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CULWRE HISTORY

on TIMOTHY WARRINGTON LOOKSATTHEPECU~ CHARACTER OF KING LUDWIG n OF BAVA1W5.

G

ermans

love sausage,

particularly

the Bavarians;

bratwurst,

Heartbroken,

mettwurst, any wurst as long as it's sausage shaped. But of all the Bavarians, no one coveted the cabana or puckered for a pepperoni

quite like King Ludwig

Known as "Mad King Ludwig,"

"The Fairy King," this muncher

II.

"The Swan King," or more appropriately,

century. Homosexuality

taboo, and in a culture where exposed table legs were considered the height of impropriety, a gay king who made no bones about his penchant for penis, was

nevertheless

and generally ill equipped

defender

of

for affairs of state;

he dutifully took the top job.

History is full of closet cases, suppressing

or discreetly

biting the pillow. Ludwig II wasn't cautious or straight acting. He once exclaimed, "if! didn't have my hair curled every day, I couldn't Even when butching up for military manoeuvres, Ludwig carried an umbrella not a rifle; he had "no intention of spoiling [his] coiffure." People began to gossip. But Ludwig didn't care; he yearned for male intimacy and indulged himself incessantly; ostentatiously

The composer

fervently and fTom the depths of my heart as I love you," he wrote. Ludwig showered

the older man with

gifts, settled his debts and installed him in a beautiful villa. It's likely Wagner was taking advantage

of his

young patron, and suspecting banished the composer.

government

this, Lud\vig's

Wagner had set

which became a form of

forsaken and lonely on this earth... where I shall always feel a stranger." In 1867, in a final attempt to conform, Ludwig proposed to his cousin Sophie. It was a disaster: he postponed

the engagement

permanently, abandoning marriage altogether. Lud\vig yearned for loyal affection and thought

twice and then broke it

was still more theoretical

than practical at this stage. But

the two certainly enjoyed a romantic

attachment,

pledging

to each other. However,

their never-ending

devotion

with Paul after hearing rumours

22 reFRESH June 2005

but rather unqualified

young men. In one instance, a

From time to time it seemed Ludwig might settle down; there was Richard "Beloved of my Soul," and Joseph Kainz, a

Hungarian

actor. There were the usual letters, gifts and trips

abroad, but like history repeating, Lud\vig would tire; quarrelling would begin and the relationships ended. Feeling isolated, Ludwig retreated preferred

the company

and he continued

of mountain

was exploited

exchanging

about his relationships

love letters and Lud\vig broke it off

with women.

even further.

peasants

He

to courtiers

building castle after castle at enormous

expense. The most famous, Neuschwanstein,

was the model

for Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disneyland. Soon Lud\vig was bankrupt and Bavaria was teetering on the brink of an internationally scandal. Ruled by an unstable king whose behaviour was becoming increasingly erratic, the Bavarian Government

had had enough;

it was time to act. There were a king; however,

insanity was one of them and this constitutional loophole to topple Ludwig. Four psychiatrists working \vith exaggerated

claims fTom disgruntled he was removed.

staff, created a report declaring

Three days later the King was dead: drowned

Ludwig was insane and

\vith one of his physicians.

Evidence at the scene suggests it was unlikely the King was murdered. Theories abound; some plausible and others less believable. What's certain is the two men struggled

he'd found it in the

deliciously noble, Prince Paul von Thurn und Taxis (his "beloved angel"). As with Wagner, it's doubtful if the couple consummated their relationship, as it appears homosexuality

of handsome

Hornig,

escapism for Ludwig; the only place he could exist as a gay man. "I feel so

Ludwig's

Gossip in the court was rife \vith stories of

senior court official observed a lowly servant wearing one of the King's diamond rings after a recent royal "audience".

enjby my food."

reality and sought solace in a land of make-believe.

trying to create a

sleigh rides, naked youths dancing about campfires and royal

Since childhood,

this fantasy world to music in operas like "Lohengrin,"

he documented

and his role as a

distract Lud\vig fTom his

few options available for overthrowing

The young king was devastated. he'd shunned

"sexual kisses" and "sensual passions." midnight

LONELY ON THIS EARTH... WHERE I SHALL ALWAYS FEEL A STRANGER.

life. "I love no one

behaviour;

fTom family, mends and

But even the building of fuirytale castles couldn't

IIltORSAIa:N .AND

Wagner was the first of many; he

only

sensual longings. The dalliances continued, with a slew of stable boys and young officers. Each receiving special privileges and presents in return for Ludwig's

~IIfEEL SO

spoiling his favourites.

became the love of Ludwig's

of the Catholic fuith. And so he withdrew:

appointments their homosexuality

He could

his turmoil about being gay; it

him. He was so appalled by his homoerotic

court. He threw himself into his building projects, desperately sanctuary where he could be himsel[

When he came to power in 1864, 18-year old Ludwig was love-starved, haughty, shy, superstitious

and nervous.

every kiss and caress. He was torn between his sexual longings

childhood;

banished to the nursery and starved of affection, he later admitted to dreaming pulling his father out of his coffin and stamping on his mother's breasts.

emotional

10 or more glasses of champagne;

In 1869, Ludwig started a diary documenting consumed

in Victorian society was

bound to get in the poo eventually, figuratively speaking of course. Born in 1845, to fTosty Catholic parents, Ludwig had an unhappy

after drinking

then would he mount the "scaffold." He was so terrified of appearing in public, he would often hide behind a screen of flowers.

fTom Munich was certainly one of the more

risque gay icons of the nineteenth

Ludwig became increasingly

only attend state functions

before their deaths. It's likely the King attempted

suicide

or tried to swim across the lake to fTeedom; the doctor tried to prevent him and was drowned; finally the King, exhausted, succumbed to the cold lake water. Was Ludwig insane? Probably not. Was he eccentric, fTustrated? Certainly. Ludwig's

fTiend, Empress Elizabeth

enigmatic,

confused and

of Austria provided

a

suitable epitaph, "The King wasn't mad: he was just an eccentric living in a world

.

of dreams. They might have treated him more gently, and thus perhaps spared

him so terrible an end."



Long Live Ludwig