Truly romantic: the world-famous ruins

Heidelberg Palace

Detailbild der Zerstörung Heidelbergs im Pfälzischen Erbfolgekrieg; Foto: Stadtarchiv Heidelberg
Destruction of the Electoral Palatinate

The Nine

Years' War

The Nine Years' War (1688–1697) was a conflict provoked by the French king. Louis XIV was pushing his expansive Reunion politics. In the process, French troops ravaged the Electoral Palatinate and neighboring areas.

Liselotte von der Pfalz, portrait by François de Troy, circa 1680. Image: Wikipedia, public

There was a struggle in the Electoral Palatinate for Liselotte's inheritance.

A PRETEXT FOR WAR

As of 1685, Louis XIV had asserted the Palatine hereditary title for his brother, Philippe, the Duke of Orléans and husband to Liselotte von der Pfalz. The war started under this pretext was part of French Reunion politics: Louis had the Paris courts validate his claim to the title and then attacked the western regions of the Holy Roman Empire. In this manner, he had already annexed large portions of the Alsace, Luxembourg, the Palatinate and what would be Saarland to the French state.

Depiction of the destroyed Heidelberg Palace. Image: Wikipedia, public

Depiction of the destroyed Heidelberg Palace.

EXPECTATION OF A QUICK CONQUEST

In September 1688, the French army marched into the Palatinate without declaring war. With quick military forays, Louis XIV attempted to take the region by storm. With this method, the French generals could avoid large, open and costly battles and could operate with a relatively small army of 40,000. Louis had his conquests secured with fortresses built by his master builder, Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban. Opponents to France joined the Grand Alliance of Augsburg.

Heidelberg Palace, Palatinate medal depicting the Nine Years' War in Koblenz, Heidelberg and Philippsburg, 1688. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele
Heidelberg Palace, Palatinate medal depicting the Nine Years' War in Koblenz, Heidelberg and Philippsburg, 1688. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele

Medals memorialize the destruction of the Palatinate on both sides of the Rhine.

NINE YEARS OF WAR

Once Saxon troops were able to push the French out of the Neckar valley and the Odenwald mountain range, the French war council decided to render the deployment zone unusable for the advancing imperial army. With the cry: "Brûlez le Patinat!" – "Burn the Palatinate!" Louis XIV's soldiers razed towns, castles and palaces to the ground. Due to France's increasing economic difficulties and problems supplying troops, the Peace of Ryswick was concluded in October 1697.

Heidelberg Palace, powder tower or "exploded tower". Image: Staatsanzeiger für Baden-Württemberg GmbH & Co. KG, Petra Schaffrodt

Ruin of the "exploded tower."

DESCTRUCTION OF THE PALACE

Upon their first decampment from Heidelberg in the spring of 1689, the French set Heidelberg Palace and the town on fire. In 1693, Louis XIV once again set his sights on Heidelberg, with the aim of permanently destroying the palace. On September 6, soldiers blasted 38 mines loaded with 27,000 pounds of powder. A commander reported on the situations at the "exploded tower": "Half of the tower and the crossbeam have plummeted into the moat. The vaults are destroyed." A striking state that visitors can still experience today.