Has it always been the case that 18 is the minimum in the UK? If not, when did the law get changed? I know that 18 was the law in the Netherlands, when Queen Wilhelmina was enthroned; but I'm not sure if Dutch law has changed since. I know that in Sweden it used to be 21; then the law got changed to 25 in order to postpone the enthronement of the present king (a most unpopular crown prince).
Other notable persons coming to mind who began their reigns at 18 are Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, who in 1848 succeeded on the abdication of his uncle. His father (Archduke Franz Karl) had renounced his rights to the throne in favor of his son. Also, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who according to the constitution in the country had come of age on his 18th birthday in August, 1863. As it was, his father, King Maximilian II, died six months later.
"Mad" Ludwig of Bavaria would still have been a young king at accession, even if his grandfather (King Ludwig I, still living as of March 1864) had not abdicated the throne (assuming that his eldest son still predeceased him). It's just that he would have been 22, not 18: whether it would have made much of a difference in terms of growth, development, and preparation for kingship is for others to judge.
All we know is that Ludwig II was anything but thrilled over the situation. We all know of mature heirs born to be king (e.g. Edward VII of Great Britain, the present Prince of Wales), but faced with the question of when ... like his great-great-grandfather before him, Charles has to wait until the death of a mother he loves so much, before he can assume the throne.
In contrast, Ludwig II, despite fearing and disliking his father, did not at all wish for Maximilian II's death -- since that was to make him king, a prospect he absolutely dreaded ("Father, live long so that I won't be king yet"). Personally, I think the Bavarian constitution should have been amended to make 21 the legal minimum age for assuming the throne: in that case, uncle Luitpold would have become the regent.
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