Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Bavarian Duchesses

On September 9, 1828 in the town of Tegernsee, the young Maximilian Joseph (1808-1888), future Duke in Bavaria, married his first cousin once removed, Princess Ludovika of Bavaria (1808-1892). Maximilian Joseph, who was nineteen at the time of his marriage, was the only son of Duke Pius August in Bavaria and his wife, Princess Amélie Louise of Arenberg. His new wife, Princess Ludovika, was the sixth child of King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria and his second wife, Karoline of Baden. She was also nineteen when the marriage took place. Born Marie Ludovika Wilhelmine, her siblings included: Elisabeth Ludovika, Queen of Prussia, Amalie Auguste, Queen of Saxony, Sophie, Archduchess of Austria, and Marie Anna, another Queen of Saxony. Maximilian Joseph and Princess Ludovika became the Duke and Duchess in Bavaria in 1837 after the death of Maximilian Joseph’s father. Though Ludovika had a successful marriage (in terms of producing children) with Maximilian Joseph, she was always frustrated that she was the only one amongst her sisters who didn’t marry a monarch or a prince with a title. Instead, she had married a eccentric, childish duke who loved the circus and traveled for long periods of time just to dodge his responsibilities. But she was a very determined woman and she vowed that because she hadn’t been able to marry a member of royalty, her daughters would not share the same fate. As soon as her daughters, who were all famous for their beauty, were old enough for marriage, she was determined to marry them into the royal houses of Europe.

Engagement Portrait of Princess Ludovika of Bavaria
and Maximilian Joseph, Duke in Bavria
(Joseph Stieler, 1828)

Princess Ludovika and Maximilian Joseph had a total of ten children, five daughters and five sons, but one son died in infancy and another son was stillborn. All of her daughters either married into a royal European house or a noble, aristocratic family.

* Click each daughter's name to read their individual biographies *

The Daughters:

Helene Caroline Therese (1834-1890) was the eldest daughter of Maximilian Joseph and Princess Ludovika. A pious and attractive woman, she was first suggested as a bride for her first cousin, the young Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, but he supposed fiancée fell in love with Helene’s younger and astonishingly beautiful sister, Elisabeth, instead. So, in 1858, she married the rich Maximilian Anton Lamoral, Hereditary Prince of Thurn and Taxis. The couple had a very happy marriage and produced four children. Out of all of Princess Ludovika and Duke Maximilian Joseph's daughters, Helene had arguably the happiest life. 

Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie (1837-1898), known more commonly as “Sisi”, is undoubtedly the most famous of Maximilian Joseph and Princess Ludovika’s daughters. She is best known for her stunning features and her marriage to Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. Despite her lavish lifestyle as a queen, she had an unhappy and grim life in the Austrian court due to poor relations with her husband and his family. She had four children, of which only three survived infancy. Her obsession with maintaining her beauty and slim figure along with her unique beauty and exercise regimes became legendary. Elisabeth was the longest serving Empress Consort of Austria and she sat on the throne beside her husband for forty-four years before she met her end in a random assassination by an Italian anarchist.

Maria Sophie

Marie Sophie Amalie (1841-1925) shared her sisters’ beauty and was married at a young age in a political arrangement to Francis II, Crown Prince of Naples and Duke of Calabria, the eldest son of Ferdinand II, King of the Two Sicilies. Less than a year after her marriage, Marie’s husband became the King of the Two Sicilies and she his Queen Consort. She earned the reputation of a “warrior queen” due to her bravery in the Expedition of the Thousand, a conflict where revolutionary republicans overthrew the monarchy of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Maria Sophie (after her marriage, she took the Italian name “Maria”) spent most of her life in exile and, although she had one daughter who died in infancy with her husband, she also had an illegitimate daughter with her lover, an officer of the papal guard. Tragically, Maria Sophie was forced to give up her daughter on the day of her birth and never saw her again.


Mathilde Ludovika (1843-1925) was a passionate young woman who married Lodovico, Count of Trani, the heir presumptive of the throne of the Two Sicilies, in 1861. Lodovico was the younger half-brother of Francis II, King of the Two Sicilies, the husband of Mathilde’s older sister – Marie Sophie. Mathilde, the Countess of Trani, had only one daughter with her husband but she supposedly had an affair with a Spanish diplomat in the early years of her marriage. As a result of the alleged affair, she had an illegitimate daughter who she never saw again after the day of her birth.

Sophie Charlotte Augustine (1847-1897) was the youngest daughter of Maximilian Joseph and Princess Ludovika, as well as the favorite sister of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. She was engaged to her cousin, the homosexual King Ludwig II of Bavaria, for a few months in 1867 but the marriage was called off when Ludwig discovered that his bride had fallen in love with a court photographer. Instead, she married Prince Ferdinand, Duke of Alençon, a grandson of Louis Philippe I, King of France as well as the first cousin of Queen Victoria, in 1868. The couple had a happy marriage together and had two children, a daughter and a son, before Sophie Charlotte tragically died in a fire in Paris.

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