Rare Passport Grand Duchy of Berg 1811

Following his victory at the Battle of Austerlitz (1805), Emperor Napoleon created the Grand Duchy of Berg (German: Großherzogtum Berg), sometimes known as the Grand Duchy of Berg and Cleves, on lands straddling the Rhine between the French Empire and the German Kingdom of Westphalia. Here is a rare passport from this short-lived Grand Duchy. Passport grand duchy berg

Issued to a merchant with the name Buchholz, age 27. Passport number 12.

The two duchies of Jülich and Berg, which had both been ruled in personal union by the Wittelsbach dukes of Palatinate-Neuburg since 1614, had been divided once more as a result of France’s annexation of the Duchy of Jülich (French: Juliers) during the French Revolutionary Wars in 1794. In 1803, the Bavarian elector Maximilian Joseph, the heir of Palatinate-Neuburg, divided the remaining Duchy of Berg from his other Bavarian lands and appointed his cousin William of Palatinate-Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld-Gelnhausen as administrator, bringing it under the control of a younger branch of the Wittelsbach family. Passport grand duchy berg

In 1806, as part of the restructuring of Germany brought on by the fall of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, Maximilian I Joseph, then king of Bavaria, traded the Principality of Ansbach for the cession of Berg to Napoleon. The French emperor gave Berg, which included parts of the ancient Prussian Duchy of Cleves east of the Rhine, to his brother-in-law Joachim Murat on March 15, 1806. The red lion of Berg and the Cleves arms were united in Murat’s armor. Murat’s roles as Grand Admiral and Marshal of the Empire brought the anchor and the batons to the gathering. He also had the authority to use the imperial eagle because he married Napoleon’s sister. Murat became a grand duke and a member of the Confederation of the Rhine on July 12, 1806. The County of Mark, the Prince-Bishopric of Münster, the Imperial Metropolis of Dortmund, and numerous smaller holdings of the Lower Rhenish-Westphalian Circle were annexed, further enlarging his lands. Passport grand duchy berg

passport grand duchy berg
Visa on the back from Nov 1811

When Murat finally departed the Grand Duchy in 1808 to assume his new throne as King of Naples, he retained the title of Grand Duke. Napoleon initially exercised direct control over Berg in a Personal Union. Prince Napoleon Louis Bonaparte (1804–1831), the eldest child of Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland, and Napoleon’s young nephew, was named Grand Duke of Berg in 1809; French administrators working under Pierre Louis Roederer managed the region in his honor. Grand Duke Napoleon Louis also exercised personal administration over the Kingdom of Holland for nine days in July 1810. However, this was short-lived as French forces invaded the Kingdom and annexed it to France. Passport grand duchy berg

Since its founding, the state has seen continuous economic collapse, primarily attributable to Napoleon’s disastrous Continental System, which sparked many riots and revolts. The Battle of Leipzig in 1813 saw the French forces retreat, ending the Grand Duchy’s brief existence. The old Grand Duchy was then governed by Prussia, which formally integrated the region by the Final Act of the 1815 Congress of Vienna. The eastern regions of Münster and Mark were combined into the Province of Westphalia, and Berg was added to Jülich-Cleves-Berg. The region is now a part of contemporary Germany.

A fantastic document of German (passport) history.

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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

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