Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and to others"

I like this guy already.

This morning I find myself in Germany, both within my own head and surprisingly also in reality. So why not write about one of my favorite Germans? Why not indeed.

Anyone else think he's kinda hot?
King Ludwig II (or if you're not into the whole brevity thing, Ludwig Otto Friedrich Wilhelm.) was king for 22 years, and remains a beloved icon in Germany. (Don't call him the Mad King in front of the locals. They don't like that much.) He funded art, architecture and music and was a true lover of great and beautiful things. One more reason to dig this guy.

As with many royal children, he had a very structured young life with a regimented schedule of lessons and exercise. He was never close to his mother or father, relying on his eccentric grandfather for adult companionship. He was very shy and sensitive and the absence of regular comfort and love made him more so.

I imagine he was quite lonely at times and thus his imagination seemed to be his way to cope or escape his sometimes dreary childhood. He loved fantastical plays, operas and poetry. He would later develop a friendship with Richard Wagner because of his love of his particular brand of music.

He became King at 18 when his father died suddenly. He started not with policy changes or new laws but with adding to Bavarian culture with a new theater, commissioned operas from Wagner (Ludwig and Wagner = BFF) and other composers and introduced Shakespeare, Moliere and Mozart.

The young and handsome Ludwig was engaged to a cousin for a short time but after much postponing, the engagement was broken off. Scholars debate whether he was gay. He kept a diary that was lost sometime during the second world war but there were some copies that seem to share his struggle with keeping with his catholic faith and his desires.

Other than his cultural contributions to Bavaria, most people would probably know Ludwig for his castles. This was a man who loved his castles, so much so he nearly bankrupt himself funding his dream projects. This is probably the one most people know best.
When you wish upon a star...

He was an odd guy but I don't think he was crazy. He would often have private performances of ballets and operas with either just himself or one other guest. Mostly because, according to Ludwig himself, he didn't like people staring at him because he couldn't concentrate on the play. He was never one for formal events where there would be large crowds. He would often go on night time sleigh rides (with antique sleigh of course) because he fancied himself "The Moon King", sleeping during the day and living at night. Much of the "crazy" king stigma comes from what happen near the end of his life.

Death site memorial for Ludwig
His would have been a pretty interesting life all together but Ludwig wasn't going to go out simply, sleeping cozy in his bed or even dying in "glorious battle". No, this strange guy went out in an equally strange way. 1886, Ludwig was 40 and had pretty much receded into a quiet and solitary life. He was spending every penny he (and anyone he could borrow money from) had on his building projects and the Bavarian ministers had finally had enough. They gathered "evidence" from servants, and had him declared bat-shit-crazy. (I don't think that's the official declaration but it's more fun so there ya go.) The very next day Ludwig was found face down in Lake Starnberb. It was ruled a suicide. Although he had been prone to suicidal thoughts, things didn't really add up. There was no water in Ludwig's lungs and no one believed he had drowned anyway because he had been a strong swimmer since he was a child. One of the psychologist who declared him nutty coo-coo,  Dr. Gudden was bludgeoned/strangled and found dead near Ludwig. Some researchers theorize Ludwig was shot, others say he had a heart attack while fleeing. Perhaps he killed Gudden then died of shock. Honestly, no one knows what happened to him.

I have a lot in common with this "mad king" and I love him for so many reasons. Mostly though, it is because he is a mystery, not only because of how he died but how he lived as well. My favorite quote from Ludwig (and the title to the a little too long article) is "I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and to others."

panoramic view from Neuschwanstein
Some letters to/from our dear Lugwig