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social sciences

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Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845-1886)  
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Ludwig became infatuated with a young Hungarian actor, Josef Kainz, whom he first saw on stage in 1881. During a brief relationship the king gave him many expensive presents and took him on a trip to Switzerland. Ludwig rather quickly became disenchanted, however, apparently having found Kainz's performances in character in the theater more interesting than the actor himself.

Ludwig's Passion for Architecture

Ludwig's greatest artistic passion beside opera and theater was architecture. Beginning in 1869 he undertook the construction of three extravagant royal residences.

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Neuschwanstein castle, begun in 1869 and never completed, is a fairy-tale confection perched high in the Bavarian mountains. Of primarily Romanesque and Byzantine architectural styles, it also incorporates late Gothic touches in its decoration. Numerous wall paintings depict scenes from Wagner's operas.

Linderhof (1869-1878) is a rococo gem based on the Trianon palace, reflecting Ludwig's fascination with the French royal family, particularly four of its members with whom he shared his first name, Louis IX, XIV, XV, and XVI. The palace at Herrenchiemsee, begun in 1878 but never finished, was likewise inspired by a French model, the palace of Versailles.

The King's "Madness"

The elaborate building projects plunged Ludwig deeply into debt. They also consumed a great deal of his time. Never extremely interested in affairs of state, he withdrew increasingly to his refuges. There the king organized late-night picnics to which he invited good-looking stable boys and soldiers from the castles. He also gave parties at which the same guests were attired in Turkish-style costumes, at least until some of the handsomest were required to strip and dance.

Ludwig had less and less contact with his government ministers, who became concerned by reports of the king's erratic behavior, including experiencing hallucinations and issuing nonsensical orders, as well as his determination to continue building despite his dire financial situation. In 1886 a group of government leaders arranged for a psychiatrist, Bernhard von Gudden, to declare Ludwig insane even though he had not examined the king. Since incapacitation was grounds for the removal of the monarch under Bavarian law, they had Ludwig arrested and taken to Castle Berg on Lake Starnberg.

The King's Death

Only a few days later Ludwig was dead. He and Gudden went out for a walk on the rainy night of June 13, 1886 and never returned. The following morning their bodies were recovered from the lake. The circumstances of the men's deaths remain a mystery. It has been theorized that Ludwig committed suicide and Gudden tried to save him or that Ludwig planned to escape and Gudden died attempting to stop him.

The people of Bavaria mourned the death of Ludwig, who had remained extremely popular. Thousands, many of them weeping, lined the route as an enormous procession bore the king's body to church for the funeral mass.

On learning of Ludwig's death, his devoted cousin the Empress Elizabeth of Austria declared, "The King was not mad; he was just an eccentric living in a world of dreams. They might have treated him more gently, and thus perhaps spared him so terrible an end."

Linda Rapp

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Blunt, Wilfrid. The Dream King: Ludwig II of Bavaria. New York: Viking, 1970.

King, Greg. The Mad King: The Life and Times of Ludwig II of Bavaria. Secaucus, N. J.: Carol Publishing Group, 1996.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Ludwig II of Bavaria  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated March 1, 2004  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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