"Fairy King": how Ludwig II of Bavaria was declared insane for his hobbies
"Fairy King": how Ludwig II of Bavaria was declared insane for his hobbies
Left: Neuschwanstein Castle, right: portrait of King Ludwig II of Bavaria

Ludwig II of Bavaria was called the "fairy king" for his unusual behavior, not inherent in monarchs. Ludwig II grew up on Andersen's fairy tales, from the age of 16 he became interested in opera, and after accession to the throne he fanatically began to build castles, comparing himself to the hero of medieval epics. It got to the point that the king was declared insane, but descendants will remember him as the creator of one of the incredibly beautiful wonders of architecture - the castle Neuschwanstein.

Crown Prince of Bavaria Ludwig II (left) with his parents and younger brother Otto, 1860

Ludwig II of Bavaria is considered one of the most eccentric European rulers of the 19th century. The period of his reign came at a time when the country was rapidly losing its sovereignty. Bavaria was squeezed between Austria and Prussia and dragged into the conflict between these two warring parties. During a military clash, the young king supported Austria, but unsuccessfully. On August 22, 1866, a peace treaty was signed with Prussia, according to which Bavaria undertook to pay her significant reparations and ceded part of its lands.

Coronation portrait of Ludwig II of Bavaria

The politician from Ludwig II turned out to be useless. Moreover, the Bavarian king did not show any interest in state affairs at all. His real passion was music, painting and architecture. He inherited an interest in beauty from his grandfather Ludwig I, after whom he was named. Ludwig I was literally obsessed with ancient Greek artifacts, paintings by Renaissance artists.

Composer Richard Wagner, 1861

Ludwig II was decisively influenced by the music of Richard Wagner and his opera. The King of Bavaria invited the composer to Munich and assigned him a salary, which was very useful for the aging Wagner. The king often watched the opera, being in the auditorium all alone. Conservative Bavarians did not accept the composer's eccentric behavior, so Ludwig II, under pressure from the government, had to expel Wagner from the country.

Ludwig of Bavaria transferred his love for opera to the plane of architecture. The king decided to build a castle, inspired by Wagner's opera Lohengrin. Ludwig associated himself with the hero of the Germanic epic, who was also called the "Swan Knight". Building a castle in the style of the past became an obsession for Ludwig II.

Project drawing of Neuschwanstein Castle, 1869

The first stone of Neuschwanstein Castle (Neuschwanstein), whose name can be translated as "New Swan Stone", was founded in 1869. Two years after the start of construction, Ludwig II of Bavaria completely retired from politics. He devoted himself entirely to the castle. The king demanded that the architect coordinate every detail with him. The ministers grumbled because they had to send messengers or go to the mountains themselves for the royal signature and seal.

Neuschwanstein Castle

For the construction of the castle, Ludwig II of Bavaria spent a significant part of the royal treasury, his own funds, as well as money borrowed from other states. Lack of interest in governing the country, squandering the treasury, unwillingness to marry, as well as fanatical enthusiasm for building a castle created fertile ground for the opponents of the king, who wanted to take the reins into their own hands.

Ludwig II in his later years

On June 8, 1886, a council of doctors was assembled in Munich, which declared the king insane (without seeing the king himself). Two days after the medical verdict was passed, a commission arrived in Neuschwanstein to take the king for compulsory treatment.The guards loyal to Ludwig II did not let anyone into the castle.

The king tried to send an open letter to the newspapers stating that they groundlessly want to declare him insane, all but one of the messages were intercepted. The newspaper where it reached published an appeal, but by order of the government, the entire circulation was withdrawn.

Berg Castle on Lake Starnberg, 1886

On June 12, 1886, the commission that arrived did manage to get into the castle (one of the lackeys was bribed), and a medical report was read to Ludwig II of Bavaria. The main reason was called "the construction of unnecessary castles to anyone" (the king erected other castles in parallel), which led to the devastation of the treasury. The second point was called indifference to the fate of Bavaria. And the third reason was the alleged non-traditional sexual orientation of the king. His uncle Luitpold was appointed guardian and regent.

Ludwig II was captured and taken to the Berg castle under cover of night, where he was left under house arrest. In the evening of the next day, Ludwig and his accompanying professor Bernhard von Gudden went for a walk through the territory adjacent to the castle. By about 11 pm, their lifeless bodies were found in shallow waters in Lake Starnberng.

Memorial cross at the site of the death of the king on Lake Starnberg

The official version of the death of the king is suicide. Allegedly, the professor tried to prevent the death of the monarch, but died with him. However, the people believed in another version, according to which the "inconvenient" Ludwig II was killed for political reasons. In order not to wait for an official examination of his mental state, the king was deprived of his life the next day after his arrest.

Neuschwanstein Castle is the most famous landmark in Bavaria

Further construction of Neuschwanstein Castle resumed literally two months after the death of the king. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the castle was ready and open to the public. The colossal money invested in the construction of this architectural miracle returned to the treasury of Bavaria very quickly. Neuschwanstein is rightfully included in list of the most beautiful castles in the world.

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