King Ludwig II of Bavaria
It is nothing less than remarkable that a monarch described as ‘the only true king of the century’ was pivotal in shaping the century that followed his death. King Ludwig II made his mortal debut on August 25, 1845 and he died on June 13, 1886. The circumstances of his death and immediate discovery of his psychiatrist’s body arouse suspicion of assassination.
It adds to the enigma that the locality of the monarch dubbed ‘The Mad King’ was shared by Adolf Hitler. The German visionary donned his mortal coil three year’s following the Bavarian king’s passing. Both monarch and the man to be reborn as Europe’s Rienzi were under the influence of the great German composer Richard Wagner.
Indeed, had it not been for Richard Wagner, King Ludwig II would be a mere footnote of history. Wagner was pivotal in propelling King Ludwig II to eternal homage, and Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP to power.
Before his death Ludwig surmised, ‘I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and to others’. He achieved his wish. It is possible that, appalled by the realities of life as a monarch, he chose the mysteries one encounters on pushing aside the shrouds of death.
From the day he was born the Crown Prince was mentored for his role as a king. It was quite an undertaking as Bavaria on the outset of his accession was a mighty realm. Acceding to the throne at just 18-years of age the role of king was unsuited to the poet king’s temperament.
King Ludwig II lived and died only for the compelling allure of the arts.
I became king much too early. I had not learned enough. I had made such a good beginning with the learning of the state laws. Suddenly, I was snatched away from my books and set on the throne. Well, I am still trying to learn.”
Just two years later the 20-year old endured the greatest of life’s defeats. The territorially expansionist Prussia conquered Austria and Bavaria. The great Bavarian nation was now reduced to that of a vassal state.
The loss of power and evaporation of state duties did however give the king opportunity to follow his heart. Ludwig was fascinated by the music of Richard Wagner. Putting all other considerations aside and much against the wishes of his advisers, King Ludwig II commanded the immediate presence of the virulently anti-Jewish composer.
The sentiment was mutual. The Leipzig musician was penniless and at this stage of his life had produced little of enduring appeal. However, Wagner had much in common with the Bavarian monarch as both were dreamers. Their aspirations were on a superhuman level as would be the dreams and prophecies of fellow visionary and prophet Adolf Hitler.
Recalling their first meeting Richard Wagner afterwards wrote:
Today I was brought to him. He is unfortunately so beautiful and wise, soulful and lordly, that I fear his life must fade away like a divine dream in this base world. You cannot imagine the magic of his regard: if he remains alive he will be a great miracle!”
The relationship between king and composer was enduring. From their collaboration sprang the composer’s greatest compositions. Munich replaced Vienna as the Music Capital of Europe. The world was soon to be in awe of Wagner’s compositions that stemmed from his alliance with Ludwig II.
These included Tristan und Isolde (1865), Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1868), Das Rheingold (1869) and Die Walküre (1870). The overtures, the operas and the stories that inspired them continue to enthral the world.
The Ludwig II / Wagner friendship inspired the Bayreuth festival theatre. The jubilee was patronised by Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP and has since became a monument to the eternity of great music. The super theatre was inaugurated in 1876 with the cycle of Der Ring des Nibelungen, a parody of Jewish ambitions, power and the destruction of Jewish power.
From 1875 to his death Ludwig II slept during the day and lived only for the nights. Feverishly, often in the presence of his musician guest, the former Crown Prince brought to life the idealised artistic paintings of majestic fairyland castles. The king’s dreams were then turned into reality. It is estimated that half a billion pilgrims have since gazed in awe at the mere sight of New Hohenschwangau Castle that was subsequently known as Neuschwanstein. The fortress is set high above the eternally dreamlike landscapes of Bavaria’s Hohenschwangau.
Famous for its turrets and towers, Neuschwanstein, the model for the Disney castle, is the most famous creation of King Ludwig’s building campaign. The mountaintop retreat is the ultimate setting to induce the age of crusaders and chivalry. It is also an embodiment of the symbolic vision of an uncorrupted golden age that so held King Ludwig, Richard Wagner and afterwards, Adolf Hitler, under its spell.
King Ludwig II of Bavaria was a true king in that he was totally at ease among his subjects. His common touch enabled him to move among his humbly born subjects with far greater ease than he exhibited while on display at court ceremonials.
The king’s ability to engage woodsmen and farmer’s wives in long conversation, the mutual admiration of the king and lowly commoners he sought out for friendly contact is legendary. The king’s penchant for rewarding the hospitality and service of these ordinary country people with extravagant generosity, the largesse of Kings, enhanced his popularity even more. These words are in fact a mirror image of the Fuhrer’s common touch.
Ludwig II increasingly identified himself with Parsifal as Adolf Hitler was to later identify as the reincarnation of Wagner’s Rienzi.
The only disharmony to the life and loves of King Ludwig was the state’s overriding interest in war and conflict. Both the former Crown Prince and the poet-statesman Adolf Hitler abhorred war. Ludwig wanted the state’s wealth to be spent on advancement and art as did the future German leader. The Bavarian king lived for art; Adolf Hitler was an accomplished artist and visionary.
There is no doubt that the term holy trinity applies to King Bavaria II, Richard Wagner and Adolf Hitler. Each was to leave the world shrouded in the enigma of their being and their passage through life would be marked by eternity.
On the morning of June 13, 1886, the young Bavarian monarch’s corpse was pulled from the lake’s water. The body of the king’s psychiatrist was also recovered. The latter, almost certainly on state orders, had declared the poet king insane the previous day.
The king’s passage through life is extraordinary. Uniquely the king considered glory was best achieved through art rather than by warfare. People pay homage to Europe’s battlefields. However, it is estimated that since the mortal passing of King Ludwig II of Bavaria more than 50 million people have visited the fairyland castles created by the commoner king.