Otto of Bavaria
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|Reign||13 June 1886 – 5 November 1913|
|House||House of Wittelsbach|
|Father||Maximilian II of Bavaria|
|Mother||Marie of Prussia|
27 April 1848|
The Residence, Munich
|Died||11 October 1916
|Burial||St. Michael's Church, Munich|
Otto (German: Otto Wilhelm Luitpold Adalbert Waldemar von Wittelsbach; 27 April 1848 – 11 October 1916), was King of Bavaria from 1886 to 1913. He was the son of Maximilian II and his wife, Marie of Prussia, and younger brother of Ludwig II. King Otto of Bavaria is not to be confused with King Otto of Greece, who was his uncle and godfather.
Childhood and youth
Prince Otto was born on 27 April 1848, two months premature, in the Munich Residenz. His parents were King Maximilian II of Bavaria and Marie of Prussia. His uncle King Otto I of Greece served as his godfather.
Otto had an older brother, the Crown Prince Ludwig. The brothers spent most of their childhood with their teachers at Hohenschwangau Castle. Between 1853 and 1863, they spent their summer holidays at the Royal Villa in Berchtesgaden, which had been specially built for their father.
Prince Otto served in the Bavarian army from 1863. He was appointed sub-lieutenant on 27 April 1863 and admitted to the Cadet Corps on 1 March 1864. On 26 May 1864, he was promoted to full lieutenant.
On 10 March 1864, his father died and Ludwig succeeded as King of Bavaria. Between 18 June and 15 July 1864, the two brothers received state visits by the emperors of Austria and Russia. About a year later, Otto showed the first signs of a mental disorder.
Otto was promoted to Captain on 27 April 1866 and entered active military service in the Royal Bavarian Infantry Guards. In 1868, he became a member of the Order of St. George, the house order of the House of Wittelsbach. He participated in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and as colonel in the Franco-German War of 1870-1871. When Wilhelm I was proclaimed German Emperor on 18 January 1871 at the Palace of Versailles, Prince Otto and his uncle Luitpold represented Ludwig, who refused to participate. Otto then criticized the celebration as ostentatious and heartless in a letter to his brother.
In general, Otto had a cordial relation with his brother, demonstrated in their joint undertakings. For example, they visited the Wartburg together in 1867. In 1868, Otto received the Royal Order of Saint George for the Defense of the Immaculate Conception, the house order of the House of Wittelsbach. In 1869, he joined the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, on the initiative of Cardinal Karl-August von Reisach.
Otto's mental condition began to deteriorate rapidly after the end of the Franco-German war. From 1871, he increasingly avoided encounters with strangers. He was placed under medical supervision and reports about his condition made it to the Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. He was officially classified as mentally ill in January 1872. From 1873, he was held in isolation in the southern pavilion of Nymphenburg Palace. His attending physician was Dr. Bernhard von Gudden, who was considered a coryphée in the field of mental health care. Dr. von Gudden confirmed Otto's disease in a further report in 1873.
During Corpus Christi Mass 1875 in the Frauenkirche in Munich, there was a sensational incident, when Otto – who had not attended the church service – stormed into the church wearing hunting clothes and fell on his knees before the celebrant, Archbishop Gregor von Scherr, to ask forgiveness for his sins. The High Mass was interrupted and the prince did not resist when he was led away by two church ministers. Otto was then moved to Schleissheim Palace and guarded more carefully. His last public appearance was his presence at the side of his brother at the King's parade on 22 August 1875 at the Marsfeld in Munich. From 1 June 1876, he stayed for a few weeks in the castle at Ludwigsthal in the Bavarian Forest. In the spring of 1880, his condition worsened. From 1883 until his death, he was kept confined under medical supervision in Fürstenried Palace near Munich. This palace had been specially converted for his confinement. King Ludwig II occasionally visited him at night, and ordered no violence be used against Otto.
King of Bavaria
On 10 June 1886, the Bavarian cabinet declared King Ludwig II unable to rule and appointed his uncle Luitpold as Prince Regent. Ludwig died only three days later, under unexplained circumstances. This meant that Otto became King on 13 June 1886. He was however, unable to rule. The official explanation was that the King is melancholic. The proclamation of his inauguration was read to him at Fürstenried castle the next day, but he failed to understand it, and held his uncle Luitpold for the rightful King.
Luitpold kept his role as Prince Regent until he died in 1912 and was succeeded in this office by his son Ludwig. The constitution of Bavaria was amended on 4 November 1913, to include a clause specifying that if a regency for reasons of incapacity lasted for ten years with no expectation that the King would ever be able to reign, the Regent could proclaim the end of the regency and assume the crown himself.
The following day, Prince Regent Ludwig proclaimed the end of his regency and assumed the crown himself. King Otto's first cousin thus became King Ludwig III. The parliament assented on 6 November, and Ludwig III took the constitutional oath on 8 November. King Otto was permitted to retain his title and honours until his death in 1916. During this time Bavaria had two kings.
Otto died unexpectedly on 11 October 1916, due to a volvulus (an obstruction of the bowel). His remains were interred in the crypt of the Michaelskirche in Munich. Bavarian tradition called for the heart of the king to be placed in a silver urn and sent to the Gnadenkapelle (Chapel of the Miraculous Image) in Altötting, beside those of his brother, father and grandfather.
Both Otto and his brother Ludwig II were reported to be depressed or mentally ill. At the time, psychiatry was still in its infancy and this diagnosis was based on statements made by third parties from which the first psychiatrists formed vague clinical pictures.
On 15 October 1889, the Innsbrucker Nachrichten reported this, citing an article in the Münchner Neueste Nachrichten as their source:
King Otto looks very strong, if a little corpulent. He wears a huge beard, which reaches his chest. His beard needs to be trimmed, but this is not possible, because the easily excited monarch vigorously resist such a procedure. The beard could perhaps be trimmed during his sleep, but no one has the courage to try this. His eyes are glazed over as he stares into the distance. Only when the old maid Marie, who would carry him on her arm when he was a young boy, get close to her, he will call her with his sonorous baritone, fairly lively, voice. He will command that some object, for example, a glass of beer, will be brought to him, and then immediately forgets it. The monarch is always dressed in black. He'll walk past other people, as if he would not recognize them. There are strict orders that he is not to be greeted and he may not be addressed when he is walking about. He often stands in a corner, gesturing with his hands and arms while vividly speaking to imaginary people. This alternates with a complete apathy, which may last for hours or days on end.
His Majesty smokes cigarettes with a passion, usually 30 to 36 per day. He uses a large number of matches, as he always lights a whole bundle of matches at once and, after use, throws away the still burning bundle with visible pleasure.
The daily routine of the patient is arranged in painful detail. His Majesty will sit at the head of the dinner table, with a larger space between himself and the aides, the doctor and the chamberlain. The King likes to eat drink. He mostly drinks beer and sometimes orders, in a sharp, commanding voice, some sparkling wine. King Otto wants to be ignored completely by the other people on the table, and he ignores them. If the King orders some food, a special hand signal from his doctor means that it must be brought to him immediately. The King is allowed to use his knife and fork normally. However, he will use his suit as a napkin.
The King lives in an elegantly furnished apartment on the ground floor, while his servants live on the first floor. His bedroom is equipped with every form of modern comfort. The King uses toilet articles regularly, but he rarely takes a bath in his magnificent bath cabin, his aides finding it difficult to persuade him to do so.
King Otto is extremely sensitive to closed doors. The doors are not provided with peepholes. All doors on the ground floor remain open during the day, including the doors to the garden. If the King finds a closed door, he falls into a rage and bangs his fists on it. Iron bars have been fitted to the windows looking out onto the street, after His Majesty had broken some of the windows.
His Majesty thoroughly dislikes driving. His resentment is attributed to the fact that when he is out on the street, curious passersby will stare at him, which he finds very painful. If the King has to leave his apartment, the coach must wait at the rear of the castle. Once, the King was staring dreamingly into the air and missed the footboard. He became angry, jumped back and shouted "I'm not going". Reports that the King was longing for his beloved Munich and has repeatedly expressed a desire to visit the capital, are definitely false. He has never expressed such a request.
The King sometimes looks into the available newspapers. Our informant was unable to be sure whether His Majesty is able to read and comprehend their contents.
The King's entourage are constantly trying to entertain him. Last spring, they put a small music box in his room. The monarch listened and was amazed at the gentle music. A glimmer of joy flitted across his face. One of the five nurses immediately reported this sentiment to the physician on duty. He reported to the chamberlain, who quickly purchased a larger music box for 5000 marks. However, the King did not like the larger instrument and after a while began to be disgusted by it. The instrument had to be removed.
His entourage has evidence that the patient recognizes the people surrounding him, and in a lucid moment, he has even greeted some of them. Little can be said about his future: he may be granted a long life, or his disturbed mind may cause a sudden loss of strength.
Otto at one point insisted on starting his day by shooting a peasant every morning. Two of his attendants put a stop to this, one by handing Otto each day a rifle with blank bullets, while the other dressed as a peasant and strolled into view, pretending to fall dead.
In popular culture
- Cajetan von Aretin: Die Erbschaft des Königs Otto von Bayern. Höfische Politik und Wittelsbacher Vermögensrechte 1916 bis 1922, in the series Schriftenreihe zur bayerischen Landesgeschichte, vol. 149, C. H. Beck Verlag, Munich, 2006, ISBN 3-406-10745-1, also: thesis, University of Munich, 2006
- Heinz Häfner: Ein König wird beseitigt. Ludwig II von Bayern, C. H. Beck Verlag, Munich, 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-56888-6, p. 330 ff
- Arndt Richter: Die Geisteskrankheit der bayerischen Könige Ludwig II. und Otto. Eine interdisziplinäre Studie mittels Genealogie, Genetik und Statistik, Degener & Co., Neustadt an der Aisch, 1997, ISBN 3-7686-5111-8
- Alfons Schweiggert: Schattenkönig. Otto, der Bruder König Ludwig II. von Bayern, ein Lebensbild, Ehrenwirth, Munich, 1992, ISBN 3-431-03192-7
- Walter Flemmer: Stationen eines Märchenkönigs. Orte und Landschaften König Ludwigs II.. In: Georg Jenal, with Stephanie Haarländer (eds.): Gegenwart in Vergangenheit. Beiträge zur Kultur und Geschichte der Neueren und Neuesten Zeit. Festgabe für Friedrich Prinz zu seinem 65. Geburtstag, Munich, 1993, p. 419
- Heinz Häfner writes, in Ein König wird beseitigt, München, 2008, p 38: A court official found Otto bound and gagged by Ludwig, with Ludwig violently tugging at the rope. The official had to use force to free otto. The King was shocked and angered by Ludwig's behaviour and demanded severe punishment. Ludwig was so embittered that he took a violent dislike of Berchtesgadena and did not return there for a long time.
- Dr. Theodor Toeche-Mittler: Die Kaiserproklamation in Versailles am 18. Januar 1871 mit einem Verzeichniß der Festtheilnehmer, Ernst Siegfried Mittler und Sohn, Berlin, 1896
- H. Schnaebeli: Fotoaufnahmen der Kaiserproklamation in Versailles, Berlin, 1871
- Hans Jürgen Brandt: Jerusalem hat Freunde. München und der Ritterorden vom Heiligen Grab, EOS, 2010, p. 58 f
- [The People's Almanac, Wallechinsky and Wallace, 1981, William Morrow publishers, page 535]
Otto of BavariaBorn: 27 April 1848 Died: 11 October 1916
|King of Bavaria
13 June 1886 – 5 November 1913