Prince Luitpold, the Nazi era was also a very dark chapter for your family ...
Prinz Luitpold: ... Members of my family were arrested one by one, whenever they managed to find them. Especially after the Stauffenberg assassination attempt, because Crown Prince Rupprecht had been in contact with the Stauffenberg family in Italy just before that. Word of the meeting somehow got out. Duke Albrecht and his children were arrested in Budapest. They caught my mother when she was at Lake Garda, suffering from typhoid fever. And then at some point they all ended up together in a concentration camp. They wanted to celebrate Christmas anyway, so they made things themselves. Duke Franz of Bavaria puts out a nativity scene in Nymphenburg Castle during the festive season, and this still reminds us of this time. The cardboard box in which he keeps the crib bears the words: Oranienburg concentration camp, Christmas 1944, made by Mama. Duke Albrecht could never enjoy eating fried food after his time in the concentration camp, because they burned the corpses of the prisoners nearby. It put him off for life. Unfortunately, humans also have the capacity for evil.
Prince Luitpold, when you look at neighboring European countries where royal families still enjoy authority and rank, such as Belgium, Denmark, and Spain, do you sometimes feel a sense of yearning? After all, your family ruled the state of Bavaria for almost 740 years.
Prinz Luitpold: 738 years, to be precise. That’s a record in Europe. But no, we are doing very well with our Federal Republic of Germany. However, one can ask oneself whether, in principle, a democracy in the shape of a monarchy or a republic offers the best state system. If you look at a monarchy from the point of view of the separation of powers—a system in which the head of state remains outside party control, then this can also be good for a democracy.
Roland Berger: Which, of course, depends very much on the reputation of the royal family concerned. The Windsors seem to me to be doing everything right in this respect. The British royal family has maintained an excellent reputation to this day and has managed, so far, to emerge from every scandal unscathed. Even the death of Princess Diana, who died in Paris under rather dubious moral circumstances. The Windsors really know how to market their country
Prinz Luitpold: … And at no cost. The television rights to broadcast royal events generate more money than it costs the state to maintain the royal family. The Windsors practically work for free.
In your own family, Ludwig II was the real rock star among the Wittelsbachers. What do you think of his mysterious death in Lake Starnberg? Murder or suicide?
Prinz Luitpold: It certainly wasn’t murder. I think that’s out of the question. Whether it was suicide or some kind of cardiovascular problem, it’s no longer possible to say. When you read what was done to him after his death, it’s enough to give you the shivers. His head was cut open, his brain removed and examined. His heart was taken to Altötting to be with the hearts of all the Bavarian rulers of the past 500 years. No, I don’t believe it was murder. In his youth, Ludwig II was an excellent swimmer. But at the time of his death, he weighed 140 kilos, wasn’t fit, and the water was cold. Cardiovascular failure seems the most likely explanation to me.
The age of the fairy-tale king is long gone. Yet most little girls still dream of being a princess. Why is that?
Roland Berger: Maybe it’s the kind of art and culture that has been associated with kings for centuries. Girls are attracted to that kind of pomp and pageantry. Fairy tales also have an effect—the story of Cinderella and the life of Sisi. Girls have a vivid imagination.
Prince Luitpold, will you tell us what your wife said when you asked her to marry you?
Prinz Luitpold: Well, what else could she have said? Yes, of course!
This interview was conducted, October 10, 2017 by Stefan Schmortte and Ingo Wilhelm and ends here.