Ludwig II: The Tragedy Of The Fairy Tale King

October 13, 2022

Ludwig II was born at Nymphenburg Palace in what is currently part of central Munich. He was the oldest son of Maximillian II of Bavaria and Marie of Prussia, who were the Crown Prince and Princess of Bavaria, becoming King and Queen in 1848. Growing up, Ludwig was strictly controlled by his tutors while he was also extremely indulged; some think his upbringing may have contributed to his strange behavior as an adult.

Ludwig II on the left, with his mother Maria, and his younger brother Otto. Source: (Wikipedia/colorized).

Although he was not close with his parents, his childhood did have some happy times. He spent much of his childhood at Castle Hohenschangau, which was decorated with frescoes of heroic German sagas, notably, of Lohengrin, the Knight of the Swans. He spent time with his aide de camp, Prince Paul, riding, reading poetry, and enacting scenes from Wagner’s operas.

He Ascended The Throne At 19

In 1864, when Ludwig was 19, he ascended the throne after the death of his father. His interests, however, were in art, music, and architecture, and he disliked large public functions. He avoided Munich, and he avoided participating in the government, but he did travel in the countryside, where he spent time talking to the farmers and laborers he met; he bestowed lavish gifts on those who were hospitable to him during his travels.

He Was Briefly Engaged

With his fiancee, Sophie. Source: (Wikipedia/colorized).

He was expected to produce an heir, and so he got engaged to Duchess Sophie in Bavaria. Sophie, the youngest daughter of his friend Empress Elisabeth of Austria, was his cousin, and the two shared an interest in Wagner’s works. However, he repeatedly postponed the wedding and then canceled it. Ludwig never married, and he was not known to have any mistresses. His diary and other documents seem to indicate he had strong homosexual desires, but he worked to suppress them. He maintained close friendships with men, and some of his letters reveal that the quartermaster of the royal stables procured men for him.

He Was Not Interested In Politics

By 1871, Ludwig had withdrawn even more from politics. He spent his time working on his castles, commissioning drawings for Neuschwanstein and Herrenchiemsee, in 1868. In keeping with his obsession with Wagner, the walls of Neuschwanstein were decorated with frescoes depicting scenes from the legends Wagner used in his operas.