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Ludwig III
Preceded by Otto
Personal details
Born (1845-01-07)7 January 1845
Died 18 October 1921(1921-10-18) (aged 76)
Sárvár, Hungary
Spouse(s) Maria Theresia of Austria-Este
Religion Roman Catholicism

Ludwig III (Ludwig Luitpold Josef Maria Aloys Alfried; English: Louis Leopold Joseph Mary Aloysius Alfred), (7 January 1845 – 18 October 1921) was the last King of Bavaria, reigning from 1913 to 1918.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Ludwig was born in Munich, the eldest son of Prince Luitpold of Bavaria and of his wife, Archduchess Augusta of Austria (daughter of Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany). He was a direct descendant of both Louis XIV of France and William the Conqueror. Hailing from Florence, Augusta always spoke in Italian to her four children. Ludwig was named after his grandfather, King Ludwig I of Bavaria.

Ludwig spent his first years living in the Electoral rooms of the Munich Residenz and in the Wittelsbacher Palace. When he was ten years old, the family moved to the Leuchtenberg Palace.

In 1861 at the age of sixteen, Ludwig began his military career when his uncle, King Maximilian II of Bavaria, gave him a commission as a lieutenant in the 6th Jägerbattalion. A year later he entered the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich where he studied law and economics. When he was eighteen, he automatically became a member of the Senate of the Bavarian Legislature as a prince of the royal house.

In 1866, Bavaria was allied with the Austrian Empire in the Austro-Prussian War. Ludwig held the rank of Oberleutnant; he was wounded at the Battle of Helmstedt, taking a bullet in his thigh. He received the Knight's Cross 1st Class of the Bavarian Military Merit Order

Marriage and children[edit | edit source]

King Ludwig III, his consort Maria Theresia and their son crown prince Rupprecht

In June 1867, Ludwig visited Vienna to attend the funeral of his cousin, Archduchess Mathilda of Austria (daughter of his father's sister Princess Hildegarde of Bavaria). While there, Ludwig met Mathilde's eighteen-year-old step-cousin Maria Theresia, Archduchess of Austria-Este.

On 20 February 1868, at St. Augustine's Church in Vienna, Ludwig married Maria Theresa. She was the only daughter of the late Archduke Ferdinand Karl Viktor of Austria-Este (1821–1849) and of his wife Archduchess Elisabeth Franziska of Austria (1831–1903).

Until 1862, Ludwig's uncle had reigned as King Otto I of Greece. Although Otto had been deposed, Ludwig was still in line of succession to the Greek throne. Had he ever succeeded, this would have required that he renounce his Roman Catholic faith and become Greek Orthodox. Maria Theresa's uncle, Duke Francis V of Modena, was a staunch Roman Catholic. He required that as part of the marriage agreement Ludwig renounce his rights to the throne of Greece, and so ensure that his children would be raised Roman Catholic. In addition, the 1843 Greek Constitution forbade the Greek sovereign to be simultaneously ruler of another country. Consequently, Ludwig's younger brother Leopold technically succeeded upon their father's death to the rights of the deposed Otto I, King of Greece.[citation needed]

By his marriage, Ludwig became a wealthy man. Maria Theresa had inherited large properties from her father. She owned the estate of Sárvár in Hungary and the estate of Eiwanowitz in Moravia (now Ivanovice na Hané in the Czech Republic). The income from these estates enabled Ludwig to purchase an estate at Leutstetten in Bavaria. Over the years, Ludwig expanded the Leutstetten estate until it became one of the largest and most profitable in Bavaria. Ludwig was sometimes derided as Millibauer (dairy farmer) due to his interest in agriculture and farming.

Although they maintained a residence in Munich at the Leuchtenberg Palace, Ludwig and Maria Theresa lived mostly at Leutstetten. They had an extremely happy and devoted marriage which resulted in thirteen children:


Princess Adelgunde (1870-1958), Princess Maria (1872-1954), Prince Karl (1874-1927), Prince Franz (1875-1957), Princess Hildegarde (1881-1948), Princess Wiltrud (1884-1975) and Princess Helmtrud (1885-1977).

On the death of her uncle Francis in 1875, Maria Theresa became heir to his Jacobite claim to the throne of England, and is called either Queen Mary IV and III or Queen Mary III by Jacobites.

Throughout his life, Ludwig took a great interest in agriculture. From 1868, he was the Honorary President of the Central Committee of the Bavarian Agricultural Society. He was also very interested in technology, particularly water power. In 1891 at his initiation, the Bavarian Canal Society was established. As a prince of the royal house he was automatically a member of the Senate of the Bavarian Legislature; there he was a great supporter of the direct right to vote.

Regent of Bavaria[edit | edit source]

On 12 December 1912, Ludwig's father Luitpold died. Luitpold had been an active participant in the deposition of his nephew, King Ludwig II, and had also acted as Prince Regent for his other nephew, King Otto. Otto had been judged to be mentally incapable of ruling. Ludwig immediately succeeded his father as regent.


Caricature by Olaf Gulbransson 1909: "Manoeuvre: Emperor William II explains the enemy's positions to Prince Ludwig of Bavaria"

Almost immediately there were certain elements in the press and other groups in society called for Ludwig to be installed as King of Bavaria instead of Prince Regent. The Bavarian Legislature was not, however, currently in session, and did not meet until 29 September 1913. On 4 November 1913, the Legislature amended the constitution of Bavaria to include a clause specifying that if a regency for reasons of incapacity had lasted for ten years with no expectation that the king would ever be able to reign, the regent could proclaim the end of the regency and the demise of the crown, with such action to be ratified by the Legislature. The amendment received broad party support in the Lower Chamber where it was carried by a vote of 122 in favour, and 27 against. In the Senate there were only six votes against the amendment. The next day, 5 November 1913, Ludwig announced to the Legislature the end of the regency and deposed his first cousin King Otto. The Legislature recognised Ludwig as King Ludwig III.

Finally, the constitutional amendment of 1913 brought a determining break in the continuity of the king's rule in the opinion of historians, particularly as this change had been granted by the Landtag as a House of Representatives and meant therefore indirectly the first step from constitutional monarchy to the parliamentary monarchy. Today this connection is regarded as a main cause for the unspectacular end of the Bavarian kingdom without opposition in the course of the November revolution of 1918.[citation needed]

King of Bavaria[edit | edit source]

Ludwig's short reign was conservative and influenced by the Catholic encyclical Rerum Novarum. Prime Minister Georg von Hertling, appointed by Luitpold in 1912, remained in office.

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Ludwig sent an official dispatch to Berlin to express Bavaria's solidarity. Later Ludwig even claimed annexations for Bavaria (Alsace and the city of Antwerp in Belgium, to receive an access to the sea). His hidden agenda was to maintain the balance of power between Prussia and Bavaria within the German Empire after a victory.

A popularly accepted account holds that, a day or two after Germany's declaration of war,[1] Ludwig received a petition from a 25-year-old Austrian, asking for permission to join the Bavarian Army. The petition was promptly granted, and Adolf Hitler thereupon joined the Bavarian Army, eventually settling into the 16th Reserve Bavarian Infantry Regiment, where he served the remainder of the war.[2][3]

Portrait of Ludwig III, aged 70.

In 1917, when Germany's situation had gradually worsened due to World War I, Hertling became German Chancellor and Prime Minister of Prussia and Otto Ritter von Dandl was made Minister of State of the Royal Household and of the Exterior and President of the Council of Ministers on 11 November 1917, a title equivalent to Prime Minister of Bavaria. Accused of showing blind loyalty to Prussia, Ludwig became increasingly unpopular during the war. As the war drew to a close, the German Revolution broke out in Bavaria. On 7 November 1918, Ludwig fled from the Residenz Palace in Munich with his family. He was the first of the monarchs in the German Empire to be deposed.

On 12 November 1918, Prime Minister Dandl went to Schloss Anif, near Salzburg, to see the King and obtain what is known as the Anifer Erklärung (Anif declaration) in which the King released all government officials, soldiers and civil officers from their oath to him, but made no declaration of abdication. The newly formed republican government of Kurt Eisner interpreted this as an abdication. The declaration was published by the Eisner government when Dandl returned to Munich the next day, interpreting it, somewhat ambiguously, as the end to Wittelsbacher rule.[4]

In exile[edit | edit source]

Ludwig III returned to Bavaria. His consort Maria Theresia died 3 February 1919 at Wildenwart Castle/Chiemgau.

In February 1919, Eisner was assassinated; fearing that he might be the victim of a counter-assassination, Ludwig fled to Hungary, later moving on to Liechtenstein and Switzerland. He returned to Bavaria in April 1920 and lived at Wildenwart Castle again. There he remained until September 1921 when he took a trip to his castle Nádasdy in Sárvár in Hungary. He died there on 18 October.

On 5 November 1921, Ludwig's body was returned to Munich together with that of his wife. They were given a state funeral and were buried in the crypt of the Munich Frauenkirche. The funeral was feared or hoped to spark a restoration of the monarchy. Despite the abolition of the monarchy, the former King was laid to rest in front of the royal family, the Bavarian government, military personnel, and an estimated 100,000 spectators, in the style of royal funerals. Prince Rupprecht did not wish to use the occasion of the passing of his father to reestablish the monarchy by force, preferring to do so by legal means. Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, Archbishop of Munich, in his funeral speech, made a clear commitment to the monarchy while Rupprecht only declared that he had stepped into his birthright.[5]

Ancestry[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August 1914, and on France two days later.
  2. See, e.g., Toland, John (1976). Adolf Hitler. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 57–58. ISBN 0-385-03724-4.  ("Toland") and Large, David C. (1997). Where Ghosts Walked: Munich's Road to the Third Reich. New York: Doubleday & Company. pp. 48–49. ISBN 0-393-03836-X.  ("Large").
  3. This account is based on Hitler's recollections in Mein Kampf, which is often notoriously unreliable as Hitler was (at least by 1924) an accomplished liar. Kershaw holds that Hitler's story is simply not credible on its face, due to the remarkable bureaucratic effort it would have required to attend to this minor matter during days of extreme crisis. Kershaw suggests that bureaucratic error, rather than bureaucratic efficiency, was responsible for Hitler's enlistment; indeed, as a national of an allied country, he should have been sent to Austria for service in that army. Based on Bavarian government investigations in 1924, the more likely scenario in Kershaw's view is that Hitler applied for enlistment, along with thousands of other youths, on or about 5 August 1914, was initially turned away because the authorities were overwhelmed with applicants and had no place to assign him, and eventually was recalled to serve in the 2nd Infantry Regiment (2nd Battalion), before being assigned to Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 16 (the List Regiment), which was principally made up of raw recruits. Kershaw, Ian (1999). Adolf Hitler 1889–1936: Hubris. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 89–90. ISBN 0-393-04671-0.  ("Kershaw").
  4. Anifer Erklärung, 12./13. November 1918 (in German) Historisches Lexikon Bayerns, accessed: 10 May 2008
  5. Beisetzung Ludwigs III., München, 5. November 1921 (German) Historisches Lexikon Bayerns – Funeral of Ludwig III, accessed: 1 July 2011

External links[edit | edit source]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Ludwig III. von Bayern, 1845–1921, Ein König auf der Suche nach seinem Volk, by Alfons Beckenbauer (Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet, 1987). The standard modern biography.
  • Ludwig, Prinz von Bayern, Ein Lebens und Charakterbild, by Hans Reidelbach (München: Eduard Pohls, 1905). Particularly good for Ludwig's early life.
  • Von der Umsturznacht bis zur Totenbahre: Die letzte Leidenszeit König Ludwigs III., by Arthur Achleitner (Dillingen: Veduka, 1922). A detailed work about the last three years of Ludwig's life.
  • Ludwig III. König von Bayern: Skizzen aus seiner Lebensgeschichte, by Hubert Glaser (Prien: Verkerhrsverband Chiemsee, 1995). An illustrated catalogue of an exhibition held in Wildenwart in 1995.
Ludwig III of Bavaria
Born: 7 January 1845 Died: 18 October 1921
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Otto I
King of Bavaria
5 November 1913 – 13 November 1918
Monarchy abolished
Political offices
Preceded by
Otto I
as King of Bavaria
Bavarian Head of State
5 November 1913 – 13 November 1918
Succeeded by
Kurt Eisner
as Prime Minister of Bavaria
Titles in pretence
Loss of title
Republic declared
King of Bavaria
13 November 1918 – 18 October 1921
Succeeded by
Crown Prince Rupprecht

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