The Castles Of Bavaria
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
WHEN Jack reached the top of the beanstalk he could not have been more surprised than the mountain climber in Bavaria, when he suddenly comes upon King Ludwig's palaces. They are only a few hours distant from Munich and as their fame is spreading abroad more travelers are visiting them every year, for their splendor rivals that of Aladdin's magic abode.
Ludwig II. came to the throne in 1864 when only eighteen—a victim of environment and heredity. His wonderful beauty delighted the simple peasants, but from the first he had views that troubled his ministers. His education, unwholesome and unsympathetic, under a French governess, was entirely unsuited to his temperament, and coming later from the twilight of seclusion into the dazzling blaze of royal glory, he made money disappear as in a conjuring trick.
His ancestors were the famous Wittelsbach heroes of whom so many romantic tales are told that from boyhood he was instilled with the idea that knights commanded and vassals obeyed. One day he was found strangling his younger brother, and when the governess told him he might have killed the little fellow, he calmly announced: "He dared to resist my will and deserves death!" He had the greatest horror of a homely face and would turn sway in terror and in many other little ways his eccentricities became so marked that even in childhood he must have been at times demented.
When a young man he paid court to the daughter of the Czar Nicholas of Russia, but later his engagement was announced to the Princess Sophia Charlotte, daughter of Duke Maximilian of Bavaria. The wedding day was near, the state carriages for the bride and groom were finished, even the medals were ordered on which were the faces of the King and future Queen, when suddenly in the midst of the preparations, the engagement was broken, and the Princess refused to discuss the subject even with her own family. Some think Ludwig discovered that she was in love with someone else and broke it himself, while others believe the Princess found the King's fantastic ideas too peculiar for her taste. Later she married the Duke d'Alencon and became a social leader in Paris, but died under particularly tragic circumstances, as she was burned to death there in the Charity Bazaar in 1896.
After that broken engagement, Ludwig avoided society and preferred to live in the past with his ideal, Marie Antoinette, than in the present with any living woman. With his love of luxury and exquisite taste he kept hundreds of working-men busy carrying out his plans. The Castle rooms are small and one notices in all of Ludwig's palaces there are almost no accommodations made for guests. The King was of a dreamy disposition, and preferred to be alone. The keynote of his life lies in this remark. When a child he was asked one day if he was not lonely? "Oh, no," he re-plied, "I think of lots of things and am quite happy!"
In front of this little castle there is a beautifully laid out terrace which leads to the temple of Venus, and beyond one Linderhof near Oberammagau is copied after Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon at Versailles, but the copy far excels the original, and its situation nestling down among the surrounding mountains, is sees the snow-capped mountains of the Bavarian Tyrol. The Mecca for all tourists at Linderhof, however, is the blue grotto somewhat similar to the one at Capri. It is lighted artificially, and on entering the cave the blue is so dazzling, one could be easily deceived and think the walls were of real rock, and not merely cement and imitation—a counterfeit of Nature by human hands. On this little lake is the King's swan-boat, in which arrayed as Lohengrin he drifted about listening to the playful little waterfalls or looking at the painting that hangs on the opposite side. If any one doubts King Ludwig's insanity let him look at the grotto of Lirderhof and fancy a sane man, dressed as Lohengrin, riding for hours at a time, on an artificial lake in a swan-boat moved by machinery!
On the grounds there are numerous fountains, statues and arbors, and a Turkish kiosk stands a little distance from the castle. There, after dinner, this monarch loved to repair, and donning a Turkish costume, he would lounge on the light blue satin couches, smoking in true oriental fashion. If a guest were present he was expected to do likewise, and there, in the one little room, they remained for hours, watching the bronze peacocks open and shut, at the King's pleasure, their strange-looking wings of colored glass.
All the rooms of Linderhof are furnished in French style, for Louis XIV. and Louis XV. were Ludwig's models, and he was always eager to imitate their apartments. One of the most attractive is in the form of a circle, with the wall panels of light blue satin, embroidered in gold thread, and the gold embroidery on the satin chairs stands out an inch from the background. The fine portraits are noted people of the French court. The Gobelin room is so called on account of its tapestry furnishings, and the work on the doors and ceiling is so heavily gilded, it makes one of the showiest rooms in the castle.
The King's most intimate friend of flesh and blood was Richard Wagner, for in the great musician he saw some one capable of carrying oat his dreams of chivalry. Ludwig was in Paris the first night Lohen grin was given, and from that time he became
Wagner's royal patron. But the Bavarians grew jealous of his influence over the King, and the feeling against the musician eventually rose so high, Wagner was obliged to leave Munich. When the Auditoria;m at Bayreuth was erected, Wagner in-tended that the Niebelungen Lied should be produced there only, but after he lost Ludwig's favor needing more money, he was obliged to sell these operas, and therefore they can now be given in various cities.
At the time of the trouble between Prussia and Austria, the Bavarians took sides with the latter and were of course defeated.
Excitement throughout Bavaria was intense, and one would naturally have supposed the King's anxiety to be the greatest, but when the messengers brought word to him that his city of Nurnberg had been taken, they found him dressed as Tristan, ready to rehearse "Tristan and Isolde," and it really seemed to the distracted Bavarians that music was more important in the King's mind than affairs of state.
The London "Punch" brought out at this time the following rhyme:
"There was a young King of Bavaria who played on his fiddle an aria, He called for his valet
And then for a ballet,
This wonderful King of Bavaria."
In an erratic way he would suddenly order an opera to be given, and always wished to be alone in the theatre, but it is still a question if he appreciated Wagner's music, or if it were the romantic stories and elaborate stage settings of the operas that appealed to him.
His favorite color was blue, and his magnificent light blue velvet bed in the Museum at Munich is always a delight to the sightseer. There is only one bedroom in Linderhof, and the bed draperies are in blue velvet embroidered in gold thread, while the heavy railing which separates the end of the room for the great bedstead, is also highly gilded. The articles on the toilet-table are solid gold—worth a king's ransom. However, the King spent more and more time alone; although always majestic, there appeared to be a mist of loneliness about him, few under-stood the man himself. He was a dreamer, not a warrior or statesman, and he neglected the army; but during the Franco-Prussian war of 1871, he was obliged to send Prussia his Bavarian troops, and the Kaiser put them under the command of his son, the Crown Prince Frederick. After the war, when the German Empire was formed, the Crown Prince used to go every year to Munich to review this Bavarian part of the German army, and when Ludwig heard his soldiers cheering this Prince, he grew suddenly jealous and refused after that to receive Frederick on his annual tour of inspection.
Linderhof is a little gem, and suggests dainty elegance, but the Castle of Ncuschwanstein stands for grandeur and feudal strength. It is not far from Linderhof, and is situated on the top of a mountain. From its turrets one has a view of the mountains, valleys; lakes and rivers extending miles beyond. Inside one sees everything pertaining to the Wagnerian heroes of the Nicbelungen, the King's mythical friends. But unfortunately, Ludwig's imagination increased with his years, until his pleasant day-dreams turned into horrible nightmares, and he could get no rest. Then on cold winter nights the people would see him driving in his blue velvet sleigh at a breakneck pace down this mountain, but drive as he would, the phantom of coming insanity always kept pace with him.
The famous Sangersaal, or hall of the singers, has a little stage at one end, and the paintings between the windows are of Parsifal, Iohengrin, and Tannhauscr. They must be seen to be appreciated. Words no more describe great paintings than they can express the flavor of a peach that someone else has tasted. There is also a Lohengrin room at Neuschwanstein with scenes from that knight's life, and swans are embroidered in silver on all the chairs and hangings.
Ludwig's boy-hood was spent in the castle of the al-most unpronouncable name, Hohenschwangau — high district of the swan and as, according to old traditions, there stood at one time a castle on the opposite mountain, Ludwig replaced it, and called the new castle Neuschwanstein, the new home of the swan.
The dining-room here is red, and the table is noticeably small. The King rarely gave a banquet and loathed state functions, in fact he seldom appeared in public, and usually made the excuse of not being well. The throne-room can have but one criticism; it is overdone. The pillars are of marble and the walls are magnificently frescoed and richly gilded. There is no throne in this room, as the King died before the palace was finished. Besides these apartments there are others in green and gold, purple, gray and silver. Many of the tables are of priceless lapis lazuli, buhl and malachite, and the wonderful clocks will be marveled at until the end of time. Ludwig believed extravagance a divine right of kings, and the less money he had, the more he spent. The walls of his Neuschwanstein bedroom were exquisitely carved, as well as the bed; in fact, this wood carving looks like lace work. The water on the toilet-table poured into a golden bowl from the neck of a golden swan. Yet with all the fairy-like splendor, what a pathetic example the melancholy King. was of the "boast of heraldry and the pomp of power!"
His study was green and gold, somewhat Moorish in design. As one goes from room to room one excuses Ludwig's insanity, for enthusiastic visitors nearly go wild over them toot Everything is in perfect taste, and. the materials are of course, of the very richest. They make Windsor castle look almost bare and shabby, and even the Czar's palaces somewhat commonplace.
His building mania is well known, but it is the irony of fate that the Castle of Herrenchiemsee on its quiet little island that Ludwig thought the least accessible from the busy world is now the one most frequented. The marble stair-way was never finished, and some of the statues along the wall that were to be re-produced in marble, now stand in plaster. There is a porcelain room so-called because of bits of painted porcelain encrusted in the doors and furniture, and they are as finely painted as miniatures.
In the dining-room the table, like that at Sans Souci, was made to go below for the next course, in order that the King might be served without waiters. The sleeping-room was in red and gold, so gorgeous that fairyland could not contain one more beautiful. The curtains and covering of the bed represent the toil of seven years of the finest embroiderers in Bavaria, and the gold toilet-set consists of several dozen different pieces. The King, how-ever, did not sleep in the red room, but in a blue room where the dressing-table is covered with the finest point lace.
The hall of mirrors is undoubtedly the most magnificent room of its kind in the world. It is over one hundred metres long. The double row of chandeliers contain twenty-five hundred candles, all of which were lighted when the monarch made his short annual visit of nine days!
But the maximum of grandeur was the minimum of contentment. The terrible crisis came in 1886. It was decided by the ministers that, Ludwig must be told that he was no longer
fit to rule, but the King then at Neuschwanstein, heard the envoys were coming and had them imprisoned on their arrival! Shortly after they were freed, and having made their plans better, the next delegation abruptly entered Ludwig's room, and told him he was mad. Has such treatment of the insane ever been more unreasonable? To tell a crazy man that he is crazy!
Then they took him captive to the castle of Berg, which was considered the most suitable place for his imprisonment. It is on the lake of Starnberg, and can be seen from the car windows by travelers from Munich to Oberammagau. Everything was against the King, and he grew rapidly more silent and preoccupied. One day he went out for a walk with one of his physicians, and as they were late in returning, the others feeling anxious, began a search. A hat and coat on the edge of the lake gave the clue, and afterward both bodies were found in the water. It is generally believed that Ludwig, after a struggle, succeeded in drowning both the physician and him-self. A monument on Lake Starnberg marks the spot where the King's body was found.
No great events immortalize his reign, no great deeds are associated with his name' besides his encouragement of Wagner. He not a toiler in sea of real life. only sat on t h e banks and listened to the human ocean with its ebb and flow, until its waves carried him, nothing but brushwood, into a haven of rest. He was buried in St. Michael's church in Munich, and his brother Otto succeeded him on the Bavarian throne. The curse of insanity is upon that brother also, and, as unfortunately he still lives, his uncle Luitpold is now Regent, a man greatly admired throughout Bavaria.
Before Ludwig's death, he had in mind another castle, but was the He his ministers refused,him the money and it,remains unfinished. Although this building mania was an enormous expense to the nation, the Bavarians are grateful now to Ludwig the dreamer, for his air castles took permanent form and are now among Bavaria's proudest possessions.