19. A Bizarre Spending Spree on Fairy Tale Castles
In addition to his passion for Wagner, Ludwig II also developed a mania for extravagant building projects in the Bavarian mountains. He started with the Linderhof Palace, patterned on the Trianon Palace and built between 1869 to 1878. Simultaneously, he started construction of his most famous project, Neuschwanstein, a fairy tale castle precariously situated on a crag and decorated with scenes from Wagner’s operas. It was built from 1869 to 1886, and inspired Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. As that one was being built, he started an even more ambitious project in 1878, the Herrenchiemsee Palace, a copy of Versailles.
Herrenchiemsee was never completed because the Fairy Tale King’s bizarre obsession with building fairy tale castles drove him into bankruptcy. Between the abandonment of his official duties, profligate spending, and withdrawal into the life of a recluse among other odd behavior, Ludwig’s ministers finally had enough. In 1886, they convened a panel of doctors that declared the King insane, and sent him to a remote palace with a psychiatrist. Three days later, he drowned himself in a lake and took the psychiatrist with him. Today, the Fairy Tale King’s architectural legacy is among Bavaria’s biggest tourist attractions.