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Ludwig IV (April 1,1282 – October 11, 1347), called the Bavarian, of the house of Wittelsbach, was King of the Romans from 1314, King of Italy from 1327, and Holy Roman Emperor from 1328.

Ludwig was born in Munich, the son of Ludwig II, Duke of Upper Bavaria and Count Palatine of the Rhine, and Matilda Matilda was the eldest daughter of King Rudolph I of Germany and Gertrude of Hohenberg.

Though Ludwig was partly educated in Vienna and became co-regent of his brother Rudolph I in Upper Bavaria in 1301 with the support of his Habsburg mother and her brother, King Albrecht I, he quarreled with the Habsburgs from 1307 over possessions in Lower Bavaria.

A civil war against his brother Rudolph due to new disputes on the partition of their lands was ended in 1313, when peace was made at Munich.

Tomb effigy at Munich Frauenkirche

In the same year, on November 9, Ludwig defeated his Habsburg cousin Friedrich the Fair who was further aided by duke Leopold I. Originally, he was a friend of Friedrich, with whom he had been raised. However, armed conflict arose when the guardianship over the young Dukes of Lower Bavaria (Heinrich XIV, Otto IV, and Heinrich XV) was entrusted to Friedrich, even though the late Duke Otto III, the former King of Hungary, had chosen Ludwig.

On November 9, 1313, Friedrich was defeated by Ludwig in the Battle of Gammelsdorf and had to renounce the tutelage. This victory caused a stir within the Holy Roman Empire and increased the reputation of the Bavarian Duke.

The death of Holy Roman Emperor Heinrich VII in August 1313 necessitated the election of a successor. Heinrich’s son Johann, King of Bohemia since 1310, was considered by many prince-electors to be too young, and by others to be already too powerful. One alternative was Friedrich the Fair, the son of Heinrich VII’s predecessor, Albrecht I, of the House of Habsburg.

In reaction, the pro-Luxembourg party among the prince electors settled on Ludwig of Bavaria as its candidate to prevent Friedrich’s election.

On October 19, 1314, Archbishop Heinrich II of Cologne chaired an assembly of four electors at Sachsenhausen, south of Frankfurt. Participants were Ludwig’s brother, Count Rudolph I of the Palatinate, who objected to the election of his younger brother, Duke Rudolph I of Saxe-Wittenberg, and Heinrich of Carinthia, whom the Luxembourgs had deposed as King of Bohemia. These four electors chose Friedrich as King.

The Luxembourg party did not accept this election and the next day a second election was held. Upon the instigation of Peter of Aspelt, Archbishop of Mainz, five different electors convened at Frankfurt and elected Ludwig as King. These electors were Archbishop Peter himself, Archbishop Baldwin of Trier and King Johann of Bohemia – both of the House of Luxembourg – Margrave Waldemar of Brandenburg and Duke Johann II of Saxe-Lauenburg, who contested Rudolph of Wittenberg’s claim to the electoral vote.

This double election was quickly followed by two coronations: Ludwig IV was crowned at Aachen – the customary site of coronations – by Archbishop Peter of Mainz, while the Archbishop of Cologne, who by custom had the right to crown the new king, crowned Friedrich at Bonn. In the following conflict between the kings, Ludwig IV recognized in 1316 the independence of Switzerland from the Habsburg dynasty.

After several years of bloody war, victory finally seemed within the grasp of Friedrich, who was strongly supported by his brother Leopold. However, Friedrich’s army was decisively defeated in the Battle of Mühldorf on September 28, 1322 on the Ampfing Heath, where Friedrich and 1300 nobles from Austria and Salzburg were captured.

Ludwig IV held Friedrich captive in Trausnitz Castle (Schwandorf) for three years, but the determined resistance by Friedrich’s brother Leopold, the retreat of Johann of Bohemia from his alliance, and a ban by Pope John XXII, who excommunicated Ludwig IV in 1324, induced Louis to release Friedrich in the Treaty of Trausnitz of 13 March 1325.

In this agreement, Friedrich recognized Ludwig IV as the legitimate Emperor and undertook to return to captivity should he not succeed in convincing his brothers to submit to Ludwig.

Golden Bull of Ludwig IV 1328

As he did not manage to overcome Leopold’s obstinacy, Friedrich returned to Munich as a prisoner, even though the Pope had released him from his oath. Ludwig IV, who was impressed by such nobility, renewed the old friendship with Friedrich, and they agreed to rule the Empire jointly.

Since the Pope and the electors strongly objected to this agreement, another treaty was signed at Ulm on January 7, 1326, according to which Friedrich would administer German lands as King of the Romans, while Ludwig would be crowned as Holy Roman Emperor in Italy. However, after Leopold’s death in 1326, Friedrich withdrew from the regency of the Empire and returned to rule only Austria. Friedrich died on January 13, 1330.