Rupprecht was born in Munich, the eldest of the thirteen children of Ludwig III, the last King of Bavaria, and of Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria-Este, a niece of Duke Francis V of Modena. He was a member of the lineage of both Louis XIV of France and William the Conqueror. As a direct descendant of Henrietta of England, daughter of Charles I of England, he was claimant to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland in the Jacobite succession as Rupert. His early education from the age of seven was conducted by Freiherr Rolf Kreusser, an Anglo-Bavarian. In his youth, he spent much of his time at Schloss Leutstetten, Starnberg, and at the family's villa near Lindau, Lake Constance, where he was able to develop a keen interest in sports. His education was traditional and conservative, but he became the first member of the royal house of Bavaria to spend time at a public school, when he was educated at the Maximilian-Gymnasium in Munich, where he spent four years. Apart from his academic studies and his training in riding and dancing, at school he was also obliged to learn a trade, and his choice fell on carpentry.
Rupprecht's grandfather, Luitpold, became de facto ruler of Bavaria when King Ludwig II and his successor Otto both were declared insane in 1886. Rupprecht's own position changed somewhat through these events as it became clear that he was likely to succeed to the Bavarian throne one day.
After graduating from high school, he entered Bavarian Army's Infanterie-Leibregiment as a Second Lieutenant. He interrupted his military career to study at the universities of Munich and Berlin from 1889 to 1891. He rose to the rank of a Colonel and became the commanding officer of the 2nd Infanterie Regiment Kronprinz but found enough opportunity to travel extensively to the Middle East, India, Japan and China. His early journeys were made with his Adjutant, Otto von Stetten. Later he was accompanied by his first wife.
At the age of 31, Rupprecht married his kinswoman Duchess Marie Gabrielle in Bavaria, with whom he had five children before her early death in 1912 at the age of 34.
In 1900 he became the 1,128th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Austria.
In 1906, Rupprecht was made commander of the Bavarian I Army Corps, with the rank of lieutenant general of the infantry, promoted to full general in 1913.
In 1912, Luitpold was succeeded in the position of Prinzregent by his son Ludwig. On 5 November 1913, Ludwig was made king by vote of the Bavarian Senate, becoming Ludwig III. This decision also made Rupprecht the crown prince of Bavaria.
He commanded the German Sixth Army at the outbreak of World War I in Lorraine. While part of the German army was participating in the Schlieffen plan, the Crown Prince led his troops on to the Battle of Lorraine. The appointment to command of the Sixth Army was as a result of his royalty, but the level of study he had performed before he took command was a factor behind his successful direction of the Sixth Army, and he proved to be a highly able commander. Rupprecht's army gave way to the French attack in August 1914, in the Battle of Lorraine, and then launched a counteroffensive on the 20th. Rupprecht failed to break through the French lines. He was later in command of the 6th Army in Northern France and remained on the Western Front during the stalemate that would last until the end of the war. Only a few days after the battle, his oldest son Luitpold died of polio in Munich.
During the spring of 1915, Rupprecht sent an answer to von Bissing, the Governor-General of Belgium, on the latter's inquiry about Bavaria's opinion on the "Belgian question". Rupprecht envisaged an economic and military association of Belgium with Germany by introducing the Netherlands, enlarged by the Flemish areas of Belgium and northern France, and Luxembourg, enlarged by Belgian Luxembourg, as new federal states of the German Empire. To the Kingdom of Prussia Rupprecht suggested other areas of northern France, Walloon Belgium with Liege and Namur, and the salient of the Netherlands round Maastricht. The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine and the rest of Lorraine was to be partitioned between Bavaria and Prussia. Rupprecht's goal was to reduce Prussia's hegemonic role in the Reich by building a sort of an imperial triumvirate of power between Prussia, Bavaria and the Netherlands.
Rupprecht achieved the rank of field marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) in July 1916 and assumed command of Army Group Rupprecht on 28 August that year, consisting of the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 7th armies. Rupprecht has been considered by some to be one of the best Royal commanders in the Imperial German Army of World War I, possibly even the only one to deserve his command. Rupprecht came to the conclusion much earlier than most other German generals (towards the end of 1917), that the war could not be won, seeing an ever increasing material advantage of the allies. He also opposed the "scorched earth" policy during withdrawals, but his royal position made a resignation on those grounds impossible for him, even though he threatened it. He eventually resigned from his command on 11 November 1918.
He became engaged to the much younger Princess Antoinette of Luxembourg in 1918, but Germany's capitulation delayed their marriage and the engagement was canceled again.
Max Immelmann, one of the most famous German First World War Flying Aces, referred in a letter written on 25 June 1915 to a visit by Rupprecht to an airfield to inspect the new Fokker Eindecker aircraft.
Primarily to see these fighting machines, yesterday the Crown Prince of Bavaria visited the field and inspected us and Abteilung 20. Director Fokker, the constructor of the combat aircraft, was presented to him.
On 12 November 1918, in the wake of civil unrest in the last days of the war, Rupprecht's father, Ludwig III, promulgated the Anif declaration releasing his officials, officers and soldiers from their oaths. Although he did not formally abdicate (and some loyalists would continue to refer to Ludwig as King), the declaration was interpreted by the government of Bavaria as an abdication, making Bavaria a republic and ending 738 years of Wittelsbach rule; Rupprecht thus lost his chance to rule Bavaria. Rupprecht escaped to Tyrol in fear of reprisals from the brief communist regime in Bavaria under Kurt Eisner but returned in September 1919. While away from Bavaria, he succeeded his mother, Maria Theresia of Austria-Este, the last Queen of Bavaria, as the Jacobite heir. This occurred upon her death on 3 February 1919. As such, under his anglicized name he would be King Robert (or Rupert) (King of England) and IV (King of Scotland), although he never claimed these crowns and "strongly discouraged" anyone from claiming them on his behalf. He was styled "Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay" because of his mother's claim.
The changed political situation however allowed him finally to marry Princess Antoinette of Luxembourg on 7 April 1921. The ceremony was carried out by the nuncio to Bavaria, Eugenio Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII.
Shortly after the 1922 Washington Naval Conference, he made a statement regarding the possible ban of aerial bombing, poison gas, sea blockades and long range guns, blaming them for a majority of civilian casualties during the last war. He also advocated Germany's participation in future peace conferences, and he dismissed claims that Kaiser Wilhelm II was to blame for the First World War.
While opposed to the Weimar Republic and never having renounced his rights to the throne, Rupprecht envisioned a constitutional monarchy for Bavaria. Upon his father's death in October 1921, Rupprecht declared his claim to the throne since his father had never formally renounced his crown in the Anif declaration. While never crowned king, he did become the head of the House of Wittelsbach after his father's death. He formed the Wittelsbacher Ausgleichfond in 1923, which was an agreement with the state of Bavaria leaving the most important of the Wittelsbach palaces, like Neuschwanstein and Linderhof, to the Bavarian people.
Rupprecht was never enticed to join the far right in Germany, despite Hitler's attempts to win him over through Ernst Röhm and promises of royal restoration. He helped persuade Gustav von Kahr to not support Hitler during the Beer Hall Putsch. Hitler confided in private to a personal dislike of the Crown Prince. The Crown Prince in turn confessed to King George V at a lunch in London in the summer of 1934 that he considered Hitler to be insane.
With the worsening of the Great Depression in 1932, a plan was floated to give Rupprecht dictatorial powers in Bavaria under the title of Staatskommissar. The plan attracted support from a wide coalition of parties, including the SPD and the post-war Bavarian Minister-President (First Minister) Wilhelm Hoegner but the legal appointment of Hitler as Reichskanzler in 1933 by Hindenburg and the hesitant Bavarian government under Heinrich Held ended all hopes for the idea.
Rupprecht continued to believe that restoration of the monarchy was possible, an opinion he voiced to the British ambassador Eric Phipps in 1935.
It was at this time that H.G. Wells wrote his vision of future history, The Shape of Things to Come, in which a "Prince Manfred of Bavaria" in the later part of the 20th century was depicted as the leader of a widespread rebellion against the rise of a world government and its unification of the world. Presumably, Wells envisioned that "Prince Manfred" to be a descendant of Prince Rupprecht and an heir to Rupprecht's ambitions.
Rupprecht was forced into exile in Italy in December 1939 (the last straw being the confiscation of Schloß Leutstetten by the Nazis) where he stayed as a guest of King Victor Emmanuel, residing mostly in Florence. He and his family were barred from returning to Germany. He continued to harbor the idea of the restoration of the Bavarian monarchy, in a possible union with Austria as an independent Southern Germany. In a memorandum in May 1943, he voiced his opinion that Germany would be completely defeated in the war and hoped to spare the German people from the worst when the Nazi regime finally fell. He even mentioned his ambition for the German crown, which had been held by the House of Wittelsbach in the past.
In October 1944, when Germany occupied Hungary, Rupprecht's wife and children were captured, while he, still in Italy, evaded arrest. They were first imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp at Oranienburg, Brandenburg. In April 1945 they were moved to the Dachau concentration camp, where they were liberated by the United States Army. Crown Princess Antoinette never recovered completely from the captivity, and died in 1954 in Switzerland, having vowed never to return to Germany after her ordeal. She was buried in Rome but her heart was, complying with Wittelsbach tradition, enshrined in the Gnadenkapelle (Chapel of the Miraculous Image) at Altötting.
Towards the end of the war, a US Army officer, Col. Albert Caswell Metts, Jr., assisted Rupprecht's five daughters in returning to Luxembourg. On May 16 he drove them to Schloss Hohenschwangau, then to Schloss Berg, and then to Schloss Leutstetten. Late at night they knocked on the door of the Samerhof, a house owned by the Royal Family across the street from the castle. At the door of the Samerhof the princesses were met by their uncle Franz with his sons Ludwig and Rasso; they had managed to escape from Hungary and to bring with them some of the royal family's famous Sárvár horses. Later the princesses were driven to Augsburg from where they flew to Luxembourg.
Rupprecht continued to advocate the restoration of the Bavarian monarchy upon his return but found no support from the US occupation authorities who, however, treated him courteously. General Dwight D. Eisenhower provided a special plane to fly him back to Munich in September 1945 and he returned to Schloss Leutstetten.
It is estimated that he had the support of 60 to 70% of the Bavarian population in his goal to restore the monarchy in the post-war years. Of the 170 members of the Bavarian parliament, 70 declared themselves to be monarchists in September 1954, a clear sign of support for the Crown Prince.
Upon his death in 1955 at Schloss Leutstetten at the age of 86, he was treated like a deceased monarch, receiving a state funeral. His life had spanned the independent Kingdom of Bavaria, the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, Allied-occupied Germany, and the establishment of West Germany. He is buried in the crypt of the Theatinerkirche in Munich near his grandfather Prince Luitpold and great-great-grandfather King Maximilian I, between his first wife Duchess Maria Gabrielle and his oldest son Prince Luitpold.
Rupprecht married twice and had a total of eleven children:Duchess Marie Gabrielle in Bavaria, daughter of Duke Karl-Theodor in Bavaria (9 October 1878 – 24 October 1912), married on 10 July 1900 in Munich
Luitpold Maximilian Ludwig Karl, Hereditary Prince of Bavaria (8 May 1901 – 27 August 1914); died of polio.
Princess Irmingard Maria Therese José Cäcilia Adelheid Michaela Antonia Adelgunde of Bavaria (21 September 1902 – 21 April 1903); died of diphtheria.
Albrecht, Duke of Bavaria (3 May 1905 – 8 July 1996).
Stillborn daughter (6 December 1906).
Prince Rudolf Friedrich Rupprecht of Bavaria (30 May 1909 – 26 June 1912); died of diabetes.
Princess Antonia of Luxembourg, daughter of William IV, Grand Duke of Luxembourg — (7 October 1899 – 31 July 1954), married on 7 April 1921 in Lenggries
Prince Heinrich Franz Wilhelm of Bavaria (28 March 1922 – 14 February 1958). Married non-dynastically Anne Marie de Lustrac (1927–1999). No issue. Heinrich was killed in an auto accident in Argentina. His wife Anne was killed in a similar accident in Milan forty years later.
Princess Irmingard Marie Josefa of Bavaria (29 May 1923 – 23 October 2010). Married her first cousin Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (1913–2008) and had issue.
Princess Editha Marie Gabrielle Anna of Bavaria (16 September 1924 – 4 May 2013). Married first Tito Tommaso Maria Brunetti (1905–1954) and second Prof. Gustav Christian Schimert (1910–1990). Had issue by both.
Princess Hilda Hildegard Marie Gabriele of Bavaria (24 March 1926 – 5 May 2002). Married Juan Bradstock Edgar Lockett de Loayza (1912–1987) and had issue.
Princess Gabrielle Adelgunde Marie Theresia Antonia of Bavaria (b. 10 May 1927). Married Carl, Duke of Croÿ (1914–2011), and has issue.
Princess Sophie Marie Therese of Bavaria (b. 20 June 1935). Married Jean-Engelbert, Prince and 12th Duke of Arenberg (1921–2011) and has issue.
18 May 1869 – 5 November 1913: His Royal Highness Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria
5 November 1913 – 18 October 1921: His Royal Highness The Crown Prince of Bavaria
18 October 1921 – 2 August 1955: His Royal Highness Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria
His full title was His Royal Highness Rupprecht Maria Luitpold Ferdinand, Crown Prince of Bavaria, Duke of Bavaria, of Franconia and in Swabia, Count Palatine of the Rhine.
Among others, Rupprecht received the following Medals and Orders:
Kingdom of BavariaMilitary Order of St. Hubert
Royal Order of Saint George for the Defense of the Immaculate Conception
Military Order of Max Joseph, Grand Cross
Military Merit Order, Grand Cross with Swords
Kingdom of PrussiaOrder of the Black Eagle
Pour le Mérite with Oak Leaves
Iron Cross of 1914, 1st and 2nd class
Other German states Anhalt: Friedrich Cross
Anhalt: Order of Albert the Bear, Grand Cross with Swords
Baden: Military Karl-Friedrich Merit Order, Grand Cross
Brunswick: War Merit Cross, 2nd class
Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck: Hanseatic Crosses
Hesse: General Honor Decoration
Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and Hohenzollern-Hechingen: Princely House Order of Hohenzollern
Lippe-Detmold: War Honor Cross for Heroic Deeds
Lippe-Detmold: War Merit Cross
Lippe-Detmold: House Order of the Honor Cross, 1st class with Swords
Mecklenburg-Schwerin: Military Merit Cross, 1st class
Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Saxe-Meiningen: Ducal Saxe-Ernestine House Order, Grand Cross with Swords
Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Saxe-Meiningen: Cross for Merit in War - (Saxe-Meiningen)
Saxony: Military Order of St. Henry, Grand Cross (previously Commander's Cross with Star, Commander's Cross and Knight's Cross)
Württemberg: Military Merit Order, Knight Grand Cross
Other countries Austria-Hungary: Order of the Golden Fleece
Austria-Hungary: Military Merit Cross, 1st Class with War Decoration
Austria-Hungary: Military Merit Medal (Signum Laudis)
Kingdom of Belgium: Grand Cordon in the Order of Leopold, 1897.
Italy: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy (1948)
Italy: Knight of the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation (1948)
Ottoman Empire: Turkish War Medal (so-called "Gallipoli Star")
Ottoman Empire: Gold Imtiaz Medal with Swords
House of Savoy: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus (1948)
Sekondlieutenant: 8 August 1886
Premierlieutenant: 1 November 1891
Rittmeister: 17 May 1893
Major: 4 June 1896
Oberst: 28 October 1899
Generalmajor: 7 October 1900
Generalleutnant: 11 November 1903
General der Infanterie: 19 April 1906
Generaloberst: 4 February 1913
Generalfeldmarschall: 25 July 1916
Mein Kriegstagebuch. München: Deutscher National Verlag, 1929.
Reiseerinnerungen aus Indien. München: Josef Kösel & Friedrich Pustet, 1922.
Reiseerinnerungen aus Ostasien. München: Josef Kösel & Friedrich Pustet, 1923.
Reiseerinnerungen aus dem Südosten Europas und dem Orient. München: Josef Kösel & Friedrich Pustet, 1923.