As a child I listened in fascination as my Bavarian mother told me stories about “Mad” King Ludwig and we visited the castles back then too. Decided to was time to go again many years later and revisit the magic place that enchanted Disney so much that he copied it for his theme park and for those of us of a certain age it will forever be the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Castle (if you’ve no idea of what that is watch the movie – a family classic).
Anyway, King Ludwig became king suddenly aged 18 and was not very interested in the job. His heroes were the knights and ladies of the medieval times and in particular he loved stories about King Louis IV (the sun king) to whom he dedicated Neueschwanstein. What he really seemed to like about the French king was his “divine right” to rule (and wouldn’t we all like some of that sometimes?) but by the time he became King those days were well over and pesky ministers kept interfering in state matters – so he decided to ignore being king and build fantasy castles instead while cultivating his love of music – he was a close friend of Richard Wagner.
Why”mad”? He was declared unfit to rule when he was 40 (those pesky ministers again) and sent to live permanently in an asylum nearby. One day he and his psychiatrist went for a walk and never returned. Both were found dead in the lake. But no-one knows what happened? A drowning accident? A fight? A murder? – You decide as the descendants from the family will not allow his body to be exhumed which would of course most easily prove how he died (some say he was shot). I suppose the mystery is part of the myth.
He built 3 castles in his life and spent most of his time in Linderhof. By the time Neueschwanstein was inhabitable he only get to spend 170 days there. It is also only partially completed – an excellent multi visual show at the end of the tour shows how it would have looked if all the plans had been completed.
Footnote: before he went into the asylum the one thing he asked was that if he should die that his castles should be pulled down and reduced to rabble. He was such a recluse that he didn’t want anyone else in his home.
All I can say is he must be spinning in his grave if he can see how many people go through them every day in five minute intervals! Maybe he was not mad, just ahead of his time and creative? I like to think so…..
And here they are:
This one is Linderhof – a bijou number but very sumptious inside (no photos allowed which is a big shame but you can check the web)
And here is the famous Neueschwanstein
And finally Hoheschwangau which his Dad (King Matz II) built nearby and where he grew up.