King Ludwig III of Bavaria
King Ludwig III was the last King of Bavaria, reigning from November 1913 until November 1918. He was born Prince Ludwig Luitpold Josef Maria Aloys Alfried on January 7, 1845 in Munich, the eldest son of Prince Luitpold of Bavaria and Archduchess Augusta of Austria. He had three younger siblings:
- Prince Leopold (1846) – married Archduchess Gisela of Austria, had issue
- Princess Therese (1850) – unmarried
- Prince Arnulf (1852) – married Princess Theresa of Liechtenstein, had issue
Just hours after birth, he was baptised in the throne room of the Munich Residenz, where he was named for his grandfather, the reigning King Ludwig I. At the time, he was 5th in the line of succession, with little expectation of him ever taking the throne. Three years later, his grandfather abdicated, and his uncle took the throne as King Maximilian II.
Ludwig was raised at the Munich Residenz and the Wittelsbacher Palais, before moving to Palais Leuchtenberg in 1855. Palais Leuchtenberg was the former home of Eugène de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg, and his wife (and Luitpold’s aunt), Princess Augusta of Bavaria. Luitpold purchased the palace in 1852, after Augusta’s death. He was educated privately at home by a series of tutors, before entering the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in 1864, studying law, economics, history and philosophy. He also began a military career in 1861, being commissioned as a Lieutenant in the infantry.
In 1866, Ludwig served as a military aide to his father during the war against Prussia, and was injured at the Battle of Helmstedt, sustaining a gunshot wound in his leg. The following year, while in Vienna for the funeral of his cousin, Archduchess Mathilda of Austria, Ludwig met his future wife, Archduchess Maria Theresia of Austria-Este. She was the daughter of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Este and Archduchess Elisabeth Franziska of Austria. After a brief courtship, Ludwig and Maria Theresia married on February 20, 1868 at St. Augustine’s Church in Vienna, adjacent to the Hofburg Palace.
Over the next 23 years, Ludwig and Maria Theresia had thirteen children:
- Crown Prince Rupprecht (1869) – married (1) Duchess Marie Gabrielle in Bavaria, had issue; (2) Princess Antonia of Luxembourg, had issue
- Princess Adelgunde (1870) – married Wilhelm, Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, no issue
- Princess Maria (1872) – married Prince Ferdinando Pio of the Two Sicilies, Duke of Calabria, had issue
- Prince Karl (1874) – unmarried
- Prince Franz (1875) – married Princess Isabella of Croÿ, had issue
- Princess Mathilde (1877) – married Prince Ludwig Gaston of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, had issue
- Prince Wolfgang (1879) – died in his teens
- Princess Hildegarde (1881) – unmarried
- Princess Notburga (1883) – died in infancy
- Princess Wiltrud (1884) – married Wilhelm, Duke of Urach, no issue
- Princess Helmtrud (1886) – unmarried
- Princess Dietlinde (1888) – died in infancy
- Princess Gundelinde (1891) – married Johann Georg, Count von Preysing-Lichtenegg-Moos
In 1886, his father became Prince Regent after King Ludwig II was declared mentally incompetent. Just days later, the King died mysteriously, and was succeeded by his brother, King Otto. However, Otto was also mentally ill, and the Regency continued. Upon his father’s death on December 12, 1912, Ludwig succeeded him as Prince Regent for his cousin, King Otto. Less than a year later, the Bavarian Parliament passed legislation allowing the Regent to assume the throne himself, provided that the regency was for reasons of incapacity, had lasted more than ten years, and there was no prospect of the Sovereign being able to reign. So on November 5, 1913, with overwhelming support from the parliament, Ludwig deposed his cousin and assumed the Bavarian throne as King Ludwig III.
His reign would be brief, as World War I saw the end of the German Empire and numerous other monarchies in Europe. As the war was drawing to a close, the German Revolution broke out in Bavaria. Ludwig fled Munich with his family, taking up residence at Anif Palace near Salzburg, thinking it would just be a temporary move. A week later, on November 13, 1918, King Ludwig III would be the first monarch in the German Empire to be deposed, bringing an end to 738 years of rule by the Wittelsbach dynasty.
He returned to Bavaria, living at Wildenwart Castle, where his wife died three months later. Fearing that his life was in danger, he soon left the country, traveling to Hungary, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. He returned to Wildenwart Castle in April 1920 and remained until the following Fall, when he traveled to his castle Nádasdy in Sárvár, Hungary.
King Ludwig III died at Nádasdy on October 18, 1921. His body was brought to Wildenwart Castle where his wife was buried, and then both of their remains were brought to the Ludwigskirche in Munich where a State funeral was held. They were then buried in the crypt of the Munich Frauenkirche. In keeping with tradition, his heart was entombed separately, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Altötting.