King Ludwig II of Bavaria (The Swan King)

I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others

Ludwig to his governess

King Ludwig II was a fanciful man who reigned Bavaria in the 19th century. He came to power at the age of 18 ½ years old, yet ruling the country was not something that he desired.

Ludwig had always been a peculiar man. He would flee under the pressure of crises and would avoid decisions at all costs, hoping they would solve themselves. Ludwig despised people who were ugly by his standards. If he did have to meet with someone he deemed ugly, he would make them stand behind a curtain or hide behind a plant in order to converse with them.

Ludwig’s sexuality had been questioned for a long time, yet he was engaged to his cousin Sophie. He would only kiss her on the forehead, and the one time she dared kiss him properly, he nearly ended the relationship. Upon postponing the wedding for a second time, he felt pressured by the family to either “set a date or back off,” which he took as his way out of the relationship.

Ludwig, who had always been an attractive man, rapidly deteriorated. By the age of 31, he was overweight, his teeth were falling out, and he was constantly getting headaches. Because of this and the stress that his brother Otto was causing him, Ludwig retreated to his “fantasy world.” He spent outrageous amounts of money on beautiful, breathtaking castles and spent most of his time at the opera. At this point in his life, he was only spending 3 months of the year on his throne in the capital. One of his castles was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

It was not long before Ludwig appeared to go crazy. He delved deep into controlling the private operas that he had ordered for himself. He would send his head of the state archives, Franz von Loher, to foreign territory to find a place where he could build a new kingdom. He sent Loher all over the world looking for places that he could acquire. His behavior became erratic. He could be kind or thoughtless. He began demanding severe, death penalty level punishments to those who offended him. He ordered that his servants were not allowed to speak in the Bavarian accent. There were stories that Ludwig would invite his favorite horse to dinner. He would also host imaginary dinner parties.

It is reported that Ludwig had hallucinations as a child, and it appears that the hallucinations worsened with age. It is said that his servants would pretend that the sounds and sights he saw were real.

Kind Ludwig’s self-isolation and mental health would lead to his downfall. Plans were made to force Ludwig to be declared insane and due to his brother Otto already having been placed in an asylum, their uncle Prince Luitpold would take the throne.

Just as Ludwig was a mysterious man, his death is also a mystery. There are several theories, but it is not clear how he died, or why.  

In this episode, Skye and Jacob (Podcast on Germany) talk about King Ludwig II’s elegant lifestyle and the strange details surrounding his death.

Listen to this episode on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Stitcher, Buzzsprout, and all other podcatchers!

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