Luitpold, Prince Regent of Bavaria

Prince Regent of Bavaria
Regency 10 June 1886 – 12 December 1912
Born (1821-03-12)12 March 1821
Died 12 December 1912(1912-12-12) (aged 91)
Munich, Bavaria
Burial Theatinerkirche, Munich, Bavaria
Spouse Archduchess Augusta of Austria
Issue Ludwig III
Prince Leopold
Princess Theresa of Bavaria
Prince Arnulf
House Wittelsbach
Father Ludwig I, King of Bavaria
Mother Duchess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen

Luitpold, Prince Regent of Bavaria (German: Prinzregent Luitpold Karl Joseph Wilhelm Ludwig von Bayern) (12 March 1821 12 December 1912), was the de facto ruler of Bavaria from 1886 to 1912, due to the incapacity of his nephews, King Ludwig II for three days and King Otto for 26 years.[1]

Early life

Prince Luitpold of Bavaria

Luitpold was born in Würzburg, the third son of King Ludwig I of Bavaria and his wife, Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. He was the younger brother of King Maximilian II of Bavaria and of King Otto of Greece. Luitpold was in line to succeed to the throne of the Kingdom of Bavaria, and was also heir presumptive to the throne of Greece, since his brother Otto had no children. However, the Greek law of succession required that Otto's heir should belong to the Greek Orthodox Church. Otto was deposed in 1862 and replaced by Prince William of Denmark, who became George I, King of the Hellenes. Otto died in 1867, leaving Luitpold and his descendants as representatives of Otto's claim. However, Luitpold never pursued that claim.

At the age of fourteen Luitpold joined the Bavarian Army and was promoted Captain of the Artillery in 1835. During the revolutions of 1848 Prince Luitpold mediated and facilitated an audience of discontented citizens with his father. During the rule of his brother Maximilian II (1848–64), Luitpold did not play a significant political role.

With the reign of his nephew Ludwig II (1864–1886) Prince Luitpold had increasingly to represent the royal house due to the king's long absence from the capital. In the Austro-Prussian War in 1866 Luitpold was commander of the 3rd Royal Bavarian Division. In 1869 he became Inspector General of the Bavarian Army, during the Franco-Prussian War 1870/71 he represented Bavaria in the German General Staff. In that capacity he handed over Ludwig's Kaiserbrief on 3 December 1870, in which Ludwig endorsed the creation of the German Empire with the King of Prussia as Emperor.

Since Ludwig, who nonetheless regretted Bavaria's loss of independence, refused to attend Wilhelm's 10 January proclamation as Emperor in the Palace of Versailles.[2] So Ludwig's brother Prince Otto and his uncle Luitpold represented him in the Palace of Versailles.[3][4] Otto then criticized the celebration as ostentatious and heartless in a letter to his brother. In 1876 Luitpold was appointed Field Marshal.


Prince Regent Luitpold celebrating his 90th birthday in 1911

On 10 June 1886, Luitpold's nephew King Ludwig II was declared mentally incompetent and Luitpold was named Regent. Luitpold's part is still controversial. Following Ludwig II's mysterious death a few days later, his brother Otto assumed the throne. However, Otto was likewise (or more so) mentally incapable of reigning, and Luitpold continued to serve as regent. Prince Luitpold was even accused by some people of the murder of his nephew, but soon the decent and affable prince became one of Bavaria's most popular rulers. One of his first actions (on 1 August 1886) was to open several of the palaces of Ludwig II to the public.

Politically, Luitpold remained largely passive. His governments gradually moved away from the previous anti-Catholic Kulturkampf policies. This development culminated in 1912 when the appointment of the Centre Party politician Georg von Hertling as minister president; this also effectively brought about a parliamentarisation of the government, as Hertling's Centre Party was the largest group in the Landtag.

During the regency of Prince-Regent Luitpold relations between Bavarians and Prussians remained cold as Bavarians resented Prussia's strategic dominance over the empire.

Luitpold continued to serve as regent until 1912, when he contracted bronchitis and died in Munich. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Prince Ludwig, who remained as regent for another year before becoming king in his own right as Ludwig III. He is buried in the crypt of the Theatinerkirche in Munich.

The Prinzregentenzeit ("prince's regent's time"), as the regency of Luitpold is often called, was due to the political passiveness of Luitpold an era of the gradual transfer of Bavarian interests behind those of the German empire. In connection with the unhappy end of the preceding rule of King Ludwig II this break in the Bavarian monarchy looked even stronger. Finally, the constitutional amendment of 1913 brought the 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 to the parliamentary monarchy. Today the connection of these two developments 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. However the course of his 26-year regency Luitpold knew to overcome, by modesty, ability and popularity, the initial uneasiness of his subjects. These prince's regent's years were transfigured, finally – above all in the retrospect – to a golden age of Bavaria, even if one mourned the "fairy tale king" Ludwig II furthermore what happens in a folkloric-nostalgic manner till this day.

Cultural legacy

Augsburg monument by the sculptor Franz Bernauer on top of the fountain Prinzregentenbrunnen.
Angel of Peace in the Prinzregentenstrasse in Munich, erected as antipole to the Berlin Victory Column

Tutored as a child by Domenico Quaglio the Younger, Luitpold had a great feeling for the arts. Luitpold's years as regent were marked by tremendous artistic and cultural activity in Bavaria where they are known as the Prinzregentenjahre ("The Prince Regent Years") or the Prinzregentenzeit. Bavaria prospered under a liberal government and Munich became a cultural centre of Europe. Thomas Mann wrote about this period "Munich shone" (1902 Gladius Dei). Schwabing became an important artists' quarter in Munich.

There are numerous streets in Bavarian cities and towns called Prinzregentenstrasse or Luitpoldstrasse. Many institutions are named in Luitpold's honour including the Prinzregententheater in Munich and the Luitpoldarena and the Luitpoldhalle in Nürnberg. In 1891 Luitpold established the Luitpold Gymnasium in Munich. Prinzregententorte is a multi-layered cake with chocolate butter cream named in his honour. The vessel SMS Prinzregent Luitpold of the Imperial German Navy and the Luitpold Coast were named for Luitpold.

Luitpold's great passion next to the arts was hunting, and his legendary hunts took place throughout Bavaria.


Prince Regent Luitpold of Bavaria with his son Ludwig, his grandson Rupprecht and his great-grandson Luitpold in the park of Nymphenburg Palace

On 1 April 1844, in Florence, Luitpold married Archduchess Auguste Ferdinande of Austria, Princess of Tuscany, second daughter of Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Luitpold and Auguste had four children:




  1. "Luitpold | prince regent of Bavaria". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2016-06-11.
  2. Nohbauer, 1998, p. 37.
  3. Dr. Theodor Toeche-Mittler: Die Kaiserproklamation in Versailles am 18. Januar 1871 mit einem Verzeichniß der Festtheilnehmer, Ernst Siegfried Mittler und Sohn, Berlin, 1896
  4. H. Schnaebeli: Fotoaufnahmen der Kaiserproklamation in Versailles, Berlin, 1871
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