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His life his work

Ludwig II and the political

His life
Chapter 3
Ludwig II and the political

Ludwig II in uniform of Bavarian general, by 1870

Contrary to the opinion usually wide-spread, Ludwig II was always a fine political, when the situation required it. He was not certainly political by ambition or by taste, but every time one needed, and for the good of the kingdom, Ludwig always made the most informed decisions. Besides, nothing demoralized him or annoyed him more than the war, because, pacifist in the soul, Ludwig wanted only the happiness of the peoples.

The first crisis occurred in 1866, two years after its entry in the throne. Prussia dreamed for a long time, under the pressure of Bismarck, to exclude Austria from the Germanic alliance, this with the aim of isolating the empire of François-Joseph and strengthening the German unity. Now, by tradition, Bavaria is allied by Austria and has to respect treaties by fighting Prussia beside Austrians. Ludwig knows perfectly that his army is under outing and in insufficient number. Prussia will make only a narrow-minded, risking afterward to mistreat Bavaria during a German unification which seems to him inevitable. Ludwig, forced and forced, will thus order the mobilization May 10th, 1866, and, discouraged, will look for the support of Wagner in Switzerland. Reassured, it will mean opening the session of the Parliament, then will go on the Island of Roses in the middle of the lake of Starnberg to follow henceforth the continuation of the operations.

It is false to say that Ludwig lost interest in the conflict and in the fate of the country. On the contrary, its flight in the Island of Roses, condemned severely by everybody, is an conscious provocation and an opposition declared face to face by what is taking place. Ludwig will however order his troops not to set a too wild resistance against the Prussian. So by leaving the official stage and by taking place on a relatively neutral ground, the king of Bavaria safes the situation. He fights Prussia because treaties and his inner conviction push him there, but without showing itself however openly too hostile. The future interest of the country is at stake. Bismarck will be grateful to Ludwig there, and, obtaining as expected the victory, will require from Bavaria only a 30 million Gulden sum besides a promise of alliance. Ludwig has by his careful attitude, contrary to his generals, avoided a too severe fate in Bavaria.

The German unification of 1870 will thus be the logical consequence of 1866, ” the civil war ” as Ludwig will call it. It will be necessary to him to line up, according to the new treaties, towards the Prussia, against France. Ludwig has no choice, otherwise that is the end of Bavaria. But it will again be necessary to him to carry out the worst: offer the crown of ” German emperor ” to his uncle Guillaume I., king of Prussia. It is the ultimate condition to finish the unification, is needed a federative and executive principle in the person of the emperor of Germany. It thus means that the various kingdoms which composed the country will now have to return all their accounts to the superior authority of Berlin, manipulated by Bismarck.

Ludwig, confidentially attached to the independence of his country and henceforth wildly opposite to the Prussia, has only a fear: see itself gobbled up entirely, him and his kingdom, to lose any autonomy and any power :

” I do not want to be the shadow of a king ” he says.

His hostility is known in Berlin, and it shall be maneuvered skillfully to obtain from him this signature which he knows inevitable. He will require in exchange that it will be preserved in Bavaria certain privileges guaranteeing for the kingdom a relative independence. It shall be granted them to him. It is false to aspire that the king was allowed corrupt to sign this letter of offer of the imperial crown, it is incompatible with the nature and its future attitude openly hostile to the Prussia. Furthermore, such a blackmail would have shown itself very dangerous for Bismarck, risking to compromise all its work of unification. What is true, it is that from 1871, Ludwig received annually, in title ” of refundable compensation “, a 300 000 Mark sum intended to compensate for the political sacrifice of the king. Previously, Bavaria had officially demanded a strong compensatory sum in the Prussia which had been refused, but it had nothing confidential and was to be usual currency enters state.

Guillaume I. was thus proclaimed ” German emperor ” on January 18th, 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors of Versailles in the presence of all the German princes, except Ludwig II, desperate and furious. Only his brother Otto was present, mortified too. From then on, Ludwig II will banish from his life and from his court any Prussian staff and will spread this hostility to his mother, Hohenzollern of birth. He will avoid from now on, as often as possible, his capital soiled by ” the invader “, but will never stop for all that taking care of business of the kingdom.

© Copyright 2015 Elisabeth Fontaine-Bachelier

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