Ludwig II of Bavaria in his day was vilified because he was aloof when royalty was called to exhibit themselves in line of duty before their subjects. He disliked large public functions and avoided formal social events whenever possible, and preferred a life of fantasy that he pursued with various creative projects. One of his most quoted sayings was “I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and to others,” perhaps hinted that he valued his individuality and privacy in keeping distance from far and close. He was not close to his own family. He is also called “Mad King Ludwig”, though no proper medical grounds do exist. He was nevertheless deposed without any medical examination and died a day later under mysterious circumstances. Yet his life is an interesting example for my purpose on hand.
What good is a mad king who disregards the present?
Ludwig is best known as an eccentric whose legacy is intertwined with the history of art and architecture. He commissioned the construction of several extravagant fantasy castles and palaces, the most famous being Neuschwanstein, and was a devoted patron of the composer Richard Wagner. Since his legacy of grandiose castles lives on in the form of massive tourist revenue, King Ludwig is generally well liked and even revered by many in Bavaria today. The king enjoyed traveling in the Bavarian countryside and chatting with farmers and laborers he met along the way. He also delighted in rewarding those who were hospitable to him during his travels with lavish gifts. He is still remembered in Bavaria as Unser Kini, which means “our darling king” in the Bavarian dialect.
Ludwig was notably eccentric and serious charge leveled against him was his disinterestedness in statecraft when sovereignty was seriously under risk due to the machinations of Count von Bismarck who wanted to create a German Empire in 1870. (History proves how short lived it was.)
‘Ludwig also used his personal fortune (supplemented annually from 1873 by 270,000 marks from the Welfenfonds to fund the construction of a series of elaborate castles. In 1867 he visited Viollet-le-Duc’s work at Pierrefonds, and the Palace of Versailles in France, as well as the Wartburg near Eisenach in Thuringia, which largely influenced the style of their construction. These projects provided employment for many hundreds of labourers and brought a considerable flow of money to the relatively poor regions where his castles were built. Figures for the total costs between 1869 and 1886 for the building and equipping of each castle were published in 1968: Schloß Neuschwanstein 6,180,047 marks; Schloß Linderhof 8,460,937 marks (a large portion being expended on the Venus Grotto); Schloß Herrenchiemsee (from 1873) 16,579,674 marks Guide books of the time give 20 German marks = £1 sterling’.(ack: wikipedia)
Great events flow through men and matter while men who serve the times only see certain events in a disjointed manner as the Iron Chancellor did and seem to succeed. After he had founded the German Empire in 1871 Bismarck engaged France in a war in 1871 just to teach them a lesson. Bismarck got what he wanted but his adventure had precipitated matters and backlash of these would result in the advent of Brown shirts and Hitler within sixty years. Bismarck is a footnote to history while the fantasy life of an unstable king yields much revenue in tourism to Bavaria. He also made the artistic life of Richard Wagner to come to fruition.