Ludwig Friedrich (1586-1631), duke of Württemberg-Mömpelgard from 1617 and regent of the principal duchy of Württemberg from 1628, was the second son of Count Friedrich of Mömpelgard and Sibylla of Anhalt. He was born in Mömpelgard (Montbéliard) in eastern France, incorporated from the late fourteenth century in what became the duchy of Württemberg in south-west Germany and governed by a minor branch of the ruling dynasty.
Ludwig Friedrich’s elder brother, Johann Friedrich, succeeded to the duchy in 1608. Ludwig Friedrich, who signed himself ‘Louys’, was appointed sovereign ruler of Mömpelgard in 1617, re-establishing the junior dynastic line as a dukedom. That year, he married Elisabeth Magdalena von Hessen-Darmstadt (1600-24) in the capital, Stuttgart, before taking up residence in Mömpelgard. After Elisabeth’s death, he married Anna Eleanora von Nassau-Saarbrücken-Weilburg (1602-85) in 1625. On his brother’s death in 1628, Ludwig Friedrich was called to Stuttgart as regent during his nephew’s minority. The duchy, then caught up in the Thirty Years War (1618-48) between the Protestant Union and the Catholic League of Germany allied with the Hapsburg Emperor, endured invasion, famine, plague and sequestration under the Edict of Restitution of 1629. Ludwig Friedrich died in Mömpelgard and was buried there in the collegiate church of Saint-Maimboeuf.
Ludwig Friedrich is depicted three-quarter-length in the Society’s painting, turning slightly to his left, directing an amiable gaze toward the spectator. Over a doublet with gilded buttons and embroidered sleeves decorated with horizontal couched gold cord and pointed lace at the cuff, Ludwig Friedrich wears a black suit with paned trunk-hose, woven with a stylised foliate pattern, decorated with gold embroidery and vertical couched gold cord. He holds a glove in his right hand, lightly clasping the pommel of his sword with his left. Ludwig Friedrich’s collar, a layer of gently curving stiffened linen edged with a cutwork band and a border of bobbin lace with a pointed edge, is similar to several in portraits datable between c 1612 and c 1616.
The inscription on the Society’s picture refers to Ludwig Friedrich as duke and while the portrait probably was painted c 1617 to mark his marriage and formal elevation to the dukedom, the title was one he had evidently already adopted. How and when the portrait reached London is unknown though it is possible that it was brought to England by the Stuttgart-born poet Georg Rudolf Weckherlin (1584-1653). Weckherlin was one of the party who visited England with Ludwig Friedrich in 1608, and the duke later commissioned him to compose his wedding eulogy. Weckherlin married an Englishwoman in 1616 and settled permanently in London in 1620.