Sunday, September 18, 2011

Crown Prince Rupprecht (1869-1955), The Best of German Royal Commanders In World War I

Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria

Crown Prince Rupprecht in the World War I

Rupprecht or Rupert, Crown Prince of Bavaria (German: Kronprinz Rupprecht von Bayern) (18 May 1869 – 2 August 1955) was the last Bavarian Crown Prince.

His full title was His Royal Highness Rupprecht Maria Luitpold Ferdinand, Crown Prince of Bavaria, Duke of Bavaria, of Franconia and in Swabia, Count Palatine of the Rhine. He was also the Jacobite Pretender as Robert I and IV, from 1919 until his death.

Rupprecht was born in Munich, the eldest son of Ludwig III, the last King of Bavaria, and of Archduchess Maria Theresia of Austria-Este, niece of Duke Francis V of Modena. He was the eldest of thirteen children. His early education from the age of seven was conducted by Freiherr Rolf Kreusser, an Anglo-Bavarian. In his youth, he spent considerable time at Schloß Leutstetten, Starnberg, and at the family's villa near Lindau, Lake Constance, where he was able to develop a keen interest in sports. His education was traditional and conservative, but he became the first member of the royal house of Bavaria to spend time at a public school, when he was educated at the Maximilian-Gymnasium in Munich, where he spent four years. Apart from his schooling and his training in horse riding and dancing, he was also obliged to learn a trade. His choice fell to carpentry.

Rupprecht's grandfather, Luitpold, became de-facto ruler of Bavaria when King Ludwig II and his successor Otto both were declared insane in 1886. Rupprecht's own position changed somewhat through these events as it became clear that he was likely to succeed to the Bavarian throne one day.

After graduating from high school, he entered Bavarian Army's Infanterie-Leibregiment as a Second Lieutenant. He interrupted his military career to study at the universities of Munich and Berlin from 1889 to 1891. He rose to the rank of a Colonel and became the commanding officer of the 2nd Infanterie Regiment Kronprinz but found enough opportunity to travel extensively to the Middle East, India, Japan and China. His early journeys were made with his Adjutant, Otto von Stetten. Later he was accompanied by his first wife.

At the age of 31, Rupprecht married his kinswoman Duchess Marie Gabrielle in Bavaria, with whom he had five children before her early death in 1912 at the age of 34.

In 1900 he became the 1,128th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Austria.

In 1906, Rupprecht was made commander of the Bavarian I Army Corps, with the rank of lieutenant general of the infantry, promoted to full general in 1913.

In 1912, Luitpold was succeeded in the position of Prinzregent by his son Ludwig. On 5 November 1913, Ludwig was made king by vote of the Bavarian Senate, becoming Ludwig III. This decision also made Rupprecht the crown prince of Bavaria.

He commanded the German Sixth Army at the outbreak of World War I in Lorraine. While part of the German army was participating in the Schlieffen plan, the Crown Prince led his troops on to the Battle of Lorraine. The appointment to command of the Sixth Army was as a result of his royalty, but the level of study he had performed before he took command was a factor behind his successful direction of the Sixth Army, and he proved to be a highly able commander. Rupprecht's army gave way to the French attack in August 1914, in the Battle of Lorraine, and then launched a counteroffensive on the 20th. Rupprecht failed to break through the French lines. He was later in command of the 6th Army in Northern France and remained on the Western Front during the stalemate that would last until the end of the war.

Rupprecht achieved the rank of field marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) in July 1916 and assumed command of Army Group Rupprecht on 28 August that year, consisting of the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 7th Army. Rupprecht has been considered by some to be one of the best Royal commanders in the Imperial German Army of World War I, possibly even the only one to deserve his command. Rupprecht came to the conclusion much earlier than most other German generals (towards the end of 1917), that the war could not be won, seeing an ever increasing material advantage of the allies. He also opposed the "scorched earth" policy during withdrawals, but his royal position made a resignation on those grounds impossible for him, even though he threatened it. He eventually resigned from his command on 11 November 1918.

He became engaged to the much younger Princess Antoinette of Luxembourg in 1918, but Germany's capilulation delayed their marriage and the engagement was canceled again.

Max Immelmann, one of the most famous of the German 1st World War Flying Aces, referred in a letter written on 25 June 1915 to a visit by Rupprecht to an airfield to inspect the new Fokker Eindecker aircraft:

"Primarily to see these fighting machines, yesterday the Crown Prince of Bavaria visited the field and inspected us and Abteilung 20. Director Fokker, the constructor of the combat aircraft, was presented to him."

Rupprecht lost his chance to rule Bavaria when it became a republic in the revolutions that followed the war. Although some royalists still referred to him as the King of Bavaria, the 738 years of Wittelsbach rule ended in 1918. Rupprecht escaped to Tyrol in fear of reprisals from the brief communist regime in Bavaria under Kurt Eisner but returned in September 1919. While away from Bavaria, he succeeded his mother, Maria Theresia of Austria-Este, the last Queen of Bavaria, as the Jacobite heir. This occurred upon her death on 3 February 1919. As such, under his anglicized name he would be King Robert I (or Rupert) (King of England) and IV (King of Scotland), although he never claimed these crowns and "strongly discouraged" anyone from claiming them on his behalf. He was styled "Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay" because of his mother's claim.

The changed political situation however allowed him finally to marry Princess Antoinette of Luxembourg on 7 April 1921. The ceremony was carried out by the nuncio to Bavaria, Eugenio Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII.

Shortly after the 1922 Washington Naval Conference, he made a statement regarding the possible ban of aerial bombing, poison gas, sea blockades and long range guns, blaming them for a majority of civilian casualties during the last war. He also advocated Germany's participation in future peace conferences, and he dismissed claims that Kaiser Wilhelm II was to blame for the first world war.

While opposed to the Weimar Republic and never having renounced his rights to the throne, Rupprecht envisioned a Constitutional monarchy for Bavaria. Upon his father's death in October 1921, Rupprecht declared his claim to the throne since his father had never formally renounced his crown in the Anif declaration. While never crowned king, he did become the head of the House of Wittelsbach after his father's death. He formed the Wittelsbacher Ausgleichfond in 1923, which was an agreement with the state of Bavaria leaving the most important of the Wittelsbach palaces, like Neuschwanstein and Linderhof, to the Bavarian people.

He was never enticed to join the far right in Germany, despite Hitler's attempts to win him over through Ernst Röhm and promises of royal restoration. Hitler confided in private to a personal dislike of the Crown Prince. The Crown Prince in turn confessed to King George V at a lunch in London in the summer of 1934 that he considered Hitler to be insane.

With the worsening of the Great Depression in 1932, a plan was floated to give Rupprecht dictatorial powers in Bavaria under the title of Staatskommissar. The plan attracted support from a wide coalition of parties, including the SPD and the post-war Bavarian Minister-President (First Minister) Wilhelm Hoegner but the legal appointment of Hitler as Reichskanzler in 1933 by Hindenburg and the hesitant Bavarian government under Heinrich Held ended all hopes for the idea.

Rupprecht continued to believe that restoration of the monarchy was possible, an opinion he voiced to the British ambassador Eric Phipps in 1935.

Rupprecht was forced into exile in Italy in December 1939 (the last straw being the confiscation of Schloß Leutstetten by the Nazis) where he stayed as a guest of King Victor Emmanuel, residing mostly in Florence. He and his family were barred from returning to Germany. He continued to harbor the idea of the restoration of the Bavarian monarchy, in a possible union with Austria as an independent Southern Germany. In a memorandum in May 1943, he voiced his opinion that Germany would be completely defeated in the war and hoped to spare the German people from the worst when the Nazi regime finally fell. He even mentioned his ambition for the German crown, which had been held by the House of Wittelsbach in the past.

In October 1944, when Germany occupied Hungary, Rupprecht's wife and children were captured, while he, still in Italy, evaded arrest. They were first imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp at Oranienburg, Brandenburg. In April 1945 they were moved to the Dachau concentration camp, where they were liberated by the United States Army. Crown Princess Antoinette never recovered completely from the captivity, and died a few years later in Switzerland, having vowed never to return to Germany after her ordeal. She was buried in Rome but her heart was, complying with Wittelsbach tradition, enshrined in the Gnadenkapelle (Chapel of the Miraculous Image) at Altötting.

Rupprecht continued to advocate the restoration of the Bavarian monarchy upon his return but found no support from the US occupation authorities, who however treated him courteously. General Dwight D. Eisenhower provided a special plane to fly him back to Munich in September 1945 and he returned to Schloss Leutstetten.

It is estimated that he had the support of 60 to 70% of the Bavarian population in his goal to restore the monarchy in the post-war years. Of the 170 members of the Bavarian parliament, 70 declared themselves to be monarchists in September 1954, a clear sign of support for the Crown Prince.

Upon his death in 1955 at Schloss Leutstetten at the age of eighty-six, he was treated like a deceased monarch, receiving a state funeral. He is buried in the crypt of the Theatinerkirche in Munich near his grandfather Prince Luitpold and great-great-grandfather King Maximilian I, between his first wife Duchess Maria Gabrielle and his oldest son Prince Luitpold.

Rupprecht married twice and had a total of eleven children:
* Duchess Marie Gabrielle in Bavaria, daughter of Duke Karl-Theodor in Bavaria (9 October 1878 – 24 October 1912), married on 10 July 1900 in Munich
o Prince Luitpold Maximilian Ludwig Karl of Bavaria (8 May 1901 – 27 August 1914). Luitpold died of polio.
o Princess Irmingard Maria Therese José Cäcilia Adelheid Michaela Antonia Adelgunde of Bavaria (21 September 1902 – 21 April 1903). Irmingard died of diphtheria).
o Albrecht, Duke of Bavaria (3 May 1905 – 8 July 1996)
o Stillborn daughter (1906)
o Prince Rudolf Friedrich Rupprecht of Bavaria (30 May 1909 – 26 June 1912). Rudolf died of diabetes.
* Princess Antonia of Luxembourg, daughter of William IV, Grand Duke of Luxembourg — (7 October 1889 – 31 July 1954), married on 7 April 1921 in Lenggries
o Prince Heinrich Franz Wilhelm of Bavaria (28 March 1922 – 14 February 1958). Married Anne Marie de Lustrac (1927–1999). No issue. Heinrich was killed in an auto accident in Argentina.[14] His wife Anne was killed in a similar accident in Milan forty years later.[15]
o Princess Irmingard Marie Josefa of Bavaria (29 May 1923 – 23 October 2010). Married her cousin Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (1913–2008) and has issue.
o Princess Editha Marie Gabrielle Anna of Bavaria (b. 16 September 1924). Married first Tito Tommaso Maria Brunetti (1905–1954) and second Prof. Gustav Christian Schimert (1910–1990). Has issue by both.
o Princess Hilda Hildegard Marie Gabriele of Bavaria (24 March 1926 - 5 May 2002). Married Juan Bradstock Edgar Lockett de Loayza (1912–1987) and has issue.
o Princess Gabrielle Adelgunde Marie Theresia Antonia of Bavaria (b. 10 May 1927). Married Carl, Duke of Croÿ (1914-2011), and has issue.
o Princess Sophie Marie Therese of Bavaria (b. 20 June 1935). Married Jean-Engelbert, Prince and 12th Duke of Arenberg and has issue.

Among others, Rupprecht received the following Medals and Orders:
* House Order of St. Hubertus
* House Order of St. Georg
* Military Order of Max Joseph
* Military Merit Order, Grand Cross with Swords

Kingdom of Prussia
* Order of the Black Eagle
* Pour le Mérite
* Oak Leaves of the Order Pour le Mérite
* Iron Cross, 1 and 2 class

Other German states
* Kingdom of Saxony: Military Order of St. Henry, Knight's Cross
* Kingdom of Saxony: Military Order of St. Henry, Commander's Cross with Star
* Kingdom of Saxony: Military Order of St. Henry, Commander's Cross
* Kingdom of Saxony: Military Order of St. Henry, Grand Cross
* Kingdom of Württemberg: Military Merit Order
* Duchy of Anhalt: Friedrich Cross
* Duchy of Anhalt: Order of Albert the Bear, Grand Cross with Swords
* Grand Duchy of Baden: Military Karl-Friedrich Merit Order, Grand Cross
* Free and Hanseatic Cities of Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck: Hanseatic Cross
* Duchy of Brunswick: War Merit Cross, 2 class
* Grand Duchy of Hesse: General Honor Decoration
* Principalities of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and Hohenzollern-Hechingen: Princely House Order of Hohenzollern
* Principality of Lippe-Detmold: War Honor Cross for Heroic Deeds
* Principality of Lippe-Detmold: War Merit Cross
* Principality of Lippe-Detmold: House Order of the Honor Cross, 1 class with Swords
* Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin: Military Merit Cross, 1 and 2 class
* Duchies of Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Saxe-Meiningen: Ducal Saxe-Ernestine House Order, Grand Cross with Swords
* Duchies of Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Saxe-Meiningen: Cross for Merit in War - (Saxe-Meiningen)

Other countries
* Austria-Hungary: Order of the Golden Fleece
* Austria-Hungary: Military Merit Cross, 1st Class with War Decoration
* Austria-Hungary: Military Merit Medal (Signum Laudis)
* Ottoman Empire: Turkish War Medal (so-called "Gallipoli Star")
* Ottoman Empire: Gold Imtiaz Medal with Swords

Military ranks
* Sekondlieutenant: 8 August 1886
* Premierlieutenant: 1 November 1891
* Rittmeister: 17 May 1893
* Major: 4 June 1896
* Oberstlieutenant: ??
* Oberst: 28 October 1899
* Generalmajor: 7 October 1900
* Generalleutnant: 11 November 1903
* General der Infanterie: 19 April 1906
* Generaloberst: 4 February 1913
* Generalfeldmarschall: 25 July 1916

The story of Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria is one of those which could easily have been simply that of a great tragedy, of noble but ultimately lost causes. Yet, Crown Prince Rupprecht is unique in that his life was on the whole an extremely successful one, despite the fact that he suffered the loss of his future kingdom. Even while Germany fell into defeat, anarchy and ruin Rupprecht himself was victorious in every task he set himself to and remained an extremely popular and beloved figure throughout his life. Indeed, his great talent and the fact that he was held in such deep admiration by so many people only adds to the many possibilities whispered about him in his lifetime, there seeming to be no limit as to what others could dream of him attaining: King of Bavaria certainly, but perhaps even German Emperor, or maybe King of Great Britain? He's an interesting man no doubt.

Crown Prince Rupprecht was the only one of the German royal generals who deserved to hold his high command during the war. He combined military ability with an understanding of the suffering of his troops, and towards the war an appreciation that the war was being lost. His suggestion for a negotiated peace in June 1918 was perhaps Germany’s best chance to salvage a partial victory by that stage in the fighting – even in October Allied leaders were concerned that a German peace offer combined with a last stand on German soil could have undermined the public will to fight on.

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