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The Kingdom of Bavaria is a semi-autonomous member-state of the German Empire, second in size and population only to the Kingdom of Prussia. Bavaria consists of two separate and unequal parts: Bavaria and the Palatinate.
The history of Bavaria stretches back to the 6th century stem-duchy. In the 17th century, the Wittelsbach Dukes were elevated to Prince-Electors of the Holy Roman Empire. With Napoleon's dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, Bavaria was elevated to a Kingdom, and greatly expanded its territory. A member of the German Confederation from 1814, Bavaria fought with Austria against Prussia in the Seven Week's War of 1866. Fighting alongside Prussia in the war against France, Bavaria joined the Prussian-led German Empire in 1871.
Bavaria is a member state of the German Empire that enjoys significant levels of autonomy due to its status as second-largest and second most powerful state. During peace time, the Royal Bavarian Army remains under the complete control of the Bavarian government, with the Imperial General Staff taking strategic - but not administrative - control during war time. Bavarian soldiers swear allegiance to the King of Bavaria, rather than the Emperor. In addition, Bavaria's autonomous status leaves railways, the postal service, factories, and breweries under the Bavarian government's control, as well as allowing it to retain its own separate consular service overseas.
The government of Bavaria operates as a constitutional monarchy, with the King as head of state. Legislative power is vested in the bicameral Bavarian Landtag. The upper house, the Herrenhaus, consists of princes of the House of Wittelsbach, members of high-standing noble families, leaders of the Catholic and Evangelical churches, and members nominated by the King. All members of the Herrenhaus hold their position for life. The lower house, the Landtag, is elected by taxpaying males over the age of 21. Members pf the Landtag hold their positions for six-year terms.
Since the Kingdom's establishment in 1806, there have been numerous kings:
- Maximilian I Joseph (1805-1825)
- Ludwig I (1825-1848)
- Maximilian II (1848-1864)
- Ludwig II (1864-1886)
- Otto (1886-1902)
- Luitpold, Prince-Regent 1886-1902
- Luitpold (1902-present)
All the kings since 1806 have been members of the ancient House of Wittelsbach.