Unlike the majority of German Monarchs that abdicated at the end of World War I, Ludwig III of Bavaria was deposed.
In 1917, when Germany’s situation had gradually worsened due to World War I, Bavarian Prime Minister Georg von Hertling became German Chancellor and Prime Minister of Prussia and Otto Ritter von Dandl was made Minister of State of the Royal Household and of the Exterior and President of the Council of Ministers on 11 November 1917, a title equivalent to Prime Minister of Bavaria. Accused of showing blind loyalty to Prussia, King Ludwig III became increasingly unpopular during the war. As the war drew to a close, the German Revolution broke out in Bavaria.
On November 2, 1918, an extensive constitutional reform was established by an agreement between the royal government and all parliamentary groups, which, among other things, envisaged the introduction of proportional representation. Ludwig III, approved on the same day the transformation of the constitution into a parliamentary monarchy. For the first time on November 3, 1918, initiated by the USPD, a thousand people gathered to protest on the Theresienwiese for peace and demanded the release of detained leaders.
On November 7, 1918, Ludwig III fled from the Residenz Palace in Munich with his family and took up residence in Schloss Anif, near Salzburg Austria for what he hoped would be a temporary stay. He was the first of the monarchs in the German Empire to be deposed. The next day, the People’s State of Bavaria was proclaimed.
On November 12, 1918, a day after the Armistice, Prime Minister Dandl went to Schloss Anif to see the King. Ludwig gave Dandl the Anif declaration (Anifer Erklärung) in which he released all government officials, soldiers and civil officers from their oath of loyalty to him. He also stated that as a result of recent events, he was “no longer in a position to lead the government.” The declaration was published by the newly formed republican government of Kurt Eisner when Dandl returned to Munich the next day.
Ludwig III’s declaration was not a statement of abdication, as Dandl had demanded. However, Eisner’s government interpreted it as such and added a statement that Ludwig and his family were welcome to return to Bavaria as private citizens as long as they did not act against the “people’s state.” This statement effectively dethroned the Wittelsbachs and ended the family’s 738-year rule over Bavaria.
Ludwig III returned to Bavaria. His wife, Maria Theresia, died 3 February 1919 at Wildenwart Castle/Chiemgau. In February 1919, Eisner was assassinated; fearing that he might be the victim of a counter-assassination, Ludwig fled to Hungary, later moving on to Liechtenstein and Switzerland. He returned to Bavaria in April 1920 and lived at Wildenwart Castle again. There he remained until September 1921 when he took a trip to his castle Nádasdy in Sárvár in Hungary. He died there on October 18.
On November 5, 1921, Ludwig’s body was returned to Munich together with that of his wife. In spite of fears a state funeral might spark a move to restore the monarchy, the pair were honored with one in front of the royal family, Bavarian government, military personnel, and an estimated 100,000 spectators. Burial was in the crypt of the Munich Frauenkirche alongside their royal ancestors. Prince Rupprecht did not wish to use the occasion of the passing of his father to reestablish the monarchy by force, preferring to do so by legal means. Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, Archbishop of Munich, in his funeral speech, made a clear commitment to the monarchy while Rupprecht only declared that he had stepped into his birthright.