Who was this King Ludwig II of Bavaria? In the history of Germany, there are few who can compare to the dynamic nature of King Ludwig II. He was born on August 25, 1845, named Ludwig Friedrich Willhelm. Born at the summer palace of the royal family Wittelsbach, Nymphenburg Palace, which is in the city of Munich (it was most likely outside of Munich at the time of his birth). Ludwig was born the son of the Crown Prince (a crown prince is the son of the king with first rites to the crown when the king dies) Maximilian II. Maximilian’s father was the current King, King Ludwig I. Maximilian’s wife, and mother of King Ludwig II was at the time, the Crown Princess Marie – from Prussia.
King Ludwig II of Bavaria grew up the way many royals of the time did. Beginning at an early age, he was educated by prominent teachers of good reputation. Growing up the prince learned music, many different languages including French, English, and Greek. He also learned riding and sportsmanship. The prince had a rigorous schedule, being constantly guided and taught from early in the morning until the early evening.
Three years after the to-be King Ludwig the ii of Bavaria was born, his little brother Otto Wilhelm Luitpold Adalbert Waldemar was born (we’ll just call him Otto!) From the time he was born and throughout the rest of his life, Ludwig ii loved Otto and wanted the best for his little brother.
The future king grew up primarily by the hands of his tutors and then secondly by his parents. Each subject or aspect of his education was carefully planned so that the prince Ludwig II would have all the proper information and skills needed to prepare him to become the King of Bavaria.
Ludwig’s training and education was cut short when on March 9, 1864 his father, King Maximilian II, died. Ludwig took his oath to the constitution on March 11 – two days later. The meticulously planned educational journey for Ludwig was over five years short of the expected end date. Whether or not this fact hurt thing king’s reign over Bavaria could never be known. The fact is, though, that Ludwig would become a very misunderstood and preoccupied ruler.
At just eighteen years old, Ludwig II had become king! It is worthy to note here that the grandfather to King Ludwig II of Bavaria, King Ludwig I was still alive at the time of his son Maximilian’s death. Because of a scandal years ago involving a woman, politics, and behavior unbecoming of a king, he abdicated the throne thus making his son Maximilian II the king. Had it not been for Ludwig I’s questionable behavior and political upheaval, Ludwig II may still have only been prince after his father’s death.
Born to be King…
King Ludwig the II of Bavaria was accustomed to the royal treatment, no pun intended. His life had been spent for the most part in preparation for the time when he would become king. Therefore, when he became king, there didn’t seem to be any real aversion or hesitancy in his new occupation. The new king accepted his role and the natural progression of his life.
To understand King Ludwig II of Bavaria, one has to understand what conditions and expectations were like for a person in this condition. Here was a guy who throughout his entire life had been trained to act as the royal he was. His opinion, and that of his country’s, was that by birthright he was royal and born to lead the country. Can you imagine the affect this would have on you? Obviously anyone who spent their entire life in want of mothering and knowing that that they were to rule their people eventually would have a self righteous or very high opinion of themselves. How could one help it, really?
Why was Ludwig of Bavaria called the Fairy Tale King? Was he a “Mad King of Bavaria”?
King Ludwig II of Bavaria (king from 1864 to 1886) was nicknamed the Fairy Tale King, the fairy king, the swan king and sometimes the Mad King of Bavaria. Why? Well there are a couple of reasons.
Richard Wagner and his creations were pretty much an obsession for Ludwig II. Almost from the moment that he became king, until Wagner died, the king financed his projects and all but demanded his friendship. Lohengrin and Tristan und Isolde were favorites of the king. Throughout his life, Ludwig would do such things as assign himself as one of the characters in a Wagner work, and assign his love interests and friends as the other and then sign his letters as such. He even went so far as to have costumes made depicting the characters and have him or his friends dress up in the costumes.
Although King Ludwig II of Bavaria was engaged to be married to Duchess Sophie of Bavaria, his cousin, the union was not meant to be. The engagement was called off after several months and Ludwig remained unmarried for his entire life. Why? Because he was gay….or at least that is a popular theory. The love interests I referred to earlier were most likely men, some of whom Ludwig was friends with throughout his life. Two of his friendships that are worth mentioning are Paul of Taxis and Richard Hornig.
The combination of Ludwig II obsession with Wagner’s works, the loneliness that resulted from being gay in a environment that made it socially and morally unacceptable and the pure disinterest he seemed to have for ruling a kingdom were the reasons behind him being labeled as he was. The Fairy Tale King? Because he liked to imagine himself into a different world. The Swan King? His thrill for plays and works of art that he incorporated into his life. The Mad King? Well, is it really normal for people to dress up like their favorite characters?
Ludwig II King of Bavaria was misunderstood…
King Ludwig II of Bavaria didn’t like the restrictions and ceremonies that were customary for a King. Because he was King, he felt as if he got to pick what things he followed and what he didn’t. The older Ludwig became, the more distant he got from his subjects and staff. He didn’t actually care for the court life and personal appearances that were necessary for a king to participate in. Detaching himself from his public and staff only leant itself more toward the people thinking of him as odd.
King Ludwigs Castle
Actually, King Ludwig’s castles…. During his lifetime Ludwig began construction on three castles: Schloss Linderhof, Schloss Neuschwanstein, and Herenchiemsee. Each Schloss, or castle was elaborate and fairy tale esque, just how the king wanted it. Among the other of King Ludwigs Castle or castles, are Hohenschwangau near Fussen in which Ludwig spent time with his family when growing up and in adulthood, Nymphenburg Palace, where he was born. Ludwig also spent a lot of times in little huts or hideouts in the Alps, a way for him to escape the realities of the royal life.
As time progressed King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s public and staff began to realize that he was becoming odder and detached from the Bavarian public. Otto, King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s only brother was actually declared to be insane. Ludwig himself was not really stable, but not insane either. The above mentioned aspects of his personality together with the fact that his brother was mentally disabled, were all pieces that finally put the final puzzle together and sealed King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s fate.
Eventually, in June of 1886, members of the government had their king declared insane and unfit to rule. They arrested him with the intention of abdicating him. On June 13, 1886 Ludwig the II of Bavaria was found drown in Lake Starnberg. It is believed that the King was suicidal at this time and drown himself in the lake. Being a very good swimmer, it is hard to believe that he drown on accident. There also have been accounts that the king was shot and killed and only found in the lake after the murder.
Although a tragic end was had by Ludwig, you have to admit that there is some poetry in the way he died. If the king got to pick the way he died, he most likely would have liked the fact that his death was shrouded in mystery and the subject of interesting stories for years to come. I have to believe that the King himself would have found some peace in knowing that he himself became a fairy tale.
I really do want to point out that I am intertwining fact with opinion on some of these points. If you are really interested in learning more about Ludwig the II, and want more facts you should get a book on Ludwig II or rent one at the library, it is very interesting!