Edgar Hanfstaengl

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For other individuals with the same surname, see Hanfstaengl family.
Photograph of Edgar Hanfstaengl

Edgar Hanfstaengl (15 July 1842, Munich – 28 May 1910, Munich) was a Chief Clerk and Commercial Purchaser, and an Art Publisher. He is a significant figure because he was the son of a famous Bavarian court photographer connected with the circle of Ludwig II, and became a close confidant of the Duchess Sophie Charlotte in Bavaria. He was also the father of Ernst Hanfstaengl, the political figure.[1]

Origins and young life[edit]

Edgar Hanfstaengl was born in Munich, the son of the photographer Franz Hanfstaengl (1804–1877) and his first wife Frau Franziska Hanfstaengl-Wegmeier (1809–1860). Edgar completed a training as commercial purchaser in Stettin and with a London wholesaler. At the beginning of the 1860s Edgar set out for Asia, to work as financial clerk to the Clark Tea Wholesaler's Company. In 1867 he returned to Munich to his father's Art business, where he was put to work as head clerk. In the same year he embarked upon a love-affair with the fiancée of Ludwig II of Bavaria, Princess Sophie Charlotte. On November 12, 1868 Edgar took over the photographic workshop and expanded the business to the Franz Hanfstaengl Art Publishing House.

Bavarian intrigue[edit]

Sophie Charlotte in Bavaria.

The engagement between Sophie in Bayern and Ludwig II was arranged at the behest of her father Duke Max Josef, even though the King, considering his own distinctly homosexual character, was concerned that she would not be happy in the union. The engagement was agreed upon on 22 January 1867. Three days later Sophie met Edgar in his father's photographic studio, where he had recently arrived as senior clerk after his travels abroad. Possibly they had known each other since childhood, when Franz Hanfstaengl was a readily welcomed guest in the artistic circle of Duke Max.

The many photographs of the royal bride which then had to be prepared, and additional work which brought Edgar regularly to Possenhofen Castle, brought them more closely together and they fell in love. Their meetings, attended by the utmost secrecy, occurred in the Pähl Castle, the Palace in Munich, and even at Possenhofen. Five love-letters, which Sophie Charlotte wrote to Edgar Hanfstaengl between July and September 1867, have been preserved.[2] The wedding was called off by Ludwig in October.[3]

Later life[edit]

Edgar was not able to make up his mind to marry, until 1882. Edgar's wife, the Berlin-born Katharine Wilhelmina Heine (1859–1945), produced for him 5 children: Edgar (1883–1958), Egon (1884–1915), Erna (1885–1981), Ernst ("Putzi") (1887–1975) and Erwin (1888–1914). The eldest son Edgar from 1907 took control of his father's Art business. Edgar's only daughter Erna found, after her father's death, an envelope with the hand-written endorsement by her father: "Letters of Princess Sophie Charlotte - burn these unread. Edgar." Erna did not carry out her father's wishes, but instead handed over the letters in February 1980 to the author Heinz Gebhardt, in order 'once (for all) to set the record straight' and he published details of the affair with excerpts from the correspondence in his history of the Hanfstaengel family business.[4]

Edgar Hanfstaengl, Sophie's "dear, beloved friend", died on 28 May 1910. He was buried in the old Munich south cemetery in the Hanfstaengl family plot.


  1. ^ This article is translated from the German Wikipedia on Edgar Hanfstaengl de:Edgar Hanfstaengl, 30 January 2008: additions from article on Sophie in Bayern.
  2. ^ Gebhardt, Heinz, König Ludwig II und seine verbrannte Braut. Unveröffentlichte Liebesbriefe Prinzessin Sophie's an Edgar Hanfstaengl (W. Ludwig Verlag, 1986).
  3. ^ The above paragraphs from the German Wikipedia article on Sophie in Bayern, de:Sophie in Bayern
  4. ^ Heinz Gebhardt: Franz Hanfstaengel von der Lithographie zur Photographie (München, 1984: Verlag C.H. Beck), pages 201-206.