The year was 1886. Bavaria's king, Ludwig II, had been declared legally insane. (He was, everyone acknowledged, “deeply peculiar,” but people are STILL arguing about whether or not he was actually clinically insane.) He was removed from the throne and sent to live in a castle by a lake. Just a few days after the insanity ruling, he went for a walk with his psychiatrist. They never came back, and after hours of searching, the servants found both men's bodies seemingly drowned in the shallow waters of the lake.
Were the deaths accidental? Their bodies were found in only waist-deep water, and the official autopsy report stated that there was no water in Ludwig's lungs. Some say that Ludwig probably died of natural causes; on the other hand, there were indications that he was depressed and suicidal—but, in either of these cases, how did the psychiatrist die? There were signs that it was murder-suicide or murder-and-accident—with Ludwig killing his psychiatrist and then drowning himself on purpose or by accident. But there were also theories and rumors that the men had both been murdered by enemies. Was Ludwig trying to escape his castle prison? Some people said that loyalists were making plans to put him back on the throne; if these rumors were true, the psychiatrist could have fought Ludwig as he tried to swim out to the loyalists' boat.
I guess we will never know.
However King Ludwig died, many in his kingdom were relieved that he was no longer on the throne. He had been spending money like crazy, building amazing fantasy castles with lavish furnishings and splendid gardens. Although he had paid with his own money—and ruined himself financially—King Ludwig had also borrowed more and more money, and his massive debt posed a financial danger to the entire kingdom. When he died, the work order for yet another crazy-ornate throne and other as-yet-undone furnishings were immediately canceled. And, after just over one month, the castles began to be opened to paying tourists!
As it turns out, Ludwig's castles have become very profitable. With admissions fees and merchandise, the castles have paid for themselves many times over and have attracted millions and millions of tourists from all over the world!
(Just one of the castles, Neuschwanstein, attracts 1.3 million visitors a year!)
Celebrate fantasy castles!
Take a tour of all of King Ludwig's castles.
Here is a long video of Neuschwanstein, the castle that inspired Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty's Castle. It might be tough to watch the entire 13 minutes of this slow, reverent look at the castle, but just watching the first bit is lovely, and maybe you can daydream if you find the middle part repetitive—because at about the nine minute mark, the video cameras go inside the castle. Not only is this unusual—video cameras are normally forbidden inside this castle—it's also pretty awesome!!
My favorite of King Ludwig's castles is Linderhof, partly because of this grotto. The furnishings of Linderhof are varied and opulent and even a little bit crazy! (Here's an example of crazy: Apparently King Ludwig became so private, he didn't even want his servants seeing him, so he had an elaborate lift put in so that the servants could set the dining table (for one, naturally), serve the food, pour the wine, and then hoist the fully-laden table up into the private dining room! (Now that's doing things the hard way!) Check out this assortment of images of Linderhof.
|When walking around Linderhof, you always|
see the unexpected--like this "Moroccan House,"
a guest house tucked away among the trees.
Check out this short video, which includes 3-D renderings of Ludwig's plans that didn't get built.
Also on this date: