Karl Wilhelm von Baden-Durlach

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Karl III Wilhelm, Margrave of Baden-Durlach (born 17 January 1679 in Durlach – died 17 May 1738 in Karlsruhe) was Margrave of Baden-Durlach and founder of the city of Karlsruhe.


He was born on the 17th January 1679 in Durlach (his first residence). He belonged to the protestant line of the House of Baden, which he wanted to reunite for the sake of political stability.

The Margrave had a pleasure-loving nature - except for his wife, whom he left behind in Durlach, he was very attentive to women. His later residence was supposed to be a mansion first and foremost. He was, however, also a cultured and educated man whose greatest endeavor, was to bring peace to his country. Karl Wilhelm must have experienced how Durlach, his birthplace, was destroyed by the French in one of the innumerable wars of the time, and therefore he didn't want to build anything too long lasting. In 1714 the Margrave ended the war, and then immediately signed a pact in which it was agreed that the two Baden margraviates (Baden-Baden and Baden- Durlach) should unite if either of the ruling houses ever died out. Among the things, that explained why be had built his new palace on the border with the margraviate of Baden-Baden. In 1771 Baden was to be reunited.

On 17th June 1715 in the middle of the Hardtwald, Karl Wilhelm celebrated the foundation stone of the palace tower of his new residence being laid. The archives don't tell us much about the reasons behind his decision. Should you see the realization of the dream to rule as an absolute monarch in the building of your new palace? Many of his peers wanted to imitate Versailles (built by Louis XIV) precisely. Another explanation can be found in his passion for horticulture and hunting. Durlach simply didn't have enough room.

As the name of the city suggests Karlsruhe should have been, above all, a place of rest and relaxation. At the beginning Karl Wilhelm had never planned to have his palace built out of stone, but rather out of wood. He had already seen his palace burn once, and he wanted to limit the eventual costs in this way. The danger of war in the region was still high - yet nevertheless he allowed the castles outer walls to be built of stone. In addition the Margrave wanted to see the work finished in his lifetime. When the lack of comfort in his residence was pointed out to him reproachfully, he answered that he preferred to live badly, but without the debts that a magnificent palace would create. He was the margrave of a small country and built his residence accordingly.

That doesn't explain, though, why he then decided to found a town. In order to make life pleasanter, he decided to attract inhabitants to his town. The people who took up residence near his palace were granted many privileges: they were given land and wood for nothing; serfdom and statute labour were abolished; taxes were waived for 20 years; and they were guaranteed religious freedom. He made Karlsruhe his official residence in order to persuade the new citizens to move there. The first inhabitants were Prussians, Poles, Saxons, Bavarians, Suabians and people from Alsace, not forgetting of course people from the surrounding area. This population mixture gave rise to a new dialect - Brigandendeutsch. In 1717 the civil servants moved from Durlach to the ever growing town of Karlsruhe. The fanshaped layout of the town which would make it famous was born very quickly. The symbolism of this layout is easy to see: the streets radiate like rays of sunshine from Karl Wilhelms palace; follwing the example of Louis XIV, who was glorified as the Sun King, the margrave idealized his residence and therefore himself as the centre of his town and his state.

The lord of the castle Karl Wilhelm of Baden-Durlach was only allowed to enjoy his work for a short time. He had to resettle in Basel for 3 years because of a war. On the 12th of May 1738 he died from a stroke in Karlsruhe.

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