20. The Real Life Fairy Tale King
Ludwig II (1845 – 1886), also known as der Marchenkonig (“The Fairy Tale King”) and “Mad King Ludwig”, ascended the throne of Bavaria in 1864 when he was eighteen, and reigned until his death in 1886. A generous benefactor of the arts, Ludwig was an admirer and patron of composer Richard Wagner. During his reign, he devoted himself to various artistic and architectural projects. The most famous – or infamous, if you were a Bavarian taxpayer – were fairy tale castles. Ludwig spent so much building them, that they ended up bankrupt.
Two years after he was crowned, Ludwig’s Bavaria fought on Austria’s side against Prussia, and lost. Two years later, his kingdom went to war again, this time on Prussia’s side in the Franco-Prussian War. It ended in victory, capped by the formation of the German Empire, which Bavaria joined in 1871. From then on, Ludwig withdrew from governance, and stopped caring about affairs of state. Instead, he went into a morbid seclusion and devoted himself to his true passion: the arts. He worshipped the theater and opera, especially the works of Richard Wagner, whose lifelong patron he became.