Poor “Mad” King Ludwig II… Misunderstood; not properly trained to reign; valued peace over war; declared “mad” by his family; sent away to an asylum and therefore victim to political espionage. The story I heard of him growing up was that he lived in a beautiful fairy tale castle. Over the years he went mad and kept building room upon room in his castle for unexplained reasons until one day he passed away. Though he did commission the construction of the famous Neuschwanstein Castle, it turned out the story I had heard of him wasn’t quite right…
Known as the Fairy Tale Castle (it has inspired the Sleeping Beauty castle in Disneyland) the Neuschwanstein Castle (neu= new; schwan= swan; stein= stone) has become world famous. September 5, 1869 was the beginning of construction on the castle and though constructions lasted 17 years, it is unfinished today according to the original plans. It is built atop a hill above the Hohenschwangau village in place of the ruins of the Vorderhohenschwangau Castle, nestled among breathtaking natural beauty.
I rode a bike to the Hohenschwangau village where I then purchased a ticket for the castle tour and headed to an area offering horse carriage rides to the Castle. It is the fairy tale castle, after all, so why not indulge in a little fairy tale of my own?? 🙂
The castle itself is breathtaking, in my view as well. Room after room was so lavishly decorated, ornate and detailed. From the chapel to the wood sculptures above his 4-poster bed, the swan room, the Hall of the Singers and even the kitchen, this castle was VERY impressive! Sadly we were not allowed to take any pictures of the interior, but then again it’s probably a blessing because I would have taken and posted a trillion of them!!
Perhaps my absolute favorite room of all however was the cave room… Yes, he had a room (which was more of a short hallway that lead from the swan room to a longer hall that passed the servants area) that he turned into an honest to goodness cave!! It was complete with cave formations such as stalagmites/stalactites, had that slight damp feel to it as caves do and even had a little area that led onto a balcony complete with a little round table and chairs! I could have stayed in that tiny room/hall all day just marveling at how in the world he accomplished that! Mind you, this room is located on the second or third floor, so it’s not like it was carved on ground level. I was awestruck! I really wish that the tour of the castle allowed more time in each room, but alas, with so many people coming to see it it’s just not possible for them to allow longer than a 30 minute tour.
I did pick up a little book in the gift shop called “King Ludwig II: His Life- His End” before making my way to the bridge across from the castle for some pictures and for an unplanned hike up the Tegelberg hill, just on the other side of the bridge and across from the Castle.
Back to poor “mad” King Ludwig II… to start I should mention that I got my information on him from the book as well as the tour guide and formed my own opinions about him based on both sources. In my opinion, King Ludwig II was smart and sensible, not able to be manipulated by others, unique and way ahead of his time. He wasn’t properly groomed to be the King of Bavaria and though the book didn’t specifically say, it’s my impression that his sexuality was questionable. For example he broke off his only engagement to his cousin, Princess Sophie Charlotte of Bavaria and his only close friend was Richard Wagner, the famous composer. Ludwig even had a room built in the castle specifically for him- the only room for guests in the entire castle. Wagner, interestingly was a bit of a revolutionist and unpopular among politicians in Germany in general.
While the above may have been enough to make him an unpopular King at the time, what put the nail in the coffin for King Ludwig in my opinion was that he preferred peace over war. This combined with the rest made those with other political motives in Bavaria (i.e. his family) unhappy and something had to be done to get him out of the way so they could pursue their wars in their quest for power.
It was true that the King had several castle constructions occurring at the same time and that he was in great debt because of them (no bank would loan him money at one point) and this was the angle that allowed his family to have him declared insane. They convinced a doctor, who had never seen, spoken to nor treated the King to declare him insane based on him constructing several castles at once and bringing on debt. Once the declaration of his insanity was made, the man hunt was on to capture the King and put him in an institution.
He was eventually caught at his Neuschwanstein Castle, betrayed by those he trusted most, and was sent to an asylum. The doctor who had declared him insane (without having previously met him) oversaw his treatment at the asylum. One day the two men went for a walk on the grounds of the asylum. The doctor waved away the staff, who usually would accompany in case of an attempted escape, and walked with the King to Starnberger Lake. When they didn’t return to the hospital when expected, a search party was dispatched and the bodies of the doctor and King Ludwig II were found drowned in the Lake. The King, it was noted was a good swimmer, and what actually happened in that Lake that led to his death, well no one will ever know. What we do know however is once King Ludwig II was declared dead, the family stopped construction on the Neuschwanstein Castle and immediately opened it as a tourist attraction to “pay off it’s debts”… Sounds rather fishy to me.
I do have to write one last little note here… On the tour a gentlemen from the States (I should have gotten his name so I could give him proper credit) made a very interesting and rather smart comparison between King Ludwig II and Michael Jackson. It went as such:
KL.II- King of Bavaria
MJ- King of Pop
KL.II- built the fairy tale Neuschwanstein Castle
MJ- built the fairy tale home “Neverland”
KL.II & MJ- sexuality questionable
KL.II- unpopular controversial political opinions
MJ- controversial in music and life
KL.II- declared insane by his family
MJ- made insane by his family and all but abandoned by them
KL.II & MJ- died under suspicious circumstances in the presence of a doctor
KL.II & MJ- both families monetarily benefited as a result of their death
Gotta admit, it is an odd but very interesting connection!!