At the beginning was a wedding. On 12 October 1810 the Bavarian Crown Prinz Ludwig, future King Ludwig I of Bavaria (1786-1868, r. 1825-1848), wed Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen (1792-1854).
The wedding was scheduled a year after the Bavarian rulers quelled an uprising in their recently conquered Tyrol territory.
The wedding was used as a rare public celebration to unite disparate Bavarian provinces. About 40,000 citizens joined the public festival held on fields outside Sendlinger Tor, Munich’s southern city gate.
The wedding was followed by several days of celebrations culminating with the horse race on October 17, outside the gates of the residential city of Munich.
This horse race, from then on would be repeated every year, and formed the origins of today’s Oktoberfest.
Sources Referenced: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek and Bavarikon
The world’s largest folk festival began with a royal wedding. Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig (1786-1868) was marrying Therese Charlotte Louise (1792-1854), a Princess from the small Thuringian Duchy of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The celebration of the heir to the throne’s marriage was the first opportunity to celebrate the kingdom, which had only existed for four years, and to involve the people on a larger scale.
After the princess’ ceremonial and public procession into the city on 10 October 1810, the couple was married two days later in the court chapel at the Munich Residence. Church bells rang throughout the city, gun salutes could be heard. The highlight of the festival was on 13 October, when the whole of Munich was magnificently illuminated – a spectacle that would even have been festive in the age of street lighting and electricity. The façades of the houses were also decorated with backlit images.
Over the next few days, the court celebrated in smaller circles at balls and opera performances before the festivities came to a close on 17 October with a horse race on what was later to become the Theresienwiese.
Although the bride and groom, seen here in contemporary images, were celebrating a political marriage, it was nevertheless harmonious and marked by love and respect. On the occasion of the wedding, the engraver Johann Georg Raber (1764-1830) published a dedication of homage depicting the union of the royal houses of Bavaria and Saxony in Classical style. The bride and groom are depicted surrounded by gods and allegories.
When the “Ur-Oktoberfest” (Great Oktoberfest) was celebrated on 17 October 1810, the most recent changes to the territorial appearance of Bavaria had only happened seven and a half months previously. In the peace treaty of Paris of 28 February 1810, Bavaria had lost the “Etschkreis” (northern Trentino) that reached all the way to Lake Garda with Trent as capital as well as Ulm and Crailsheim, but had gained in return Berchtesgaden, Salzburg and the Innviertel (literally Inn Quarter), Ratisbon as well as the principality of Bayreuth. The kingdom was divided into nine “districts” that bore the names of rivers (Inn, Salzach, Iller, Isar, Oberdonau [Upper Danube], Regen, Unterdonau [Lower Danube], Rezat, Main) after the French model.
At the time, Bavaria still included Vorarlberg, the Northern Tyrol and parts of the Southern Tyrol, the Salzburger Land (Salzburg State) and the Upper-Austrian Innviertel. Contrary to today, Lower Franconia and the Coburg State were not yet part of Bavaria.
The residential city of Munich , therefore, was situated in the centre of the then kingdom. The city still consisted mostly of the mediaeval city centre, even though from 1791 the mediaeval city wall strengthened by modern fortifications had gradually been dismantled. In 1802/03 the monasteries of Munich had been dissolved. A number of churches and chapels were torn down or secularised. The English Garden and the Max-Joseph-Square near the Residence were newly created.
The physician, geographer and statistician Friedrich Albert Klebe (1769-1842), publisher of the officious Bayerische Nationalzeitung, summed up the numerous changes with the optimism typical at the time: “The exterior of the city becomes more pleasing with every day”
The Wedding of the Crown Prince in 1810
If it had been the decision of Crown Prince Ludwig von Bayern (1786-1868), his wedding celebration – which marked the birth of today’s Oktoberfest – would not have taken place in the autumn but earlier in the year. After all, there was danger that the odious Emperor Napoleon I (1769-1821) might force him to marry a French princess, perhaps even a lady from the emperor’s own family, in the last moment.
His bride, Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen (1792-1854), was in some aspects an ideal match considering the situation at the time. The small duchy of Saxe-Hildburghausen was part of the Napoleonic Confederation of the Rhine. Therefore, the match would hardly call for political complications. An imperial intervention, as had happened in the case of Ludwig’s first fiancé, a Russian princess, was unlikely. In addition, the duchy was too small (and in too much debt) that the connection would raise the hackles of Napoleon’s enemies in Europe. Even the fact that the Lutheran Therese was not prepared to convert to Catholicism did not mean an impediment.
Ludwig had met Therese and her sister Luise (1794-1825), who was considered an equally suitable candidate, for the first time in December 1809. After consultation with his father who at the time stayed in Paris to ask for Napoleon’s permission to make sure that all was well, the engagement was celebrated on 12 February 1810.
Nonetheless, Maximilian I Joseph (1756-1825) did not give in to his son’s urgency. For organisational reasons alone, the wedding was delayed until the month of October, during which the respective name days of the prospective father-in-law (12 Oct.) and bride (15 Oct.) almost offered themselves as ideal key elements of the celebrations. The wedding ceremony took place on 12 October.
During the days before and after the ceremony, appropriate celebrations took place with balls, opera performances and other courtly delights. The inhabitants of the residential city were also included into the festivities.
A festive illumination delighted the citizens of Munich, possibly the subsequent provision of food with plentiful bread, meat, sausages and beer made them even happier. Rich citizens and the nobility decorated their palaces and hotels magnificently. In particular, the palace of Count Montgelas (1759-1838) excelled by means of its floral decoration. The ornamentation on the house of the rich banker Dall’ Armi also found mention in the descriptions.
Despite all the ceremonies in the city, the city of Munich itself did not participate in the celebrations, for a Bavarian communal decree dated to 1808 had almost entirely abolished the self-administration of the communes. There was, therefore, no space for receptions or for other events by means of which the residential city would otherwise certainly have contributed to the wedding of the crown prince.
Instead of the commune, now the national guard of the third class, the citizens’ guard, took action. In 1809, the powerful Bavarian minister, Count Maximilian von Montgelas, had transformed the voluntary citizens’ guard into a national guard and divided it into three separate classes: in the case of war, the first class was part of the standing army, the second class was ordered to contribute to the defence within Bavaria. Only the third class was supposed to stay put and to take on police work. In this class were, therefore, gathered the members of the long-established Munich citizens’ families, whose financial means also helped to contribute to an appropriate appearance of the citizens’ guard.
Decisive became the initiative of Andreas Michael von Dall’Armi (1765-1842), a cavalry major in the Munich national guard, third class. The merchant’s son was born in Trent and had married into the banking family of Nockher. Next to his brother-in-law, Jacob Nockher, he established himself as the most important banker in Munich.
Dall’Armi accepted the suggestion of one of his subordinates, Franz Baumgartner, who had proposed that the cavalry of the citizens’ guard should organise a horse race for the occasion of the royal wedding. Dall’Armi gained the permission for the event, organised it and published programmes and a description, which literally “fixed” the image of the festivities for the future.
Das erste Pferderennen auf der Theresienwiese zu München am 17. Oktober 1810.
(The First Horse Race on the Theresienwiese in Munich)
By Wilhelm von Kobell (1766-1853)
The view includes the action on the festival grounds with the different plots of land owned by the various landowners, the racing action on the oval, 11,565 Bavarian “foot” racecourse and the backdrop of spectators. In the right quarter of the picture, the royal pavilion is shown as a visible sign of the Bavarian dynasty’s presence at the folk festival.
It can be determined that the viewer of the picture is positioned at “Filserbräu Stadel”, an inn that was located near Landsberger Straße on the site of the later Pschorr brewery cellar. The prominent building in the background is the newly built General Hospital on the road to Sendling.
On the feast day, after Holy Mass, the National Guard and the population proceeded towards the festively prepared meadow, next the court society arrived there no less solemnly. Children of Munich families (including Dall’Armi’s own children), dressed up as personifications of Bavaria and of her districts, appeared and paid their respect to the king and to the crown princely couple. Singers trained by holiday schools performed a song composed especially for the occasion. Thereafter, the royal family took breakfast. For the other guests several innkeepers had placed carts on the Sendlingen Heights, from where refreshments were served. The race itself was won by the Cavalry Sergeant Franz Baumgartner, who according to Dall’Armi had originally had the idea for the event.
The festivities were a great success with all those involved. In particular, Dall’Armi had already developed ambitious plans. He intended to turn the festival site into a magnificent permanent venue, following the example of Milan, where Napoleon I had ordered the construction of an arena after the ancient model. Dall’Armi also had had the idea of turning the meadows and commons before the Sendlingen Height into a lasting memorial site. Even on the day of the race, he suggested to call the site of the race after the crown princess. Thus, nameless pieces of real estate became the meadow of Theresia – the “Theresienwiese”.
Andreas Michael von Dall’Armi (1765-1842), banker; Founder of the Munich Oktoberfest; 1811-1821 Controller-General of the Royal Public Debt Redemption Commission.
Painted by Johann Georg Edlinger and engraved by Frederick John around 1795.
Andreas Michael von Dall’Armi (1765-1842), was an Italian who had become firmly established within the bourgeois elite of Munich . Dall’Armi had been working since 1784 in the bank and in the business of his brother-in-law Jakob Nockher. In 1786, he married Elisabeth Nockher (1750-1793), the main heiress of the Nockher fortune. In 1792, Dall’Armi was ennobled.
Dall’Armi not only organised the horse race, but also suggested to call the event of the race by the name of “Theresens-Wiese” (Theresia Meadow).