1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Louis I. of Bavaria
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Louis I. of Bavaria
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LOUIS I., king of Bavaria (1786-1868), son of the then prince, afterwards duke and elector, Max Joseph of Zweibrücken and his wife Princess Augusta of Hesse-Darmstadt (d. 1796), was born at Strassburg on the 25th of August 1786. He received a careful education at home, afterwards (in 1803) going to the Bavarian national university of Landshut and to Göttingen. As a young man he was drawn into the Romantic movement then at its height; but both the classics and contemporary classical poetry took hold upon his receptive mind (he visited Goethe in 1827). He had himself strong artistic tendencies, though his numerous poems show but little proof of this, and as a patron of the arts he proved himself as great as any who had ever occupied a German throne, and more than a mere dilettante. His first visit to Italy, in 1804, had an important influence upon this side of his development.
But even in Italy the crown prince (his father had become elector in 1799 and king of Bavaria in 1805) did not forget his nationality. He soon made himself leader of the small anti-French party in Bavaria. Napoleon sought in vain to win him over, and Louis fell more and more out of favour with him. Napoleon was even reported to have said: “Qui m'empêche de laisser fusilier ce prince?” Their relations continued to be strained, although in the campaigns of 1807 and 1809, in which Bavaria was among the allies of France, Louis won his laurels in the field.
The crown prince was also averse from a Napoleonic marriage, and preferred to marry (October 12, 1810) the Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen (1792-1854). Three daughters and four sons were born of this marriage, one of whom succeeded him as Maximilian II., while another, Luitpold, became prince regent of Bavaria on the death of Louis II.
During the time that he was crown prince Louis resided chiefly at Innsbruck or Salzburg as governor of the circle of the Inn and Salzach. In 1815 he attended the Congress of Vienna, where he was especially occupied in endeavouring to obtain the restoration of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany; and later in the year he was with the allies in Paris, using his influence to secure the return of the art treasures carried off by the French.
After 1815 also the crown prince maintained his anti-French attitude, and it was mainly his influence that in 1817 secured the fall of Montgelas, the minister with French sympathies. Opposed to absolutism, Louis took great interest in the work of organizing the Bavarian constitution (1818) and defended it against Metternich and the Carlsbad Decrees (1819); he was also one of the most zealous of the ardent Philhellenes in Germany at the time. He succeeded to the crown of Bavaria on the 12th of October 1825, and at once embarked upon a moderate constitutional policy, in which he found himself in general agreement with the parliament. Although he displayed a loyal attachment to the Catholic Church, especially owing to his artistic sympathies, he none the less opposed all its more exaggerated pretensions, especially as represented by the Jesuits, whom he condemned as un-German. In the year of his accession he abolished an old edict concerning the censorship. He also furthered in many ways the internal administration of the state, and especially that of the finances. His personal tastes, apart from his activities as a Maecenas, being economical, he endeavoured also to limit public expenditure, in a way which was not always a benefit to the country. Bavaria's power of self-defence especially was weakened by his economies and by his lack of interest in the military aspect of things.
He was a warm friend of learning, and in 1826 transferred the university of Landshut to Munich, where he placed it under his special protection. Prominent scholars were summoned to it, mostly belonging to the Romantic School, such as Goerres, Schubert and Schelling, though others were not discouraged. In the course of his visits to Italy he formed friendships with famous artists such as Thorwaldsen and Cornelius. He was especially anxious to obtain works of art, mainly sculpture, for the famous Munich collections which he started, and in this he had the advantage of the assistance of the painter Martin Wagner. He also set on foot movements for excavation and the collection of works of art in Greece, with excellent results.
Under the influence of the July revolution of 1830, however, he also began to be drawn into the current of reaction; and though he still declared himself openly against absolutism, and never took up such a hostile attitude towards constitutional ideas as his brother-in-law King Frederick William IV., he allowed the reactionary system of surveillance which commended itself to the German Confederation after 1830 to be introduced into Bavaria (see Bavaria: History). He continued, on the other hand, to do much for the economic development of the country. As a follower of the ideas of Friedrich List, he furthered the foundation of the Zollverein in the year 1833 and the making of canals. Railways he looked upon as a “necessary evil.”
In external politics peace was maintained on the whole after 1825. Temporary diplomatic complications arose between Bavaria and Baden in connexion with Louis's favourite project of winning back the part then belonging to Baden of the old Palatinate, the land of his birth, which was always very dear to him.
Of European importance was his enthusiasm for the liberation of Greece from the rule of Turkey. Not only did he erect the Propyläen at Munich in her honour, but he also helped her in the most generous way both with money and diplomatic, resources. And after his second son Otto had become king of Greece in 1832, Greek affairs became from time to time the central point of his foreign policy. In 1835 he made a visit to Greece, partly political, partly inspired by his old interest in art. But his son proved unequal to his task, and in 1862 was forced to abdicate (see Otto, king of Greece). For this unfortunate issue Louis was not without blame; for from the very first, owing to an exaggerated idealism and love of antiquity, he had totally misunderstood the national character of the Greeks and the problems involved in the attempts to govern them by bureaucratic methods.
In Bavaria, too, his government became more and more conservative, especially after Karl Abel became the head of the ministry in 1837. The king had not yet, it is true, altogether committed himself to the clerical ultras, and on the occasion of the dispute about the bishops in Prussia in the same year had taken up a wise attitude of compromise. But in Bavaria itself the strict Catholic party influenced affairs more and more decisively. For a while, indeed, this opposition did not impair the king's popularity, due to his amiable character, his extraordinary services in beautifying his capital of Munich, and to his benevolence (it has been reckoned that he personally received about 10,000 letters asking for help every year, and that the money he devoted to charity amounted to about a fifth of his income). The year 1846, however, brought a change which had sad consequences. This was due to the king's relations with the Spanish dancer Lola Montez, who appeared in Munich in October 1846, and soon succeeded by her beauty and wit in fascinating the king, who was always susceptible to feminine charms. The political importance of this lay in the fact that the royal mistress began to use her great influence against the clerical policy of the Abel ministry. So when the king was preparing the way for ennobling her, in order to introduce her into court circles, which were unwilling to receive her, the ministry protested in the famous memorandum of the 11th of February 1847 against the king's demand for her naturalization as a Bavarian, the necessary preliminary to her ennoblement. The position was still further embittered by the fact that, owing to an indiscretion, the memorandum became known to the public. Thereupon the king, irritated and outraged, replaced Abel's Clerical ministry by a more accommodating Liberal one under Zu Rhein under which Lola Montez without more difficulty became Countess Landsberg. Meanwhile, the criticism and opposition of the people, and especially of the students, was turned against the new leader of the court of Munich. On top of this came the revolutionary movement of 1848. The king's position became more and more difficult, and under the pressure of popular opposition he was forced to banish the countess. But neither this nor the king's liberal proclamation of the 6th of March succeeded in establishing peace, and in the capital especially the situation became increasingly threatening. All this made such a deep impression on the king, that on the 20th of March 1848 he abdicated in favour of his son Maximilian.
He now retired entirely into private life, and continued to play the Maecenas magnificently, frequently staying at his villa in Rome, the Villa Malta, and enjoying extraordinary vigour of mind and body up to the end of his days. His popularity, which had been shaken by the Montez affair, he soon recovered, especially among artists. To him Munich owes her finest art collections and most remarkable buildings. The monarch's artistic sense led him not only to adorn his house with a number of works of antique art, but also to study German medieval art, which he did to good effect. To him Munich owes the acquisition of the famous Rhenish collection of the Boisserée brothers. The king also worked with great zeal for the care of monuments, and the cathedrals of Spires and Cologne enjoyed his special care. He was also an unfailing supporter of contemporary painting, in so far as it responded to his romantic tendencies, and he gave a fresh impulse to the arts of working in metal and glass. As visible signs of his permanent services to art Munich possesses the Walhalla, the Glyptothek, the two Pinakotheken, the Odeon, the University, and many other magnificent buildings both sacred and profane. The rôle which the Bavarian capital now plays as the leading art centre of Germany would have been an impossibility without the splendid munificence of Louis I.
He died on the 28th of February 1868 at Nice, and on the 9th of March was buried in Munich, amid demonstrations of great popular feeling.
The chief part of Louis's records is contained in seven sealed chests in the archives of his family, and by the provisions of his will these were not to be opened till the year 1918. These records contain an extraordinarily large and valuable mass of historical material, including, as one item, 246 volumes of the king's diary.
Bibliography. — Of the numerous pamphlets, especially of the years 1846-1848, we need only mention here: P. Erdmann, Lola Montez und die Jesuiten (1847); Geheimbericht über Bayern (1847), published by Fowmier in Deutsche Revue, vol. 27. See also F. v. Ritter, Beiträge zur Regierungsgeschichte König Ludwigs I. (1825-1826) (2 vols., 1853-1855); Sepp, Ludwig I. Augustus, König von Bayern und das Zeitalter der Wiedergeburt der Künste (1869; 2nd ed., 1903); Ottokar Lorenz, Drei Bücher Geschichte (1876; 2nd ed., 1879); K. Th. v. Heigel, Ludwig I. (1872; 2nd ed., 1888); “Ludwig I. und Martin Wagner,” Neue historische Vorträge (1883); “Ludwig I.,” Allgemeine deutsche Biographie (1884); “Ludwig I. als Freund der Geschichte” and “Kronprinz Ludwig in den Feldzügen von 1807 und 1809,” in Historische Vorträge und Studien (1887); Die Verlegung der Universität nach München, Rektoratsrede (1887); “Ludwig I. und die Münchener Hochschule,” Quellen und Abhandlungen zur Geschichte Bayerns, n.s. (1890); “Ludwig I. als Erzieher seines Volkes,” ib.; Reidelbach, Ludwig I. und seine Kunstschöpfungen (1887; 2nd ed., 1888); L. Trose, Ludwig I. in seinen Briefen an seinen Sohn, den König Otto von Griechenland (1891); L. v. Kobell, Unter den vier ersten Königen Bayerns (1894); A. Fournier, “Aus den Tagen der Lola Montez,” Neue Deutsche Rundschau (1901); M. Doeberé, “Ludwig I. und die deutsche Frage,” Festgabe für Heigel (1903); E. Füchs, Lola Montez in der Karrikatüre (1904); L. Brunner, Nürnberg 1848-1840 (1907).
- (J. Hn.)