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King Ludwig II of Bavaria
Author: Julius Desing

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King Ludwig II of Bavaria

King Ludwig II of Bavaria
King Ludwig II of Bavaria

King Ludwig II was born on 25 August 1845 in Schloss "Nymphenburg" in Munich as the first child of the future King Maximilian II of Bavaria and his wife, Marie. His only brother, Otto, was born three years later.

The two princes were brought up very strictly by their father, but in no way were they guided towards the intrinsic mission and responsibility of their fufure lives as representatives of a nation. The greatest part of Prince Ludwig's childhood and youth was spent in Schloss "Hohenschwangau" which had been inherited and rebuilt by his father.

Ludwig enjoyed wandering in the forests and valleys around Hohenschwangau. As he grew up, he felt more and more drawn towards the Arts - to poetry, painting and music. When he was 15 he attended his first performance of a Richard Wagner opera. A passion for this music was born in him that was to predestine the rest of his life.

Upon the death of Maximilian on 10 March 1864 Prince Ludwig became King of Bavaria at the age of 18. Despite his inexperience in matters of state, he undertook the duties that were placed upon him very seriously, but he was quite soon to realize that the ideols of monarchy to which he aspired did not exist any more in the 19th century, and that he was only a figurehead of his country, granted minimal opportunity to take fundamental decisions. This fact and the inevitable disagreements with the appreciably older Members of the Government Cabinet very quickly weakened his interest in matters of state, and he turned to other self-chosen tasks. He had Richard Wagner brought to Munich and supported the composer lavishly.

King Ludwig II of Bavaria
King Ludwig II of Bavaria

Very soon the first ideas about the building of a theatre and castles grew in him. He only felt free and happy when he was in the Bavarian uplands, in his beloved mountains. Also, due to the enormous sums of money which the King had showered on Richard Wagner and Wagner's clumsy mixing in politics, Wagner had been forced by the Bavarian Government and the people to leave Munich, and this gave rise to the King disliking the city even more.

The young King's life was more or less devoid of friendships with the opposite sex. Ludwig only had one life-long friendship, with his cousin, Elisabeth, the Empress of Austria.

Due to the political tensions of the spring of 1866 the King had to come to a difficult decision. He signed the mobilization order against Prussia, as demanded by his Parliament.

The fratricidal war only lasted three weeks, but what disasters it wreaked upon Bavaria! On 22 August a peace treaty was signed, as a result of which Bavaria, as well as being under an obligation to give up certain sovereign rights, also had to pay Prussia 30 million Gulden as compensation.

On 22 January 1867 Ludwig II became engaged to his cousin, Princess Sophie Charlotte of Bavaria, a sister of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Sissy) whom he revered so much. The wedding date was set for 12 October 1867. In addition to the other preparations that were underway, a golden wedding coach was specially built and gold coins were minted - when suddenly and totally unexpectedly, on 10 October of the same year, the young King broke off the engagement. From this time on the Monarch never again considered marriage.

After many years of fighting against political intrigue and personal attacks, the King became increasingly embittered. The more he felt misunderstood by the world around him, the more his shyness began to emerge. At this time the first rumours and legends about the lonely King started circulating: for the peasants and village people he became the "fairy-tale king".

Ludwig ll concentrated more ond more on creating his own world, in which everything was noble and beautiful and in which there was no place for anything vulgar. In 1869 the construction of "Neuschwanstein" was begun, in 1874 "Linderhof" in its present form, in 1878 "Herrenchiemsee", and in 1885 preparations for Schloss "Folkenstein" were conceived.

Eventually it became impossible, with the King's annual income, for these building projects to be financed. Money was borrowed, and Ludwig's debts increased ever more. And so the decision was taken by the Government together with several members of the royal family, to have the Ruler declared by doctors to be unable to be considered responsible for his actions and to have his duties taken over by a Regent.

In accordance with Bavarian law this was the only way to have the King relieved of his state responsibilities, if he would not step down of his own accord.

On 1 June 1886 a medical Commission, under the direction of Dr. von Gudden, compiled a medical declaration which came to the conclusion that the King was insane and that as a result he could no longer carry out his official functions. After an initial failed attempt on 10 June 1886 to intern the King, the Commission set up by the Bavarian Government succeeded in forcing their way to the King, on 12 June 1886, and to take him that very night from "Neuschwanstein" to Schloss "Berg" on Lake Stornberg. The following day, Whit Sunday, 13 June 1886, Ludwig and Dr. von Gudden took an evening walk through the grounds of Schloss "Berg" from which they never returned. During the ensuing search the King and his doctor were found, dead, in the Lake.

The official, though doubted, verdict is that the King killed Dr. von Gudden and then committed suicide.

The history of the building of Schloss "Neuschwanstein"

In the Middle Ages the important trade route that led from Augsburg through the Tyrol to Italy (the former Via Claudia of the ancient Romans) used to be guarded by four citadels in what is today the village of Hohenschwangau. On the spot on which Schloss "Hohenschwangau" stands, which was restored under the orders of King Maximilian II between 1832 and 1838, there used to be the citadel of Schwanstein, and to the south-west the stronghold of Frauenstein (which no longer exist).

Old castle ruins of Vorder- und Hinterhohenschwangau (sketch 1850)
Old castle ruins of Vorder- und Hinterhohenschwangau

"Neuschwanstein" is situated where two other citadels used lo be, namely "Vorder- und Hinter-Hohenschwangau". King Ludwig ll had the rocky plateau on which the two citadels had once stood, exploded and lowered by about 8 metres and thus created the site for his "dream castle".

After the construction of the road and the laying of water pipes, the foundation stone of the massive Schloss was laid on 5 September l869. The Court Director of building works, Eduard Riedel, was made responsible for the management of the construction. Then, Riedel's completed plans had to be transposed by the well-known Munich painter, Christian Jank, into pictorial form.

First of all the Gatehouse was constructed and completely furnished during the years 1869-73. A secluded apartment for the King on the second floor and comfortable rooms on the first floor provided sufficient facililies for the whole of the building management team. From 1873, work was carried out under great pressure on the "Palas" section of the building. By 1883 this part of the building was ready and the ground floor, as well as the 1st 3rd and 4th floors were completed. In the spring of 1884 the rooms comprising the King's apartments on the 3rd floor were habitable and Ludwig II spent a quarter of his time there during the remaining two years until his death.

Laying of the Foundation Stone on 5 September 1869
Laying of the Foundation Stone on 5 September 1869

Naturally the construction of the building involved not only vast sums of money, but also perfect organization. Today, one can hardly imagine the kinds of problems that had to be overcome and the amount of building materials that were required. In 1872 alone, the cement manufacfurer, Jakob Lang from Schongau, delivered no less than 450 tons of cement to the massive building complex. In the same year 1,845 hectoliters of lime from The firm Max Unhoch were delivered. The sandstone blocks for the portals and bays came from Nürtingen in Württemberg (Carl Schall Company). Untersberg marble, brought all the way from Salzburg, was used for the arched buttresses, the windows, pillars and the capitals.

The enormous quantities of building materials were drawn, by means of a steam-operated crane, up the west side of the Palas-building, which wos encased in scaffolding, then taken by trucks to where they were required and then hoisted further up by pulleys to the actual site from which they would be used in the building process. Even in those days, the building machinery was checked to ensure that it was in full working order and operationally safe. This was carried out annually by an organization called "Bayerischen Dampfkessel-Revisions-Verein" (The Bavarian Steam-Boiler Monitoring Union) - now called the "TÜV Organization".

The building as it was in 1880
The building as it was in 1880

Upon the King's death all building work was stopped. And so the second floor of the Palas and the whole of the Knights' building remained, consisting of only the basic framework. The "Kemenate" was only built in its present form in 1890 according to the original plans but in a somewhat more simplified form, in that it was less decorative than had been planned and without the tower. The massive Keep, that would have dominated everything else by some 90 metres, and the ground floor of a Gothic Schloss Church, were not built at all. However, in the plasterwork of the upper courtyard, one can see the original ground plan of the tower that had already been set into it. The western terrace was not built either; this would have been reached via the Baths that were also not built. The baths (today, the entrance to the summer exit, the 65-metre tunnel) were to be heated and constructed in the style of the Knights' Baths in Wartburg.

A Moorish Hall was planned for the second floor like the one in the Alhambra in Spain. The Carrara-marble fountain that had already been provided for this hall was, in the event, placed, later, in the Winter Garden of the King's apartment.

The building as it was in 1886
The building as it was in 1886

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