“Die Geschichte des bayerischen Verfassungslebens ist die Geschichte einer stetig fortschreitenden Demokratisierung des Staates” (The history of the Bavarian constitutional development is the history of a continuously developing democratisation of the state.) (Michael Doeberl, 1918).
The 26 May 2018 marked the 200th anniversary of King Maximilian I Joseph’s enactment of the Bavarian Constitution. It was the first of the national constitutions announced by the Viennese Final Act of 1813 and one of the most liberal. Although Bavaria had already been a constitutional monarchy since the constitution of 1808, it was only now that a parliamentary representation (Chamber of Imperial Councillors, Chamber of Deputies) was actually realised.
bavarikon presents the history of this constitution and the political and social order it established up to the end of its legal validity in 1918, thus creating a small panorama of the history of the Kingdom of Bavaria. After its fall, the anniversaries of the constitution of 1818, whether they marked a decade or half a decade, continued to be celebrated. This memorial tradition is also examined.
66 documents, medals, drawings and paintings bring the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries back to life. As a special highlight, it is possible to see a 3D image of the Constitutional Ark kept in the Maximilianeum to this day. The ark served as storage for the Bavarian parliament’s copy of the constitution.
The constitution of 1818 turned out to be extremely stable and durable. It remained in force for 100 years and was only abolished by the revolutionary events of 7/8 November 1918. During its long period of validity, the constitution was repeatedly adapted to changing social and societal conditions. The development went clearly in the direction of an increasing parliamentarisation and democratisation. Significant steps consisted of the opening of the Chamber of Imperial Councillors to other estates and classes, of the liberalisation of the right to vote in the Chamber of Deputies, which was initially severely restricted by a census, and of an improved protection against violations of the constitution (impeachment of ministers, Constitutional Court). The most drastic event was the foundation of the German Reich when Bavaria had to surrender numerous rights to the empire. Bavarian constitutional policies were now subject to provisions of imperial law.
Whether the further development of the constitutional monarchy into a parliamentary monarchy in Bavaria would have been a realistic option, remains to be seen. The constitutional amendments introduced at the beginning of 19 November 1918 remained obsolete as a result of the revolutionary events. The aims of the revolutionaries were the elimination of the monarchy and the immediate end of the war.