Portrait of Prince-Elector Carl Philipp von der Pfalz, Mannheim circa 1730, Mannheim Palace

The builder of MannheimCarl Philipp von der Pfalz

Prince-Elector Carl Philipp von der Pfalz (1661–1742) built one of Europe's largest Baroque palaces in Mannheim. More than concerns about how to finance the century-long project, he was tormented by fears about his successor on the throne of the Electoral Palatinate—until he found a pragmatic solution.

Portrait of Wolfgang von Pfalz-Neuburg, 18th century, now in the ancestral portrait gallery in the Knights' Hall of Mannheim Palace

A ruler from the Pfalz-Neuburg line.

How did Carl Philipp ascend the throne of the Electoral Palatinate?

Carl Philipp came from the Catholic line of Pfalz-Neuburg and was first the canon of Cologne, Salzburg, Mainz. He proved his worth as a commander in the Turkish Wars and reigned as the imperial vicegerent in Innsbruck as of 1705. In 1716, his brother Johannes Wilhelm, who had ruled his Palatine territory from Düsseldorf, passed away. However, as heir to the throne, Carl Philipp preferred to live in the Electoral Palatinate and first resided in the old ancestral castle of the Palatinate House of Wittelsbach: Heidelberg Palace.

Heidelberg Palace, palace courtyard, painting by Karl Weysser, 1865

Carl Philipp wanted to move to Mannheim.

Why Mannheim and no longer Heidelberg?

Heidelberg Palace was hardly an ideal seat of government for a Baroque ruler: In the Nine Years' War at the end of the 17th century, the important Renaissance palace was largely destroyed. Proposals for an extensive reconstruction or an entirely new building outright were rejected. Quarreling with the Protestant citizens of the city, the Catholic prince-elector abruptly decided: On April 12, 1720, Carl Philipp decreed that his residence and all court officials would move to nearby Mannheim.

Mannheim Palace and fortification, inlaid image circa 1720, based on an architectural drawing by Jean Clemens Froimon

The prince-elector planned his palace as a large three-winged building.

What did his new residential palace cost?

Like all rulers in the Baroque era, Carl Philipp planned on a grand scale: His new three-winged residence building was intended to have a 440-meter-long front. But this impressive monumentality had its price. In the 40 years of its construction, 2 million guilders were spent. For purposes of comparison, the annual income of a tailor in Mannheim was about 60 guilders. Whether they wanted to or not, the subjects of the Electoral Palatinate were part of the financing and were forced to pay a steep palace construction tax. The prince-elector himself also pinched some pennies: He exclusively used the furniture and tapestries that had belonged to his dead brother, which were shipped from Düsseldorf.

Portrait of Elisabeth Auguste von Pfalz-Sulzbach as a two-year-old child with her wet nurse, 1723

Elisabeth Auguste: Carl Philipp's oldest granddaughter.

Which worries tortured Carl Philipp the most?

Carl Philipp was married three times, but he only had one child in his first marriage, a daughter. Therefore, his primary political concern was to preserve the Electoral Palatinate for his successors, his three grandchildren. In a testamentary contract from 1724, the Union of the House of Wittelsbach, the respective succession of the Bavarian and Palatinate lines were determined. He brought his only male relative, the young Carl Theodor von Pfalz-Sulzbach, to the Court of Mannheim for education, and married him to his oldest granddaughter, Elisabeth Auguste, in 1742.

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