The eldest son of the celebrated Russian Prince Peter of Sayn and Wittgenstein, he was half-Polish through his mother and was formally known in Russian as Lev Petrovich Witgenstein. In 1821 he was sent to represent Russia at the coronation of King George IV of the United Kingdom, but his career came to a halt when his participation in the Decembrist societies was revealed in 1826. He secured a pardon through the interference of his influential father.
On June 14, 1828 at St. Petersburg Ludwig married Princess Caroline (Stefania) Radziwiłł and thus came into possession of the biggest privately-owned estate in Central Europe, covering roughly 12 000 km² of fields, forests, villages and towns in the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. They had two children: