Constitutional Anniversaries

In the nineteenth century, several new types of jubilees were established – initially as part of a monarchical festival programme. In addition to anniversaries of the government and the dynasty, of birthday and wedding ceremonies, there were constitutional celebrations and military anniversaries as well.

The anniversaries of the Bavarian Constitution of 1818 were also celebrated, but the orientation changed over the years. Crown Prince Ludwig (1786–1868, king 1825–1848), later King Ludwig I, celebrated the laying of the foundation stone of the Constitutional Column at Gaibach in 1821. Together with the 25th anniversary of the reign of King Max I Joseph (1756–1825, king from 1806), Bavaria celebrated the anniversary of the constitution in 1824.

The Constitutional Medal, issued back in 1819, was also part of the celebrations: it was shown to pupils and to other interested persons and its meaning was explained.

After 1824, different political currents fought over the prerogative of interpretation over the constitutional celebrations. King Ludwig I (1786–1868, king 1825–1848) took part in the inauguration of the Constitutional Column of Gaibach in 1828. With the July Revolution in France, however, the reform course of the Bavarian king and his enthusiasm for constitutional anniversaries ended in 1831. From then on, the king no longer agreed to being staged as a constitutional symbol.

On the sixteenth anniversary of the Bavarian constitution, the citizens of Neustadt in the then Bavarian Palatinate issued an invitation to the Hambach Festival and called for constitutional reforms and national unity. The organisers of the festival were persecuted and punished. The fear of the Bavarian government and of the monarch of the “politicisation” of constitutional celebrations is reflected in the 25th anniversary celebrations: the memorial to Max I Joseph in Munich was allowed to be decorated and a festive mass was held in the Hofkirche (Court Church). However, a public procession by the two chambers of parliament was banned. The 50th anniversary celebrations were similarly organised.

Shortly before the end of the Bavarian monarchy, the 100th anniversary of the constitution was celebrated in Munich in May 1918. King Ludwig III (1845–1921, regent 1912–1913, king 1913–1918) took part in the festive mass and ceremonial act, jubilee medals were minted, decorations were awarded and a commemorative publication by the historian Michael Doeberl (1861–1928) was published. King and government, however, failed or avoided taking advantage of the constitutional anniversary and of demonstrating their willingness to undertake reforms.

With the formal end of its validity, enthusiasm for the Bavarian Constitution of 1818 did not diminish. The anniversaries marking a decade or half a decade are still celebrated.