“Princess Therese of Bavaria was a multi-talented, clever and extremely courageous woman who, against much opposition and with incredible energy, followed her thirst for knowledge and studied the diversity of nature and indigenous people on her numerous travels.”– Gudrun Kadereit, Princess Therese von Bayern Chair of Systematics, Biodiversity, and Evolution of Plants.
Therese von Bayern (1850-1926) was a Bavarian princess, ethnologist, zoologist, botanist, travel writer, and advocate for the education of women.
She was courageous and tough. An adventurer traveling the world, and not giving in to any hardship whatsoever. Wild animals, extreme climate, travel hardships – such phenomena only spurred her on. From her companions, she demanded the same willingness to subordinate everything to her goal. The expeditionary party had to submit to her regiment without contradiction and forego any comforts. Riding for several days at a high marching pace for ten hours was the rule, as were night camps with strangers and animals in rooms that were noisy, cold, humid, and full of vermins. Neither extreme heat nor cold, neither pneumonia nor altitude sickness and malaria attacks, neither a broken luggage cart nor a broken rib could slow the princess down.
Her scientific mindset was extraordinary. She learned 12 languages, and every expedition was well prepared, she knew which specimens were still missing in the Bavarian museums and collections. It took her nearly 10 years of diligent work to complete the journal-like report on her 1888 expedition to Brazil, the book was well written, and plenty of footnotes comparing her findings with those in the literature.
She was Catholic. Her journal provides insights into her deep piety and her prayerful thoughts. Her faith was also caritative as exemplified in her care for wounded soldiers in her villa in Lindau am Bodensee during WWI.
And she was loyal to the people she loved. In 1864, her mother asked her on her deathbed to care for her father and her brothers, a wish she fulfilled diligently, but as she said later, nearly smashed her, since she was only 13 years old. Her father became the Prince Regent, the de facto ruler of Bavaria in 1886 and she stood at his side until his death in 1912. As a young girl, she fell in love with her cousin Otto, a love forever unfulfilled, given his poor health and psychiatric disease. She always remained loyal to her love and refused to marry despite the wishes of her family.