The Kingdom of Bavaria was founded in 1805 when the Peace of Pressburg allowed the then Elector Maximilian to raise Bavaria to the status of a Kingdom. The preceding Electorate of Bavaria was an independent hereditary electorate of the Holy Roman Empire from 1623.
Maximilian proclaimed himself King on 1 January 1806, and he also served as the Elector until 1 August 1806 when Bavaria seceded from the Holy Roman Empire. From the start, the Kingdom was faced with difficulties. It needed the support from France, then under the rule of Napoleon and faced pressures from Austria several times. Maximilian was married twice, first to Princess Augusta Wilhelmine of Hesse-Darmstadt, who died in 1796 and secondly to Caroline of Baden, who became the first Queen of Bavaria. With his two wives, he had a total of 13 children, though not all lived to adulthood. Through his daughters by his second marriage, he was the grandfather of both Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and his consort Elisabeth.
After Maximilian’s death in 1825, he was succeeded by his son by his first marriage, now King Ludwig I. He had married Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in 1810, and upon his accession, they had six living children. Two more children would follow in 1826 and 1828. Ludwig was a great supporter of the arts, and his support for the Greeks led to his second son Otto being elected King of Greece in 1832. Ludwig supported liberal ideas, but the revolutions in Europe of 1830 caused him to be more conservative.
The revolutions of 1848 led to Ludwig’s abdication to avoid a potential coup. He abdicated in favour of his son, now King Maximilian II. King Maximilian II had married Marie of Prussia in 1842, and they had two sons. Maximilian managed to restore the stability in the Kingdom. When he died in 1864, he was succeeded by his son, now King Ludwig II. He became engaged to Duchess Sophie Charlotte in Bavaria in 1867, but in the end, he never married anyone. He did have a series of close relationships with men.
After France’s defeat by Prussia in 1870, it was Ludwig who proposed that the Prussian King William I should be proclaimed German Emperor. The Kingdom of Bavaria retained a privileged status and its own army. After this, Ludwig spent more and more time and money on private projects, such as the construction of Neuschwanstein Castle. He fell into a lot of debt because of this and his relationship with his ministers deteriorated. On 10 June 1886, Ludwig was formally deposed, and there was an attempt to declare him insane. On 13 June 1886, Ludwig was found dead, floating in Lake Starnberg. He was succeeded by his younger brother Otto, but Otto had a history of mental illness, and he had been placed under supervision. His uncle Luitpold was declared Prince Regent.
The regency would last until Luitpold’s death in 1912 and this period was known as the Prince Regent Years. The regency was taken over by Luitpold’s son Ludwig. By then, it was apparent that Otto would never be able to rule and the constitution was amended on 4 November 1913 to include a clause that specified that if a regency for reasons of incapacity lasted for ten years with no expectation of improvement, the regent could end the regency, depose the King and assume the Crown. The next day, Otto was formally deposed, though he was allowed to retain his title and Ludwig was proclaimed King. Otto died in 1916.
King Ludwig had married Maria Theresia of Austria-Este in 1868, and they had 13 children, though not all would live to adulthood. The First World War cut the new King’s reign rather short. On 7 November 1918, Ludwig and his family fled from the palace in Munich. Just a few days later, Emperor William II of Germany abdicated. Ludwig never formally abdicated and settled in Austria. The Kingdom of Bavaria became the People’s State of Bavaria.
The current claimant to the Bavarian throne is Franz, Duke of Bavaria, the last King’s great-grandson.
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