Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ludwig II of Bavaria

Ludwig II of Bavaria, the queen who was king.

Ludwig II was born on August 25th,1845 to Maximilian II of Bavaria (then Crown Prince) and his wife Princess Marie of Prussia.The eldest son, his parents intended to name him Otto, but his eccentric grandfather, Ludwig I of Bavaria,  insisted he be named after him. Young Ludwig would have a much closer relationship to his grandfather than with either of his distant unloving parents. Later in life Ludwig would refer to his mother as “my predecessor’s consort.” Ouch,  soooo cold! 

His father died unexpectedly when he was just 18; leaving Ludwig ill-prepared to handle the responsibilities of the throne. Looking back in 1873, he described the situation as follows:
"I became king much too early. I had not learned enough. I had made such a good beginning … with the learning of state laws. Suddenly I was snatched away from my books and set on the throne. Well, I am still trying to learn" 

One of the young Ludwig's first acts as king was to summon his idol, Richard Wagner, to court. On 4 May 1864, the 51-year-old Wagner was given an unprecedented 1¾ hour audience with the king. Wagner wrote, after meeting the young king: 
… Today I was brought to him. He is unfortunately so beautiful and wise, soulful and lordly, that I fear his life must fade away like a divine dream in this base world … You cannot imagine the magic of his regard: if he remains alive it will be a great miracle!

 Ludwig was completely smitten with Wagner, as this letter to him reveals:
... Love has strength for all. You are the star that shines upon my life, and the sight of you ever wonderfully strengthens me. – Ardently I long for you, O my presiding Saint, to whom I pray! I should be immensely pleased to see my friend here in about a week; oh, we have plenty to say! If only I could quite banish from me the curse of which you speak, and send it back to the deeps of night from whence it sprang! – How I love, how I love you, my one, my highest good! . . .
          My enthusiasm and love for you are boundless. Once more I swear you faith till death!
          Ever, ever your devoted

Richard Wagner

 Ludwig had always had an attractive to handsome men, but his religious upbringing made it difficult for him to accept his sexual orientation. While in his teens, Ludwig became best friends/ lovers with the handsome aristocrat Paul von Thurn und Taxis.  They rode, read poetry, staged scenes from the operas of Wagner and probably did a lot of other stuff behind closed doors.

Paul von Thurn und Taxis
A letter from Paul to Ludwig:
"Dear and Beloved Ludwig! I am just finishing my diary with the thought of the beautiful hours which we spent together that evening a week ago which made me the happiest man on earth... Oh, Ludwig, Ludwig, I am devoted to you! I couldn't stand the people around me; I sat still and, in my thoughts I was still with you... How my heart beats when, as I passed the Residenz, I saw a light in your window."  
 Ludwig and Paul seemed to be having a great time, but Paul decided to follow his families wishes and find a suitable bride.  Paul's wealthy and powerful family wanted an heir and the same pressure was soon on Ludwig.  Every ambitious mother was trying to force her daughters on the handsome young King, but they met with now success. 

King Ludwig briefly experimented with heterosexuality, at least superficially. On New Year’s Day in 1867, to the delight of all Bavaria, young King Ludwig announced his engagement to Princess Sophie. The wedding was to take place in August, but by early summer it had been postponed to October. Just two weeks before the wedding, Sophie received a letter canceling the engagement. Ludwig writes in his diary:
"Sophie written off, the gloomy thoughts are gone. I long and thirst for freedom."
Now he would have time for his true love!

Poor Sophie Charlotte with her fiance King Ludwig II of Bavaria

Eventually King Ludwig formed a very deep relationship with Richard Hornig, a groom employed at one his many royal stables. This sounds like a porn movie scenario to me! Hornig was a dashing blond and blue eyed Prussian, five years older than the king who shared Ludwig's passion for riding (or perhaps being ridden?)  Very quickly, and not surprisingly, Hornig was promoted to the office of Crown Equerry and Master of the Horse. This made him a much more respectable companion for the king. Hornig was in charge of all the royal stable, coaches and 500 horses. It's interesting to note that this affair started the summer that Ludwig was to be married to Sophie… so now we know why she was dumped and Ludwig never married!

 Richard Hornig in 1911, such a stud!
 This is a passage from Ludwig’s diary:
 November 21th, 1867
….I have not received any letters from R, and I feel so sad. My heart is but popping out from my chest, and twice I have cried. Foolish me, for doing so, for I must know that he is unable. I hold his letters to my face, and kiss the signature he's given me, and hold the letters to my skin, closing my eyes and believing he is with me. I wish to have no other men, though I am tempted, and Gott, have I met beautiful boys in Berlin, but they have not his eyes and their voice do not resemble his. I can see him in his bed, naked and perhaps tearful, his long, yellow hair over his smooth back, and I bite my lips, for I hate that he is so far away from me. So far.

A Letter from Richard Hornig to Ludwig:

  October 29, 1871
The morning is crystal clear today, compared to the drizzle of rain that was falling yesterday during both day and night. I welcome the sight of green fields covered in morning dew and the warm sun that enters through my window. The other servants have run off to their chores, but I lingered behind just so I could write you just for a few minutes. The rooms are empty without you, and I cannot bring myself to speak, because my lips thirst for you. When will we be able to be together again? I find myself missing the quite evenings we used to share together and your uneasy temper. I pray that as I close this letter and send it away, you are done with your business, and are contemplating your return. I must leave you now, for already they knock on my door, and I must tend the horses.

From the diary entries and Hornig’s letters, it obvious that their relationship was more than just a casual roll in the hay for either of them. King Ludwig and Richard Hornig traveled together in a four horse carriage to the king’s remote castles and private chalets.  It all sounds very romantic; they dined alone by candle light, waited on by Ludwig’s servants outfitted in 18th century style livery. Soon Hornig was acting as a go-between for Ludwig and his ministers which caused quite a scandal in royal circles.
Hornig was not Ludwig’s only lover, he was obsessed with beauty and so he had a succession of handsome and stylish young men in his life. Two of them were actors; the Hungarian Josef Kainz and Alfons Weber. Ludwig showered them with expensive gifts, vacations and inviting them to stay in his castles with him. They were the gay equivalent of his royal concubines; we all know what sluts actors can be!
 Josef Kainz
Back to Wagner: Ludwig  had a huge unrequited crush on the composer Richard Wagner, a known womanizer. Ludwig generously paid off all of Wagner’s debts and even built a theater and a villa for him.  Without Ludwig’s patronage, Wagner might have never been able to get out of debt or complete many of his greatest works. Reports are that Wagner knew about Ludwig’s attraction to him; there were many passionate letters. Wagner cautiously played with Ludwig’s affection in order to keep the money rolling in. He was a cock-teaser and apparently never “put out.” It must have been Ludwig's love of Wagner's music that blinded him to the fact that Wagner was kind of ugly compared to his other male friends.

 Richard Wagner
  When not busy falling in love, chasing stable boys or throwing money at Wagner, he commissioned the construction of two extravagant palaces as well as a spectacular castle, the most famous being Neuschwanstein (the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle.) 

 Neuschwanstein under construction,
 Construction began on his Schloss Linderhof in 1874 and it was modeled it after the modest little palace of Versailles which had been built for King Louis XIV, the Sun King. The young King Ludwig II considered himself the Night King, a title that most young gay man can relate to. Ludwig loved to sleep through the day and stay up all night. When reading or entertaining at night, he would use his Hall of Mirrors so that the candle light would be reflected and amplified infinitely between the mirrors.

Although Ludwig funded all of his projects with his own money, it’s still a common misconception that he squandered the country's money and drained the Bavarian treasury. On the contrary, his personally funded building projects hugely benefited the economy by employing hundreds of local worker and artisans.

top to bottom: Neuschwanstein, Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee
In 1880, Prussia launched a campaign to unify and control the different kingdoms of Germany. The Prussian King Wilhelm I won the power struggle and Ludwig was left as only figurehead. Ludwig grew increasingly withdrawn from politics and public life. He became more eccentric, enjoyed spending most of his time hidden away at his royal residences in the country. His servants were instructed to hide when they heard him coming, or to stand silent and motionless like a statue so that they wouldn't distract him. He wasn’t completely anti-social; he liked to ride through the countryside on a sleigh, sometimes even stopping to chat with the peasants, even though he complained that they were boring.

One of Ludwig's sleighs
Ludwig planned to dismiss his entire cabinet, who he no longer trusted. Unfortunately, they found out his plan and plotted to depose him before he could act. They had him declared insane without any medical examination; none of the four psychiatrists had even met Ludwig.  Still, their report contained “bizarre” stories of the king ordering his hot young grooms to strip naked and dance for him!  Hey, if I was king that might have happened too! Homosexuality was not illegal in Bavaria at that time, but producing a royal heir was considered his duty, a duty in which Ludwig had no interest.  

On June 12th, 1886 Ludwig was deposed. Escorted out of his beloved Neuschwanstein castle and taken to Schloss Berg at Lake Starnberg, Ludwig was shattered. The next day Ludwig’s lifeless body was found floating in knee high water along the shore of Lake Starnberg . The autopsy found no water in Ludwig’s lungs and yet his death was still declared a drowning.  Dr. Gudden, one of the corrupt psychiatrists who had declared him insane, was also found dead next to Ludwig. His body showed signs of a struggle and attempted strangulation. The Empress Sissi, said of her beloved cousin "the King was not 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."

 A marker where Ludwig's body was discovered

 Today, Ludwig is best known as an eccentric ruler who created some of Germany’s most extravagant castles. His passion for building extravagant castles still benefits Bavaria with huge tourist revenues… so who’s the crazy one now? 

One of his most quoted sayings is "I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and to others." The poet Paul Verlaine called Ludwig II the "only true king of this century" If you’d like to read more of Ludwig’s passionate letters to his boyfriends or sneak a peak at bits of his diary, check out these websites:
(While researching King Ludwig II online, I read at least a dozen different articles about his life. Some were very open and honest about his homosexuality, other disputed it or talked about it as if was a dark spot on his character. The most shocking is the Wiki-war between those who want to post about Ludwig's homosexuality and those that delete all those posts. Even as we speak, there are people out there that would like to delete all references to notable gay figures in history. Don't let them win!)


  1. May God bless the soul & memory of your Majesty. The people of Bavaria regard your name dearly, as their friend & monarch.

  2. Truly one of my favorite figures in history. I love reading about his life-- his passion, which burned too bright and beautifully for his world-- and imagining who he might have been, had he been born in an age as secular, open-minded, and overall accepting as our own. I love this article, and how unapologetically-- proudly, even, it discusses his homosexuality. Christopher McIntosh is an excellent biographer but he, and most others that write about his highness, so often fail us in terms of King Ludwig II's sexuality. He was gay, and that is a beautiful, wonderful, and sacred thing.

  3. I was originally searching for information on Ludwig's grandfather, King Ludwig l and by coincidence, stumbled upon your writing, Ludwig II of Bavaria, the Queen who was King. With each paragraph that I read, I became more intrigued with an overwhelming desire to learn more about this reluctant and misunderstood King. His love and passion for beauty and the arts was the inspiration behind the many state buildings, palaces and castles he commissioned, which probably went underappreciated at that time by his subjects and other party leaders, much like the man himself. Looking back it is interesting to see how the contributions and buildings he commissioned during his reign is now recognised as one of the country's major revenue resources through its tourism. So a few words to those individuals who want to erase unique aspects of Ludwig's life must also remember that these are the very things attracting the tourism and in turn, driving the country's revenue. Thank you for this outstanding and insightful glimpse into King Ludwig ll. I look forward to learning more about him as well as reading future writings by you and your colleagues.

  4. It really bothers me, reading those diary entries, that his lover Ralph was basically gang raped by that Count for doing nothing. I'm just horrified and saddened by the entries. Gay hearts have suffered long.

  5. I am happy to find another friend of Ludwig here. However, a lot of the information in this article is not correct. I would guess it is probably hard to find correct information in English, so if you are interested: The picture of Paul is not Paul von Thurn und Taxis. I don't know who it is but it looks nothing like him. If you google him, you will see. I am guessing it could be a cousin with the same name? Also, Paul did not find a suitable bride. He married an opera singer and his family shunned him for it. He left court and tried to be an opera singer himself but didn't succeed. He died alone, estranged from his wife and Ludwig and with no forgiveness from his family. Ludwig however did not get engaged on new years day. It was three weeks later.

    I truly believe that Ludwig was gay and he wasn't even very secretive about it. When you read articles from his time it is quite obvious that everyone new and it wasn't forbidden in Bavaria back then
    But of course he had a hard time with it and sadly there is a lot of homophobic narrative in many of his biographies. Even newer ones. I would have whished for him so much to just be able to be happy with someone. I think, he got very tired of hiding his true sexual orientation and that is why they wanted to get rid of him. Newer investigations regarding the plot against him also point that way. In any case: he was a truly remarkable person and he lived his truth as well as he could. He is still very much loved here in Bavaria. And many, many people are still angry about what happened to him. Feel free to write if you need more information or just want to talk about him. I am always happy to meet fellow friends of Ludwig. :)