The first Baroque residence on the Upper Rhine

Rastatt Residential Palace

Portrait of Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden-Baden. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown
A DISAPPOINTED WAR HERO

LUDWIG WILHELM VON BADEN-BADEN

As a war hero, Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden-Baden (1655–1707) garnered great praise. Simultaneously, he was a ruling sovereign and, in Sibylla Augusta, had a wife who loved him. And yet, he was in no way satisfied with his political success when he began building his residence in Rastatt.

Portrait of Margrave Ferdinand Maximilian, father to the Rastatt builder. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Portrait of his father: Ferdinand Maximilian.

WHO WERE HIS PARENTS?

Ludwig Wilhelm was the only child of an unhappy marriage. His father, Ferdinand Maximilian, had married the Princess of Savoyen-Carignan, who categorically refused to leave Paris for the provincial Baden-Baden. Her close connection to the French crown provided Ludwig Wilhelm with a famous godfather: Louis XIV, later his arch enemy. Ludwig Wilhelm's father died early. Thus, he succeeded his grandfather Wilhelm to the throne in 1677.

Portrait of Ludwig Wilhelm as an imperial lieutenant general. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Ludwig Wilhelm as an imperial lieutenant general.

HOW DID THE TÜRKENLOUIS BECOME FAMOUS?

Ludwig Wilhelm was one thing above all else: a commander in service of his emperor. In return for his military success, he received supreme command of the Imperial Army in 1689 during the Great Turkish War, which lasted from 1683 to 1699. The height of career was in 1691 at the Battle of Slankamen in Hungary. He became famous in the empire as the "Savior of Christianity" and was granted the highest military title of the time: Lieutenant General. This is also where his nickname "Türkenlouis" originated. He was commemorated with poems and hymns of praise into the 19th century.

Central building from the interior courtyard, Rastatt Residential Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff

Stately and palatial: Rastatt Palace.

WHY WAS LUDWIG WILHELM SO DISSATISFIED?

Ludwig Wilhelm had hoped to receive an imperial reward for his achievements, perhaps an elevation to prince-elector. Yet when electorships were being awarded in 1692, he came away empty handed. A few years later, as Ludwig Wilhelm was courting the Polish throne, Emperor Leopold I, who ruled until 1705, gave him no support. With that, two grand hopes had been dashed. The Rastatt Palace may therefore be understood as an expression of his disappointment. With his new residence, he hoped to immortalize himself as a prince and commander.

Portrait of King Louis XIV of France, at Heidelberg Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

King Louis XIV of France.

THE SUN KING AS BOTH ENEMY AND ROLE MODEL?

In 1689, Louis XIV burned the Margraviate of Baden-Baden to the ground; in 1693, the Türkenlouis assumed command of the army fighting against him. During the Nine Years' War, lasting until 1697, and during the War of the Spanish Succession, beginning in 1701, he defended the empire against France. And yet, Louis XIV had created such a perfect form of absolutist representation with the construction of his palace in Versailles, Ludwig Wilhelm and other princes had no choice but to emulate him. But not in every regard: The imperial court in Vienna was also an important model.

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