by Scott Mehl
King Ludwig I of Bavaria
King Ludwig I of Bavaria (Ludwig Karl August) was born on August 25, 1786 at the Hôtel des Deux-Ponts in Strasbourg, France. He was the eldest son of the future King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria and his first wife, Princess Augusta Wilhelmine of Hesse-Darmstadt, and was named for his godfather, King Louis XVI of France. Ludwig had four full-siblings and seven half-siblings from his father’s second marriage to Caroline of Baden:
- Princess Augusta (1788) – married Eugène de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg, had issue
- Princess Amalie (1790) – died in infancy
- Princess Caroline Augusta (1792) – married (1) the future King Wilhelm I of Württemberg, no issue; (2) Emperor Franz I of Austria, no issue
- Prince Karl Theodor (1795) married (1) Maria de Pétin, had issue; (2) Henriette Schöller, no issue
- Prince Maximilian (1800) – died in infancy
- Princess Elisabeth Ludovika (1801) – married King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, no issue
- Princess Amalie Auguste (1801) – married King John I of Saxony, had issue
- Princess Sophie Friederike (1805) – married Archduke Franz Karl of Austria, had issue
- Princess Maria Anna Leopoldine (1805) – married King Friedrich August II of Saxony, had issue
- Princess Ludovika Wilhelmine (1808) – married Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria, had issue
- Princess Maximiliana (1810) – died in childhood
When Ludwig was born, his father was serving with the French army stationed at Strasbourg. By the time he was 13, his father had become Duke of Zweibrücken, and then Elector of Bavaria and Count Palatine of the Rhine. On January 1, 1806, Ludwig became Crown Prince when his father became the first King of Bavaria.
Ludwig studied with Johann Michael Sailer at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Landshut (now in Munich), and then the University of Göttingen, and became proficient at several languages, including French, Italian, Spanish and Russian. He also received a strong religious education from the Catholic priest Joseph Anton Sambuga.
As was expected at the time, Ludwig also pursued a military career. Despite being against his father’s alliance with the French Emperor Napoleon I, he fought with the allied Bavarian troops in the French wars. He served as commander of the 1st Bavarian Division in VII Corps and led his division into the Battle of Abensberg in 1809. At the Treaty of Ried in 1813, Bavaria left the Confederation of the Rhine and joined the Sixth Coalition against Napoleon. Just days later, Bavaria formally declared war against France – a move which Ludwig strongly supported.
He served briefly as governor-general of the Duchy of Salzburg and spent much of the next 10 years in Würzburg, and at Villa Malta, his home in Rome. During this time, he was an ardent supporter of the Greek War of Independence, even providing a loan of 1.5 million florins from his personal funds for the effort. Some years later, his generosity would be rewarded when his second son, Otto, was named King of Greece.
On October 12, 1810, Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, the daughter of Friedrich, Duke of Saxe-Hildburghausen and Duchess Charlotte Georgine of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The wedding took place in a large outdoor space called the Theresienwiese, in Munich. Named for his bride, Theresienwiese is the site of Oktoberfest, held every year to commemorate the wedding. (You can read more about Oktoberfest and its royal connection HERE.)
Ludwig and Therese had nine children:
- King Maximilian II (1811) – married Princess Marie of Prussia, had issue
- Princess Mathilde Caroline (1813) – married Ludwig III, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, no issue
- Prince Otto, later King Otto I of Greece (1815) – married Duchess Amalie of Oldenburg, no issue
- Princess Theodelinde (1816) – died in infancy
- Luitpold, Prince Regent of Bavaria (1821) – married Archduchess Auguste of Austria, had issue
- Princess Adelgunde (1823) – married Francis V, Duke of Modena, had issue
- Princess Hildegard (1825) – married Archduke Albert of Austria, had issue
- Princess Alexandra (1826) – unmarried
- Prince Adalbert (1828) – married Infanta Amelia Philippina of Spain, had issue
Ludwig became King of Bavaria upon his father’s death on October 13, 1825. His reign saw the reorganization of the administrative regions of Bavaria and the establishment of the city of Ludwigshafen. The King established the Ludwig Canal between the Main and Danube rivers, and in 1835, the first German railway was constructed between the cities of Fürth and Nuremberg.
However, his previous liberal policies became more repressive after the July Revolution of 1830. Several years earlier, he had reinstated policies of strict censorship which were greatly opposed by the population. In 1837, he saw the Ultramontanes, backed by the Roman Catholic Church, gain control of Parliament and begin making drastic changes to the constitution, including the removal of civil rights granted to Protestants. Ludwig himself was a strong opponent of Protestantism, but his views changed in 1841 following the funeral of his Protestant stepmother, Queen Caroline. Large demonstrations were held by Catholic factions, and the King, who had a very close relationship with Queen Caroline, was greatly disturbed by the disturbances, simply because of religion.
In 1846, Ludwig met Lola Montez, an Irish dancer and actress who had come to Munich, and she quickly became his mistress. She was very unpopular with the Bavarian people, because of her influence over the King, and became even more so when they found out that she was trying to become a naturalized citizen. The Ultramontanes fought strongly against the naturalization, resulting in the King removing them from power. The following year, after become naturalized, the King granted her the title Countess of Landsfeld along with a large annuity.
By 1848, Ludwig’s reign was coming to an abrupt end. Facing protests and demonstrations by students and the middle classes, the King had ordered the closure of the university. Shortly after, the crowds raided the armory on their way to storm the Munich Residenz. Ludwig’s brother, Karl, managed to appease the protesters, but the damage was done. The King’s family and advisors turned against him, and he was forced to sign the March Proclamation, giving substantial concessions toward to a constitutional monarchy. Unwilling to rule this way, King Ludwig I abdicated on March 20, 1848.
King Ludwig spent the rest of his life in Bavaria, devoting his time to supporting and fostering the arts. He published several books of poems during his reign, as well as several translations of plays. On February 29, 1868, King Ludwig died in Nice, having survived his wife and five of his children. His remains were brought back to Bavaria and buried at St. Boniface’s Abbey in Munich. Keeping with tradition, his heart was entombed at the Shrine of Our Lady of Altötting.
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