Ludwig II of Bavaria (02:08)
Much of the cultural image of Bavaria was shaped by King Ludwig II. His palaces are some of the most regarded examples of romantic architecture.
Hohenschwangau Castle (07:02)
Ludwig grew up in Hohenschwangau Castle, a gothic palace in the Alps. Ludwig played make believe and dressed up like the scenes of legendary German combat and chivalry that covered the castle’s walls. Ludwig's favorite room was the hall of the Swan Knight, which told the legend of Lohengrin.
Munich Estate Theater (03:06)
Ludwig was crowned king in 1864 at the age of 18 at the palace in the Bavarian capital of Munich. He showed little interest in politics and spent more time attending opera at the nearby Munich Estate Theater, including a performance of Richard Wagner's Lohengrin. Ludwig enjoyed the romantic and fairy tale nature of Wagner's work.
Ludwig built Neuschwanstein as a palace fit for Lohengrin, the swan knight. Though it combined romantic gothic and medieval architecture, Ludwig consulted with set designers and artists for its design. Paintings of forbidden love and religious devotion in his bedroom lend evidence to a sense of guilt Ludwig felt about his speculated homosexuality.
Ludwig's Throne Room (03:06)
The throne room at Neuschwanstein showed Ludwig's desire to be an autocratic, divine monarch instead of the constitutional one that he was. Ludwig saw himself as a mediator between man and God. Despite it seemingly public statement, the throne room was private and only Ludwig could enter.
In 1866, Ludwig backed the Austrians in the Seven Weeks War, who lost to the Prussians. The humiliating defeat weakened Ludwig's image and he put his focus into making architecture his legacy for Bavaria. He became more reclusive and built Linderhof, a secluded villa fit for the divine and powerful monarch he wished he was.
Linderhof's Art (07:00)
The villa was filled with chandeliers, artwork, sculptures, and paintings. Ludwig was a great patron of the arts, which created a strong Bavarian art scene. The gardens were filled with elements inspired by theater and opera productions.
In 1871, the Prussian king was made the Kaiser of a united Germany and Ludwig was forced to sign over his power to him. To distract from his disappointment, Ludwig began building Herrenchiemsee, a Bavarian version of the Palace of Versailles. It included an almost exact replica of the Hall of Mirrors.
Herrenchiemsee's Decoration (07:01)
The palace had numerous, unique Meissen porcelain sculptures. The dining tables were on pulley systems so they could be lowered into the kitchens and set without anyone disturbing Ludwig. Ludwig's image of himself shifted in his later life and he began to see himself as the moon king, a darker hero than Lohengrin or Louis XIV.
Ludwig's Later Life (07:11)
Ludwig was severely in debt from his building projects and his eccentric behavior worried his ministers. They had him declared insane and placed under house arrest in a palace near Lake Starnberg. He and his psychiatrist Dr. Bernhard von Gudden went for a walk one day and both of their bodies were found floating in the lake.
Credits: The Fairytale Castles of King Ludwig II (00:29)
Credits: The Fairytale Castles of King Ludwig II
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