King Ludwig II ruled Bavaria, Germany as King until his mysterious death in 1864. You will no doubt recognize one of his greatest and unfinished accomplishments as the Disney castle but is properly known as Neuschwanstein Castle. All but one of his fairy tale structures went unfinished at the time of his death, we’ll explore two of them and the place it all started.
King Ludwig II was born at Nymphenburg Palace (above) in Munich, Germany on August 25th of 1845. His father, Maximillian II of Bavaria and his Prussian mother Marie sought to raise a noble child that would one day rule Bavaria. His daily routine consisted of a strict regimen of study, including math, science and music.
It was observed at an early age that Ludwig II had a knack for construction and creating things out of blocks. This would be a pre-cursor to what he would devote much of his life and resources to accomplishing.
Ludwig II became King in 1864 at the age of 18, after his father died of illness. Ludwig II wasn’t much for running the state and preferred to spend his time with things like music, art and architecture. He was a reclusive person from the start and this behaviour would only get more prevalent in his later years.
Ludwig II would set out to build some of the most beautiful and well known castles including the unfinished Neuschwanstein in Schwangau. The castle is recognizable by most as ‘the Disney Castle’ and is in fact the castle the iconic teller of fairy tales modelled theirs on. Construction began in 1869 on a mountain top, while the castle was unfinished at the time of his death, a grand bathing room which is still not complete today, the castle stands today as a marvel and a testament to one mans dream.
The castle towered above his childhood home Hohenschwangau, a now much more modest and smaller castle he grew up in. The Romanesque fortress that is Neuschwanstein would be but one of his retreats from public life where he could enjoy Wagner’s music and the art of his people.
Ludwig II never used public funds to make his dreams come true, all money for the construction of his palaces and castles was his, which meant he could do whatever he wanted without any interference from the court — which now mostly ran things and left him with little to no actual power.
Ludwig II completed construction of the Linderhof Palace in 1878, this would be the only castle he saw the completion of in his lifetime. The Neo-French Rococo style castle was small and lavish, with golden walls, elaborate interior decor and of course swans.
Linderhof was built around beautiful gardens and even today has a calm and peaceful feeling about it. By this time Ludwig II was much more reclusive than he was in his earlier years. A special floor was installed in his dining room, allowing his servants to wheel the floor and table down to the kitchen to be set and wheeled back up for him to eat. This allowed him to eat in complete privacy without having to see a single person.
When it was necessary for him to interact with a person he or she was required to wear a mask and enter the room only under the shroud of darkness — which was easy as Ludwig II had become nocturnal and slept through the days.
The business of being a King was tended to at night and visitors were required to adopt this schedule if they wished to see him.
In The End
Ludwig II’s death is a mystery even to this day, it is rumoured that he went for a walk late one evening with his doctor and after several hours he had not returned a search party was sent to find him.
Es darf kein Pfleger mitgehen.
He and his doctor were found floating face down in nearby Lake Starnberg, it’s uncertain if this was a result of their own doing or the malicious intent of others. When they two departed Ludwig II did say “Es darf kein Pfleger mitgehen” No attendant may come along.
His death was officially ruled a suicide by drowning, however, no water was found in his lungs and he was a strong swimmer and the body of his doctor Gudden, displayed signs of violence.
It’s anyone’s guess what happened that night and we will never know the truth behind his mysterious death. Ludwig II died June 13th of 1886 at the age of 40.
Other Castles & Palaces
Other structures include Herrenchiemsee, a partial replica of the Palace at Versailles and Royal Apartment in Munich.