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Ludwigsburg Residential Palace

One of the largest baroque buildings in Germany to survive in its original condition, Ludwigsburg Residential Palace, near Stuttgart, was built between 1704 and 1733 by Duke Eberhard Ludwig as a refuge for himself & his mistress, Wilhelmine von Grävenitz. His cousin Carl Alexander, who succeeded him as the next Duke of Württemberg, cared more for the military than for architecture, but Carl Eugen, who took over the duchy after his father died, completed the still-unfinished interior of the palace, adding playful rococo elements to the lavish baroque style. In the early 19th century, a new splendour took hold of Ludwigsburg, a royal palace by that time, when King Friedrich I, Carl Eugen’s nephew, had many rooms luxuriously updated in neoclassicist style.

The ancestral portrait gallery at Ludwigsburg Residential Palace
The ancestral portrait gallery

The building comprises four wings arranged in a rectangle around a central courtyard. In the north wing, the palace’s oldest part, the elaborately decorated small marble hall is considered a highlight of baroque interior design. The south wing houses Carl Eugen’s apartment and, adjacent to the elegant neoclassicist marble hall, on its west & east sides, the apartments of King Friedrich & Queen Charlotte, which both exude a dignified noblesse. Other highlights are the imposing 80-m-long ancestral portrait gallery, the chapel, unusually opulent for a Protestant church, and the theatre in the east wing, which dates from 1758. In season, one-hour guided tours in German leave every half hour; there are English tours at 1¼ p.m. and 3¼ p.m. Of further interest are the ceramics museum & the fashion museum.

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According to a contemporary of his, Duke Carl Eugen (1728–93), a noted philanderer, introduced a most unconventional custom at his court in Ludwigsburg: ‘By virtue of a new court ceremonial, all women who were not pledged to the Duke were prohibited from wearing blue shoes. At the same time, all women whom he had or would honour by allowing them to grant him their virtue were ordered to never appear without this distinguishable fashion feature.’


That’s a rather careful way to say that Carl Eugen introduced a shoe-based colour-coding scheme to signal the past & potential whereabouts of the ducal todger.


One of King Friedrich’s nephews was the grandfather of Mary of Teck, Queen Consort to George V of the United Kingdom, who was the great-grandmother of the current King Charles. (Fans of the Downton Abbey television series will know George & Mary from the 2019 film as the royals visiting the Crawleys.)


Nicknamed ‘Fat Frederick’, King Friedrich’s height & girth were legendary. Emperor Napoleon is even reported to have said that he was living proof of just how far the human skin could stretch. («Dieu l’a créé pour démontrer à quel point la peau humaine est extensible.»)