Ludwig the Second, born Ludwig Otto Friedrich Wilhelm von Wittelsbach was king of Bavaria from 1863 to 1885, and the last king to rule it as an independent state.
He was famously eccentric and built many of the most beautiful castles in Bavaria, the most famous of which is Neuschwanstein. He enjoyed myths and legends and Wagnerian opera, which earned him the nickname "Märchenkönig" ("fairy-tale king"). However, the king's well-known eccentricity also brought him the less flattering nicknames "the crazy king" or "Mad King Ludwig". Ludwig never married and died childless and there are those who say he may have been gay, but there is nothing but circumstantial evidence either way.
Ludwig's journal is an extremely strange document which makes it clear that the man was at the very least a fantasist with a weak grasp on reality. He was given to obsessive romantic friendships with various men, some of which may have had a sexual element either overt or covert. But others, like his relationship with Wagner, certainly were not sexual in any sense. His diaries speak of 'kisses' and repeated resolutions against a 'sin' that could have been homosexual encounters or masturbation or something completely different. His longest lasting relationships were with Richard Wagner and Richard Hornig who served as his stable master and confidant. Ludwig wrote of being worthy of Richard's (Hornig) love in his diary and happy times alone with him. Hornig was married and Ludwig was fond of his wife and children as well.
Ludwig's behavior was always odd and towards the end of his life it was becoming genuinely alarming to his family, his government and his few real friends. Ludwig himself seems to have been aware his mental state was deteriorating. His brother Otto was undoubtedly mentally ill, possibly schizophrenic, and Ludwig was not irrationally terrified of going the same way. That given Ludwig was almost certainly not insane in the modern medical sense but he was definitely something worse than merely 'eccentric'.
It was largely Ludwig's patronage that allowed Richard Wagner to create his famous operas detached from financial concerns. He was deposed on the grounds of insanity (a judgment still controversial among the general public as well as psychiatrists) and a Prinzregent would rule Bavaria until 1913 as the heir, Otto, was also a mental patient.
But he is also known for his very mysterious death - he and his personal physician were found dead, floating in a lake after failing to return from a walk by the banks. There is Wild Mass Guessing and Conspiracy Theories galore on how this supposedly happened. Bavarian monarchism is not a politically relevant force in the 21st century, but there is a folkloric attachment to his rule and the House Wittelsbach likes to point out that Ludwig II bankrupted his personal fortune, not the state treasury and the family later paid it all back. However, where exactly is the line between "personal property" of a ruling monarch and "state funds" to be drawn?
Ludwig ordered his troops to participate in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 and when victory was achieved, Bismarck convinced Ludwig to sign a letter offering the Prussian King to become German emperor, giving Ludwig a handsome sum of money funneled through Swiss banks in exchange.
Works that feature Ludwig II of Bavaria:
- Ludwig II (1922)
- Ludwig (1973) - The Luchino Visconti film, which saw Romy Schneider reprising her role of Elisabeth of Bavaria from the Sissi films.
- Ludwig - Requiem for a Virgin King, another 1972 film.
- Ludwig 1881 (1993)
- Ludwig der Zweite, König von Bayern (1993)
- Ludwig II: Glanz und Ende eines Königs (Splendor and End of a King, 1995)
- My Letters from Ludwig: A Novel about King Ludwig II of Bavaria
- Ludwig II by You Higuri.
- Elisabeth mention him during "Am Deck der sinkenden Welt"/"Alle Fragen sind geställt (Reprise)" as one of Elisabeth's family members who met with a tragic end.
- Ludwig II
- Ludwig 2: The New Musical
- Tanz Der Vampire has him as a vampire in the ensemble, being flirted at by Herbert.
- The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery
- In Civilization V, Neuschwanstein Castle can be built as one of the world wonders of the modern era.