Interpretations of Ludwig II
Apart from a flood of pamphlets and occasional writings that celebrated the memory of Ludwig II without major aspirations, single serious analyses of the life and doom of the Bavarian king appeared quite early. The first one to be named here is by the author Karl August von Heigel (1835-1905) who was rather renowned at the time and published a considerable biographical sketch of Ludwig back in 1893. Other writers as well, ranging from the liberal parson Friedrich Lampert (1829-1902) to the court functionary Gottfried von Böhm (1845-1926), presented respectable accounts early on.
The start of a modern scholarly analysis of Ludwig II is closely connected with the name of Michael Doeberl (1861-1928). Doeberl, one of the founders of modern Bavarian regional historiography and one of the most distinctive historians of his time, conducted a very close examination of the political history of Ludwig in diverse publications, the theses of which are still considered valid today.
A comprehensive scientific biography of King Ludwig II remains a desideratum to this day.
Among the first monographs about the life of King Ludwig II, three excel in particular, since their aspirations – despite their extensive flouting of scientific methodology – go far beyond those of most occasional writings of the time.
In 1890, the Franconian pastor and member of the regional parliament Friedrich Lampert (1829-1902) presented what was probably the first major biography of Ludwig II. Lampert, who had already made a certain name for himself as a regional author, considered in this work the life of the king from a particularly kleindeutsch-Protestant point of view, which favoured a German Reich excluding Austria. He suspected the damaging influence of Richard Wagner to be responsible for the king’s personal and political failures. His negative judgement about the conversion of Ludwig’s mother, Queen Marie (1825-1889), to Catholicism (1874) was likely a typical reaction at the time.
Gottfried Ritter von Böhm (1845-1926), who had been working for the Bavarian state since 1871 – including offices at the Foreign Ministry and, from 1907, as Bavarian ministerial resident in Switzerland – presented his biography of King Ludwig II for the first time in 1922. It was followed in 1924 by a considerably expanded new edition. From 1898, Böhm also presided over the Wittelsbach Geheime Hausarchiv (Secret Family Archive) and, thus, was able to base his biography upon archival sources as well as on his personal memories and conversations with contemporaries. In his biography, he often takes the position of the loyal court functionary; nonetheless, his work remains to this day the most detailed among the more extensive descriptions of the king, even though numerous details have been corrected by modern research.
In 1922, the cultural scientist Georg Jacob Wolf (1882-1936) published the original edition of his depiction of Ludwig II. Contrary to Böhm or Lampert, he attempted to explain the king’s tragedy from the context of his time. This popular book, which was enlarged and republished in 1926, perhaps in reaction to the new edition of Böhm’s biography, was a great publishing success and contributed to the long-lasting enthusiasm for Ludwig II during the time of the Weimar Republic.
Michael Doeberl (1861-1928), a native of the Upper Palatinate, succeeded Sigmund von Riezler (1843-1927) in 1917 as second full professor of the chair for Bavarian regional history at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. Doeberl, even more than his predecessor, emphasised in his research a decisive Bavarian regional history. In 1927, he became the first chairman of the newly-founded commission for Bavarian regional history at the Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften.
His three-volume Entwicklungsgeschichte Bayerns rates as the high point of his research and constitutes the link between Riezler’s unfinished Geschichte Baierns and the Handbuch der Bayerischen Geschichte, a publication that has remained valid to this day and was founded by Doeberl’s student Max Spindler (1894-1986). As research achievement of a historian on the history of his region, it remains an outstanding accomplishment to this day. Its focus was on the political history of Bavaria.
Apart from in the third volume of the Entwicklungsgeschichte, Doeberl analysed Ludwig’s reign in a number of additional writings, in particular in his work Bayern und die Bismarckische Reichsgründung. His judgement of the monarch is objective with a tendency to be negative as would seem natural at the time.
Selected Contributions on Ludwig II from the Bayerische Landesbibliothek Online (Bavarian Regional Library Online)
In what follows, diverse contributions from the years between 1889 and 2002 are listed, which may be seen as representative for scientific research since the end of the nineteenth century and which focus on King Ludwig II and the Bavaria of his time. They were originally published in learned journals today held in digitised form in the Bayerische Landesbibliothek Online.
Several complementary contributions from the Würzburg Diözesanblatt were added, since they also related to King Ludwig II.