Britta Kägler

Researcher’s profile



Prestigious Practitioners: Development of Court Medicine and its Personnel at Catholic Courts ,– Bavarian Case Studies During 16th/17th Century –

An appropriate topic, to address the conference theme, is to take a precise look at the court of the Wittelsbach. During the late 16th century the Bavarian court comprised just about 500 people and did not rank high among other European courts at the same time. Nevertheless it was undoubtedly one of the most important Catholic courts within the Empire. Confessors outvied medical practitioners in large numbers,but letters from Wilhelm V. – to be found in private archives of the Wittelsbach – prove an astonishing standard of court medicine and a stepping up of efforts to improve health and body care. Even members of the Fugger family used their contact with Wilhelm of Bavaria for medical advice. On several occasions, seriously ill members of the wealthy Fugger dynasty sought medical advice from the personal physician of the Bavarian monarch.

According to the conference’s assumption, court medical practitioners did indeed change in number, occupation and function during the 16th and 17th century. With reference to account books – Besoldungsbücher – it is possible to analyse the development of salaried physicians and surgeons at court, their number, their salaries and additional awards as well as medical specialisation. While these annual account books exist without a break for about three centuries, starting 1556 and concluding with the year 1800, the most interesting period is the second half of the 17th century.

From then on the Bavarian court could be recognised as a place of lively turnover and international exchange. An examination of transnational marriages of the European royalty allows not only a reconstruction of the number of foreign court members who, in the long term, joined the extended household in the wake of a new princess but also foreign influences on court medicine. This phenomenon can be demonstrated in a detailed study of the specific case of Princess Henriette Adelaide of Savoy‐Piemont who brought – after marrying the young Bavarian successor Ferdinand Maria – an unusually large entourage of Torinese to Munich. Each generation had to face the recurring question of how a – relatively large – foreign entourage could be integrated into the existing royal household. In the 1650ies it went smoothly just for one and his family: Stefano Simeoni, personal physician and intimate friend of the electress, who was incorporated in the Bavarian nobility – soon enough for even starting a political career in Munich.

The paper examines whether the integration at court paid off for the physician himself and which factors could determine the success or failure of innovation regarding to health and body care among courtiers.

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