By whom you may wonder? I will come to that.
Sophie was born at the family castle of Possenhofen in Bavaria on February 23rd 1847, the fourth and last daughter of Duke Maximilian and Duchess Ludovika. After her older sisters were married into imperial or royal houses, her parents sought a good match for Sophie.
Sophie managed to catch the interest of the most eligible bachelor in Bavaria: King Ludwig II. They probably knew each other well, as both families had summer homes on Lake Starnberg, the two were close in age and mixed freely. Sophie must have thought herself the luckiest girl in the world, for Ludwig was tall, dark and handsome, well-educated, refined, intelligent, and with an unblemished reputation. Furthermore, she would not have to leave Bavaria and her parents to live in a foreign country. They became engaged on January 22nd 1867.
The trouble with Ludwig, as Sophie discovered before the engagement was far advanced, was that he loved Richard Wagner far more than he did his fiancee, as his letters to the two of them show. Wagner received the tenderest of endearments, the most profound outpourings of his heart, while the letters to Sophie were perfunctory and often conveyed Ludwig’s adoration of the composer almost as a god.
The marriage was supposed to take place on August 25th, Ludwig’s twenty-second birthday. Instead, it was postponed by an official announcement until October 12th. On October 7th the wedding was again postponed until November 28th. On the 7th Ludwig wrote to Sophie. He said all the right things: that she was precious to him, that he loved her like a sister and begged for the continuance of her affection. But, he wrote, he now saw that there was not the true love which was necessary for a matrimonial union.
Sophie must have been terribly humiliated. After all, the whole of Europe had watched and sighed over the romantic attachment of this beautiful young couple. But perhaps by the end of their courtship, she agreed that true love was lacking. As it was, she was spared a great deal of grief.
No need to feel too sorry for Sophie though. It seems that shortly after the engagement was announced a photographer was called in. Naturally, there were many occasions when photographs were needed. Well, Sophie wasn’t getting much in the way of physical affection from her fiance – a chaste kiss on the forehead every now and then. When Sophie kissed him on the mouth on one occasion, he was shocked at her forwardness. Anyway, Sophie and the photographer, whose name was Edgar Hanfstaengl fell in love. They met secretly, and it is doubtful if Ludwig or even her family knew of it. We know because five love letters written by Sophie between July and September 1867 are extant.
Of course, it was quite impossible for Sophie to marry a mere photographer, so she may have had her heart broken but not by Ludwig.
She refused several princely suitors for her hand until she met the Duc d’Alencon, son of Louis Philippe, King of the French. They were married on September 28th 1868 and eventually had two children.
At the age of fifty, Sophie died in a fire at a bazaar in Paris, where she was doing charity work. She refused to be rescued until the girls she was working with were saved. A tragic but heroic end for the Heroine of Gaeta.