Once upon a time…

FAMILY TIDES: Nymphenburg Palace is situated in Munich, where the Wittelsbach family clan spent most of their political time... PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

 

… in the Kingdom of Bavaria, Ludwig II was born on the 25th of August, 1845 in Nymphenburg. He was a complicated, lonely prince who loved riding horses, but hated the idea of hunting animals just for the sake of killing them. Instead, he adorned his palaces with swans, peacocks (his favourite creature) and horses.

Neuschwanstein, the fairytale castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle and the most photographed castle in the world, took 17 years to be built and yet Ludwig II only spent six months of his life in it. He was found drowned in the lake near by at the age of 40, alongside his doctor who had pronounced him clinically insane six months before.

It is still a mystery who killed whom or whether it was a matter of suicide.

Surrounded by stone tables imported from Afghanistan, a collection of Chinese porcelain vases (but handcrafted by artists in Munich) and ivory chandeliers from India, Ludwig II had expensive taste and was obsessed with being as extravagant as Louis XIV, the sun king of France and his father’s godfather. Instead, Ludwig II became known as the moon king, awake only at night surrounded by candles. He also imported flowers constantly to his palaces, making sure every season was spring.

MAJESTIC: Inside, Nymphenburg Palace is incredibly breathtaking... a mix between the Sistine Chapel and the Palace of Versailles. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

It took his family over 20 years to pay off an estimated 40 million marks. Unlike most believe, Ludwig II did not use taxpayer’s money to pay off his obsession with fairytale kingdoms. He used as best he could, his personal wealth or asked his family members to contribute. Yet, he never invited any of them to visit him. He loved being alone. Even his dining room had a huge mirror in front of his seating place, so he could watch himself eat.

 

Neuschwanstein

CINDERELLA CASTLE: Neuschwanstein inspired Walt Disney's castle and is the most photographed castle in the world. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

In order not to be disturbed, it included a trap door underneath, so that servants could place food or remove it as he wished. It is rumoured, being so handsome and over 6ft4, he found everyone else disgustingly ugly. Being extremely religious and Catholic, he also struggled with homosexual feelings. Especially when it came to his obsession with Richard Wagner, the German genius of operas and one of his few guests. Although he wrote love letters to his cousin Elizabeth, they were more a make-believe game, writing to each other as characters from Wagner’s operas.

 

Ludwig II expressed his anguish at being born 150 years too late and his dire need to escape to places like the Palace of Versailles, where monarchies still had influence over their people. Instead, he paved the way as the most modern king of his time. His palaces, apart from trap doors and revolving pieces, included electric candles and even a coffee grinder.

He lived most of his life at Linderhof Palace, originally intended as his hunting grounds. The rooms here were very similar to the ones set out at Neuschwanstein, which he never saw finished. Every room at Linderhof is adorned in gold-plated hand-encrafted wall-paper, where even paintings on the wall turn into 3-D masterpieces (such as a foot is sculpted out of the picture).

Linderhof

UNIQUE: Linderhof Palace was reserved as Ludwig II's hunting grounds, but he spent most of his life here, even creating a building in the garden similar to a mosque for his love for all cultures. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

Ludwig II’s imagination got the better of him. He wanted and saw too much, yet was never satisfied. Every room in each palace is a reflection of his favourite Shakespeare play, Wagner opera or mythological legend; in search of his own muse. He died a mysterious death, which folklore claims his own family masterminded. His fairytale dreams drove him to insanity and despair, forever in search of the “happily ever after” his soul craved for…