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Saturday, August 2, 2014

King Ludwig II of Bavaria and his Fairytale Castle

This story will be included in my upcoming e-book: European Royals: The Tale of Madness and Controversies

Was the King really mad? Or just merely eccentric?

King Ludwig II of Bavaria, from the royal house of Wittelsbach.
He was known in history as the Mad King.
He was deposed on the ground of mental illness, but the accusation lacked sufficient evidence as he was not clinically examined. He died mysteriously in the lake near Berg Castle south of Munich where he was imprisoned. His death was rolled a suicide though further evidence would tell he was murdered. 

A century had passed since his mysterious death but the story of this Bavarian King continued to fascinate modern royalists due to the controversial circumstances of his demise and the intriguing accusation of his mental insanity that was never proven true.

Here's a strip of the story of this controversial German royal.

Who could ever forget the classic story of King Ludwig II of Bavaria whose supposed madness had cost his throne and his life? 

He was best remembered for his devotion to art and architecture and known for his obsession of pompous castles and palaces, the most popular being the Neuschwanstein Castle, a fairy tale structure that perched above the rugged hills of Hohenschwangau in Bavaria, Munich, Germany. 

King Ludwig II ascended the Bavarian throne in 1864. He was often described in history as shy and timid and hated the trappings of royalty. He detested social gatherings and would often excuse himself from attending state occasions to watch theater plays of Richard Wagner, a German composer. He did not marry despite several attempts of his ministers and family to find a suitable royal bride. He preferred a life in seclusion at the comfort of his castle.

He was deposed on the ground of mental illness, but the manner in which Bavarian ministers handled his case was something of a controvery as it lacked sufficient evidence on the mental state of the King. Ludwig II was never clinically examined to verify his mental instability which made the deposition illegal. Evidences gathered were merely speculations like talking to imaginary people, sending his staff to a lengthy expedition just to research ideas for fantasy castles, letting his footmen dressed in ancient livery reminiscent to the costumes in the characters of Wagner's plays.

However, historians in later centuries would agree that the King could not be categorized as insane and mad but just eccentric and whimsical. He reportedly loved to spend most of his time day dreaming and would often withdraw to the comfort of his apartment in the Castle when the weight of the responsibility of being a King became too much for him. 

By most accounts, King Ludwig II was generally loved by many of his subjects in Bavaria. He adored nature, poetry and art and find happiness in romantic operas. He was especially close to his first cousin, The Empress Elisabeth of Austria.

Some would point that the stress of growing up in the royal family with rigorous royal training was the main cause of Ludwig’s peculiar behavior in adult life. He had at least an ancestor in the same category of peculiarity, his grandfather and namesake, King Ludwig I, who came from the family of eccentrics.

The King was brought to Berg Castle south of Munich after he was deposed but found dead on the following day in the Lake Starnberg. His death puzzled historians as the King was a good swimmer and the water was only deep waist. No water was found on the lungs of the King during the initial autopsy supporting earlier speculation that he was murdered. Years later, one note of a lone witness was revealed providing evidence that King Ludwig II was shot to death when he tried to escape.

Until the modern age, the life of this peculiar Bavarian monarch was a subject of curiosity that many royalists, including scholars, had expressed interest to conduct further studies on his reign and personal circumstances.
The breathtaking Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany
This fairytale castle was built under the supervision of King Ludwig II,
intended as his personal retreat and a homage to his favorite composer, Richard Wagner. The King wanted the construction of the castle to be perfect, so he commissioned theater artists to design the interior of the castle and rooms similar to the fairytale plays of Wagner.
Perched above the rugged cliff of Hohenschwangau in Bavaria, Germany,
the castle is surrounded with a magnificent landscape of lakes and parklands.
It has a walled garden and an artificial cave and its interior is beautifully designed
under a fairytale concept. Ironically, it was King Ludwig II's obsession of fairytale castles that had cost his life and throne. He was deposed on the ground of insanity. This castle was not finished at the time of his death but several years later it was opened to the public to raise income for the struggling state of Bavaria. Today, the castle drew thousands of tourists annually and became Europe's eternal symbol  of fairytale. It appeared several times in many fairytale movies. It also inspired the construction of Disneyland's Magic Kingdom.

His most ambitious project, the Neuschwanstein Castle, intended to be his private home and a personal homage to Richard Wagner, was made open to the public years after his death to raise income to the struggling state of Bavaria. Now, this castle, is one of the most popular tourist landmarks in the world and Europe's eternal symbol of fairytale. It's a living witness to King Ludwig II's fascination towards art and fantasy. 

King Ludwig II was succeeded by his younger brother Otto, but he too was deposed on the ground of mental illness. The throne passed to their first cousin, King Ludwig III and reigned until 1918 when all German princely states and Kingdoms were disbanded at the close of World War I. 

Today, the Bavarian throne is still in existence though not officially, and reduced to the status of a Dukedom. It is currently ruled by Prince Franz, the Duke of Bavaria, also considered as the rightful heir to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland through the Jacobite succession. Princess Sophie, the wife of Prince Alois, the Hereditary Prince of Liechtenstein, is Franz's niece.

More of this story and other interesting facts about European Royals in my upcoming e-book.

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