Louis I, Duke of Bavaria

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Duke Ludwig I of Bavaria
Spouse(s) Ludmilla of Bohemia
Noble family House of Wittelsbach
Father Otto I Wittelsbach, Duke of Bavaria
Mother Agnes of Loon
Born (1173-12-23)23 December 1173
Died 15 September 1231(1231-09-15) (aged 57)

Duke Ludwig I of Bavaria (German: Ludwig I der Kelheimer, Herzog von Bayern, Pfalzgraf bei Rhein) (English: Louis) (Kelheim, 23 December 1173 – 15 September 1231 in Kelheim) was the Duke of Bavaria in 1183 and Count Palatine of the Rhine in 1214. He was a son of Otto I and his wife Agnes of Loon. Ludwig was married to Ludmilla, a daughter of Duke Frederick of Bohemia.


Early Years

Soon after his father's death in 1183, Ludwig was appointed under the guardianship of his uncle Conrad of Wittelsbach and Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.[1] His mother, Agnes, an energetic and enterprising leader, had taken over the regency of Bavaria in the mean time, securing her son's inheritance. Upon his coming-of-age, in 1189, at sixteen years old, he had, with his reigning entry, already fallen in the midst of a conflict which triggered the nearly simultaneous extinction of the Burgrave of Regensburg and the Count of Sulzbach in the years 1188 and 1189.[2] This allowed Barbarossa to expand his royal domains within the Empire to include Regensburg and Sulzbach, at Ludwig's expense. When the Emperor died on Crusade, and his son, Henry VI had ascended the throne on 15 April 1191 in Rome, he had immediately found a princely opposition on Ottokar I of Bohemia and his brother-in-law Count Albert III of Bogen who demanded a revision of the Staufen imperial land policy. Using that justification, Albert had designs to seize the Sulzbach domains from Emperor Henry's royal territory. Ludwig immediately attempted to mediate and called for a Hoftag in Laufen, which caught the attention of many great men within the Empire, to settle the dispute. Yet he could not stop the Count of Bogen and the Sulzbach land was taken. When Duke Ludwig turned against that, it came to war.

It was in the summer of 1192 at Worms where he received the German tradition of knighting, which was the handing of sword and belt, in the presence of Emperor Henry VI and many other Princes. No sooner in his appointment, some men in Bavaria caused great commotions on account of their private quarrels. Duke Ludwig assembled a handful of men and routed them, but they soon found his weaknesses and forced him to retire. A little later the Emperor joined Ludwig in ending the Bavarian feuds and after capturing the ring-leader, Bogius, banished him to Italy.[3]

Until the death of the emperor Ludwig remained a loyal supporter of Henry VI and accompanied the Hohenstaufen in 1194 also to Italy on his second expedition for the conquest of the kingdom of Sicily, which was entitled Henry's wife Constance as sole heir. In the struggle for the throne after the death of Henry VI. he remained one of the main supporters of the Hohenstaufen Philip of Swabia.

Suddenly, Eberhard, Archbishop of Sazlburg and Conrad, Bishop of Regensburg, falling at variance, declared war on Duke Ludwig and spared no sacred nor profane structures. It was only through Ludwig's character that peace was restored.[3]

Ludwig then took to wife Ludmilla of Bohemia in 1204 to gain the alliance of her uncle Ottokar I of Bohemia. An old story goes that the Duke made her acquaintance with affection and she fearing he did it to delude her, hid three persons she trusted behind a curtain and gave them three pictures to hold up. This done, she begged of him to see her no more unless he promised to marry her before witnesses. The Duke hesitated and she pointed to the three pictures saying,"Those said persons should be witnesses to your promises." Ludwig, thinking those persons could never rise in judgement against him, made her all the protestations she could desire, so she drew back the curtains and revealed the three living witnesses. He was so taken with the contrivance that he solemnly married her afterwards.[4]

Ludwig extended the duchy of Bavaria and founded many cities. Among the cities he founded were Landshut in 1204, Straubing in 1218 and Landau an der Isar in 1224. After Philip's murder he supported the Welf Emperor Otto IV, who therefore confirmed the everlasting reign of the Wittelsbach family in Bavaria. But in 1211 Ludwig joined the Hohenstaufen party again; Emperor Frederick II rewarded him with the Palatinate of the Rhine in 1214: His son Otto was married to Agnes of the Palatinate, a granddaughter of Duke Henry the Lion and Conrad of Hohenstaufen. With this marriage, the Wittelsbach inherited the Palatinate and kept it as a Wittelsbach possession until 1918. Since that time also the lion has become a heraldic symbol in the coat of arms for Bavaria and the Palatinate.

In 1221 Ludwig participated in the Fifth Crusade and was imprisoned in Egypt by Al-Kamil but later released. In 1225 Ludwig took over the guardianship for the young king Henry. Subsequently, however, the ratio of Ludwig deteriorated to both, his ward and to the emperor. With the latter, there were differences in matters of church policy, during the conflict with Henry (Ludwig intrigued with the Pope against the Staufer) in 1229 he even fought with military means, but the Bavarian Duke was defeated. Thus under pressure he moved in 1230 back to Kelheim Castle.

Ludwig was murdered in 1231 on a bridge in Kelheim. The crime was never cleared up since the murderer was immediately lynched. Due to the following aversion of the Wittelsbach family the city of Kelheim lost its status as one of the ducal residences. His son and successor, Otto the Illustrious, let break down the bridge in the following year and changed its gate to a chapel. Ludwig was buried in the crypt of Scheyern Abbey.


  1. Stevens 1706, pp. 55
  2. Holzfurtner 2005, pp.23
  3. 3.0 3.1 Stevens 1706, pp. 56
  4. Stevens 1706, pp. 56-57
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Louis I, Duke of Bavaria
Born: 1173 Died: 1231
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Otto I
Duke of Bavaria
Succeeded by
Otto II
Preceded by
Henry VI
Count Palatine of the Rhine