As one of the oldest dynasties the Wittelsbachs are among the great European noble families. Thanks to an ambitious policy of strategic marriage the family influenced political events in Europe, and as secular rulers and church electors they shaped developments within the German nation of the Holy Roman Empire.
The man-sized family tree presents the most important members of the family from the 12th century to the 20th century and shows the rise of the noble family from dukes to kings of Bavaria
Bavaria owes its glory more to the patronage of the arts
and culture than its military successes.
The royal family used the power of arts and culture to shape an identity which would cement the unity between the land and the monarchy.
The Wittelsbachs embarked on a programme of impressive architectural endeavours: the Residenz in Munich, but also the Pompejanum in Aschaffenburg, the Hall of Liberation at Kelheim, Hohenschwangau Castle and Linderhof Castle all came to symbolize the existence of a Bavarian royalty.
The 19th century was marked by technological progress and great social upheaval.
With the emergence of a working class and an industrial elite, new social strata formed.
The Bavarian royal family also adjusted to the social challenges of the time.
The monarchy and the monarch retained a firm role in social life. The numerous gifts bestowed on the royal family bear witness to the high esteem that Luitpold the Prince Regent in particular enjoyed at all social levels.
Shortly before the unanticipated end of the monarchy, Bavaria celebrated the golden wedding anniversary of the last royal couple Ludwig III and Queen Marie Therese in January 1918.
As a gift their children gave their parents the “Royal Bavarian Service” made by the Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory. Each part of the 328-piece service depicts a place that held a personal memory for the royal couple, a family property or a site of Wittelsbach history. To mark their anniversary the royal couple itself donated a large sum of money to the poor and war wounded.
The end of the First World War marked the end of the Wittelsbach dynasty’s rule in Bavaria: King Ludwig III released his officials and soldiers from their oath of allegiance but refused to officially renounce his claim to the throne.
Following the death of his father in 1921 Crown Prince Rupprecht became head of the Wittelsbach house. As an outspoken opponent of the Nazis, he went into exile in Italy in 1939; in July 1944 his family were interned in concentration camps.
Die politische Stellung der einstigen Herrscherfamilie wurde nach 1945 abgelöst von einer Verankerung im historischen Gedächtnis des Landes. Es entwickelte sich ein problemloses Nebeneinander von einstiger Herrscherfamilie und demokratischem Staat. Nach dem Tod Kronprinz Rupprechts 1955 leitete sein Sohn Albrecht die Geschicke der Dynastie.
Dessen Nachfolger Herzog Franz von Bayern ist seit 1996 das Familienoberhaupt der Wittelsbacher.
Neben den Schlössern und Kunstschätzen in den bayerischen Museen blieb von den Wittelsbachern manches andere, das heute als „typisch bayerisch gilt. Bayern hat viele Gesichter. Eines davon ist wittelsbachisch.