Franz von Bayern

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Franz von Bayern
Franz in 2023
Head of the House of Wittelsbach
Tenure8 July 1996 – present
Heir presumptiveMax-Emanuel
BornFranz Bonaventura Adalbert Maria Prinz von Bayern
(1933-07-14) 14 July 1933 (age 90)
Munich, Germany
FatherAlbrecht, Duke of Bavaria
MotherCountess Maria Draskovich of Trakostjan

Franz Bonaventura Adalbert Maria Herzog von Bayern (born 14 July 1933), commonly known by the courtesy title Duke of Bavaria, is the head of the House of Wittelsbach, the former ruling family of the Kingdom of Bavaria. His great-grandfather King Ludwig III was the last ruling monarch of Bavaria, being deposed in 1918.

Franz was born in Munich. During the Second World War, the Wittelsbachs were anti-Nazi.[1] The family initially left Nazi Germany for Hungary but were eventually arrested when Germany invaded the country in 1944. Franz was 11 at the time. He spent time in several Nazi concentration camps, including Sachsenhausen, then Flossenbürg and finally Dachau.[1]

After the war, Franz was a student at the University of Munich and became a collector of modern art. Franz succeeded as head of the House of Wittelsbach, and as pretender to the Bavarian throne, on the death of his father in 1996. He lives at Nymphenburg Palace in Munich and Berg Palace.[2]

Birth, exile, captivity, and education[edit]

Franz was born on 14 July 1933 in Munich, as the third child and elder son of Albrecht, Duke of Bavaria, and his first wife, Countess Maria (Marita) Draskovich of Trakostjan, member of the House of Drašković, an old Croatian noble family. As Maria's family didn't belong to the small circle of reigning or former reigning families, his parents' marriage was initially considered morganatic. But, on 18 May 1949, when Franz was 15, his grandfather Crown Prince Rupprecht recognised the marriage of Franz's parents as dynastic, and Franz became a successor to the headship of the house.[citation needed]

The Wittelsbach dynasty were opposed to the Nazi regime in Germany. The former Crown Prince Rupprecht earned Hitler's enmity by opposing the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. In 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler's rise to power, he sent his son Albrecht to President Paul von Hindenburg with a protest letter strongly objecting to the appointment of governors at the head of the federal states and thus the de facto abolition of German federalism. In July 1934, Prince Albrecht emigrated to Hungary with his family. From 1935 to 1939 the family returned to Bavaria and lived in seclusion in Kreuth, but former crown prince Rupprecht emigrated to Italy in 1939 and his son Albrecht and his family moved back to Budapest, where they stayed in a rented apartment in the Castle Quarter. They often visited Princess Marita's Hungarian and Croatian relatives in the countryside. The children received private lessons after a visit to the German school failed after a few weeks because it was dominated by Nazi supporters.[3]

In March 1944, Nazi Germany occupied Hungary, and on 6 October 1944 the entire family, including the 11-year-old Franz, were arrested by the Gestapo. They were sent to a series of Nazi concentration camps, including Oranienburg, Flossenbürg and Dachau. As special prisoners, they were allowed to stay together and were locked in separate buildings. Franz remembers that they only received one slice of bread, often moldy, per person per day as food. Badly hit by hunger and disease, the family barely survived.[4] At the end of April 1945, they were liberated by the United States Third Army.[5]

After the war, Franz received his secondary education at the Benedictine Abbey of Ettal. He then studied business management at the University of Munich and in Zürich. With his father and a sister, he took part in the ship tours organized by King Paul of Greece and Queen Frederica in 1954 and 1956, which became known as the "Cruise of the Kings" and were attended by over 100 royals from all over Europe.[6]

Patron of modern art[edit]

Duke Franz, painted by Dieter Stein in 1985

Franz developed a passion for modern art and started to collect contemporary German art. He brought his own important art collection with early works by Joseph Beuys, Georg Baselitz and Blinky Palermo as well as numerous contemporary German painters such as Jörg Immendorff and Sigmar Polke on permanent loan to the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich,[7] which he had worked to found for decades, as well as to the Munich State Graphic Collection. He is chairman of the Association for the Promotion of the Alte Pinakothek, co-founder and deputy chairman of the Munich Gallery Association, member of the board of trustees of the Association of Friends and Supporters of the Glyptothek and the Bavarian state collections of antiquities and honorary president of the Friends of the Egyptian Collection Munich. In 2009, he left his extensive private library of 20th and 21st century art to the Central Institute for Art History in Munich.

Because of his good connections in the New York City art scene, his understanding of art, his international connections as well as his fate during the Nazi era, Franz von Bayern was the first German to be elected to the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art,[1] where numerous Jewish emigrants set the tone. Only after him were other Germans elected to the advisory committee. He eventually became chairman of the International Council for 16 years and worked closely with the museum's president, Blanchette Rockefeller, in expanding the collection in the 1980s.[8] Despite his friendship with American artists such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Dan Flavin, he privately collected mostly contemporary German art: "American art was always one step ahead of my financial possibilities."[9]

In 2003, for his decades of support work, he was the first European to receive the Duncan Phillips Award from the Washington art museum Phillips Collection, which has been awarded to collectors and donors who support museums since 1999.

Further activities[edit]

The respective head of the House of Wittelsbach appoints the board of directors of the foundation Wittelsbach Compensation Fund, into which most of the possessions from the former Wittelsbach House Property Fund were transferred in 1923, including art treasures and collections (in particular the art collection of King Ludwig I, today mostly in the museums Alte Pinakothek and Neue Pinakothek and in the Glyptothek in Munich), the Secret House Archives (today a department of the Bavarian State Archives) and the former royal palaces of Berg, Hohenschwangau (including the Museum of the Bavarian Kings), Berchtesgaden as well as Grünau hunting lodge. He also appoints one of the board members of the Wittelsbach State Foundation for Art and Science, into which the Wittelsbach art treasures acquired before 1800 were brought in in 1923. Since then, this foundation has owned a large part of the holdings of the Munich museums. The former Bavarian Royal Family receives around 14 million Euros in payments annually from the proceeds of the Wittelsbach Compensation Fund. The respective head of the family decides on their distribution and use.[10]

Franz von Bayern in the regalia of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (Munich, 2012)

As head of the House of Wittelsbach, Franz is also Grand Master of the Wittelsbach House Orders, the Order of Saint George, the Order of St. Hubert and the Order of Theresa. Furthermore, he is president of the Bavarian Order Provinces of the Knights' Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

In addition to modern art and contemporary music, Franz' interest lies in the sciences, where he supported the development and expansion of the Bavarian research landscape. He was a member of the board of trustees of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the Technical University of Munich, the Munich School of Philosophy, the Deutsches Museum and the Institute for Bavarian History. As a patron, he heads numerous other organizations, such as the Bavarian Sports Shooting Association.[11]

There is traditionally a close connection between the House of Wittelsbach and the Roman Catholic Church, especially with the respective Archbishop of Munich, but also with various orders such as the Benedictines and Franciscans. Franz worked voluntarily for many years in the management of the Catholic Academy in Bavaria. He expanded these relationships through contacts with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria and the Jewish communities in Bavaria. In 2007 he institutionalized this network as co-founder of the Nymphenburg Talks, a platform for intercultural and interfaith dialogue that also includes Muslim representatives.[11]

Nymphenburg Palace

Franz maintained the tradition founded by his father of holding a large annual reception with a sit-down dinner at Nymphenburg Palace where he lives in a side-wing. Around 1,500 mostly changing guests from state politics, municipalities, churches and sciences, art and medicine as well as friends and relatives are invited.[12] He also invites smaller groups of changing guests to Berchtesgaden Palace to discuss specific topics that are important to him.

His 80th birthday party, in 2013, was held at the Schleissheim Palace near Munich. The party was attended by 2,500 guests,[13] including the then-incumbent Minister-President of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer.[14]

Personal life and succession[edit]

Franz has had a life partner since 1980, Thomas Greinwald, although they have never married.[15] In August 2011, the duke appeared at Prince George Frederick of Prussia's wedding, accompanied by Greinwald and his first cousin once removed – and future heir – Prince Ludwig. They first appeared publicly as a couple in Munich in 2023.[16] The heir presumptive to the headship of the House of Wittelsbach is his brother Prince Max, Duke in Bavaria. Because Max has five daughters but no sons, he is followed in the Bavarian line of succession by his and Franz's first cousin (second cousin in the male line) Prince Luitpold[17] and, in the next generation, by the latter's son Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (born 1982).

Franz is a descendant of the House of Stuart. Were it not for the Act of Settlement 1701, Franz would be the successor to the British and Irish crowns of the Stuart kings.[18] Franz' spokesman has, however, made it clear that this is a purely "hypothetical issue", "an entirely British question which does not concern him" and not a claim that he pursues.[18] In his memoirs, Franz describes this claim to the British throne as a "charming historical curiosity."[19]

Titles, styles and honours[edit]

Titles and styles[edit]

Prince Franz (right) with his father Duke Albrecht (centre) and his grandfather Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria, in 1948.

Franz is traditionally styled as His Royal Highness the Duke of Bavaria, of Franconia and in Swabia,[20] Count Palatine of the Rhine.[21][13] [22] [23]

Franz was styled Prinz von Bayern at birth.[24] In 1996, after the death of his father, he changed his style to Herzog von Bayern ('Duke of Bavaria').[25]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Cowell, Alan (11 July 1996). "Duke Albrecht Is Dead at 91; Pretender to Bavarian Throne". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  2. ^ "The blue-blooded Bavarian Duke". The Local. 25 July 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  3. ^ Bayern, Franz von (2023). Zuschauer in der ersten Reihe: Erinnerungen. C.H. Beck. pp. 5–10. ISBN 978-3-406-79710-1.
  4. ^ Bayern, Franz von (2023). Zuschauer in der ersten Reihe: Erinnerungen. C.H. Beck. pp. 5–28. ISBN 978-3-406-79710-1.
  5. ^ Hamilton, Tom (8 April 2008). "German Duke could claim Scots throne". The Daily Record. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
  6. ^ Bayern, Franz von (2023). Zuschauer in der ersten Reihe: Erinnerungen. C.H. Beck. pp. 128–132. ISBN 978-3-406-79710-1.
  7. ^ Carla Schulz-Hoffmann and Peter-Klaus Schuster, Deutsche Kunst seit 1960 aus der Sammlung Prinz Franz von Bayern (München: Prestel-Verlag, 1985).
  8. ^ Bayern, Franz von (2023). Zuschauer in der ersten Reihe: Erinnerungen. C.H. Beck. pp. 92–104. ISBN 978-3-406-79710-1.
  9. ^ Bayern, Franz von (2023). Zuschauer in der ersten Reihe: Erinnerungen. C.H. Beck. p. 112. ISBN 978-3-406-79710-1.
  10. ^ Heirs of the Bavarian kings still collect millions (German article in Süddeutsche Zeitung, 6 February 2016)
  11. ^ a b Bayern, Franz von (2023). Zuschauer in der ersten Reihe: Erinnerungen. C.H. Beck. pp. 158–164. ISBN 978-3-406-79710-1.
  12. ^ Bayern, Franz von (2023). Zuschauer in der ersten Reihe: Erinnerungen. C.H. Beck. pp. 178–181. ISBN 978-3-406-79710-1.
  13. ^ a b "The blue-blooded Bavarian Duke". the 25 July 2013.
  14. ^ "Party fit for a king". The 25 July 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
  15. ^ "Who is the Duke of Bavaria, the pioneering German prince who could have been a King of England?". Tatler. 7 August 2023. Retrieved 7 August 2023.
  16. ^ Guyton, Patrick (20 April 2023). "Franz Herzog von Bayern stellt seinen Lebenspartner vor – nach 43 Jahren (Franz Duke of Bavaria introduces his life partner - after 43 years)". Rheinische Post (in German). Retrieved 21 April 2023.
  17. ^ Genealogie des Hauses Wittelsbach. München: Verwaltung des Herzogs von Bayern, 2000.
  18. ^ a b Alleyne, Richard; de Quetteville, Harry (7 April 2008). "Act repeal could make Franz Herzog von Bayern new King of England and Scotland". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 17 June 2008. Retrieved 22 June 2008.
  19. ^ Bayern, Franz von (2023). Zuschauer in der ersten Reihe: Erinnerungen. C.H. Beck. pp. 125–128. ISBN 978-3-406-79710-1.
  20. ^ The title assumed by the Kings of Bavaria was Duke in Swabia, with the in indicating that only parts of the Swabian territory was ruled by them, while the larger parts of Swabia were part of the Kingdom of Württemberg. Unlike their other title Duke of Franconia which made clear that the whole of Franconia had become part of the Bavarian kingdom.
  21. ^ Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Band 50, Fürstliche Häuser, Band IX, Limburg an der Lahn 1971, S. 7
  22. ^ "Hilpoltstein-Botschafter-des-Landkreises". Donaukurier. 20 November 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
  23. ^ "Musikalisches-Geschlecht". Die Welt. 3 November 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
  24. ^ Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Band 50, Fürstliche Häuser Band IX. Limburg an der Lahn: C. A. Starke, 1971, page 7.
  25. ^ Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Band 141, Fürstliche Häuser Band XVIII. Limburg an der Lahn: C. A. Starke, 2007, page 2.
  26. ^ "Der Bundespräsident / Terminkalender / Ordensverleihung an Franz Herzog von Bayern". (in German). Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  27. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 November 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ "Photographic image" (JPG). Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  29. ^ "Verleihung des Verdienstordens von Rumänien an Herzog Franz von Bayern | BOTSCHAFT VON RUMÄNIEN in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland". 18 July 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  30. ^ "Photographic image" (JPG). Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  31. ^ Boettger, T. F. "Chevaliers de la Toisón d'Or - Knights of the Golden Fleece". La Confrérie Amicale. Archived from the original on 29 July 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2019.


  • Adalbert, Prinz von Bayern. Die Wittelsbacher: Geschichte unserer Familie. München: Prestel, 1979.
Franz von Bayern
Born: 14 July 1933
Titles in pretence
Preceded by — TITULAR —
King of Bavaria
8 July 1996 – present
Reason for succession failure:
Kingdom abolished in 1918
Heir presumptive:
Prince Max, Duke in Bavaria
King of England, Scotland and Ireland
8 July 1996 – present