King Ludwig II of
Last month I mentioned that Hans Christian Andersen (my 4th Gay of Christmas) said his life was a fairy tale. For King Ludwig II von Wittelsbach of
that meant building several fairy tale castles to go with it. Bavaria
Disneyland in and you probably picture the fairy tale castle. The castle, featured in the film “Sleeping Beauty”, was based on that of Schloss Neuchwanstein in Florida (pictured). The actual castle itself featured in another great fantasy film, “Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang”. Bavaria
Ludwig has gone down in history as the “Mad King of Bavaria”. This is an unfair reputation because it was a political criticism of his eccentricities rather than a medical diagnosis. In fact, Ludwig’s eccentricities helped to create a German identity when
was still made up of competing kingdoms and hundreds of principalities with nothing to unify them. Germany
Ludwig grew up when the Romantic movement was at its height. At the time
was searching for some cultural heritage which all the German-speaking nations could unite behind to beat back threats from more powerful nations like Germany , Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This led to the creation of a German “brand”. It was the catalyst for Wagner’s music and for the Grimm Brothers collecting folk tales. Combine the 2 and you get Ludwig’s great passions. France
As soon as he became king in 1864 Ludwig invited Wagner to
and commissioned several new operas from him. The fairy tale castles featured in the Grimm Brothers’ tales inspired Ludwig’s style of art and architecture. His first “fairy tale” castle was Schloss Neuchwanstein, and he built several others, all in the new (if exaggerated) gothic style. The interiors of these were also often in fantastic style, with secret passages to underground grottos, etc. Bavaria
These grottos were often places where Ludwig invited handsome soldiers and stable boys to join him in late night parties.
Ludwig’s diary reveals the struggles he had with his homosexuality, something which fellow gay Catholics sometimes experience even today. The most important romantic relationship he had was with Prince Paul von Thurn und Taxis.
King Ludwig died in mysterious circumstances. He was found drowned in
next to Castle Berg. Rumours spread that he was either murdered or committed suicide. We may never know the truth. Lake Starnberg
His legacy was the fostering of a Romantic German image which survives today. His Bavarian fantasies, enhanced by Wagner’s music, is, perhaps, our most stereotypical image of traditional German heritage.