managed from Paris
Haag Netherlands 1715-1826; 1869-1870
London Great Britain 1742-1871 Suspended 1804-1814, 1822-1826
Madrid Spain 1686-1869 Suspended 1701-1726, 1734-1744, 1786-1853; managed from Paris since 1853
Naples Kingdom oft he Two Sicilies/Kingdom of Naples 1777-1867 Suspended 1799-1810, 1820-1852. 1852-1867 managed from Rome
Paris France 1673-1689; 1718-1914/1919 Suspended 1813-1815/16; no longer staffed after 1914
Prague Czechoslovakia 1918 November/December 1918
Rome/Vatican Holy See 1607-1934 Suspended 1798-1803
(Sofia) Bulgaria 1918 Final phase of the First World War; managed from Vienna
St. Petersburg Russia 1742-1746; 1787-1914/1919 Suspended 1812/1813; no longer staffed after 1914
Stockholm Sweden 1743-1745; 1860-1873 1860-1873 managed from St. Petersburg
Turin/Florence/Rome Savoy/Piedmont-Sardinia/Italy 1677-1703; 1816-1915 1851-1860 managed from Rome; suspended 1860-1865
Vienna Emperor (until 1806)/Austria/Austria-Hungary 1693-1919 Suspended several times, especially during armed conflicts
Berlin Prussia/Bundesrat 1740-1934 Suspended 1757-1772, 1813-1816
Darmstadt Hesse (Grand Duchy) 1808-1933 1826-1866, 1871-1919 and 1922/1925-1933 managed from Stuttgart; suspended 1919-1922/1925
Dresden Saxony 1760-1919 Suspended 1813-1816
Frankfurt am Main German Confoderation 1816-1866
Frankfurt am Main Frankfurt (City/Prince Primates/Grand Duchy/Free City) 1715-1865 In the 19th century mostly managed by the envoy to the German Confederation
Hamburg Hamburg (City) 1777-1781; 1827-1847 Suspended 1832-1839; 1839-1847 also for Bremen and Lübeck („Hanseatic cities“)
Hanover Hanover (Kingdom) 1832-1866 Suspended 1838-1847
Karlsruhe Baden 1803-1933 1829-1835 and 1887-1933 managed from Stuttgart; 1871-1887 managed from Bern; suspended 1920-1925
Kassel Westphalia (Kingdom) 1808-1813
Kassel Hesse (Electorate) 1818-1866 1818-1822 and 1829-1866 managed from Frankfurt; suspended 1822-1828
Stuttgart Württemberg 1804-1933 Suspended 1920-1922
Wiesbaden Nassau 1808-1816; 1826-1866 Managed from Frankfurt since 1826
Würzburg Würzburg (Grand Duchy) 1807-1814
Ernestine duchies (Saxony-Altenburg, Saxony-Coburg-Saalfeld or Saxony-Coburg-Gotha, Saxony-Meiningen, Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach) 1819-1867 Supervised from Dresden


  • Konrad Reiser, Bayerische Gesandte bei deutschen und ausländischen Regierungen 1871-1918. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Teilsouveränität im Bismarckreich (Miscellanea Bavarica Monacensia 10), München 1968.
  • Jochen Rudschies, Die bayerischen Gesandten. 1799-1871 (Materialien zur bayerischen Landesgeschichte 10), München 1993.
  • Sabine Schlögl, Die bayerische Gesandtschaft in Berlin im 20. Jahrhundert, in: Hermann Rumschöttel/Walter Ziegler (Hg.), Franz Sperr und der Widerstand gegen den Nationalsozialismus in Bayern (Beihefte der Zeitschrift für bayerische Landesgeschichte B 20), München 2001, 223-265.
  • Hans-Joachim Schreckenbach, Innerdeutsche Gesandtschaften 1867-1945, in: Archivar und Historiker. Studien zur Archiv- und Geschichtswissenschaft. Festschrift für Heinrich Otto Meisner zum 65. Geburtstag (Schriftenreihe der Staatlichen Archivverwaltung 7), Berlin (Ost) 1956, 404-428.
  • Wilhelm Volkert, Handbuch der bayerischen Ämter, Gemeinden und Gerichte. 1799-1980, München 1983, 26-29.
  • Wilhelm Volkert, Die Staats- und Kommunalverwaltung, in: Max Spindler (Begr.)/Alois Schmid (Hg.), Handbuch der bayerischen Geschichte. Vierter Band: Das neue Bayern. Von 1800 bis zur Gegenwart. Zweiter Teilband: Die innere und kulturelle Entwicklung, München 2. Auflage 2007, 72-153, hier 80-82.


  • Otto Esch, Das Gesandtschaftsrecht der deutschen Einzelstaaten, Bonn 1911.
  • Kurt H. Wahl, Die deutschen Länder in der Außenpolitik, Stuttgart 1929.

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Martin Ott, Bavarian Legations (19th and 20th century), published 28 November 2006, English version published 21 February 2024; in: Historisches Lexikon Bayerns, URL: <https://www.historisches-lexikon-bayerns.de/Lexikon/EN:Bavarian_Legations_(19th_and_20th_century)> (12.04.2024)