A VERY RARE AND HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT GOLD, ENAMEL AND DIAMOND PRESENTATION WATCH WITH MATCHING CHAIN AND FOB SEAL, MOST PROBABLY MADE FOR KING LUDWIG II OF BAVARIA
- diameter 61.5 mm
The Order of Saint George Watch
This watch, symbolising the Royal Military Order of St. George, was most probably made as a special order for King Ludwig II of Bavaria who was also the Grand Master of the St. George Knights.
The tradition of loyalty to the patron Saint of chivalry, St. George, was long established and many Bavarian Princes made pilgrimages to the Holy Sepulcher where they were invested as Knights of St. George. The Elector, Karl Albrecht of Bavaria, founded and gave the Order its official title of Order of the Holy Knight and Martyr St. George and the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin Mary in 1729.
King Ludwig II's grandfather, Ludwig I, altered the Bavarian constitution declaring that, henceforth, the King be known as the Grand Master, the Crown Prince, the first Grand Prior and other Princes of the Bavarian Royal House, second Grand Priors in the Royal Military Order of St. George.
It would appear that the present watch was ordered either by or for King Ludwig II of Bavaria in commemoration of the Royal Military Order of St. George and the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virign Mary. The watch is enamelled on both sides with the attributes of the Order and includes cartouches for its device: In fide, justitia et fortitudine. The back of the watch depicts the Virgin Mary standing on a crescent moon as the Queen of Heaven.
Also known as The Fairy Tale King, Ludwig II was born at Nymphenburg Castle, outside Munich, on August 25th, 1845. Eldest son of Maximilian II and Queen Marie, he was named after the insistence of his grandfather Ludwig I from whom he inherited the title of Great Master of St. George Knights.
The flamboyance of the present watch demonstrates Ludwig's extravagance and Romanesque life which characterized his reign. The present watch may have been commissioned around the same time a portrait of him as Grand Master of the Order of Saint George was painted, by Gabriel Schachinger in 1887.
King Ludwig II had just turned 18 when he ascended the Bavarian throne following the death of his father. Although he was not entirely prepared for his new role, his youth and good looks made him popular in Bavaria and above the Kingdom's borders. One of the first acts of his reign was to invite Richard Wagner to his court in Munich. Ludwig II is perhaps best remembered as the great composer's patron and for the commission and the construction of several extravagant fantasy castles: Neuschwanstein – a dramatic Romanesque fortress with soaring fairy-tale towers whose walls are decorated with frescos depicting scenes from Wagner's operas; Linderhof – an ornate palace in neo-French Rococo style with handsome formal gardens; and Herrenchiemsee – a replica of the main building of the Palace of Versailles.
By 1885, the King undertook new projects in spite of the fact that he was 14 million marks in debt. Since he had not followed his ministers' advice, they started seeking a cause to depose him by constitutional means. They finally decided that he was mentally ill and unable to rule. In June 1896, a report declaring in its final sentences that the king suffered from paranoia was finalized and signed by a panel of four psychiatrists who had neither met the King, nor examined him. On June 12th, Ludwig was arrested and transported to Castle Berg on the shores of Lake Starnberg. The day after, the King's body was found in the shallow water. His mysterious death remains unsolved to this day.