Ludwig II of Bavaria

Ludwig II of Bavaria
Ludwig II
Ludwig in c. 1874
King of Bavaria
Reign 10 March 1864 – 13 June 1886
Predecessor Maximilian II
Successor Otto
Full name
Ludwig Otto Friedrich Wilhelm
House House of Wittelsbach
Father Maximilian II of Bavaria
Mother Marie of Prussia
Born 25 August 1845(1845-08-25)
Nymphenburg Palace
Died 13 June 1886(1886-06-13) (aged 40)
Lake Starnberg
Burial St. Michael's Church, Munich
Religion Catholic

Ludwig II (Ludwig Otto Friedrich Wilhelm;[1] sometimes rendered as Louis II in English) (25 August 1845[2] – 13 June 1886) was King of Bavaria from 1864 until shortly before his death. He is sometimes called the Swan King (English) and der Märchenkönig, the Fairy tale King (German). Additional titles were Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria, Franconia and in Swabia.[3]

Ludwig is sometimes also called "Mad King Ludwig", though the accuracy of that label has been disputed. Because Ludwig was deposed on grounds of mental illness without any medical examination and died a day later under mysterious circumstances, questions about the medical "diagnosis" remain controversial.[4] One of his most quoted sayings was "I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and to others."[5]

Ludwig is best known as an eccentric whose legacy is intertwined with the history of art and architecture. He commissioned the construction of several extravagant fantasy castles and palaces, the most famous being Neuschwanstein, and was a devoted patron of the composer Richard Wagner. Since his legacy of grandiose castles lives on in the form of massive tourist revenue, King Ludwig is generally well liked and even revered by many in Bavaria today.



Childhood and adolescent years

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

Born in Nymphenburg Palace (today located in suburban Munich), he was the eldest son of Maximilian II of Bavaria (then Crown Prince) and his wife Princess Marie of Prussia. His parents intended to name him Otto, but his grandfather, Ludwig I of Bavaria, insisted his grandson was to be named after him, since their common birthday, 25 August, is the feast day of Saint Louis, patron saint of Bavaria. A younger brother, born three years later, was named Otto.

Like many young heirs in an age when Kings governed most of Europe, Ludwig was continually reminded of his royal status. King Maximilian wanted to instruct both of his sons in the burdens of royal duty from an early age.[6] Ludwig was both extremely indulged and severely controlled by his tutors and subjected to a strict regimen of study and exercise. There are some who point to these stresses of growing up in a royal family as the causes for much of his odd behavior as an adult. Ludwig was not close with either of his parents.[7] King Maximilian's advisers had suggested that on his daily walks he might like, at times, to be accompanied by his future successor. The King replied, "But what am I to say to him? After all, my son takes no interest in what other people tell him."[8] Later, Ludwig would refer to his mother as "my predecessor's consort".[8] He was far closer to his grandfather, the deposed and notorious King Ludwig I, who came from a family of eccentrics.

Ludwig's childhood years did have happy moments. He lived for much of the time at Castle Hohenschwangau, a fantasy castle his father had built near the Schwansee (Swan Lake) near Füssen. It was decorated in the gothic style with countless frescoes depicting heroic German sagas. The family also visited Lake Starnberg. As an adolescent, Ludwig became best friends with his aide de camp, Prince Paul of Bavaria's wealthy Thurn und Taxis family. The two young men rode together, read poetry aloud, and staged scenes from the Romantic operas of Richard Wagner. The friendship ended when Paul became engaged in 1866. During his youth Ludwig also initiated a lifelong friendship with his half-first cousin once removed, Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria, later Empress of Austria.[7] They loved nature and poetry; Elisabeth called Ludwig "Eagle" and he called her "Dove."

Early reign and wars

Ludwig II just after his accession to the throne of Bavaria in 1864

Crown Prince Ludwig had just turned 18 when his father died after a three-day illness, and he ascended the Bavarian throne.[8] Although he was not prepared for high office,[7] his youth and brooding good looks made him popular in Bavaria and elsewhere.[7] One of the first acts of his reign, a few weeks after his accession, was to summon composer Richard Wagner to his court in Munich.[7][9] Wagner had a notorious reputation as a revolutionary and a philanderer and was constantly on the run from creditors.[7] Ludwig had admired Wagner since first seeing his opera, Lohengrin, at the impressionable age of 15½, followed by Tannhäuser ten months later. Wagner's operas appealed to the king's fantasy-filled imagination and filled an emotional void. On 4 May 1864, the 51-year-old Wagner was given an unprecedented 1¾ hour audience with Ludwig in the Royal Palace in Munich; later the composer wrote of his first meeting with Ludwig, "Alas, he is so handsome and wise, soulful and lovely, that I fear that his life must melt away in this vulgar world like a fleeting dream of the gods."[7][9] The king was likely the saviour of Wagner's career. Without Ludwig, it is doubted that Wagner's later operas would have been composed, much less premiered at the prestigious Munich Royal Court Theatre, now the Bavarian State Opera House.

A year after meeting the King, Wagner presented his latest work, Tristan und Isolde, in Munich to great acclaim. But the composer’s perceived extravagant and scandalous behaviour in the capital was unsettling for the conservative people of Bavaria, and the King was forced to ask Wagner to leave the city six months later, in December 1865.

Ludwig’s interest in theatre was by no means confined to Wagner. In 1864, he laid the foundation stone of a new Court Theatre. This theatre is nowadays called the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz (Gärtnerplatz-Theater). In 1867, he appointed Karl von Perfall Director of the new theatre. Ludwig wished to introduce Munich theatre-goers to the best of European drama. Perfall, under Ludwig’s supervision, introduced the public to Shakespeare, Calderón, Mozart, Gluck, Ibsen, Weber and many others. He also raised the standard of interpretation of Schiller, Molière and Corneille.[10]

Between 1872 and 1885, the King had 209 private performances (Separatvorstellungen) given for himself alone or with a guest, in the two court theatres, comprising 44 operas (28 by Wagner, including eight of Parsifal), 11 ballets and 154 plays (the principal theme being Bourbon France) at a cost of 97,300 marks.[11] This was not due so much to misanthropy but, as the King complained to the theatre actor-manager Ernst Possart: "I can get no sense of illusion in the theatre so long as people keep staring at me, and follow my every expression through their opera-glasses. I want to look myself, not to be a spectacle for the masses."

The greatest stresses of Ludwig's early reign were pressure to produce an heir, and relations with militant Prussia. Both issues came to the forefront in 1867.

Ludwig II and Duchess Sophie in Bavaria in 1867

Ludwig became engaged to Duchess Sophie in Bavaria, his cousin and the youngest sister of his dear friend, Empress Elisabeth of Austria.[7] The engagement was publicized on 22 January 1867, but after repeatedly postponing the wedding date, Ludwig finally cancelled the engagement in October. A few days before the engagement had been announced, Sophie had received a letter from the King telling her what she already knew: "The main substance of our relationship has always been ... Richard Wagner's remarkable and deeply moving destiny."[12] After the engagement was broken off, Ludwig wrote to his former fiancee, "My beloved Elsa! Your cruel father has torn us apart. Eternally yours, Heinrich" (the names Elsa and Heinrich came from characters from Wagner operas)[12] Ludwig never married, but Sophie later married Ferdinand d'Orléans, duc d'Alençon (1844–1910).

Throughout his reign, Ludwig had a succession of close friendships with men, including his chief equerry and Master of the Horse, Richard Hornig (1843–1911), Hungarian theatre actor Josef Kainz, and courtier Alfons Weber (born c.1862). He began keeping a diary in which he recorded his private thoughts and his attempts to suppress his sexual desires and remain true to his Roman Catholic faith. Ludwig's original diaries from 1869 were lost during World War II, and all that remains today are copies of entries during the 1886 plot to depose him. These transcribed diary entries, along with private letters and other surviving personal documents, suggest that Ludwig was homosexual and struggled with his orientation throughout his life.[13] (Homosexuality had not been punishable in Bavaria since 1813.[14]) Some earlier diaries have survived in the Geheimes Hausarchiv in Munich and extracts starting in 1858 were published by Evers in 1986.[15]

Relations with Prussia took centre stage starting in 1866. During the Seven Weeks' War, which began in July, Ludwig agreed (as did several other German principalities) to take the side of Austria against Prussia.[7] When the two sides negotiated the war’s settlement, the terms required that Ludwig accept a mutual defense treaty with Prussia.

This treaty placed Bavaria back on the firing line three years later, when the Franco-Prussian War broke out. Prussia and her allies prevailed in this conflict, and an emboldened Prussia now finished her campaign to unify all of the minor German kingdoms into one German Empire under the rule of King Wilhelm I of Prussia, who would now be declared Emperor, or Kaiser.

At the request of Prussian Minister President Bismarck (and in exchange for certain financial concessions), Ludwig wrote a letter (the so-called Kaiserbrief) in December 1870 endorsing the creation of the German Empire. With the creation of the Empire, Bavaria lost its status as an independent kingdom and became another state in the empire. Ludwig attempted to protest these alterations by refusing to attend the ceremony where Wilhelm I was proclaimed the new empire's first emperor.[16] However the Bavarian delegation under Prime Minister Count Otto von Bray-Steinburg had secured a privileged status of the Kingdom of Bavaria within the German Empire (Reservatrechte). Within the Empire the Kingdom of Bavaria was even able to retain its own diplomatic body and its own army, which would fall under Prussian command only in times of war.

After the creation of the greater Germany, Ludwig increasingly withdrew from politics, and devoted himself to his personal creative projects, most famously his castles, where he personally approved every detail of the architecture, decoration and furnishing.

Ludwig’s castles

The coat of arms of King Ludwig over the entrance to Schloss Neuschwanstein.

Ludwig was notably eccentric in ways that made serving as Bavaria’s head of state problematic. He disliked large public functions and avoided formal social events whenever possible, and preferred a life of fantasy that he pursued with various creative projects. He last inspected a military parade on 22 August 1875 and last gave a Court banquet on 10 February 1876.[17] These idiosyncrasies caused tension with the king's government ministers, but did not cost him popularity among common Bavarians. The king enjoyed traveling in the Bavarian countryside and chatting with farmers and laborers he met along the way. He also delighted in rewarding those who were hospitable to him during his travels with lavish gifts. He is still remembered in Bavaria as Unser Kini, which means "our darling king" in the Bavarian dialect.

Ludwig also used his personal fortune (supplemented annually from 1873 by 270,000 marks from the Welfenfonds[18]) to fund the construction of a series of elaborate castles. In 1867 he visited Viollet-le-Duc's work at Pierrefonds, and the Palace of Versailles in France, as well as the Wartburg near Eisenach in Thuringia, which largely influenced the style of their construction. These projects provided employment for many hundreds of labourers and brought a considerable flow of money to the relatively poor regions where his castles were built. Figures for the total costs between 1869 and 1886 for the building and equipping of each castle were published in 1968: Schloß Neuschwanstein 6,180,047 marks; Schloß Linderhof 8,460,937 marks (a large portion being expended on the Venus Grotto); Schloß Herrenchiemsee (from 1873) 16,579,674 marks[19] Guide books of the time give 20 German marks = £1 sterling.

In 1868, Ludwig commissioned the first drawings for two of his buildings. The first was Schloss Neuschwanstein, or "New Swanstone Castle", a dramatic Romanesque fortress with soaring fairy-tale towers situated on an Alpine crag. The second was Herrenchiemsee, a replica of the palace at Versailles, France, which was sited on the Herren Island in the middle of the Chiemsee Lake, and was meant to outdo its predecessor in scale and opulence, although only the central section was ever built.

The following year, he finished the construction of the royal apartment in the Residenz Palace in Munich, to which he had added an opulent conservatory or Winter Garden on the palace roof. It was started in 1867 as a quite small structure, but after extensions in 1868 and 1871 the dimensions reached 69.5mx17.2mx9.5m high. It featured an ornamental lake complete with skiff, a painted panorama of the Himalayas as a backdrop, an Indian fisher-hut of bamboo, a Moorish kiosk, and an exotic tent. The roof was a technically advanced metal and glass construction. The Wintergarden was closed in June 1886, partly dismantled the following year and demolished in 1897.[20][21]

In 1869, Ludwig oversaw the laying of the cornerstone for Schloss Neuschwanstein on a breathtaking mountaintop site overlooking his childhood home, the castle his father had built at Hohenschwangau. The walls of Neuschwanstein are decorated with frescoes depicting scenes from the legends used in Wagner's operas, including the somewhat less than mystic Meistersinger, but not scenes from the operas themselves.[22]

After plans for a monumental festival theatre for Wagner's opera in Munich was thwarted by Court opposition, he supported the construction 1872-6 of the Festspielhaus in the town of Bayreuth, and attended the dress rehearsal and third public performance of the complete Ring Cycle in 1876. In 1878, construction was completed on Ludwig’s Schloss Linderhof, an ornate palace in neo-French Rococo style, with handsome formal gardens. The grounds contained a Venus grotto lit by electricity, where Ludwig was rowed in a boat shaped like a shell. After seeing the Bayreuth performances Ludwig had built in the forest near Linderhof Hunding's Hut (Hundinghütte) (based on the stage set of the first act of Wagner's Die Walküre) complete with an artificial tree and a sword embedded in it. In Die Walküre, Siegfried's father Siegmund, pulls the sword from the tree. Hunding's Hut was destroyed in 1945 but a replica was constructed at Linderhof in 1990. In 1877 a small hermitage (Einsiedlei des Gurnemanz) as in the third act of Wagner's Parsifal was erected near Hunding's Hut, with a meadow of spring flowers, where the king would retire to read. (A replica made in 2000 can now be seen in the park at Linderhof.) Nearby a Moroccan House, purchased at the Paris World Fair in 1878, was erected alongside the mountain road. Sold in 1891 and taken to Oberammergau it was purchased by the government in 1980 and re-erected in the park at Linderhof after extensive restoration. Inside the palace, iconography reflected Ludwig's fascination with the absolutist government of Ancien Régime France. Ludwig saw himself as the "Moon King", a romantic shadow of the earlier "Sun King", Louis XIV of France. From Linderhof, Ludwig enjoyed moonlit sleigh rides in an elaborate eighteenth century sleigh, complete with footmen in eighteenth century livery. Also in 1878, construction began on his Versailles-derived Herrenchiemsee.

In 1879 he travelled to England and visited Sir Richard Wallace, to whom he had written for advice on England's medieval architecture.[23] Wallace advised Ludwig to take a tour of the English countryside in order to survey a variety of ecclesiastical buildings, that he might draw inspiration from them for future building projects. In a letter to Wallace, Ludwig expressed particular admiration for the buildings of Hertfordshire, which he toured extensively.[24]

In the 1880s, Ludwig’s plans proceeded undimmed. He planned construction of a new castle on the Falkenstein near Pfronten in the Allgäu (a place he knew well: a diary entry for 16 Oct. 1867 reads "Falkenstein wild, romantic"[25]) (based on the tower of St Mary's Church, Baldock),[26][27] a Byzantine palace in the Graswangtal and a Chinese summer palace by the Plansee in Tyrol. By 1885, a road and water supply had been provided at Falkenstein but the old ruins remained untouched;[28] the other projects never got beyond initial plans.

Controversy and struggle for power

Although the king had paid for his pet projects out of his own funds and not the state coffers,[29] that did not necessarily spare Bavaria from financial fallout. By 1885, the king was 14 million marks in debt, had borrowed heavily from his family, and rather than economizing, as his financial ministers advised him, he undertook new opulence and new designs without pause. He demanded that loans be sought from all of Europe's royalty, and remained aloof from matters of state. Feeling harassed and irritated by his ministers, he considered dismissing the entire cabinet and replacing them with fresh faces. The cabinet decided to act first.

Seeking a cause to depose Ludwig by constitutional means, the rebelling ministers decided on the rationale that he was mentally ill, and unable to rule. They asked Ludwig's uncle, Prince Luitpold, to step into the royal vacancy once Ludwig was deposed. Luitpold agreed, so long as the conspirators produced reliable proof that the king was in fact helplessly insane.

Between January and March 1886, the conspirators assembled the Ärztliches Gutachten or Medical Report, on Ludwig's fitness to rule. Most of the details in the report were compiled by Count von Holnstein, who was disillusioned with Ludwig and actively sought his downfall. Holnstein used his high rank to extract a long list of complaints, accounts, and gossip about Ludwig from among the king's servants. The litany of bizarre behavior included his pathological shyness; his avoidance of state business; his complex and expensive flights of fancy, including moonlit picnics at which his young groomsmen were said to strip naked and dance; conversations with imaginary persons; sloppy and childish table manners; dispatching servants on lengthy and expensive voyages to research architectural details in foreign lands; and abusive, sometimes violent treatment of his servants.

While some of these accusations were perhaps accurate[citation needed], exactly which, and to what degree, may never be known. They were, however, sufficient to convince Prince Luitpold to cooperate. Next the conspirators approached the Prussian Minister-President, Otto von Bismarck, who doubted the report's veracity, but did not stop the ministers from carrying out their plan.

In early June, the report was finalized and signed by a panel of four psychiatrists: Dr. Bernhard von Gudden, chief of the Munich Asylum; Dr Hubert von Grashey (who was Gudden's son-in-law); and their colleagues, a Dr. Hagen and a Dr. Hubrich. The report declared in its final sentences that the king suffered from paranoia, and concluded, "Suffering from such a disorder, freedom of action can no longer be allowed and Your Majesty is declared incapable of ruling, which incapacity will be not only for a year's duration, but for the length of Your Majesty's life." The men had never met the king except Gudden once twelve years ago, nor examined him.[7]


Ludwig II of Bavaria towards the end of his life c. 1882

At 4 a.m. on 10 June 1886, a government commission including Holnstein and von Gudden arrived at Neuschwanstein to formally deliver the document of deposition to the king and place him in custody. Tipped off an hour or two earlier by a faithful servant, his coachman Fritz Osterholzer, Ludwig ordered the local police to protect him, and the commissioners were turned back at the castle gate at gun-point. In an especially famous sideshow, the commissioners were attacked by 47-year-old local baroness (Spera von Truchseß[30]) loyal to the king, who flailed at the men with her umbrella and then rushed to the king’s apartments to identify the conspirators. Ludwig then had the commissioners arrested, but after holding them captive for several hours, had them released later on 10 June.

That same day, the Government publicly proclaimed Luitpold as Prince Regent. The king’s friends and allies urged him to flee, or to show himself in Munich and thus regain the support of the people. Ludwig hesitated, instead issuing a statement, allegedly drafted by his aide-de-camp Count Alfred Dürckheim, which was published by a Bamberg newspaper on 11 June:

The Prince Luitpold intends, against my will, to ascend to the Regency of my land, and my erstwhile ministry has, through false allegations regarding the state of my health, deceived my beloved people, and is preparing to commit acts of high treason. [...] I call upon every loyal Bavarian to rally around my loyal supporters to thwart the planned treason against the King and the fatherland.

The government succeeded in suppressing the statement by seizing most copies of the newspaper and handbills. Anton Sailer's pictorial biography of the King prints a photograph of this rare document. (The authenticity of the Royal Proclamation is doubted however, as it is dated 9 June, before the Commission arrived, it uses "I" instead of the royal "We" and there are orthographic errors.) As the king dithered, his support waned. Peasants who rallied to his cause were dispersed, and the police who guarded his castle were replaced by a police detachment of 36 men who sealed off all entrances to the castle.

Eventually the king decided he would like to escape, but it was too late. In the early hours of 12 June, a second commission arrived. The King was seized just after midnight and at 4 a.m. taken to a waiting carriage. He had asked Dr. Gudden, "How can you declare me insane? After all, you have never seen or examined me before." only to be told that "it was unnecessary; the documentary evidence [servants' tittle-tattle] is very copious and completely substantiated. It is overwhelming." [31] Ludwig was transported to Castle Berg on the shores of Lake Starnberg, south of Munich.

Mysterious death

On 13 June 1886, around 6:00 pm, Ludwig asked Gudden to accompany him on a walk through the Schloß Berg parkland along the shore of Lake Starnberg. Gudden agreed; the walk may even have been his suggestion, and he told the nurses not to accompany them. His words were ambiguous ("Es darf kein Pfleger mit gehen") and whether they were meant to follow at a discreet distance is not clear. The two men were last seen at about 6:30; they were due back at eight but never returned. After searches were made for more than three hours by the entire castle personnel in a gale with heavy rain, at 11:30 that night the bodies of both the King and Gudden were found, floating in the shallow water near the shore. The King's watch had stopped at 6:54. Gendarmes patrolling the park had heard and seen nothing.

Ludwig's death was officially ruled a suicide by drowning, but this has been questioned.[32][33] Ludwig was known to be a strong swimmer in his youth, the water was less than waist-deep where his body was found, and the official autopsy report indicated that no water was found in his lungs.[32][34] Ludwig had expressed suicidal feelings during the crisis, but the suicide theory does not fully explain Gudden's death. Gudden's body showed signs of strangulation and of a struggle, leading to the suspicion that he was strangled to death by Ludwig.[7]

Memorial Cross at the site where the body of Ludwig II was found in the Starnberger Lake

Many hold that Ludwig was murdered by his enemies while attempting to escape from Berg. One account suggests that the king was shot.[32] The King's personal fisherman, Jakob Lidl (1864–1933), stated, "Three years after the king's death I was made to swear an oath that I would never say certain things — not to my wife, not on my deathbed, and not to any priest ... The state has undertaken to look after my family if anything should happen to me in either peace time or war." Lidl kept his oath, at least orally, but left behind notes which were found after his death. According to Lidl, he had hidden behind bushes with his boat, waiting to meet the king, in order to row him out into the lake, where loyalists were waiting to help him escape. "As the king stepped up to his boat and put one foot in it, a shot rang out from the bank, apparently killing him on the spot, for the king fell across the bow of the boat."[32][35] However, the autopsy report indicates no scars or wounds found on the body of the dead king; on the other hand, many years later Countess Jospehine von Wrba-Kaunitz would show her afternoon tea guests a grey Loden coat with two bullet holes in the back, asserting it was the one Ludwig was wearing.[36] Another theory suggests that Ludwig died of natural causes (such as a heart attack or stroke) brought on by the extreme cold (12°C) of the lake during an escape attempt.[32]

Ludwig’s remains were dressed in the regalia of the Order of Saint Hubert, and lay in state in the royal chapel at the Munich Residence Palace. In his right hand he held a posy of white jasmine picked for him by his cousin the Empress Elisabeth of Austria.[37] After an elaborate funeral on 19 June 1886, Ludwig's remains were interred in the crypt of the Michaelskirche in Munich. His heart, however, does not lie with the rest of his body. Bavarian tradition called for the heart of the king to be placed in a silver urn and sent to the Gnadenkapelle (Chapel of the Mercy) in Altötting, where it was placed beside those of his father and grandfather.

Three years after his death, a small memorial chapel was built overlooking the site and a cross erected in the lake. A remembrance ceremony is held there each year on 13 June.

The King was succeeded by his brother Otto, but since Otto was genuinely incapacitated by mental illness, the king's uncle Luitpold remained regent.


Ludwig II's coronation portrait, 1865

Most historians believe that Ludwig was deeply peculiar and irresponsible, but the question of clinical insanity remains unresolved.[4] The brain researcher Heinz Häfner disagreed that there were signs for insanity.[7] Others believe he may have suffered from the effects of chloroform used in an effort to control chronic toothache rather than any psychological disorder. His cousin Empress Elisabeth held that "The King was not mad; he was just an eccentric living in a world of dreams. They might have treated him more gently, and thus perhaps spared him so terrible an end."[citation needed]

King Ludwig’s uncle Luitpold maintained the regency until his own death in 1912 at the age of 91. He was succeeded as regent by his eldest son, also named Ludwig. The regency lasted for 13 months until November 1913, when the new regent, Ludwig, declared the regency at an end, deposed the still-living but still-institutionalized King Otto, and declared himself King Ludwig III of Bavaria. His reign lasted until the end of the First World War, when monarchy in all of Germany came to an end.

Today visitors pay tribute to King Ludwig by visiting his grave as well as his castles. Ironically, the very castles which were said to be causing the king’s financial ruin have today become extremely profitable tourist attractions for the Bavarian state. The palaces, given to Bavaria by Ludwig III's son Crown Prince Rupprecht in 1923,[38] have paid for themselves many times over and attract millions of tourists from all over the world to Germany each year.


It is not surprising that Ludwig II had a great interest in building. His paternal grandfather, King Ludwig I, had largely rebuilt Munich. It was known as the 'Athens on the Isar'. His father, King Maximilian II had also continued with more construction in Munich as well as the construction of Hohenschwangau Castle, the childhood home of Ludwig II, near the future Neuschwanstein Castle of Ludwig II. Ludwig II had planned to build a large opera house on the banks of the Isar river in Munich. This plan was vetoed by the Bavarian government.[39] Using similar plans, a festival theatre was built later in his reign from Ludwig's personal finances at Bayreuth.

  • Winter Garden, Residenz Palace, Munich, an elaborate winter garden built on the roof of the Residenz Palace in Munich. It featured an ornamental lake with gardens and painted frescos. It was roofed over using a technically advanced metal and glass construction.[20] After the death of Ludwig II, it was dismantled in 1897 due to water leaking from the ornamental lake through the ceiling of the rooms below. Photographs and sketches still record this incredible creation which included a grotto, a Moorish kiosk, an Indian royal tent, an artificially illuminated rainbow and intermittent moonlight.[20][40]
Schloß Neuschwanstein
  • Neuschwanstein Castle,[41] or "New Swan Stone Castle", a dramatic Romanesque fortress with Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic interiors, which was built high above his father's castle: Hohenschwangau. Numerous wall paintings depict scenes from the legends Wagner used in his operas. Christian glory and chaste love figure predominantly in the iconography, and may have been intended to help Ludwig live up to his religious ideals, but the bedroom decoration depicts the illicit love of Tristan & Isolde (after Gottfried von Strasbourg's poem). The castle was not finished at Ludwig's death; the Kemenate was completed in 1892 but the watch-tower and chapel were only at the foundation stage in 1886 and were never built.[42] The residence quarters of the King - which he first occupied in May 1884[43] - can be visited along with the servant's rooms, kitchens as well as the monumental throne room. Unfortunately the throne was never completed although sketches show how it might have looked on completion.[44]
    Neuschwanstein Castle is a landmark well known by many non-Germans, and was used by Walt Disney in the twentieth century as the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castles at Disneylands around the world. The castle has had over 50 million visitors since it was opened to the public on 1 August 1886, including 1.3 million in 2008 alone.[45]
Linderhof Castle
  • Linderhof Castle, an ornate palace in neo-French Rococo style, with handsome formal gardens. Just north of the palace, at the foot of the Hennenkopf, the park contains a Venus grotto where Ludwig was rowed in a shell-like boat on an underground lake lit with red, green or "Capri" blue effects by electricity, a novelty at that time, provided by one of the first generating plants in Bavaria.[46] Stories of private musical performances here are probably apochryphal; nothing is known for certain.[47] In the forest nearby a romantic wooded hut was also built around an artificial tree (see Hundinghütte above). Inside the palace, iconography reflects Ludwig's fascination with the absolutist government of Ancien Régime France. Ludwig saw himself as the "Moon King", a romantic shadow of the earlier "Sun King", Louis XIV of France. From Linderhof, Ludwig enjoyed moonlit sleigh rides in an elaborate eighteenth century sleigh, complete with footmen in eighteenth century livery. He was known to stop and visit with rural peasants while on rides, adding to his legend and popularity. The sleigh can today be viewed with other royal carriages and sleds at the Carriage Museum (Marstallmusem) at Nymphenburg Palace in Munich. Its lantern was illuminated by electricity supplied by a battery.[48] There is also a Moorish Pavilion in the park of Schloß Linderhof.
  • Herrenchiemsee, a replica (although only the central section was ever built) of Louis XIV's palace at Versailles, France, which was meant to outdo its predecessor in scale and opulence - for instance, at 98 meters the Hall of Mirrors is a third longer than the original. The palace is located on the Herren Island in the middle of the Chiemsee Lake. Most of the palace was never completed once the king ran out of money, and Ludwig lived there for only 10 days in October 1885, less than a year before his mysterious death.[43] It is interesting to note that tourists come from France to view the recreation of the famous Ambassadors' Staircase. The original Ambassadors' Staircase at Versailles was demolished in 1752.[49]
  • Ludwig also outfitted Schachen king's house with an overwhelmingly decorative Arabian style interior, including a replica of the famous Peacock Throne. There are allegations of luxurious parties with the king sometimes reclining in the role of Turkish sultan while the most handsome soldiers and stable boys served him as scantily clad dancers.
  • Falkenstein, a planned, but never executed "robber baron's castle" in the Gothic style. A painting by Christian Jank shows the proposed building as an even more fairytale version of Neuschwanstein, perched on a rocky cliff high above Castle Neuschwanstein.

Ludwig II left behind a large collection of plans and designs for other castles that were never built, as well as plans for further rooms in his completed buildings. Many of these designs are housed today in the King Ludwig II Museum at Herrenchiemsee Castle. These building designs date from the latter part of the King's reign, beginning around 1883. As money was starting to run out, the artists knew that their designs would never be executed. The designs became more extravagant and numerous as the artists realized that there was no need to concern themselves with economy or practicality.

Ludwig and the arts

Ludwig II with Richard Wagner, the composer of Lohengrin and many other romantic operas, at the piano

It has been said that Richard Wagner’s late career is part of Ludwig’s legacy, since he almost certainly would have been unable to complete his opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen or to write his final opera, Parsifal, without the king’s support.

Ludwig also sponsored the premieres of Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and, through his financial support of the Bayreuth Festival, those of Der Ring des Nibelungen and Parsifal.[50]

Ludwig provided Munich with its Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz, establishing a lasting tradition of performing the best of European drama.

Ludwig in popular culture

Literature, stage and film

  • The 1972 German film Ludwig - Requiem für einen jungfräulichen König (Ludwig - Requiem for a Virgin King), written and directed by Hans-Jürgen Syberberg provides a more personal, sympathetic and idiosyncratic account of the King's life from his boyhood to his death. It stars Harry Baer and Balthasar Thomass as Ludwig II, and Gerhard Maerz and Anette Tirier as Richard Wagner.
  • An earlier film, directed by Helmut Kautner, entitled Ludwig II (1955), starred O. W. Fischer in the role of Ludwig II and Ruth Leuwerik in the role of Empress Elizabeth.
  • The early 21st century play Valhalla by playwright Paul Rudnick prominently features Ludwig as the play unfolds in 19th century Bavaria and 1940s Texas.
  • A play by Jordan Harrison, "Doris to Darlene: A Cautionary Valentine," features Ludwig II and his relationship with Wagner as two central characters. It premiered at Playwrights Horizons in New York in December 2007.
  • The three-volume manga series Ludwig II (ルートヴィヒII世) by the artist You Higuri, published by Kadokawa Shoten, is a highly fictionalized account of Ludwig's love life.
  • The Busch Gardens Europe ride The Curse of DarKastle features Ludwig as a king whose parents, and later, party guests "mysteriously disappeared", and who now haunts his old castle terrorizing guests riding golden sleighs. As with Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within, werewolves figure in the ride.
  • Takarazuka Revue has adopted the life of the emperor for a musical production.
  • Ludwig figures in The Alabaster Egg, a novel by Gillian Freeman.
  • Sharyn McCrumb's 1984 mystery novel Sick of Shadows features a character who identifies with Ludwig II and builds a replica of Neuschwanstein castle in Georgia. The novel also acts out a few more disturbing incidents from Ludwig's life.
  • The 1993 novel Sherlock in Love by Sena Jeter Naslund features an appearance by the Mad King Ludwig.
  • In the 1993 film Ludwig 1881, Helmut Berger reprises his role as Ludwig II in an episode involving the actor Josef Kainz, who is invited to accompany the king on a cruise on a Swiss lake, in order to recreate scenes from a story which actually took place around the lake.
  • The story of Ludwig II is discussed by the characters of the 1947 novel Doktor Faustus by Thomas Mann, in chapter XL.
  • Ludvig II is a prominent character in the 1995 computer game Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within.


A number of musicals based on the life of Ludwig II have been staged. One was called, Ludwig: The Musical by Rolf Rettburg and another, Ludwig II: Longing For Paradise with music by Franz Hummel and lyrics by Stephen Barbarino. A special theatre was constructed on the shores of the lake at Fussen, not far from Castles Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, specifically for the musical performances.

The Clean's spoken-word song Ludwig, and Amon Duul II's 1975 song of the same name are about him.

The electronic duo Matmos recorded a song entitled "Banquet for King Ludwig II of Bavaria" on their 2006 album The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast.

Electronic music composer Klaus Schulze wrote the song "Ludwig II von Bayern" on his album X, a concept album of six "musical biographies" evoking contemporary or historical intellectuals with an influence on Schulze.

In 2010, the German power metal group Freedom Call released a concept album about the life of King Ludwig II, called Legend of the Shadowking.




  1. ^ He was originally named Otto Ludwig and Friedrich Wilhelm was his father, but on 8 Sept. 1845 he was called Ludwig, after his grandfather, who was born on the same day (St Ludwig's Day). See Böhm 1924, pp. 1f; Chapman-Huston 1955, p. 4; Schlim 2005, p. 5.
  2. ^ At 00.28 hours: J.G. Wolf 1922, p. 16. Compare Ludwig's remark to Anton Niggl on 11/12 June 1886 about being born & going to die at 12.30 (Hacker 1966, p. 363 quoting Gerold 1914, pp. 91-3)
  3. ^ See e.g., Adreßbuch von München 1876, p. 1.
  4. ^ a b Desing, 1996.
  5. ^ "Ein ewig Rätsel bleiben will ich mir und anderen." In a letter dated 27 April 1876 to the actress Marie Dahn-Hausmann (1829-1909), whom he may have regarded as a kind of substitute mother (published by Conrad in Die Propyläen 17, Munich, 9 July 1920). The words are based on a passage in Schiller's 1803 drama Die Braut von Messina II/1.
  6. ^ Nohbauer, 1998, p. 6.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Der Mythos vom Märchenkönig". 2010-06-12. Retrieved 2011-06-14. 
  8. ^ a b c Nohbauer, 1998, p. 12.
  9. ^ a b Nohbauer, 1998, p. 25.
  10. ^ Rall, Petzet and Merta (2001), King Ludwig II
  11. ^ See Kurt Hommel: Die Separatvorstellungen vor König Ludwig II. von Bayern (Munich, 1963)
  12. ^ a b Nohbauer, 1998, p. 40.
  13. ^ McIntosh, 1982, pp. 155–158.
  14. ^ Till 2010, p. 48
  15. ^ Hans Gerhard Evers: Ludwig II. von Bayern. Theaterfürst-König-Bauherr (Munich, 1986)
  16. ^ Nohbauer, 1998, p. 37.
  17. ^ Hojer 1986, p. 138
  18. ^ Gerhard Hojer (ed.): König Ludwig II.-Museum Herrenchiemsee. Katalog (Munich, 1986, p. 137)
  19. ^ Petzet Katalog 1968, p. 226.
  20. ^ a b c Nohbauer, 1998, p. 18.
  21. ^ See Die Wintergarten König Ludwigs II. in der Münchener Residenz by Elmar D. Schmid in Gerhard Hojer (ed.): König Ludwig II. Museum Herrenchiemsee. Katalog. (Munich, 1986), pp. 62-94 & 446-451.
  22. ^ "The pictures in the new castle shall follow the sagas and not Wagner's interpretation of them." Letter from footman Adalbert Welker to Court secretary Ludwig von Bürkel 5 April 1879 (Petzet 1970, p. 138)
  23. ^ Mallett, Donald (1979). The greatest collector: Lord Hertford and the founding of the Wallace Collection. London [Eng.]: Macmillan. pp. 154. ISBN 0-33-324467-2. 
  24. ^ This entry may be a hoax. Mallett 1979, p. 171 states only: "Wallace sent him [Ludwig] photographs, drawings and engravings of castles and buildings in the British Isles with which Ludwig was well satisfied, for he is said to have wished to give him a decoration. This did not occur, but as a sign of his gratitude he sent him in 1883, through the German ambassador in London, an engraved portrait of himself which Wallace hung in his study. It is probable that he may have advised the king on French eighteenth-century decoration and furnishing." It should also be noted that the detailed itinerary of Ludwig's journeys compiled from official sources by Franz Merta: "König Ludwig II. Wirklichkeit und Rätsel" (Schnell und Steiner, Regensburg, 3rd edition 2005) does not include this unlikely trip to England, but it is entirely possible that the king sent an emissary to consult Sir Richard Wallace at Hertford House in London, or at his country seat in Suffolk.
  25. ^ Evers 1986, p. 228.
  26. ^ Blunt, Wilfrid (1970). The dream-king, Ludwig II of Bavaria. New York [Eng.]: Viking. pp. 121. 
  27. ^ This reference to Baldock may be a hoax, as it lacks supporting evidence. The first design was a sketch by Christian Jank in 1883 "very much like the Townhall of Liege" (Kreisel 1954, p. 82). Subsequent designs showed a modest villa with a square tower (Dollmann 1884) and a small Gothic castle (Schultze 1884, Hofmann 1886). See Petzet Katalog 1968 & Hojer 1986, pp. 298-304 for details.
  28. ^ Hojer 1986, p. 300.
  29. ^ Nohbauer, 1998, p. 73.
  30. ^ Esperanza Truchsess von Wetzhausen née von Sarachaga, of Spanish descent, born Petersburg 1839, married 1862 Friedrich Truchsess von Wetzhausen (1825-94); died after 1909: Böhm 1922, p. 600.
  31. ^ name=nohbauer82
  32. ^ a b c d e Nohbauer, 1998, p. 88.
  33. ^ von Burg, 1989, p. 315.
  34. ^ von Burg, 1989, p. 308.
  35. ^ von Burg, 1989, p. 311.
  36. ^,1518,515924,00.html
  37. ^ Nohbauer, 1998, p. 86.
  38. ^ "Princess Irmingard of Bavaria". The Daily Telegraph (London). 8 November 2010. 
  39. ^ Petzet and Neumeister, 1995, p. 24.
  40. ^ Calore, 1998, pp. 164-165.
  41. ^ First so-called only in 1891: Baumgartner 1981, p. 78
  42. ^ Hojer 1986, p. 294
  43. ^ a b Merta 2005, p. 190
  44. ^ Calore, 1998, p. 89.
  45. ^ Till 2010, p. 34
  46. ^ Petzet 1970, p. 144
  47. ^ Petzet 1970, p. 146
  48. ^ Petzet 1968, no. 780
  49. ^ Calore, 1998, p. 60.
  50. ^ See Detta & Michael Petzet 1970, passim


English-language biographies and related information on Ludwig II
  • Blunt, Wilfred; Petzet, Michael. The Dream King: Ludwig II of Bavaria. (1970) ISBN 0-241-11293-1, ISBN 0-14-003606-7.
  • von Burg, Katerina. Ludwig II of Bavaria. (1989) ISBN 1-870417-02-X.
  • Calore, Paola. Past and Present Castles of Bavaria. (1998) ISBN 1-84056-019-3.
  • Chapman-Huston, Desmond. Bavarian Fantasy: The Story of Ludwig II. (1955) (Much reprinted but not entirely reliable; the author died before completing the biography.)
  • King, Greg. The Mad King: The Life and Times of Ludwig II of Bavaria. (1996) ISBN 1-55972-362-9.
  • McIntosh, Christopher. The Swan King: Ludwig II of Bavaria. (1982) ISBN 1-86064-892-4.
  • Nöhbauer, Hans. Ludwig II. (Taschen, 1998) ISBN 3-8228-7430-2.
  • Rall, Hans; Petzet, Michael; Merta, Franz. King Ludwig II. Reality and Mystery. (Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg, 2001. ISBN 3-7954-1427-X (This English translation of König Ludwig II. Wirklichkeit und Rätsel is based on the 1980 German edition, despite revisions contained in the 1986 and subsequent German editions. Includes an itinerary by Merta of Ludwig's travels 1864-86. Rall [1912-98] was formerly Chief Archivist of the Geheimes Hausarchiv in Munich.)
  • Richter, Werner. The Mad Monarch: The Life and Times of Ludwig II of Bavaria. (Chicago, 1954; 280 pages; abridged translation of German biography)
  • Spangenberg, Marcus: The Throne Room in Schloss Neuschwanstein: Ludwig II of Bavaria and his vision of Divine Right (1999) ISBN 978-3-7954-1233-3
  • Wrba, Ernst (photos) & Kühler, Michael (text). The Castles of King Ludwig II. (Verlagshaus Würzburg, 2008; 128 richly illustrated pages.) ISBN 978-3-8003-1868-1
  • Merkle, Ludwig: Ludwig II and his Dream Castles (Stiebner Verlag, Munich, 2nd edition 2000; 112 pages, 27 colour & 35 monochrome illus., 28.5 x 24.5 cm) ISBN 978-3-8307-1019-6
  • Krückmann, Peter O.: The Land of Ludwig II: the Royal Castles and Residences in Upper Bavaria and Swabia (Prestel Verlag, Munich, 2000; 64 pages, 96 colour illus, 23 x 30 cm) ISBN 3-7913-2386-5
  • Till, Wolfgang: Ludwig II King of Bavaria: Myth and Truth (Vienna, Christian Brandstätter Verlag, 2010: 112 pages, 132 illus., 21 cm: Engl. edition of Ludwig II König von Bayern: Mythos und Wahrheit [2010]) ISBN 978-85033-458-7 (The author was formerly Director of the Munich Civic Museum)
German-language biographies and related information on Ludwig II
  • Botzenhart, Christof: Die Regierungstätigkeit König Ludwig II. von Bayern - "ein Schattenkönig ohne Macht will ich nicht sein" (München, Verlag Beck, 2004, 234 S.) ISBN 3-406-10737-0.
  • Design, Julius: Wahnsinn oder Verrat - war König Ludwig II. von Bayern geisteskrank? (Lechbruck, Verlag Kienberger, 1996)
  • Hojer, Gerhard: König Ludwig II. - Museum Herrenchiemsee (München, Hirmer Verlag, 1986) ISBN 3-7774-4160-0.
  • Petzet, Michael: König Ludwig und die Kunst (Prestel Verlag, München, 1968) (Exhibition catalogue)
  • Petzet, Detta und Michael: Die Richard Wagner-Bühne Ludwigs II. (München, Prestel-Verlag, 1970: 840 pages, over 800 illus., 24.5x23cm) (Even for the non-German reader this is an important source of illustrations of designs, stage settings & singers in the early productions of Wagner's operas at Munich & Bayreuth.)
  • Petzet, Michael; Neumeister, Werner: Ludwig II. und seine Schlösser: Die Welt des Bayerischen Märchenkönigs (Prestel Verlag, München, 1995) ISBN 3-7913-1471-8. (New edition of 1980 book.)
  • Reichold, Klaus: König Ludwig II. von Bayern - zwischen Mythos und Wirklichkeit, Märchen und Alptraum; Stationen eines schlaflosen Lebens (München, Süddeutsche Verlag, 1996)
  • Richter, Werner: Ludwig II., König von Bayern (1939; frequently reprinted: 14. Aufl.; München, Stiebner, 2001, 335 S.) ISBN 3-8307-1021-6. (See above for English translation. Richter 1888-1969 was a professional biographer of great integrity.)
  • Schäffler, Anita; Borkowsky, Sandra; Adami, Erich: König Ludwig II. von Bayern und seine Reisen in die Schweiz - 20. Oktober - 2. November 1865, 22. Mai - 24. Mai 1866, 27. Juni - 14. Juli 1881; eine Dokumentation (Füssen, 2005)
  • Wolf, Georg Jacob (1882–1936): König Ludwig II. und seine Welt (München, Franz Hanfstaengl, 1922; 248 pages, many monochrome illus., 24 cm)
  • Spangenberg, Marcus: Der Thronsaal von Schloss Neuschwanstein: König Ludwig II. und sein Verständnis vom Gottesgnadentum (1999) ISBN 978-3-7954-1225-8
  • Rupert Hacker: Ludwig II. von Bayern in Augenzeugenberichten. (1966, 471 pages) (A valuable anthology of published & archival material, compiled by the Director of the Bavarian Civil Service College.)
  • Wilhelm Wöbking: Der Tod König Ludwigs II. von Bayern. (Rosenheimer Verlagshaus, 1986, 414 pages) (Includes many documents from the Bavarian State Archives.)
  • Schlimm, Jean Louis: König Ludwig II. Sein leben in Bildern und Memorabilien (Nymphenburger, München, 2005; 96 pages, many illus., 24 x 24 cm) ISBN 3-485-01066-9
  • Rall, Hans; Petzet, Michael; & Merta, Franz: König Ludwig II. Wirklichkeit und Rätsel (Regensburg, Schnell & Steiner, 3rd edition 2005: 192 pages, 22 colour & 52 monochrome illus., 22.5x17cm) ISBN 3-7954-1426-1
  • Nöhbauer, Hans F.: Auf den Spuren König Ludwigs II. Ein Führer zu Schlössern und Museen, Lebens- und Errinerungsstätten des Märchenkönigs. (München, Prestel Verlag, 3rd edition 2007: 240 pages, 348 illus, with plans & maps, 24x12cm) ISBN 978-7913-4008-1
  • Baumgartner, Georg: Königliche Träume: Ludwig II. und seine Bauten. (München, Hugendubel, 1981: 260 pages, lavishly illustrated with 440 designs, plans, paintings & historic photos.; 30.5 x 26 cm) ISBN 3-88034-105-2

External links

Ludwig II of Bavaria
Born: 25 August 1845 Died: 13 June 1886
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Maximilian II
Wappen Deutsches Reich - Königreich Bayern (Grosses).jpg
King of Bavaria

Succeeded by

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