By May 1834, Ludovika’s worried mother wrote to her daughter Amelie that Ludovika had become apathetic. One month earlier, she had given birth to her first daughter – named Helene. She had been one of a pair of twins, but Ludovika had miscarried the other twin earlier. Her husband had been busy building a palace in Munich – the Herzog Max Palais – and he also purchased Possenhofen Castle on Lake Starnberg. Ludovika fell in love with Possenhofen at first sight – it reminded her of her childhood home. However, their relationship began to deteriorate from that point. Maximilian began to have affairs, and Ludovika’s sister Sophie reported to their mother that Maximilian had shown “features of an incredible tyranny.”
Nevertheless, Ludovika continued to bear her husband children. On 24 December 1837, Ludovika gave birth to her second daughter – named Elisabeth but perhaps better known in history as Sisi. She was born with a tooth which was considered to be good luck. Her husband was deep in planning a trip to the middle east – a trip he would undertake without Ludovika. He came home just after their tenth wedding anniversary, and Ludovika soon found herself pregnant again. On 9 August 1839, Ludovika gave birth to a third – but second surviving – son at Possenhofen. He was named Karl Theodor. On 4 October 1841, she gave birth to another daughter – named Marie Sophie. Shortly after the birth, it became apparent that Ludovika’s mother, Caroline, was dying. Ludovika and her children travelled to Munich as soon as she was able and she was so shocked by her mother’s appearance that she herself fell ill. On 13 November 1841, Caroline died surrounded by her family. Once again, Ludovika’s husband was nowhere to be found when she needed him.
In 1843, Ludovika found herself pregnant once more. On 30 September 1843, Ludovika gave birth to a daughter named Mathilde Ludovika. Ludovika’s eighth pregnancy ended in the stillbirth of a son on 8 December 1845. On 22 February 1847, she gave birth to her ninth child – a daughter named Sophie Charlotte. Her tenth and final pregnancy ended on 7 December 1849 with the birth of a healthy son named Maximilian Emanuel. Ludovika was now 41 years old, and she had spent the better part of her married life in continuous pregnancies. It was a miracle that she had survived.
Soon she was thinking about the marriage of her eldest daughter Helene, and she and her sister Sophie had the perfect candidate in mind, Sophie’s son Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. Franz Joseph had not seen his cousin since 1848, and Helene had, of course, grown up a lot. Her pious nature would fit in well with the Austrian court. However, his meeting with Ludovika, Helene and young Elisabeth led to him falling in love with Elisabeth instead of Helene. For Ludovika, seeing her daughter becoming Empress of Austria must have felt like a victory – even if it wasn’t the daughter that she had intended. On 24 April 1854, Elisabeth married Franz Joseph, and the family was catapulted to fame. Ludovika was at breakfast the morning after the wedding night and embraced her daughter. Elisabeth became pregnant quickly, and her first child – a daughter named Sophie – was born on 5 March 1855. It was Ludovika’s first grandchild. A second grandchild – a daughter named Gisela – was born in 1856. Ludovika also acted as godmother for her second granddaughter. The relationship between Elisabeth and her mother-in-law Sophie was complicated, and Ludovika was often called in as a mediator. On 29 May 1857, Ludovika’s first granddaughter died in childhood, and Ludovika received the news via a telegram. Ludovika gathered up Helene, Marie Sophie and Mathilde Ludovika and travelled to Vienna to support Elisabeth during this difficult time.
Her other daughters were soon also getting married. Helene ended up marrying Maximilian Anton Lamoral, Hereditary Prince of Thurn and Taxis in 1858, Marie Sophie married King Francis II of the Two Sicilies in 1859, Mathilde Ludovika married King Francis’s younger half-brother Prince Louis, Count of Trani in 1861 and Sophie Charlotte – once engaged to the King of Bavaria – married Prince Ferdinand, Duke of Alençon in 1868. Her second son Karl Theodor married firstly Princess Sophie of Saxony in 1865 and secondly Infanta Maria Josepha of Portugal in 1874. Her third son Maximilian Emanuel married Princess Amalie of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha 1875. The marriage of her firstborn son Ludwig Wilhelm must have caused Ludovika some concerns. He had a child – named Marie – in 1858 with actress Henriette Mendel, and when she was pregnant again in 1859, he wanted to marry her. Ludovika had been aware of the child and had even acted as her godmother but his marrying a commoner was an entirely different story. And so, he gave up all his rights as the firstborn son in 1859. Henriette was raised to the nobility as Baroness von Wallersee, and they married at the end of May. Ludovika later wrote to her sister Marie that she wanted her son to be happy.
Her daughters’ marriages weren’t quite so happy. Two of her daughters ended up having extramarital children, and then there was, of course, the tragic tale of Elisabeth. Ludovika’s life would be interwoven with that of Elisabeth, and she was often stuck between her loyalty to her daughter and her loyalty to her sister. Possenhofen would become loved by her children and grandchildren, and the coming of the railway considerably shortened the travel time to the idyllic castle. She often had a full house, especially after the death of Helene’s husband and the end of the monarchy in the Two Sicilies, which affected Marie Sophie and Mathilde Ludovika. Although Ludovika herself did not face major illnesses, she did suffer from migraines and often relied on someone to read or write letters for her in her later years.
In September 1878, Ludovika and Maximilian celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a grand party at Schloss Tegernsee, where they had been married. She later wrote that he had been “good to her” on their anniversary. Ten years, the family gathered again to celebrate Ludovika’s 80th birthday in style. By then, Ludovika had become quite lonely and melancholic. The death of Helene in 1890 hit her hard, as did her grandson Rudolf’s suicide in 1889 and her husband’s death in 1888. Her own health started to deteriorate quickly, and Ludovika focussed on her one remaining wish – to find her granddaughter Amelie (the daughter of Karl-Theodor and Princess Sophie of Saxony) a good husband. She found him – Wilhelm, Duke of Urach – but she did not live long enough to see her get married. In January 1892, Ludovika began to suffer from flu-like symptoms. From the end of January, she was unable to get out of bed. Soon, her family began to gather around her. Amelie was by her side and told her it was best to sleep – to which Ludovika groggily agreed.
In the early morning of 26 January 1892 – just before 4 A.M. – with only Sophie Charlotte and two doctors by her side, Ludovika passed away in her sleep. Luckily, she would not have to witness the fates that would befall Elisabeth and Sophie Charlotte.1