Before 1918, Germany was a federal empire. According to this Wikipedia article,

The German Empire consisted of 27 constituent territories, with most being ruled by royal families. This included four kingdoms, six grand duchies, six duchies (five after 1876), seven principalities, three free Hanseatic cities, and one imperial territory.

Why did these monarchies dissolve so rapidly in 1918? Wikipedia says that the rulers all abdicated. But what social or political reasons caused the princes and kings to abdicate in short succession during November?

After Germany became a republic, what happened to the former royal families? Were they able to keep their wealth? Did they attempt to restore the monarchy, and why didn't it succeed?

  • 10
    Germany was a federal empire, and if you read that article you linked, you'll see that all German monarchs abdicated in 1918 following defeat in the First World War. Also, you shouldn't ask three questions in one post, but the relevant Wikipedia article on German nobility explains they have no special legal status in Germany after 1919. If you have a problem with Wikipedia's answer, you need to explain it, so that people knows how to answer you without being redundant.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 12:54
  • Thanks for your explanative comment. I have no problem with the Wikipedia answer; yet I need a better explanation for such a fast disintegration of the kingdoms and why they did not reclaim any power after the Wars. Furthermore, my 3 questions are highly related as they are all about the fate of the nobility in modern Germany; sectioning only serves to clarify the general question. @Semaphore
    – AlQuemist
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 13:11
  • 7
    I'm not telling you to be satisfied with the Wikipedia answer, my point is that you should explain why you need a "better" one. There is no way to know that "they abdicated" wasn't enough to answer your question of "what happened" to them. Also the abolition and the restoration/status of the monarchy and nobility are two distinct question, even if related. However, why the monarchies were never restored is potentially a great question.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 13:19
  • 1
    VtC to clarify the question; once the question has been edited to remove trivial (i.e. wikipedia) information, I think what remains will be a very good question.
    – MCW
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 14:43

2 Answers 2


All legal privileges of the aristocracy were abolished when the Weimar Republic was founded. The current Federal Republic of Germany does not recognize any nobility but allows the use of hereditary titles as part of a name, unlike Austria where even that is banned. As for individual Kingdoms and other entities, their fates are as follows:

Kingdoms were abolished due to the German Revolution mostly because of public sentiment against the aristocrats.

  1. Kingdom of Prussia: The Kingdom itself ended with abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II who was both the emperor and King of Prussia. Interestingly, decades later, The successor free state of Prussia was Formally Abolished by Allied Forces after WW2, allegedly due to being the standard bearer of militarism.
  2. Kingdom of Bavaria: Abolished as a result of German Revolution following WW1 when King Ludwig III abdicated by Anif Declaration.
  3. Kingdom of Saxony: Abolished under Weimar Republic when King Frederick Augustus III abdicated.
  4. Kingdom of Wurttemberg: Abolished under Weimar Republic when King William II abdicated.

For lower Cadre titles, they also ceased to exist with the Establishment of Weimar Republic But it would be too broad to discuss scores of Grand Principalities, Duchies and Grand Duchies.

They disintegrated because, unlike Britain, where Monarchy has only a constitutional role, German aristocrats were directly involved in the government and the war. Hence after the defeat, they were the target of the people's wrath. As for the nobility's role in post WW2 & Cold war Germany, since the State does not recognize any nobility, it is the same as any German citizen.

  • Oh yes I think I have. I suppose its end would end of German Empire itself? With the Kaiser's abdication? @Semaphore
    – NSNoob
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 13:14
  • 1
    Thanks for your nice answer. Would you please mention if noble families retain some of their possessions (like land) in modern Germany or all of their possessions had been already transferred to the Federal Republic? Do they play a specific role in the modern German society? @NSNoob
    – AlQuemist
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 13:17
  • 2
    I don't have reference for it but I think nobles were allowed to keep their castles in Germany. As for their role, as state does not recognize any nobility, it would be same as a common German person. @PhilosophiæNaturalis
    – NSNoob
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 13:21
  • 4
    I live in Baden. Nearby we have the Markgraf of Baden, a family who used to own vast tracts of land and the usual, up to a few decades ago when they had a financial problem and had to sell all the castles but one. In the other direction we have the Duke of Württemberg, whose family used to be kings, but are now just common or garden nobility, with the usual castles and land and stuff. Occasionally they get in the news for marrying into some other similar family, and for opening fests and heading charities. The usual.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 9:59
  • 1
    Interesting detail about Bavaria: the Anif declaration is not worded as an abdication, nor did the king intend it as one. It merely releases soldiers and state officials from their oath of loyalty to him personally. I'd interpret that as him wanting to stay king but not wanting people to fight a civil war over it. Commented May 4, 2021 at 12:54

Before and during the war Germany was officially what was known as the "German Confederation", a republic of many different independent states. The loss of the war completely destroyed the confederation.

What happened is that the army stopped fighting the Allies and attacked and invaded all the different principalities of Germany, which were all mutinying, and forced them at gunpoint to join the "Weimar Republic". The Weimar Republic thus was a civilian instrument of the armed forces of Germany, essentially a Prussian organization.

For example, in Hamburg, which before the war was a free city, one of three in Germany, starvation and unrest resulted in a Communist coup. An organization called the "Council of Workmen and Soldiers" seized power. This organization was composed of Communist agitators and deserters from the German army and navy. They established a dictatorship over Hamburg and proposed forming a new state which they called "Great Hamburg". They proposed attacking and invading nearby areas to create the so-called "Great Hamburg". One of these areas, called Cuxhaven, had been taken over in a coup by Sparticists, a form of radical, violent Communists. Hamburg absorbed them. The German army, which was Prussian-dominated, reacted to these events by invading and putting under martial law all the different states. For example, among the free cities, Bremen, which had also gone over to a Communist dictatorshop, was first to be attacked and invaded. When the "Council of Workmen and Soldiers" in Hamburg saw this at first they determined to fight and actually started trying to collect weapons as though they would have a battle against the army, but when the first troops showed up it was clear they would have no chance, so they capitulated.

In the same way all the principalities of Germany were forced into the Weimar Republic.

In most cases all the nobility had already been deposed by various radical Communist mutineers before the army even got there, but in those cases in which the local monarch still rule, the army deposed them and forced their state into the Weimar Republic. For example, in Bavaria, a Socialist political party seized power and declared the "Free State of Bavaria", which was more like a communist dictatorship than a free state. The former King of Bavaria, Ludwig III and his entire family had to flee for their lives.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.