1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dalberg

DALBERG, the name of an ancient and distinguished German noble family, derived from the hamlet and castle (now in ruins) of Dalberg or Dalburg near Kreuznach in the Rhine Province. In the 14th century the original house of Dalberg became extinct in the male line, the fiefs passing to Johann Gerhard, chamberlain of the see of Worms, who married the heiress of his cousin, Anton of Dalberg, about 1330. His own family was of great antiquity, his ancestors having been hereditary ministerials of the bishop of Worms since the time of Ekbert the chamberlain, who founded in 1119 the Augustinian monastery of Frankenthal and died in 1132. By the close of the 15th century the Dalberg family had grown to be of such importance that, in 1494, the German King Maximilian I. granted them the honour of being the first to receive knighthood at the coronation; this part of the ceremonies being opened by the herald asking in a loud voice “Is no Dalberg present?” (Ist kein Dalberg da?). This picturesque privilege the family enjoyed till the end of the Holy Roman Empire. The elder line of the family of Dalberg-Dalberg became extinct in 1848, the younger, that of Dalberg-Herrnsheim, in 1833. The male line of the Dalbergs is now represented only by the family of Hessloch, descended from Gerhard of Dalberg (c. 1239), which in 1809 succeeded to the title and estates in Moravia and Bohemia of the extinct counts of Ostein.

The following are the most noteworthy members of the family:

1. Johann von Dalberg (1445–1503), chamberlain and afterwards bishop of Worms, son of Wolfgang von Dalberg. He studied at Erfurt and in Italy, where he took his degree of doctor utriusque juris at Ferrara and devoted himself more especially to the study of Greek. Returning to Germany, he became privy councillor to the elector palatine Philip, whom he assisted in bringing the university of Heidelberg to the height of its fame. He was instrumental in founding the first chair of Greek, which was filled by his friend Rudolph Agricola, and he also established the university library and a college for students of civil law. He was an ardent humanist, was president of the Sodalitas Celtica founded by the poet Konrad Celtes (q.v.), and corresponded with many of the leading scholars of his day, to whom he showed himself a veritable Maecenas. He was employed also on various diplomatic missions by the emperor and the elector.

See K. Morneweg, Johann von Dalberg, ein deutscher Humanist und Bischof (Heidelberg, 1887).

2. Karl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg (1744–1817), archbishop-elector of Mainz, arch-chancellor of the Holy Roman Empire, and afterwards primate of the Confederation of the Rhine and grand-duke of Frankfort. He was the son of Franz Heinrich, administrator of Worms, one of the chief counsellors of the elector of Mainz. Karl had devoted himself to the study of canon law, and entered the church; and, having been appointed in 1772 governor of Erfurt, he won further advancement by his successful administration; in 1787 he was elected coadjutor of Mainz and of Worms, and in 1788 of Constance; in 1802 he became archbishop-elector of Mainz and arch-chancellor of the Empire. As statesman Dalberg was distinguished by his “patriotic” attitude, whether in ecclesiastical matters, in which he leaned to the Febronian view of a German national church, or in his efforts to galvanize the atrophied machinery of the Empire into some sort of effective central government of Germany. Failing in this, he turned to the rising star of Napoleon, believing that he had found in “the truly great man, the mighty genius which governs the fate of the world,” the only force strong enough to save Germany from dissolution. By the peace of Lunéville, accordingly, though he had to surrender Worms and Constance, he received Regensburg, Aschaffenburg and Wetzlar. On the dissolution of the Empire in 1806 he formally resigned the office of arch-chancellor in a letter to the emperor Francis, and was appointed by Napoleon prince primate of the Confederation of the Rhine. In 1810, after the peace of Vienna (Schönbrunn), the grand-duchy of Frankfort was created for his benefit out of his territories, which, in spite of the cession of Regensburg to Bavaria, were greatly augmented. Dalberg’s subservience, as a prince of the Confederation, to Napoleon was specially resented since, as a priest, he had no excuse of necessity on the ground of saving family or dynastic interests; his fortunes therefore fell with those of Napoleon, and, when he died on the 10th of February 1817, of all his dignities he was in possession only of the archbishopric of Regensburg. Weak and shortsighted as a statesman, as a man and prelate Dalberg was amiable, conscientious and large-hearted. Himself a scholar and author, he was a notable patron of letters, and was the friend of Goethe, Schiller and Wieland.

See Karl v. Beaulieu-Marconnay, Karl von Dalberg und seine Zeit (Weimar, 1879).

3. Wolfgang Heribert von Dalberg (1750–1806), brother of the above. He was intendant of the theatre at Mannheim, which he brought to a high state of excellence. His chief claim to remembrance is that it was he who first put Schiller’s earlier dramas on the stage, and it is to him that the poet’s Briefe an den Freiherrn von Dalberg (Karlsruhe, 1819) are addressed. He himself wrote several plays, including adaptations of Shakespeare. His brother, Johann Friedrich Hugo von Dalberg (1752–1812), canon of Trier, Worms and Spires, had some vogue as a composer and writer on musical subjects.

4. Emmerich Joseph, Duc de Dalberg (1773–1833), son of Baron Wolfgang Heribert. He was born at Mainz on the 30th of May 1773. In 1803 he entered the service of Baden, which he represented as envoy in Paris. After the peace of Schönbrunn (1809) he entered the service of Napoleon, who, in 1810, created him a duke and councillor of state. He had from the first been on intimate terms with Talleyrand, and retired from the public service when the latter fell out of the emperor’s favour. In 1814 he was a member of the provisional government by whom the Bourbons were recalled, and he attended the congress of Vienna, with Talleyrand, as minister plenipotentiary. He appended his signature to the decree of outlawry launched in 1815 by the European powers against Napoleon. For this his property in France was confiscated, but was given back after the second Restoration, when he became a minister of state and a peer of France. In 1816 he was sent as ambassador to Turin. The latter years of his life he spent on his estates at Herrnsheim, where he died on the 27th of April 1833.

The duc de Dalberg had inherited the family property of Herrnsheim from his uncle the arch-chancellor Karl von Dalberg, and this estate passed, through his daughter and heiress, Marie Louise Pelline de Dalberg, by her marriage with Sir (Ferdinand) Richard Edward Acton, 7th baronet (who assumed the additional name of Dalberg), to her son the historian, John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton (q.v.).