One of the largest Baroque palaces in Germany

Ludwigsburg Residential Palace

Napoleon Bonaparte, Gobelins tapestry in Ludwigsburg Residential Palace. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Dieter Jäger
Emperor of France

Napoleon Bonaparte

The French general, Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821), seized power in France first as a consul and later as emperor. He visited Ludwigsburg Residential Palace twice. During these visits, Napoleon and Duke Friedrich II von Württemberg, king by the grace of Napoleon, negotiated an alliance with France.

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Image: Wikipedia, public

Napoleon Bonaparte in his typical stance.

What was Napoleon's career like?

Napoleon Bonaparte came from a Corsican family. During the French Revolution he rose from officer to general and finally to first consul of the French Republic. His campaigns in Italy and Egypt in particular proved him to be an excellent military talent. In 1804, he crowned himself Emperor of France and ruled a dictatorship until 1815. After losing the famous Battle of Waterloo, he was banished to St. Helena.

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and Duke Friedrich II von Württemberg. Image: Wikipedia, public

Napoleon Bonaparte and Duke Friedrich in a conversation.

What did Napoleon want in Ludwigsburg?

Napoleon Bonaparte stood before the gates unannounced. With his visit, he hoped to persuade Duke Friedrich II von Württemberg to form an alliance with France. In the Ludwigsburg court diary, the emperor's arrival on Wednesday, October 2, 1805 is described as follows: "His majesty the Emperor of France (...) arrived here after 10 o'clock at night, under the thunder of canons and sounding of all the bells of the city. His Highness then disembarked in the garden at the marble hall, where His Highness was greeted by His Serene Highness the Prince-Elector, the prince, and the entire court, and lead into the marble hall by His Serene Highness the Prince-Elector (...)."

Bust of Napoleon Bonaparte in Ludwigsburg Residential Palace. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Sven Grenzemann

Bust of Napoleon Bonaparte

Why was Napoleon interested in Württemberg?

Through negotiations, Napoleon managed to make allies of Württemberg, Bavaria and Baden in his war against Austria. After winning the Battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon concluded a peace with Austria on October 21, 1805. As thanks for their support, Napoleon elevated all the prince-electors in Württemberg and Bavaria to kings: Duke Friedrich II became King Friedrich I von Württemberg.

King Jérôme and Queen Katharina von Westfalen, portrait by Sebastian Weygandt, 1810. Image: Wikipedia, public

The couple, three years after their wedding.

What else connected Napoleon and Friedrich?

To cement his power, Napoleon conducted a targeted political marriage policy, negotiating marriages between his relatives and leading European noble houses. During a visit to Stuttgart in January 1806, he was given permission by King Friedrich I von Württemberg to arrange marriage between Napoleon's youngest brother, Jérôme, and Friedrich's daughter. Thus, on August 22, 1807, Katharina von Württemberg married Jérôme Bonaparte, who had been the king of Westphalia—a kingdom created specifically for him—since June 1807.